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New PNC tower's 'glass skins' to breathe

Steven Adams | Tribune-Review
Construction continues on the Tower at PNC Plaza in downtown Pittsburgh, Saturday, August 16, 2014.

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By Sam Spatter
Thursday, Nov. 10, 2011

The Tower at PNC Plaza -- the new headquarters of PNC Financial Services Group -- will contain 33 floors of office space and a sloped roof that will house equipment to help manage the building's environment, its architect said on Wednesday.

The $400 million project will feature a double-glass exterior skin that will allow fresh air to circulate throughout, according to architect Doug Gensler, who described its latest environmentally friendly features.

PNC expects to begin demolition of existing structures in April and hopes to open the building in July 2015, said John Robinson, PNC director of development.

Other environmentally friendly features previously disclosed include a state-of-the-art geothermal heating and cooling system, which will reduce the amount of water used, and large amounts of natural sunlight would cut energy costs.

"We plan to place a heat sink atop the several story high roof to help control the climate in the building," said Doug Gensler, a principle in the Boston office of Gensler, the architecture firm designing the tower.

Gensler joined Robinson at a meeting of the Urban Land Institute Pittsburgh at the Rivers Club, Downtown. His firm has opened an office in the Buhl Building, Downtown, to work on the project.

The Tower at PNC Plaza will be rectangular in shape, though modified in some areas, he said.

"In between the two glass skins on the exterior of the building will be a cavity that will allow workers to open a door from the interior skin and walk out on the cavity or porch to breathe fresh air," Gensler said.

The glass skins will help provide 70 percent of the fresh air throughout the building; Pittsburgh's climate would allow the windows to be open half of the year, he said.

The 800,000-square-foot building would not only serve as a recruiting tool for PNC, Gensler said, it would fit well with the 24/7 feel of the rejunvenated Market Square, which the western side of the building will face.

The building will occupy a major portion of a block bounded by Fifth and Forbes avenues and Wood Street, which PNC acquired for about $18 million. The site is about a block from One, Two and Three PNC Plazas.

Meeting rooms or auditoriums will be on the second and third floors and will be available for use by the community, Robinson said

He cautioned that its design and environmental features are constantly evolving.

Retail space is planned for the first level and the lobby will appear to be a continuation of the outdoors, he said. There will be three levels of underground parking.

"We have set our cost at $400 million for the building, and not one penny more," Robinson said when asked if a change in design or environmental controls could cost more than anticipated. Adjustments will be made to keep the cost at that level, he said.

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