Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Bank of America Tower in NYC Under Criticism For Energy Usage

Bank of America Tower Under Criticism for LEED Platinum Rating
Bank of America Tower
LEED (Leadership in Energy and Design) is a rating system for the design and construction of green buildings. Created by the U.S. Green Building Council in 1998, LEED is internationally recognized and awards points to buildings based on several categories including water efficiency, indoor air quality, and materials and resources.

New York City's Bank of America Tower became the first skyscraper to achieve LEED Platinum certification, built with rainwater collection systems and a daylight dimming system, along with other green features; however, after the tower opened in 2010, its building performance did not live up to the hype. Despite its sustainable design, it consumes twice as much energy per square foot than the Empire State Building. The Bank of America Tower contains data centers and a financial trading floor, requiring a large amount of energy to power the computers and cool the systems.

While critics are bashing Bank of America for its high energy usage and contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, defenders of the corporation point out that Bank of America, unlike the Empire State Building, has no vacancies and generates 80% of its own energy in a co-generation plant. Its rainwater collection system and waterless urinals save over 10 million gallons of water a year.

Supporters of the bank also emphasize that the controversy is due to flaws with the LEED rating system rather than the bank's headquarters. LEED awards points for several categories, some considered "cheap." Bank of America was awarded "cheap" points for building near public transportation, working with a LEED Accredited Professional, and preserving and restoring Bryant Park.

Douglas Durst, chairman of the Durst Organization, wrote to The Commercial Observer, defending the building: "While there are problems with LEED that are being corrected in the next version, [this] is not one of them. The base building and tenant operations are two distinct issues." LEED is a design tool and not a performance rating system. Additionally, LEED is not energy-specific and only measures overall performance. LEED buildings can obtain points in various ways even if they waste energy. A sustainable building can only go so far if the tenants do not practice sustainability themselves.

Corrections and updates will be made to the LEED rating system this November with the launch of LEED v4. LEED v4 encourages green building and living to the whole building and products. Brendan Owens, the vice president of LEED technical development, described its members as "progressive and willing to move forward," and believes that the new LEED rating system will take LEED to the next level.

Want to learn more? Visit our LEED FAQ page or contact us to ask questions!

Planning on taking the LEED Exam? First, get prepared with an educational LEED Seminar. Register for a course in your area with GreenEDU!