Advancing the high-performance tower

Rising 33 stories in downtown Pittsburgh, The Tower at PNC Plaza is an 800,000-square-foot tower that officially opened October 1. The new corporate headquarters for the PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. incorporates groundbreaking design and technology to exceed USGBC’s LEED Platinum criteria.

Buro Happold provided integrated structural and MEP engineering, daylight consulting, and energy modeling services. We worked closely with Gensler and the wider design team to a realize a naturally ventilated tower that is expected to consume 50 percent less energy and 77 percent less water than a conventional design.

To achieve the highest level of performance and reduce The Tower’s energy demand, Buro Happold focused first on passive strategies and then designed active building systems to bring The Tower to optimal performance. Key components include the following:

  • An operable double-skin façade allows natural light to reach 92 percent of floor area and supports The Tower’s extensive use of natural ventilation—contributing to a healthier work environment. It also acts as an insulating layer, helping to control interior temperature.
  • The Tower’s roof traps heat from the sun, which is used to heat the building during colder months and facilitate natural ventilation.
  • A solar chimney, two vertical shafts within The Tower’s core, works with the facade’s sensor-controlled operable windows and the roof to draw air through the building and support natural heating and cooling. The building is expected to operate in passive ventilation mode at least 42 percent of The Tower’s working hours.
  • A water recycling and treatment system that will save 77 percent potable water use as compared to a typical building. The recycled water will be used for flushing, cooling tower makeup and irrigation and will save up to 4.5 million gallons of water annually.
  • A structure composed of light-weight concrete and an efficient steel structure including long-span trusses that enable the open double-height collaborative spaces and multi-floor atrium topping The Tower.

To learn more about the complex, integrated design behind The Tower at PNC Plaza, visit our project page for our case study, animation.

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