More than a year ago, Bank of America announced a $20 billion environmental initiative that included a $1.4 billion commitment to achieve energy efficiency certification in all new construction of office facilities and banking centers; investment of $1.5 billion to construct environmentally progressive towers in Charlotte, N.C., the bank's headquarters, and New York City; and $100 million toward energy conservation in all company facilities.
Consequently, Bank of America is constructing the United States' first LEED (Leadership Efficiency in Energy Design) platinum-certified green skyscraper, which will be ready for occupancy in May 2009. The $2.1 billion building at the edge of New York City's Bryant Park, 80 percent of whose residents will be investment bankers, will utilize passive solar heating, maximum infusion of natural light into the building, green roofs that deflect heat and individually climatically controlled workstations to conserve energy. Instead of having two or three thermostats per floor, the 5,000 associates in the building will be able to adjust the temperature of their own workstations. The majority of the investment bankers moving into the building will be coming from a BofA office at Nine West 57th Street in New York.
One of the biggest challenges in designing a "green" skyscraper is the traditionally energy-hogging cooling system. "The technology behind air conditioning hasn't changed in about 30 years," notes Mark Nicholls, corporate workplace executive at Bank of America. "Computer hardware has been through several transformations over the past 10 years, but air conditioners in commercial buildings don't work fundamentally differently than the air conditioner you buy for $200 at Home Depot."
BofA's energy-efficient answer is ice -- huge blocks of ice will be manufactured at night when power draw off the energy grid is low, then air will be run over them during the day in lieu of air conditioners. "If you've ever seen the old Jackie Gleason show 'The Honeymooners,' they had ice delivered to their apartment in New York to run their refrigerator," Nicholls says. "Here in 2007, that's basically what we're doing -- everything in life comes full circle."
The building also will have two separate plumbing systems, one for potable water and the other for gray water -- rainwater captured in tanks on the roof that will be used for the septic system and to water plants, Nicholls adds.
The building will use motion detectors in offices and conference rooms to automatically turn lights off after a period of inactivity, and carbon fluorescent tubes will be employed throughout the complex, Nicholls continues. Sensors near the windows will dim lights during periods of maximum infusion of sunlight. All told, Bank of America estimates it will achieve a 40 percent decrease in its energy bill by going green.
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