These days property owners and managers everywhere are talking about sustainability and “going green.” It’s no surprise that the Commercial Real Estate industry has embraced this trend. We often hear about new operational technology in this building or that building helping to make the world a better place. But recently I stumbled upon an article highlighting an environmentally-friendly fake: The Bank of America Tower in NYC.
Hailed one of the greenest skyscrapers in Manhattan, Gizmodo reported this 55-story architectural beauty boasts all sorts of green details, including an automatized system to dim lights in daylight, a grey water collection system, and a foundation partially made from waste materials. It was even the first ever LEED-certified skyscraper, which received $947,583 in incentives from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, New Republic noted.
Unfortunately, the site added, according to data released by New York City last fall, “the Bank of America Tower produces more greenhouse gases and uses more energy per square foot than any comparably sized office building in Manhattan. It uses more than twice as much energy per square foot as the 80-year-old Empire State Building. It also performs worse than the Goldman Sachs headquarters, maybe the most similar building in New York — and one with a lower LEED rating. It’s not just an embarrassment; it symbolizes a flaw at the heart of the effort to combat climate change.”
Both the Gizmodo and New Republic point out the culprit here seems to be LEED certification and the fact that it’s based on design elements before the building is occupied and not actual usage. So while the Bank of America Tower may not be intentionally wasteful, it does raise the question of sustainable design standards and how they are measured.