Mario Tama  /  Getty Images file
Green buildings include this residential tower in lower Manhattan. The Solaire tower uses 35 percent less energy and 50 percent less potable water than typical buildings. Solar panels help provide electricity.
updated 11/12/2004 10:57:28 AM ET 2004-11-12T15:57:28

If workers feel a little chilly at their desks in one of the newest skyscrapers under construction in New York City, they’ll be able to adjust the temperature with switches tailored to individuals, not entire floors or buildings.

The individual controls, expected to save millions of dollars in operational costs, are among the many new designs being incorporated into so-called “green” buildings, including the One Bryant Park building in the center of Manhattan that will be the new Bank of America headquarters.

The building will be a showcase for the U.S. Green Building Council, which is holding its national conference this week in Portland — considered the “greenest” U.S. city by the council.

Established in 1993, the council promotes its “leadership in energy and environmental design” — or LEED — rating system as a voluntary national standard. Requests for LEED certification have rapidly expanded in the past few years, said council chairman Rick Fedrizzi.

Green technology can reduce costs by millions of dollars over the life of the building but “it doesn’t cost a penny more than conventional construction,” Fedrizzi said.

The One Bryant Park building, designed by Cook+Fox Architects of New York, will include floor-to-ceiling windows made of translucent insulating glass, a system to capture and reuse rain and wastewater, and roof gardens to reduce heat pollution.

Bob Fox, one of the chief architects, said the biggest savings could be in health care.

Sunlight for every level and office provides a psychological benefit while filtered ventilation built into floors instead of ceilings will provide individual temperature control and greatly reduce interior air pollution to improve overall health.

Construction and interior materials such as carpeting and plastic components will not contain high levels of volatile organic compounds — the trace amounts of potentially cancer-causing chemicals that help create the “new car smell” — typically found in such materials in the past, Fox said.

The building’s operational costs are estimated at $375 per square foot.

But if each worker increases productivity by just 1 percent — about five minutes a day — because of improved health and mood, it results in huge savings over time, Fox said.

The actual savings likely will approach 5 percent to 10 percent, he said, “because it will dramatically decrease sick days and increase productivity.”

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