The Power of Green, Bank of America New York Headquarters by Cook + Fox
The American glass skyscraper, once the symbol of unlimited resources and power, has now become a competitive field for ecologically responsible construction, and the race for the “tallest” building has been joined by the claim for the “greenest”.
One Bryant Park, the latest of a series of high-efficiency office towers designed by the architecture firm Cook + Fox (formerly Fox & Fowle) stands to be a leading competitor on both fronts.
At 1,200 Feet is not only the second tallest structure in New York, and at $1.3 Billion one of the most expensive, but also the first office building in the US to seek Platinum LEED certification for it’s outstanding ecological performance.
The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating system was established in 1998 by the U.S. Green Building Council to provide nationally accepted guidelines and a benchmark for the design, construction operation of “green” buildings. Rating is based on a 69 point scale for different construction types, with categories raging from site selection, public transportation, water and energy consumption, light and indoor air quality, to recyclable material use.
To attain “Platinum” certification, Cook + Fox and the associated consultants had to dig deep into the trick box of sustainable design. There were the obvious choices, such as recyclable and renewable low-toxin building materials, automatic daylight control and adaptable lighting, or hi-efficiency insulation glass, but also a whole array of pioneering energy saving features.
An on-site 4.6-megawatt natural gas power plant will supply the building with 70% of its energy, reducing transmission losses and buffering energy consumption during peak loads.
Thermal Energy Storage in the cellar produces and stores ice in large steel cylinders during the evening hours, when demand is low and electricity cheaper, and uses the cooling effect of phase transition from ice to water for peak air conditioning demand during daytime.
All intake air, as well as exhaust air, is fully filtered from pollutants and particles. The building thus not only produces clean and healthy air for its inhabitants, it also functions as a gigantic air filter for the city. C02 detectors monitor the air quality throughout the building and automatically adjust the amount of fresh air supplied.
The building features waterless urinals, and a “gray-water” system collects all rainwater run-off and wastewater for re-use as toilet flush water, resulting in an overall reduction of freshwater use by about 40% or 10.3 million gallons per year, the equivalent of 125 households.
These extensive ecological measures come at a considerable price, estimated to be about 5% of construction, and reduced energy usage alone would not offset the additional expense. But energy amounts to only 10% of the costs of business operations, whereas employee payroll accounts for 60-70%.
The real savings, according to Douglas Durst, co-owner of the building, are therefore in productivity gains due to a healthier and more pleasant work environment. At a staff of 5,000 employees, a 1% reduction in the amount of illness-related absenteeism would result in a yearly savings of $10 million per year, compared to $3 million for reduced energy use. “We believe you can get 10% to 15% productivity gains. That’s the biggest allure of a green building,” says Durst in a recent Business Week interview.
In addition, “green” buildings occupancy rate and rents are higher, building value increases above average, and companies understand an ecological work environment as a marketable asset.
In other words, “green” construction no longer needs to justify itself with lofty environmental claims, it can trade in the “green”[the US dollar] that shareholders tend to better understand.