The Rise Of The Green Skyscraper

The building sector is a major contributor to global CO2 emissions, with buildings consuming up to 40% of the world’s energy. Architecture has the potential to dramatically reduce global energy consumption by improving the energy efficiency of buildings throughout their entire life cycle.

Sustainable construction is becoming an extremely important consideration in the design of all building types. The green revolution has been lead by small-scale environmentally friendly initiatives such as PassivHaus. However, this is starting to change.

The large-scale office block is one building type where environmental factors have often been over looked in the past. These buildings, often poorly insulated, have traditionally consumed large amounts of energy in order to artificially light, heat and cool.

Several prestige skyscrapers, built since the millennium, have made sustainable issues the primary concern. The following skyscrapers have led the way in green design to reduce the environmental impact of large office buildings.

30 Mary St Axe (The Gherkin), London

One of the first skyscrapers to place an emphasis on environmental construction, the Gherkin has been described as London’s first built green skyscraper. Foster and Partners’ design breaks from the traditional rectangular shape used in office design to create a form that maximizes both natural light and ventilation. Through the use of a progressive environmental design strategy the Gherkin uses half the energy of a similar sized traditional office.

Hearst Tower, New York

The Hearst Tower, another Foster and Partners creation, was the first of New York’s many skyscrapers to receive a U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) Gold LEED accreditation. The tower has many environmental features. The most obvious is the distinctive diamond shaped frame, a design which required 20% less steel than a traditional frame, and 80% recycled steel.

Bank of America Tower, New York

Designed to be one of the world’s greenest buildings, the Bank of America Tower, designed by Cook and Fox Architects, went one better than the Hearst Tower by achieving a Platinum LEED certification. The building combines a multitude of green features including, floor-to-ceiling insulating glass, grey water recycling system, an onsite 4.6-megawatt combined heat and power (CHP) plant and waterless urinals. These urinals alone are estimated to save up to eight million gallons of water each year.

The Bahrain World Trade Center Towers, Bahrain

The visually striking shape of the Bahrain World Trade Center is created by the desire to produce energy. The twin, sale shaped, skyscrapers funnel wind on to three wind turbines supported between the two buildings. These three 29m, 225KW wind turbines provide up to 15% of the buildings energy consumption.

Castle House (Strata) London

Hamilton's Architects’ Strata Tower in central London is almost complete. The 43-story tower is topped by a three nine-meter integrated wind turbines, which will generate power for the building. The 45kW capacity of these generators will provide enough electricity to light the whole building when it opens later this year.

There’s no doubt that the increased publicity and legislation surrounding green issues requires architects to think much more about the environment. The skyscrapers mentioned in this article are a testimony to those efforts; they have made sustainability their primary concern and in turn, impressively pushed the possibilities of eco-design. The efforts will not stop here. Pearl River Tower, designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merril will become the world’s first zero-energy-skyscraper when it is completed later this year, setting a new standard in sustainable design.