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The Tower at PNC Plaza

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.

Courtesy of Gensler

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.

Courtesy of Gensler

Instead, we crafted a vision for the project that holistically addressed user experience, health and wellness, energy savings, workplace innovation, and responsible community stewardship. Inspired by the newly introduced Tesla car, which had redefined its industry by uniting driver experience and environmentally friendly performance (one could go from zero to sixty in under four seconds and have a zero carbon footprint in a car that also looked great), our team sought to design something that would exemplify the best of contemporary architecture, facilitate a transformational employee experience, and set new benchmarks for saving energy and water.

Courtesy of Gensler

To do this we put the user experience at the forefront of the design process. Our snapshot of the ideal workplace was that of an employee working on a park bench on a sunny afternoon, connected online via a tablet, enjoying the sunlight and abundance of fresh air. Most building designs seek to create optimized interior environments by solely focusing on importing as much daylight as possible. We wanted to go one step further by developing a passive natural ventilation strategy that would bring fresh air into the building, giving workers a true feeling of being outdoors and connected to nature.

Courtesy of Gensler

Project Info
Architects: Gensler
Location: Pennsylvania, USA
Architect in Charge: Doug Gensler
Architectural Design Director: Hao Ko
Project Director: Lisa Adkins
Area: 800000.0 ft2
Manufacturers: Designtex, Armstrong Flooring, Knoll, ETC (Electronic Theatre Controls), SLOAN, C.R. Laurence, Semco, Hunter Douglas Contract, Poltrona Frau, Schindler, Armstrong Ceilings, Interface, Toto, Schlage, Herman Miller, HAWORTH, Firestone Building Products, BASWA acoustic, Rockwood Manufacturing, Dorma, Blumcraft + 38
Technical Director: Ben Trendell
Core and Shell team: Anastasia Huggins, David Hall, Gunwook Nam, Alison Wilkinson, Daniel Nauman, Jorge Barrero, Ethel Macleod, Eugene Lee, Joe Chisholm, Brent Van Gunten, Len Sciarra, Philip Kaefer, Joel McCullough, Rich Peake, Mariana Vaida, Jessica Yin, Yooju No
Interiors Design Director: Ed Wood
Project Manager: Yolanda Mazzoni
Contributors: Greg LaForest, Laura Duenas, Troy Grichuk, Ian Doherty, Anna Goszczynska, Marcus Hamblin, Stefanie Shunk, Jennifer Boyd, Stacy Poppel, Kirstin Farchaus
Structural / MEP/FP: Buro Happold
Civil: Civil & Environmental Consultants, Inc.
Façade: Heintges
Landscape: LaQuatra Bonci Associates
Façade Maintenance: Lerch Bates
Lighting: Studio I (interior); Fisher Marantz Stone (exterior)
Wind: Alan G. Davenport Wind Engineering Group
Vertical Transportation: Edgett Williams Consulting Group
Acoustical: Threshold
Code: Jensen Hughes
Information Technology: CS Technology
Security: DVS Security Consulting & Engineering
Sustainability: Paladino
Traffic: Trans Associates
Archeology: Christine Davis Consultants
Food Service: Hammer Design Associates
Branding/Graphics: Gensler
Audio Visual: TAD
Art: Goodall Gallery
BIM manager: Wai-Ming Chu
Glass Provider: PPG glass
Client: The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc.
Rendering: Space Matrix; Tangram 3DS
Commissioning: Altura Associates; CJL Engineering
ESI: Lobby Beacon
General contractor: PJ Dick
Year: 2015
Type: Office building
Photographs: Courtesy of Gensler – Connie Zhou, Courtesy of Gensler – Chris Leonard

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