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Proud to Be Green (With Envy)

We here at FastCompany pride ourselves on the fact that our offices are in 7 World Trade Center, a building with gold-level LEED certification. So when EcoGeek published a list of the world's Top Ten Green Skyscrapers, it came as a great surprise that our new home didn't make the cut.

What really adds insult to injury, however, is the fact that EcoGeek's list claims the Hearst Tower (coming in at No. 6) was the first skyscraper in New York City to receive gold-level status. That's just not true—we beat them by a full six months. 7 WTC received its gold rating on March 8, 2006 while Hearst didn't get there's until September 22, 2006. The only difference is that Hearst is the first in the city to be certified for "core and shell and interiors," meaning the building structure itself and the individual floors were all done by the developer. 7 WTC is only "core and shell;" each tenant is responsible for the design of its floor. I don't see too much of a difference.

These distinctions won't matter for much longer anyway, since the Bank of America Tower is about to one-up both of us by being the first NYC skyscraper to receive platinum-level certification next year. The BOA Tower, which also made EcoGeek's list at No. 3, employs a lot of the same concepts as 7 WTC and the Hearst Tower but will also use natural gas fuel cells to create on-site electricity and sunlight-sensing LEDs for more efficient lighting.

So what makes our building so eco-friendly? According to the U.S. Green Building Council press release announcing the gold-level certification:

  • More open space, through the creation of a public park on a 15,000 square feet parcel of land which was created when Mr. Silverstein elected to make 7 World Trade Center sleeker than its predecessor in order to reintroduce Greenwich St. through the WTC site;
  • More natural light achieved through the use of state-of-the-art ultra-clear glass technology that also conserves energy;
  • Improved indoor air quality through the installation of outside-air ventilation treated with a high-efficiency filtration system;
  • Increased energy conservation achieved via a host of new technologies, including steam-to-electricity turbine generators, variable speed fans and natural daylighting;
  • Water conservation achieved by harvesting rainwater for reuse in cooling the building and irrigating the park;
  • Waste reduction through diversion of more than 75 percent of construction waste and use of recycled-content materials;
  • Cleaner air due to use of ultra-low sulfur fuels and particulate filters on construction vehicles, a program which earned Silverstein Properties an EPA Environmental Quality Award.

Staff members at FastCompany are also asked to do their individual part by recycling. Instead of a trashcan under our desks, we have a paper recycling bin (although some of us still get confused).

The rest of the EcoGeek list contains some pretty interesting structures. My favorite is the Urban Cactus (No. 10), an apartment complex under construction in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. (Too bad the architects' website is all in Dutch.) To me the building looks more like a half-dismantled Jenga tower than a cactus, but the concept is really cool. The unusual design ensures each unit receives maximum sunlight for the apartment's outdoor garden, as well as more light for the interiors. I don't claim to be an expert on architecture, but it's interesting how a building's aesthetic design and eco-friendliness are so intertwined (much like Hearst's diamond-shaped exterior panels — not that that makes them any better than us). Not only are the buildings environmentally friendly, they also put a unique mark on the urban landscape.

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