February 1, 2008 / 9:17 PM / 11 years ago

JPMorgan does green HQ revamp, 10 floors at a time

NEW YORK, Feb 1 (Reuters) - For an example of JPMorgan Chase & Co Inc’s (JPM.N) green ambitions, look no further than the bank’s massive corporate home improvement project.

By gutting its global headquarters at 270 Park Avenue in Manhattan, JPMorgan aims to transform a nearly half-century-old skyscraper into a shining example of environmentally conscious redevelopment.

But since the bank isn’t starting from scratch, its project is different than Bank of America Corp’s (BAC.N) heralded plan to build a $1 billion-plus green skyscraper near Times Square.

JPMorgan also wants to transform its 50-story building from the inside out without disrupting most of its headquarters operations, executives said. Plus, when all the dust is settled, it expects it to be just as green as BofA’s building.

So JPMorgan is overhauling it 10 floors at a time. Construction crews, not executives, now occupy the top floors.

They have ripped out everything; the dark wood paneling and floors, and asbestos too. All that remains are exposed girders, bare concrete, and great views of midtown Manhattan.

“This place is old and tired. You have to do something,” JPMorgan Chief Administrative Officer Frank Bisignano said.

The renovated building will let in more sunlight, rooftop vegetation will reduce heat and drains will collect rain water. The water, stored in a 55,000-gallon tank in the basement, will be used to flush toilets, among other conservation steps.

The prestigious address can’t conceal the fact that the building is an energy hog, like most U.S. office buildings that are decades old. But its energy consumption could be cut by up to 30 percent with the more efficient lighting and heating and cooling systems JPMorgan plans to install, executives said.

And no longer will some workers sit at their desks with shawls over their laps or make use of contraband space heaters to combat balky heating and cooling systems.

The bank’s ultimate goal: platinum certification of the building under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system. Platinum is the highest rating.

“Major renovations of this magnitude are rare and achieving LEED platinum on the project will be a substantial achievement for JPMorgan,” said Marc Heisterkamp, a market development manager at the U.S. Green Building Council, developer of LEED.

If accomplished, it would make JPMorgan’s headquarters one of the largest LEED-platinum-certified conversions of an existing commercial building in the world, Heisterkamp said.

It won’t be easy. For example, the core infrastructure and shell of the building can’t change. On the other hand, Grand Central trains and subways deposit thousands of JPMorgan employees daily at its doorstep, which should earn the building a precious platinum point for public transportation access.


Chief Executive Jamie Dimon is counting on Bisignano and other executives to keep the multiyear project on track. The budget, which the bank declined to disclose, could easily top $200 million, according to construction industry estimates.

John Delaney, head of JPMorgan’s business credit card unit, said Dimon wants executives to know operational minutiae. A business review with Dimon isn’t stressful if they know them.

“It’s no problem as long as your teeth are firmly in your gums,” Delaney joked, adding that Dimon often reminds executives that “Aggregate data is deceptive.”

But Bisignano, a former University of Kansas football player whose trapezius muscles still ripple, is well known inside the bank for holding the line on costs.

After the renovation, executives will have smaller offices, while clients will have better places to dine and do business.

At the end of 2006, JPMorgan reported owning or leasing nearly 11 million square feet of commercial and retail space in New York City. Part of Bisignano’s job is to put its employees in the most cost effective place to generate the most revenue.

Bisignano feels the headquarters’ 1.3 million square feet of space is “sub-optimized,” and that the renovation will allow the bank to add about one-third more people to its capacity.

“You lead by example if you want to be a powerhouse bank in this town,” he said. (Editing by Braden Reddall)

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