PNC unveiled its new Downtown Pittsburgh headquarters on Thursday, a $400 million glass tower built to be environmentally-friendly down to the smallest detail, from its double-skinned exterior facade, to the hand dryers in the restrooms.

Overlooking the lobby with the Beacon.
The Beacon serves as a work of art as well as a barometer of how the building is using energy.

“It’s an amazing thing to raise a building from the ground up, to change a city’s skyline,” PNC chief executive officer William Demchak said in his welcoming remarks to a group of local officials and media. The “crown jewel” of PNC’s sustainability initiatives, as Demchak calls it, sits near the corner of Fifth and Jim Rohr Way (formerly Wood St.), and the company claims the Tower at PNC is 50 percent more energy efficient than similar buildings. Its construction took close to five years.

The 33-story skyscraper achieved platinum status from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and bills the tower as the greenest office building in the world. The tower has a solar chimney which uses solar power to help ventilate the structure, a water recycling system that collects and reuses stormwater, and windows that open to allow fresh air inside, even on its upper floors.

Demchak says the completion of the Tower increases PNC’s footprint in Pittsburgh to nearly 4 million square feet, and demonstrates the company’s committment to the city: “We believe in Downtown Pittsburgh.”

The multi-floor to ceiling glass makes for dramatic space and outstanding views.
The multi-floor to ceiling glass makes for dramatic space and outstanding views.

He also praised the man who preceded him as PNC’s CEO, Jim Rohr, for whom the building’s auditorium is named. “Jim led PNC down the path of green building,” Demchak said.

In addition to its green construction, soaring floor-to-ceiling windows on the building’s 28th floor provide impressive views not only of Pittsburgh’s skyline, but of all three rivers. “You can see clear to Sewickley,” said one observer. And in its lobby, a massive cone-shaped installation called the Beacon serves as both a piece of artwork and a kind of barometer for the building’s “mood,” says Gideon D’Arcangelo of ESI Design, the firm that designed it.

“We wanted to create something that communicated information about the building,” D’Arcangelo says, rather than a static piece of artwork. He calls the Beacon a representation of the building’s heartbeat. Its liquid crystal panels each contain LED lights that change color based on the building’s “mood,” that is, how it’s conserving and using energy, as it communicates with the building’s other data systems.

PNC Tower was designed by architecture and design firm Gensler and built by local contractor PJ Dick, Inc. Others on the project team include Seattle-based sustainability consultant Paladino & Company and engineering firm BuroHappold along with design firm ESI Design.

The building will eventually have 2,200 PNC employees in its offices and cubicles, most of whom will begin moving in over the coming months. It should be fully occupied in January.  Photos by Tracy Certo. 

Kim Lyons

Kim Lyons is an award-winning writer and editor who spends way too much time on Twitter. Her experience includes crime, features and business reporting, and she has a huge crush on Pittsburgh. She was a 2015 Kiplinger Fellow in Public Affairs Journalism at the Ohio State University, and is a founding member of the Pittsburgh chapter of the Online News Association.