JPMorgan Chase unveiled the design for its new global headquarters in Manhattan’s Midtown East. There are so many firsts with the new building, which will be one of New York City’s tallest. The architects, Foster + Partners, blurbed:
“The 1,388-foot/423 meter, 60-story skyscraper – designed by Foster + Partners – will be New York City’s largest all-electric tower with net zero operational emissions and exceptional indoor air quality that exceeds the highest standards in sustainability, health and wellness. It will help define the modern workplace with 21st century infrastructure, smart technology and 2.5 million square feet of flexible and collaborative space that can easily adapt to the future of work.”
There are many other firsts that go with this building. It replaces what was the largest building ever designed by a woman: the Union Carbide Building by Natalie de Blois of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. It was the largest building ever demolished on purpose, taking down 2,400,352 square feet of classic modern architecture.
It was without question the largest LEED Platinum-certified building and likely the first LEED building to be demolished—it was probably gutted down to the basic structure, with everything replaced. Since it was destroyed before it was 10 years old, much of it may not have even been out of warranty. It may also be the building that has been written about on Treehugger more than any other, as our poster child in the ongoing discussion about embodied carbon—those upfront carbon emissions from the new construction that replaced the old.
It also elicited a huge reaction from the architecture and preservation communities. It had me wondering: Was this the start of a new era where people actually care about sustainability, the way New York’s 34th-Street Penn Station changed the way people thought about demolition for a previous generation? I wrote: “270 Park Avenue is no Penn Station, but it is an important building that also marks the end of an era where architects can pretend that what they are doing is ‘sustainable’ and ‘green’ while vomiting out the carbon of fourteen thousand cars.”
We have not seen the design of the new building until now. Architecture critic and activist Theodore Grunewald tweeted back in 2019, citing a “reliable source” that Foster + Partners won’t release a rendering until the demolition is complete.
And this proved to be the case. Foster + Partners describes its sustainable, green, and healthy features: “270 Park will be New York City’s largest all-electric skyscraper with net zero operational emissions and will be 100% powered by renewable energy sourced from a New York State hydroelectric plant.”
The firm also notes:
In addition to operating on net zero carbon emissions, the building will use state-of-the-art building technology and systems to ensure it operates as efficiently as possible, including:
Intelligent building technology that uses sensors, AI and machine learning systems to predict, respond and adapt to energy needs.
Advanced water storage and reuse systems to reduce water usage by more than 40%.
Triple pane glazing on the façade and automatic solar shades connected to HVAC systems for greater energy efficiency.
Outdoor terraces featuring natural green space and plantings.
The project also recycled, reused or upcycled 97% of the building materials from the demolition – far exceeding the 75% requirement of the leading green building standard.
Given that CEO Jamie Dimon is dragging employees back to the office kicking and screaming, they are paying attention to health and air quality, consulting with Dr. Joseph Allen and others:
- Doubling the amount of outside, fresh air and continuously monitoring air quality to improve the overall health and well-being of employees.
- Using advanced HVAC filtration systems to continually clean outdoor air as it comes into the building, while simultaneously cleaning recirculated air.
- Designing 50% more communal spaces and 25% more volume of space per person – giving more choices in where and how to work. Flexible column-free floor plates will allow space to easily change layout and floor design, including inter-floor connections.
- Creating a touchless journey for employees and visitors with more than 50,000 connected devices that will make it the most connected, data-driven high-rise building in New York City.
- Bringing nature indoors through biophilic design, including wide use of natural plants and healthier furniture and building materials.
- Bringing in 30% more daylight than a typical developer-led, speculative office building and using circadian lighting to minimize the effects of electric light and support a healthier indoor environment.
“Sustainability is at the heart of the project, with workspaces flooded with daylight and fresh air, incorporating biophilic elements and materials to improve wellbeing,” said Nigel Dancey of Foster + Partners in a statement.
Others might note that the definition of sustainability is changing in a world where we worry about carbon. As I ask in a previous post: Do we even need new office buildings post-pandemic?
“Of course, there is not a mention of embodied carbon; there never is. They are not offsetting the megawatt-hours consumed making the aluminum or offsetting the carbon from making the concrete and steel for this building. No matter that a molecule of carbon dioxide emitted upfront is just as bad as a molecule of operating emissions. But as we keep saying, when you look through the lens of embodied carbon rather than operating carbon, everything changes.”
That is why we continue to quote architect Carl Elefante: “The greenest building is the one already standing.”
Last tweet to Grunewald, who has put together before and after photos and posted them on Twitter. Guess which ones I prefer?