Water from the Fissures: Conservation and Skyscrapers

The new Bank of America Building at One Bryant Park in New York City is often billed as the “greenest skyscraper” in the world. Modeled after Four Times Square, another sustainable structure in the vicinity, the Bank of America Building recycles waste, air, water, and energy. This sustainable concept will result in a 50 percent decrease in potable water required for the building, as well as a reduction in stormwater output by over 95 percent. No small feat for the second largest building in New York City (just below the Empire State Building) scheduled to open sometime this year.

The Durst Organization, developer of the project, states One Bryant Park will be the “world’s most environmentally responsible high-rise office building, focusing on sustainable sites, water efficiency, indoor environmental quality, and energy and atmosphere.”

Such sustainable development will greatly lower water consumption. To meet LEED Platinum designation, for which this project strives, many measures will be implemented that focus solely on water conservation.

A living roof used to retain water during rain events, eliminate the need for stormwater retention, and regulate temperature in the building naturally. Additionally, rainwater will be collected for storage in four locations. This water will be used for flush toilets and a cooling system. Greywater will be treated and re-used for maximum net benefits.

Inside the building, waterless urinals and low-flow fixtures will decrease use of this precious resource. The waterless urinals alone will save over 3 million gallons of water each year!

In the basement, there will be 44 ice-tanks (each as big as a room) filled with treated greywater and frozen at night. These over-sized ice-cubes are a low-cost way to cool the building during the day as they melt.

And, as contractors excavated a large portion of the ground to build a solid base for the 54-story building, pockets of water were found in fissures of the rock. Instead of the usual pumping and dumping of this “fissure-water”, they were connected to a storage system in the base of the building. This groundwater, combined with steam condensation and air-conditioning condensation, will be mildly treated for use with flush toilets and the cooling system.

Water-savings at One Bryant Park are huge!

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection agrees. Accordingly, they reduced water-fees for the Bank of America Building by 25 percent. Overall, the Durst Organization states the project has been economically reasonable, with payback to occur in less than five-years and considerable long-term savings in water and energy costs.

It gives me hope to see massive high-rises implementing such sustainable building techniques. It affirms that technology is available and economically viable. If humans can build sustainable structures over 1,200 feet (366 meters) tall, then certainly we can build sustainable small buildings and homes. This makes me happy.

One Bryant Park is not the only superstructure on Earth implementing “green-building” techniques with such progressive methods of water conservation. This informative web-blog post, 15 Greenest Buildings in the World, on Geek About highlights fourteen others. There are many quick contenders around the world including the India Tower and the Residence Antilla in Mumbai.

Some of the background for this article came from the great series on PBS, ‘design – e2: the economics of being environmentally conscious‘.

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