Monday, August 5, 2013

Bank Of America Tower - A Certified Green Skyscraper Is Actually Energy Hungrily

Bank of America Tower, Manhattan, U.S.A., received Platinum certification in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) when opened in 2010, the first skyscraper to receive this highest LEED certification. It was praised as one of the world’s most environmentally responsible high-rise office buildings.

3 years later, Sam Roudman uncovers that the Bank of America Tower actually produces more greenhouse gases and uses more energy per square foot than any comparably sized office building in Manhattan and reveals the weakness of LEED rating system in predicting the actual future energy usage during the certification state.

The nonprofit U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) unveiled LEED in 1998 as a way to measure a building’s environmental footprint. Currently, 50,000 buildings across the world either have been certified or in certification process. LEED takes into account of building materials, air quality, water conservation and energy performance in the certification. When accumulates enough points, the building will be awarded certification, from Certified, Silver, Gold, to Platinum (the highest).

The problem of this rating system is that real-estate developers have been able to game the system, racking up points for relatively minor measures. Also, USGBC has no control over how the buildings it certifies are used. LEED certifies new buildings before they are even occupied, basing its ratings on computer models that often end up overestimating a building’s performance.

The reason that Bank of America Tower fails to live up its Platinum status is as mentioned. LEED failed to predict the tenants actual usage. The biggest drain on energy in the Bank of America Tower is its trading floors, those giant fields of workstations with five computer monitors to a desk. Also, the servers supporting all those computers require enormous energy, as do the systems that heat, cool, and light the massive trading floors beyond normal business hours.

All of which goes to show that how businesses like Bank of America use their buildings is just as important as how they design them. Hopefully, the equivalent certification system in Malaysia, Green Building Index, will not make the same mistake.

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