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American Society for Engineering EducationSUMMER 2007Volume 16 | Number 9 PRISM HOMETABLE OF CONTENTSBACK ISSUES
Cream of the Crop - BY MARGARET LOFTUS
Hero by Nature - BY ALICE DANIEL
Wringing Gold From the Old - BY THOMAS K. GROSE

REFRACTIONS: Speaking Up for Engineers - BY HENRY PETROSKI
ANNUAL CONFERENCE: Everything you need to know about the big event in Hawaii
LAST WORD: Think Globally, Act Locally - BY REP. BART GORDON

PHOTO ESSAY: Green Giants - Sustainable design allows big buildings to leave a small footprint on the environment. - BY CORINNA WU


Sustainable design allows big buildings to leave a small footprint on the environment. - by Corinna WuSustainable design allows big buildings to leave a small footprint on the environment. - by Corinna Wu  

When asked to name the things that contribute most to global warming, the average person might mention gas-guzzling cars or perhaps factories that spew pollution into the air. But buildings, commercial and residential, account for 38 percent of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States. That’s more than any other sector of the economy, including transportation and industry.

Architects and engineers have developed ways to design buildings that have a lower impact on the environment, and they’re now setting their sights on bigger and bigger eco-friendly projects. The U.S. Green Building Council, a nonprofit consortium of industry groups, evaluates buildings according to its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system. Projects get scores in five areas: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality. Once the points are tallied up, buildings can win one of four awards: certified, silver, gold or platinum, the highest rating. Many developers have made it a goal to earn a LEED certification for their buildings. As concern over global climate change increases, it’s clear that green buildings will continue to sprout. —Corinna Wu

Bank of America Tower

  • New York, N.Y.

  • 2.1 million square feet

  • 54 stories

  • Completion expected in 2008

In New York City, skyscrapers are a dime a dozen. But the 945-foot-tall Bank of America Tower, currently under construction in midtown Manhattan, hopes to distinguish itself by being the first high-rise office building to achieve a LEED platinum rating. When completed, the sleek, crystalline tower will be the “world’s greenest skyscraper,” according to The Durst Organization, which is developing the high-rise with the bank.

The skyscraper is being constructed largely out of recycled or recyclable materials, such as glass, steel and aluminum. Inside, several sophisticated technologies will improve indoor air quality and save energy. The building will have a displacement ventilation system that puts the air conditioning vents on the floor instead of the ceiling. That way, the air only has to be cooled to 65 degrees instead of 55 degrees as in a conventional system. Rain and wastewater will be collected and used for the cooling system and toilets, cutting the amount of potable water consumed in half. A 5.1-megawatt cogeneration plant on-site will generate electricity during the day and make ice at night, as well as capture waste heat for warming the office space.

Genzyme Center

  • Cambridge, Mass.

  • 344,000 square feet

  • 12 stories

  • Completed November 2003

Cambridge, Mass., isn’t known for sunny skies, but a visitor to the Genzyme Center might be fooled. Located on the former site of a coal gasification plant near the MIT campus, the building serves as the biotechnology company’s corporate headquarters. No matter the time of day, sunlight pours in through the skylight atop the building’s central atrium thanks to large mirrors on the roof called heliostats. They follow the path of the sun and reflect it onto a set of fixed mirrors that are focused on the skylight. Transparent louvers made of prisms then automatically adjust to diffuse that sunlight into the atrium. Other features help distribute the light into the building’s interior, including a wall of polished aluminum panels, a reflecting pool and a chandelier made of 768 moving prism tiles. The company estimates that 75 percent of its employees can work using natural light alone.

A double façade of glass covers about one-third of the building’s exterior. The ventilated space between the two curtains of glass allows fresh air to flow throughout the building and insulates it during the cold winters. These systems—and many others—helped the Genzyme Center earn a LEED platinum rating.

California Academy of Sciences

  • San Francisco, Calif.

  • 370,000 square feet

  • main museum exhibit halls, 1 planetarium dome,
    1 rainforest dome, 1 aquarium

  • Completion expected in 2008

With an aquarium, a planetarium and a natural history museum housed in one building, the California Academy of Sciences has some unusual energy needs. That makes it a challenge to meet the LEED requirements, but nevertheless, the Academy is striving to make its new headquarters the largest platinum-rated public building in the world. The undulating roof, covered with native California plants, is designed to blend the edifice into its surroundings in Golden Gate Park. This “living roof” will help insulate the building, reducing the need for air conditioning in the summer; cut storm water runoff in half; and lower the urban heat-island effect. Environmental engineers had to figure out how to maintain the structural integrity of the soil bed over the sloping sides of the domes—not an easy task given that the roof also has dozens of skylights. Letting in the sun will help save electricity, and capturing its energy with photovoltaic cells installed on the roof will save even more. Solar energy should supply the building with 213,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year, about 5 percent of its total energy needs.





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American Society for Engineering Education