When Gary Saulson, PNC’s Director of Corporate Real Estate, came to Gensler’s Chicago office in 2011 for The Tower at PNC Plaza project kick-off, he challenged the team with an audacious goal: design the greenest skyrise in the world. Months earlier, the design team had traveled to Europe and Canada to study best-in-class high-performance buildings. Seeing first-hand the focus on the quality of the built environment with respect to performance, and the ubiquity of building technologies such as double-skin façades and passive radiant systems emboldened our resolve to rethink how green office buildings could be designed back at home. First and foremost, we realized we needed to define what greenest skyrise meant. At the time, the term “green” was almost uniquely focused on LEED standards and energy conservation. This meant that buildings fell into two categories: buildings that were very small and kept their energy footprint similarly small, or more traditional buildings that were large but had a lot of bolt-on technologies to reduce carbon emissions. Neither fit our vision of what The Tower at PNC Plaza could or should be.
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