One Bryant Park: the first skyscraper for the 21st Century

Kez Taylor
ALEC, Dubai

30-works criteria for being a “first”: The first 21st-Century skyscraper must significantly support the health of the environment and people, and offer a new model for development in the face of climate change.

Abstract: After September 11, 2001, revelations about the deepening crisis of climate change, and a reckoning of how American lifestyle, policy, and economic choices affected the health and security of the world prompted New York to learn how to be a city for the 21st Century. In this context, The Bank of America Tower at One Bryant Park emerged as a new, bold and pragmatic model of new urban development to address our climate change crisis.

As the first skyscraper to be certified LEED Platinum, OBP’s innovative impact transformed the building industry, and set a standard for how to design for the 21st Century. It was also an important milestone in a historic shift of the building industry toward more sustainable development, which began in the 1990s with the emergence of the US Green Building Council. Important technical and policy accomplishments, such as the emergence of LEED, the development of Battery Park City’s sustainability mandate, and innovation in building systems and materials had precipitated a new generation of green buildings, including OBP’s direct predecessor 4 Times Square, the first green skyscraper.

While earlier projects focused on optimizing the performance of building systems, OBP expanded the notion of high-performance beyond technical sophistication to instrumentalize the entire built environment to optimize environmental and human performance. The OBP team implemented design features that would take advantage of and support local ecosystem services. New building technologies were developed, scaled and implemented, including the introduction of recycled and post-manufacturing concrete additives, and energy and water innovations, and the project pursued policy to make radical water savings and on-site power generation. Biophilic design strategies developed in education and healthcare environments were adapted for the workplace. Expansive public amenities were designed to enhance the urban experience between Times Square and Bryant Park, and celebrate human connection to nature.

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