Ominous buildings make up the neighborhood around me casting a shadow over the concrete jungle of New York City. As I walk the streets, I look up at these tall, sterile structures, limestone and granite blocking blue skies and overpowering any sense of nature.
Humans have been building homes and structures for centuries. However, our need to construct has caused severe and alarming damages to the environment around us. The emission of carbon dioxide, methane, and other waste products that contribute to global warming, along with construction sites that damage land, leading to habitat loss and fragmentation, are few of the many ways in which continuous building can backfire.
Once constructed, buildings in the United States typically account for 38% of carbon dioxide emissions, 68% of total electricity consumption, and 30% of landfill waste.
In light of these statistics, many architects around the world have tapped into their inner entrepreneur in order to offset the negative effects of their construction projects by adding innovative and sustainable features to their designs. These features include the use of solar panels, wind turbines, or rain water harvesting, and have shaped the emerging architectural trend of sustainable design. Sustainable architecture allows the needs of the present to be met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
While civilizations have been building with the environment in mind for centuries, the trend of sustainable architecture took off in the 1960’s during the modern environmental movement. Advocates of this movement began to speak out against high-rise congestions and suburban sprawl, paving the way for a greener future in construction.
As environmental issues continue to surface, more and more architects have adopted a more sustainable style that promotes a net positive outcome. Rick Cook is an architectural entrepreneur who put his creative and progressive ideas to use in his 2009 project, The Bank of America tower.
According to Cook, “We stumbled on the historic preservation movement and the environmental movement, which were really sister ethics in that they were both interested in these beautiful resources we inherent and how we leave them for the next generation.”
Cook’s commitment to the environment is exemplified in his design of The Bank of America Tower, a cutting-edge example of sustainable architecture.
Located at One Bryant Park, on Sixth Avenue, The Bank of America tower is near public transportation, promoting a more sustainable mechanism of travel.
With large glass windows and sloped walls that face the sky and sun, light is easily incorporated into the interior spaces and 90% of the workers have outdoor views. These sloped roof surfaces are also effective in capturing rainwater for collection and use.
To further conserve the use of water, the building uses waterless urinals, a decision that saves 8 million gallons of water per year. The rainwater collected from the sloping roofs are used for cooling purposes and for flushing toilets.
Not only was Cook’s building designed to reduce water usage, but also energy. The Bank of America Tower utilizes a process known as cogeneration: waste heat from a power plant is converted to steam which powers chilling machines to cool the building, as well as providing hot water for heating. Through cogeneration massive amounts of energy are conserved a year.
Among the materials and resources used, 40% were regionally sourced, reducing pollution via transportation. Furthermore, Cook decided to use fly-ash, which is a recycled material made through coal combustion. In doing so, 45% of the cement that would have been used in concrete was saved. Furthermore, nearly all the waste from the tower’s construction site was recycled and diverted from landfills.
Due to these progressive and sustainable features, The Bank of America Tower was the first building to receive a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for its strategies aimed at mitigating the depletion of natural resources.
Rick Cook is an architect with the mind of an entrepreneur as he used his talents to take environmental initiative and create a unique building that will be sustainable for the future.
Rick Cook has inspired architects around the world to make sustainable choices in their designs. Since The Bank of America Tower was opened, several other green buildings popped up. Sustainable architecture is now embraced worldwide.
In Brazil, the Museum of Tomorrow, designed by Santiago Calatrava in 2015, utilizes solar panels and cold water from nearby Guanabara Bay for use in its air conditioning system. In China, architect Art Gensler designed the Shanghai Tower to reduce energy costs with 270 wind turbines and natural ventilation. Over in Copenhagen, Denmark, architects from the Bjarke Ingels Group opened the CopenHill in 2017; a power plant that burns waste to generate electricity and a multi-purpose sports facility.
Architecture often finds itself at a crossroads. The materials used to construct and maintain buildings contribute greatly to the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, the responsibility falls on architects to responsibly construct without further deteriorating the world’s environment. Sustainable standards around the world are increasing and certifications, such as the LEED title, motivate architects to design greener buildings for the future.
Change is under way around the world as our society’s negative impact on the environment is undeniable. The power of entrepreneurial minds is enabling sustainable design: a world where we give back to the environment as much as it gives back to us. Perhaps this new world is not out of reach.
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