Category Archives: Greenbuild

Take look at the “world’s greenest office tower”



Tom Paladino’s company was on the design team for the Tower at PNC in Pittsburgh and he says the project changed his life.

The Tower at PNC in Pittsburgh is being billed as the greenest office tower in the world. It has a skin that breaths, a solar chimney, a park in the sky, wood-clad porch doors, indicators that tell you what the weather is outside, and something called The Beacon – an interactive light sculpture that broadcasts data about how much energy the building is using.

The tower is shifted on the podium and street grid for maximum sun exposure.  A double-walled “breathable” facade provides a thermal buffer while allowing air to pass through.

Operable Skin, The Tower at PNC

Operable Skin, PNC Tower

So what’s a solar chimney? It’s a vertical shaft with a rooftop solar collection panel that creates an updraft that draws cool outside air through the skin, across the floors, and up and out of the building, without requiring fans, for almost half the year.

A “living room” space links every two floors of the building, and a five-story indoor park offers views of downtown Pittsburgh.

The Park at The Tower at PNC

The Park at PNC Tower

Paladino acted as owner’s representative on sustainability and LEED management issues.  The 800,000-square-foot, 33-story building was designed by Gensler to reflect PNC’s commitment to green building, energy efficiency and innovation.

The design and systems will help reduce energy consumption by 50 percent and reduce water use by 77 percent compared with a typical office building, Paladino said.

“It was ridiculously simple, and at the same time,  a challenge in its aspiration,” said Tom Paladino in his blog post on the tower.

“LEED shifted from being the purpose of the green building program to being one of the desired results. We moved to a higher purpose, creating a headquarters that would serve PNC as another tool of the business.”

The building was designed to be “the most progressive workplace ever and to attract a highly social, digitally native, and an environmentally conscious work force,” Paladino said.

The Tower at PNC is built green for future generations to enjoy.

The tower cost $400 million.

ESI Design's Beacon at PNC Tower

ESI Design’s Beacon at PNC Tower

Outdoor space at PNC Tower

Outdoor space at PNC Tower

The Tower at PNC

The Tower at PNC

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Lake Washington School District honored for sustainability

Champions of Sustainability: The Lake Washington School District: Forrest Miller, Traci Pierce, Brian Buck

Champions of Sustainability: The Lake Washington School District: Forrest Miller, Traci Pierce, Brian Buck

McKinstry is recognizing the Lake Washington School District as a “model of Northwest sustainability and environmental stewardship,” with its Champion of Sustainability award.

The district was honored during the Sept. 27 Seahawks game at CenturyLink Field.

In partnership with the Seattle Seahawks, the annual Champions of Sustainability program recognizes one organization during a regular-season home game that exhibits  innovative energy and waste reduction in the built environment.

What did they do?
In 2006, LWSD adopted a resource conservation management  program focusing on energy efficiency, water conservation and waste reduction. Since then, the district has saved $9 million in utility costs despite having increased its buildings’ square footage and number of students.  Electricity use has fallen by 20 percent and natural gas consumption is down 30 percent. Conservation-minded students also helped trim the district’s waste disposal budget by 42 percent.

LWSD also has the largest solar energy capacity of any school district in the state, at 615 kW – enough energy to power about 60 homes. The solar panels at Finn Hill Junior High alone account for 355 kW.

Geothermal heating systems have been installed in its new high schools and several elementary schools. Because the temperature underground stays constant throughout the year, geothermal systems that circulate water through the ground can heat schools using much less energy than standard systems.

Rain gardens and other sustainable stormwater management practices at schools save LWSD $64,000 annually, as compared to traditional water treatment systems. The measures also reduce the concentration of pollutants funneled into local waterways.

Last year, the district renewed its commitment to sustainability by launching powerED, a behavior-based program designed to bring new levels of effort and tools to conserve utilities, increase efficiencies and promote sustainability in LWSD schools.

About the Champions of Sustainability Program:
McKinstry’s Champions of Sustainability program is part of the Defend Your Turf campaign, aimed at water conservation, energy efficiency, waste reduction, and community involvement within CenturyLink Field and Event Cente,r as well as in terms of its impact on the city.

For more information on Defend Your Turf, visit

About McKinstry:
McKinstry has implemented a number of facility-wide energy conservation initiatives at CenturyLink Field and Event Center, including the installation of one of the largest solar arrays in the state, mechanical system upgrades, high-efficiency lighting and ultra-low-flow water fixtures. These upgrades make the stadium a national model for sustainable sporting facilities.

McKinstry is a full-service, design-build-operate-and-maintain (DBOM) firm specializing in consulting, construction, energy and facility services.  For more information, visit

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NFL strikes gold with new 49ers’ stadium

Levis StadiumThe new home of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers has achieved LEED Gold status, a first for an NFL stadium. Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, has many green features, including a green roof, solar-paneled pedestrian bridges and a solar-paneled roof deck. But, its most crucial green feature may be the state of the art grey water system.

Up to 85 percent of all water used in the 68,500-seat stadium comes from recycled water. A recycled-water pressure booster system taps into the Santa Clara Valley Water District water recycling system, eliminating the need to use freshwater to flush toilets and irrigate the natural grass field and green roof.  The system is powered by Bell & Gossett brand pumps.

“A recycled-water pressure booster system ensures adequate water is available when everyone goes to the bathroom at one time, like halftime at a football game,” said Mark Handzel, Vice President, Product Regulatory Affairs, and Director, HVAC Commercial Buildings.

The stadium’s water assessment estimates the recycled-water pressure booster system will save over 42 million gallons of water per year. And there are twice as many toilets in Levi’s Stadium as were in Candlestick Park, the 49ers’ former stadium.

The stadium uses highly efficient building systems by Bell & Gossett, including:

  • The centrifugal pumps were selected for the recycled-water pressure booster system.
  • The Rolairtrol air separators, Series 60 inline pumps, 1510 end suction base mounted pumps, and VSX double suction pumps were chosen for the hydronic systems.
  • A brazed plate and GPX gasketed plate, and frame heat exchangers were selected because of their high thermal efficiency for the condenser water system.

The Levi’s Stadium will host Super Bowl 50, next year, on Sunday, February 17, 2016.

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Need a building? You’ve got some new options

The following post is by Alaska Structures:

Much has been said about sustainable construction methods and how beneficial reclaimed and recycled materials can be to reduce the carbon footprint of a home or commercial construction project.  However, often overlooked are the many non-traditional building alternatives that provide an energy efficient shortcut to a complete building.

Shipping Containers

shipping container

Highly durable and too often wasted, these hulking containers aren’t just for subterranean bomb shelters anymore. DIYers and construction experts have been creating beautiful, functional, and livable buildings out of industrial shipping containers for several years now and we’re thrilled with the results.

By reusing the massive metal containers for home construction, homeowners are able to enjoy sturdy walls, cool interiors, and endlessly expandable layouts. While working with standard shapes may feel limiting, many experienced container builders have found ways to create ventilated rooftops and innovative, expansive rooms using multiple container sections, as well as beautiful outdoor decks and living spaces.

While it takes a lot of hard work and logistical planning, the benefits of designing a custom home without the need for producing additional materials will provide a level of satisfaction beyond what typical sustainable building practices often provide.

Tensioned Fabric Buildings

tensioned fabric building

Perhaps some of the most versatile structures available today, a high-end tensioned fabric building can sometimes outperform even a brick and mortar structure in terms of durability. These buildings can withstand significant snow load and high winds, will remain intact during natural disasters, and help lower insurance costs.

High-end fabrics can provide insulation and security in any climate on earth and some manufacturers go the extra mile with HVAC systems, electrical connections, and other custom options. The lightweight nature and ease of installation make these fabric buildings a great option for organizations on the move, but with so many foundation options, there’s no reason why you can’t install your fabric structure in place for good.

Worried about meeting building code? Depending on where you purchase your fabric building, the company’s engineers may be able to meet or exceed various building code requirements mandated by your city or state governments.

Modular Buildings

modular building

Shedding the misnomer of “pre-fab” buildings, modular constructions aren’t just for the temporary construction site, and are not like the double-wide trailers of 40 years ago. Entire hospitals, apartment complexes, and even hotels are being built using modular practices. By using modular methods, major projects have found success with reductions in construction time, site preparation, and shipping costs.

The production of modular buildings is more efficient, so they are a much more eco-friendly solution when compared with traditional construction. The construction industry accounts for about 40% of the energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. By using off-site manufacturing methods, the UK’s Waste & Resources Action Programme suggests that construction site waste can be reduced by as much as 90%. Off-site construction also requires less heavy machinery use during the assembly process, further reducing emissions during the construction.

Modular buildings aren’t just greener during construction either – many modular constructions come with super efficient HVAC systems, zero volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and glass walls/open office layouts that utilize more natural light.

Alaska Structures has manufactured fabric buildings for industrial and commercial applications around the world since 1975.

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Seattle Lowrise Zones Now Have a Passive House Incentive to Add Floor Area

The following post is by Joe Giampietro, AIA, CPHC, NK Architects

11th and Republican PH Multifamily Rendering

On July 6th, the Seattle City Council passed a number of revisions to the low-rise zone land use code, including adding Passive House as a way to achieve floor area ratio (FAR) bonuses.

A FAR bonus allows for an increase in building height relative to the area of the lot. Passive House efficiency principles lead to significant energy savings, increased project value, and improved health and comfort for those that live there.

Although this was a minor addition to an otherwise hotly debated set of low-rise zoning updates, this addresses building energy use in a practical and cost effective manner. It is a big move in the right direction.

With the addition of Passive House to the other “green” incentive programs, including LEED Silver, Built Green 4-Star, and the Washington Evergreen Sustainable Development Standards for affordable housing, Seattle has started down the road of recognizing and providing incentives for truly high-performance, low energy design strategies.

Next on the list of legislative actions, the Passive House community is working with the Seattle City Council to consider expanding the Passive House incentive to include both current certification agencies, PHIUS and the Passive House Institute. We have successfully lobbied City Councilman, Mike O’Brien’s staff to include this adjustment in the “omnibus” zoning legislation. The expansion language is currently wending its way through the Council approval process and will be voted on later this summer.

We anticipate that this action will serve as a model for other changes in zoning legislation in Seattle as well as in cities and towns in throughout the Northwest. Let’s take a moment to celebrate one small step in this process!

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