Cusp In The Media

Keeping Up: When Technological Change Begets More, Faster Change

Communications Home Feature

If you want an early glimpse of how the future may look, one place to get it is the Tower at PNC Plaza. Pittsburgh’s newest skyscraper, which has a gleaming curvilinear top that looms 33 stories over downtown, is a $400 million effort to create the world’s greenest office building.

Gensler, which designed the building, has equipped it with an array of state-of-the-art gadgetry to reduce energy consumption. A solar chimney, consisting of two vertical shafts at the building’s core, allows air to rise and exit through the roof. There also is a double-skin facade, in which twin panes of glass are separated by an air cavity that provides insulation, and a system of automated blinds between the glass panes that is controlled by sensors regulating the amount of sunlight entering the building.

The result: a building that is expected to consume 50 percent less energy than past generations of office towers.

Many of the Tower at PNC Plaza’s technologies are not new, as Douglas C. Gensler, one of the architecture firm’s principals, explains. “The advance really was thinking of how you combine all these things,” he says. Up to this point, “they tended to be either stand-alone ideas or they were not wrapped into the architecture of the building.”

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