One Bryant Park: thermal storage, waterless urinals and more

Cook+Fox architect Serge Appel talks to Inhabitat about the technologies behind Bank of America's New York City skyscraper at One Bryant Park.

I remember when Bank of America was erecting its massive New York City headquarters at One Bryant Park; I worked down the street in the Conde Nast building.

Since those days, global economic prosperity has come and gone, but the massive glass skyscraper still stands, completed and very much resembling a glass pick hurled into the midtown Manhattan skyline.

But it's not just a big, pretty building -- it's actually a smart one, too. As befits a major corporate headquarters in a major U.S. city, the structure is also a working demonstration of many of the latest technologies for high-rise buildings.

Cook+Fox architect Serge Appel sat down with Inhabitat's Jill Danyelle to discuss the building's various technologies, from rainwater reuse systems to insulating glass that smooths out temperature changes from the sun's rays.

Three highlights:

  • On its energy-saving thermal storage system: "In the basement, there are 44 10-foot high, cylindrical tanks with water and a cooling coil inside. At night, when electrical production from the co-generation plant exceeds the building’s needs, we use that excess to run the chilling equipment to freeze the water in the tanks. During the day, the ice melts and provides cooling to the building."
  • On its waterless urinals: "The urinals have a special drain fitted with a cartridge full of a liquid less dense than urine, which “floats” on top and seals out odors."
  • On tradeoffs: "When we started the project, we were sure that there would be building-integrated photovoltaics, but the more we looked at the amount of electricity generated, the less it made sense. We also looked seriously at including a wind turbine...while there is sufficient "quantity" of wind, it isn’t consistent enough to make the power generated worthwhile."

Among the building's other features: an automatic daylight dimming system, extensive use of recycled materials, filtered air both into and out of the building, a foundation made of slag (reducing concrete use) and a 4.6 megawatt cogeneration plant.

If you're interested in learning more, the New York Academy of Sciences has a wonderful 20-minute audio tour with an architect and an engineer who worked on the project.

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