It is no secret that the typical commercial building environment is often at odds with considerations in human health and well-being. Designs typically feature air-tight, windowless rooms with poor airflow. It is also well known that the typical commercial building uses a great deal in the way of energy and water resources; according to one estimate, such buildings use up as much as 18% of all the electricity generated in the U.S.

These problems in commercial building design are being addressed head on by architects, designers and engineers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as they construct what will possibly be the greenest building in the world. The new Tower at PNC Plaza incorporates the latest environmentally-friendly technologies that will make far more effective use of water and energy resources, while at the same time, providing a much healthier indoor environment for those working in the building’s offices. When completed in 2015, the building will exceed LEED Platinum standards as well as those of the U.S. Green Building Council.

Construction on the PNC Tower began in 2012. The completed structure will incorporate geothermal wells as well as climate control that operates based on building occupancy. The building’s facades and windows are oriented to take advantage of natural sunlight, with specially designed double-paned windows that will allow fresh air from the outside to enter the building. A solar chimney will actually pull fresh air into the building, which will be heated or cooled as it is circulated before being “exhaled” through the top of the building. It is estimated that the new, high-tech climate control system will be able to operate at a “net-zero-energy” state (using no more energy than is produced) up to 30% of the time.

Implementing all of this new technology requires specialized skills, which on this innovative project are being furnished by NECA firm Lighthouse Electric and the workers of IBEW Local #5.  It’s not the first time that the Pittsburgh NECA-IBEW team has worked on a PNC project. According to MEP Project Manager Dean Marraccini, “They are the main driver behind all the installations, in addition to being very competitive pricing-wise. There is a high level of comfort with us in working with Lighthouse.” Marraccini also acknowledges the NECA-IBEW team’s reputation for dependability and getting the job done without the need for oversight. He adds, “You know you’re not going to have to watch them or constantly make sure they’re doing the right things.”

The Tower at PNC Center is scheduled to open during the summer of 2015.

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