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BuildingGreen goes to town! On our way to D.C. for this year's AIA Convention, we stopped in NYC for a tour of the Bank of America tower that took us from the subterranean depths to the highest heights.

For a number of reasons, the Cook+Fox-designed Bank of America tower at One Bryant Park is an object lesson in how difficult it can be to compare the energy performance of buildings that don't fit neatly into a typical category (is it a data center or a commercial office? a lot of both, and it also has its own power plant).

But for four of us from BuildingGreen, today it was mainly a chance to enjoy the company of the people who care for this building—and to listen to them geek out about cogeneration, ice storage, and the importance of light for the well-being of everyone on staff (not just the people in cubicles). I snapped a few shots while we were there.

We got an incredible view from the 49th floor, where our tour began and ended.
Photo Credit: Paula Melton

During our bright and sunny lunch in a Durst Organization conference room on the 49th floor, there was a bit of chatter about the "inverse relationship between daylight and self-loathing," or something along those lines. Unfortunately, of course, the workers who run the cogen plant don't get natural daylighting in their workspace.

But, says Don Winston, P.E., vice president for technical services at Durst (which co-owns the building, along with Bank of America), these workers are not neglected. When asked about lights in maintenance hallways being on 24/7, he told us that these areas are overlighted on purpose. First, there are safety considerations, but there's also "pride of place." Staff members who don't feel like they've been confined to a dungeon or hidden away in a cave feel valued and take pride in their work.

"Our chiller room is nicer than some people's lobbies," Don told us. The color-coding is functional, but it makes the room cheery too.
Photo Credit: Paula Melton

Some of the fluorescent tubes throughout the building have been replaced with LED lamps.

These LED lamps fit into fluorescent fixtures; so far, Durst is mainly testing performance, and finding some problems (note the failed tube in the 2nd fixture down).
Photo Credit: Paula Melton


The chiller room also features this enormous screen. When we arrived, they had just had an uptick in load and were switching to a smaller chiller. Wait, why a smaller one?

This part of the screen shows power generation in real time.
Photo Credit: Paula Melton

The system keeps track of the complex interactions of the cogeneration plant, the chiller activity, and the ice storage.

Release the ice! When demand grows beyond a set threshold or electricity rates get high, they switch to a smaller chiller and "burn ice."
Photo Credit: Paula Melton

The cogeneration plant was like a steampunk pipe dream!

Don said the plant was hard to take pictures of because they had to fit the whole thing into one room. You can get a sense of the complexity, though.
Photo Credit: Paula Melton

One of the biggest challenges of this project was dealing with fire safety. Because the plant uses pressurized gas underneath floor upon floor of commercial office space, the fire department was understandably wary. Onsite power generation can be a big hurdle anywhere, but in a big city where real estate prices are at a premium, the challenges can be overwhelming. The project pushed ahead, though, and the plant is performing just the way Durst hoped it would. But Don said they're not stopping with that. They are constantly monitoring and improving.


Safety was a big issue for getting the plant online.
Photo Credit: Paula Melton

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1 Heat gain problems resolved ? posted by Gahl Sorkin Spanier on 05/20/2012 at 03:58 am

Last time I visited, couples of years back I admit, there was a problem with heat gain from inward slanted glass facade in the offices, even in winter. Did you guys get the impression that these kind of problems have been resolved?  

2 Heat gain posted by Paula Melton on 05/21/2012 at 10:08 am

Gahl, unfortunately we did not get a look at the commercial spaces and were mainly focused on the mechanical systems during our tour. It's an interesting question, though, and I wish I had asked.


3 Heat gain posted by Gahl Spanier Sorkin on 05/30/2012 at 11:04 am

Yes, I would be curious , perhaps someone from the will know. The mechanical spaces are indeed ranking as the most beautiful I have ever seen. 

4 WOW! what a view! posted by All Rental on 05/22/2012 at 05:37 pm

WOW! what a view!

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