Last fall, new data revealed that Bank of America Tower at One Bryant Park, revered since its 2010 opening as one of the most sustainable skyscrapers in the world, is actually a bigger energy hog than similar New York City buildings. As the first skyscraper to earn a LEED-Platinum certification, the BOA Tower, designed by COOKFOX, was praised by press, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and former Vice President Al Gore, who is currently a tenant. Yet, despite its superb rating and efficiency promises, Sam Roudman of The New Republic reports that the high-rise “produces more greenhouse gases and uses more energy per square foot than any comparably sized office building in Manhattan,” including its similarity with a lower LEED rating, the Goldman Sachs headquarters.
Roudman comments that this vast chasm of difference between One Bryant Park’s reality and its expectation can be accredited to the daily operations of the building, namely Bank of America’s several trading floors of constantly running computers. The energy needed to maintain and cool these machines has caused power consumption to spike, but was purposely overlooked during the certification process. Rated under the pretense of the United States Green Building Council’s Core and Shell Program, the Tower gained points for the developer’s energy efficient initiatives and design to the exterior and core—plumbing, mechanical, electrical, etc.—of the building with the claim that the developer had no control over the tenants’ fit-out.
The surprising energy use at the Bank of America Tower brings into question requirements for LEED certifications themselves. With a checklist of green initiatives, some as simple as locating its entrance within a half-mile of an existing subway station, or protecting and restoring habitat in Bryant Park, the Program’s environmentally conscious marks leave grey area in their ratings. Surely, Bank of America had an idea that they would be powering hundreds of computers round the clock, yet as a commercial building with other tenants, were allowed to be certified at the highest level of green design.