Tower at PNC Plaza project moving forward

Photo by Claire Murray | The Duquesne Duke. Five percent of the steel structure of the 30-story Tower at PNC Plaza stands. The project, as a whole, is 13 percent complete and will cost $240 million.
Photo by Claire Murray | The Duquesne Duke. Five percent of the steel structure of the 30-story Tower at PNC Plaza stands. The project, as a whole, is 13 percent complete and will cost $240 million.

By Kaye Burnet | The Duquesne Duke

Pittsburgh-based PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. is constructing a new headquarters in the city that will tower 33 stories above the pavement by 2015.

The Tower at PNC Plaza, as the project has been dubbed, will be an 800,000 square foot, $240 million endeavor.

PNC has called Pittsburgh home since its inception over 100 years ago. The current headquarters is located at 1 PNC Plaza on Fifth Avenue. The new building will be adjacent to the plaza, at the intersection of Fifth and Wood Street, according to the company’s website.

The website detailed three specific roles that PNC wants this project to fulfill: workplace innovator, community builder and climate responder. The building will be designed in such a way that employees will have easy access to sunlight and fresh air, and will be able to control temperature locally.

The tower was designed by Gensler, a San Francisco-based architecture firm that has designed other environmentally-friendly projects across the United States and in countries such as the United Arab Emirates and India.

Gensler employee and project manager Lisa Adkins has been involved in the Tower project since concept design began in 2010.

According to Adkins, the building will feature a solar-aided natural ventilation system.

“The building skin will open up to allow air into the building; the solar chimney at the top of the building will draw the air up and out,” Adkins said. “Not only are we saving energy by using outdoor air, but we are saving energy by not using fans to move the air around.”

The building will also feature a water treatment system that will “allow recycled waste water to be used in toilets in the building,” Adkins said.

“This will take pressure off the existing downtown sewer system,” Adkins said.

According to PNC executive vice president and director of corporate real estate Gary Saulson, the environmentally-friendly aspects will help to support the city of Pittsburgh.

“We expect the building’s energy efficiency and green elements to translate into reduced impact on local infrastructure, reduced energy and water consumption and less waste,” Saulson said.

In regards to community building, Saulson said, “We expect the building to support further business growth in Downtown Pittsburgh.”

Not only will the building reduce resource waste, it will also bring jobs to the city, at least temporarily.

“We expect our contractors to hire 2,500 people during the tower’s construction,” Saulson said.

Adkins said she expects the new tower to have a positive impact on the city, as it will bring employees to surrounding business and “invigorate the neighborhood.”

“The transparency of the building also allows for a connection between the occupants and the public that will be unique to typical downtown office buildings,” Adkins said. “From a design standpoint, we took great care in the design of building at the street level to ensure that it complements the existing urban streetscape and at the roofline to create a recognizable and iconic shape on the skyline.”

Currently, the Tower at PNC plaza is 13 percent complete, with 5 percent of the actual steel structure in place. Passersby on Fifth Street can currently see the excavated building site with the beginnings of a steel skeleton in place.

Although the tower will only house PNC offices, Saulson sees the skyscraper as being connected to the community at large.

“This project reflects PNC’s strategy of supporting the communities in which it does business,” Saulson said.