A squat 1,200-square foot outdoor mock-up erected in a Pittsburgh industrial park is helping PNC Financial Services Group refine The Tower at PNC Plaza, which the company claims will be the world’s greenest skyscraper. Scheduled to open this fall in downtown Pittsburgh, PNC’s new 33-story headquarters, designed by Gensler, is a naturally ventilated highrise with a solar chimney at the core of its trapezoidal floor plate. It is expected to use only 50 percent of the energy of a standard office tower. In a briefing late last month, PNC director of corporate real estate Gary Saulson, along with members of the design team, discussed how data garnered from the module—the largest and most complex built by PNC—have helped tweak the building’s design and operations. Positioned with the same solar orientation as the downtown tower, the mock-up has been used to test the tower’s double-skin facade as well as its automated-blind and lighting systems. The module has also served as a tool for testing the building’s radiant panel technology and its chilled beam system and for evaluating types and placement of custom furniture.
The full-scale mock-up replicates one portion of a typical office floor at the southwestern corner of the transparent building and has sensors that monitor temperature, humidity and light levels. An active double glass skin on the southern wall features a 30-inch cavity, with operable windows, called poppers, on the exterior and doors and adjustable floor-level vents, or floppers, on the interior. A skinny double skin, eight inches deep, covers the western side. Operable blinds are mounted within the cavities on both exposures. A metal catwalk spans the spaces between the exterior and interior panel on the active, south-facing facade.