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The Greenest Skyscrapers In The World

Sunday, June 05

The reputation of skyscrapers—all that water use! CO2 emissions!—is pretty dim. But these towering beauties prove that green doesn't have to mean unsightly. For World Environment Day, we created a sustainable skyline of some of the most eco-friendly superstructures on the globe.

The Commerzbank Tower, Frankfurt

This 57-floor triangular tower features a central atrium that, on nine different levels, opens to the skies on one of three sides, forming sky gardens that embrace natural light. Venture to the roof and you'll find a habitat for endangered peregrine falcons.

DMC Tower, Seoul

Currently under construction, this tower is being built with lungs—three open voids in the upper half of the structure will breathe natural light and clean air into the building's energy system, reducing the need for artificial cooling and lighting.

The CIS Tower, Manchester, England

Built in 1962, the Cooperative Insurance Tower was retrofitted with 7,000 solar panels in 2005, making it the largest vertical solar-energy project in the U.K. With 24 wind turbines housed on its roof, the building supplies 10% of its own energy needs.

Bahrain World Trade Center Towers, the Kingdom of Bahrain

Both an environmental and a design first, the Bahrain towers are connected by three 95-foot propellers, delivering 1,100 megawatts of power to the 50-floor structures annually—enough to supply 300 homes for one year.

One Bryant Park, New York

At 58 floors, Bank of America's home base takes green skyscrapers to a new level. The first LEED Platinum-certified tower in the city, the sculptural masterpiece uses waterless urinals, which help save 8 million gallons of water each year.

On track to be completed later this year, this tower will be the world's first zero-energy skyscraper, supplying all of its own power needs—and then some. The extra energy, generated by solar panels and wind turbines, will feed electricity into local power grids.

The Gherkin, London

Bike storage, gas fuel, and that conspicuous building shape are just a few factors that make the Gherkin environmentally friendly. The coned structure maximizes natural light and ventilation, allowing the tower to function on half the energy of a similarly sized traditional office.

Sunday, June 07 >>

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  • Kevin Wu

    While I cannot speak for all the skyscrapers on this list, I cringe at the sight of Bahrain's WTC making it on The Greenest Skyscrapers in the World. The use of "greenest" in and of itself opens up an entire debate on exactly what constitutes the making of a sustainable skyline or eco-friendly superstructures. BWTC does tackle many key criterion of resource efficiency and green design, but the original drive for BWTC's sustainable design derived from an aesthetic and architectural basis. Sustainable development and true green building as many academics have explained should be a "holistic approach". BWTC fails to deal with issues of transportation (it's location remote and lacking public transportation) and sustainable material procurement and construction processes. Even the design director and principal architect for Atkins Architects- firm contracted for BWTC- admitted that the building is not intended to be a low carbon emission solution by world-wide standards, but only compared to other buildings in the Middle East. In no way should one downplay the brilliance of the building's architectural and engineering design, but caution in referencing the BWTC's spot as one of the greenest skyscrapers in the world.

    Perhaps this suggests a serious lack of sustainable building design, green innovation, or shortcomings in environmental buildings still. Nonetheless, it's 2011 and we really know better. I hope the full version of the article in the June issue not only highlights the progress these skyscrapers represent, but also the challenges that lie ahead, and potential opportunities.