Think Big, Start Small

An unassuming 1,200-square-foot building is providing valuable information that will help PNC build the world’s greenest office tower.

By Michael Gilmore and John Robinson
PNC Realty Services

For the past 18 months, PNC’s project team has been testing our future headquarters’ technology and design elements in a mockup of The Tower at PNC Plaza. The 1,200-square-foot, one-story structure is located 10 minutes outside of downtown Pittsburgh and is positioned so that it receives the same solar exposure as the southwest corner of the new 800,000- square-foot office tower.

Benefits of Testing

Most importantly, it has served as a laboratory in which PNC’s project team can monitor, analyze and adapt the performance of green technologies on an experimental scale before deploying them in the 33-story building, which is 83 percent complete. The first phase of employees moving into the $240 million building is scheduled for this fall.

Within the mockup, the project team is testing the tower’s double-skin façade (two panes of glass separated by a 30-inch cavity), radiant panel technology, chilled beam system, and its automated blind and lighting systems. The team also is evaluating the most appropriate floor layout, including the placement of first-generation furniture that was co-designed by PNC and Gensler. 

Having the ability to test technology and design features on a 1,200-square-foot scale versus an 800,000-square-foot scale has resulted in considerable time- and cost-savings.

Solving Problems

In addition to evaluating various products, which have allowed us to make informed purchasing decisions, we have identified and resolved issues that could have impacted our project budget and timeline had they been detected on site. For example:

  • Two of the mock tower’s wall types were not ventilating properly. Adding vents increased ventilation and avoided expensive repairs that would have been needed after the building opened.
  • Early detection of malfunctioning blind controls led to an alternate vendor and negotiated pricing.
  • A system was installed on the tower site that will allow us to utilize additional roller shades should they be needed to prevent glare. Installing the system during construction rather than post-occupancy saved money and avoided employee disruption.


Watch The Tower at PNC Plaza Video »

 While testing is nearly complete and the monitoring of most tower technology has moved online, the mock-up continues to stream real-time data about building performance to ensure that all technology is working according to plan.

Although we do not plan to keep the mockup after The Tower at PNC Plaza opens, there’s no doubt we will continue to apply our learnings onsite and be able to address issues more quickly and cost effectively than previously possible.

View more images, updates and details about The Tower at PNC Plaza.


Mike Gilmore (left) and John Robinson think of the mockup as a real-time laboratory.


Building Green

In 2002, PNC became the first major U.S. bank to apply green building standards to all newly constructed or renovated retail branches and offices.

In 2013, PNC opened a “net-zero energy” branch in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. that generates more energy than it consumes.

In 2014, PNC achieved its 250th Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) certification.