NY skyscraper wins highest "green" certification

NEW YORK Thu May 20, 2010 3:40pm EDT

1 of 2. The Chiller room area of the Bank of America Tower at One Bryant Park is seen in New York, May 19, 2010. The U.S. Green Building Council gave the Bank of America Tower its highest rating for environmental performance and sustainability on Thursday, meaning New York City's second tallest building is also its greenest.

Credit: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. Green Building Council gave the Bank of America Tower its highest rating for environmental performance and sustainability on Thursday, meaning New York City's second-tallest building is also its greenest.

The 54-story building completed in 2008 at a cost of $2 billion became the first commercial high-rise to win the "platinum" certification from the non-profit council that promotes environmentally friendly construction and design.

The certification was based on water and energy efficiency, indoor air quality, the environmental friendliness of construction materials and other criteria.

At 1,200 feet, it is the second tallest building in the city after the Empire State Building. Years before the building opened, Bank of America and developers from the Durst Organization decided to create an example at the corner of 42nd Street and Sixth Avenue.

"They came to us and said they wanted to build the largest environmentally responsible building they could. That was our goal from the get-go," said project architect Serge Appel of Cook+Fox Architects.

The building has its own 4.6-megawatt co-generation plant, and its floor-to-ceiling windows reduce the need for artificial lighting. The roof captures rainwater. Waste water from the sinks is recycled. The men's rooms even have waterless urinals. The measures save an estimated 8 million to 9 million gallons of water per year.

The steel was made of 87 percent recycled material, and the concrete from 45 percent recycled content -- in this case, blast furnace slag.

The project broke ground in 2004, four years before the financial crisis that led to Bank of America acquiring Merrill Lynch and Countrywide, and the accolade comes as Wall Street's reputation with the public is poor.

"It's helped with employee morale. In terms of how the financial services industry is seen by the public ... a more buoyant economy and lower unemployment will make a bigger difference in our image," said Anne Finucane, the bank's global strategy and marketing officer.

Developers say the lower carbon dioxide content in the air helps people avoid that drowsy feeling in the afternoon, and spectacular views from higher floors are enough to keep eyes open.

"There's a psychological advantage to being able to see outside the building," architect Appel said. "It's very different from the way buildings were built in the 1980s with tinted glass windows. It always looked like it was stormy outside."

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Vicki Allen)

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