While PNC Bank already has 119 newly constructed, LEED-certified buildings in its portfolio—more than any other company in the world—it upped the ante this past January by unveiling its first net-zero-energy branch. The Fort Lauderdale, Fla., branch is targeting LEED Platinum certification. Gensler’s Washington, D.C. office, led by design director Jordan Goldstein, principal Theresa Sheils, and project manager Paul Briggs, partnered with PNC for the project. The object was to create a branch that produced more energy than it consumed, and “reducing plug loads and maximizing the performance of the envelope were two of the biggest targets,” according to Sheils. A big challenge was tracking and evaluating the effects of new products and changes in the greater context of net-zero-energy. “How we continued to integrate the technology seamlessly with design intent was always a balancing act,” Sheils says.

The 4,900-square-foot building cuts energy consumption by 50 percent compared to a typical bank branch by integrating technology and efficient strategies such as solar energy, water efficiency, native landscaping, plug load reductions, and energy-efficient lighting. Sheils says many features “were closely scrutinized to understand how and when they could potentially affect the nationwide roll outs.” Photovoltaics were essential: SunPower solar panels (211 in total) deliver energy from the sun to a direct current (DC) ceiling grid system, which powers LED interior lighting, thus avoiding energy loss when converting between DC and alternating current (AC). Additionally, Energy Star-labeled appliances and other equipment use circuits on timers and occupancy sensors to maximize energy efficiency. The whole system is designed to produce 55kW of electricity, which is expected to generate about 85,000kWh per year for the building.

Water efficiency was also crucial for net-zero-energy. Highly efficient water fixtures decrease interior water consumption by 40 percent. Outside, a landscape of native Florida species reduces irrigation needs. Thanks to paved parking areas with pervious concrete, 90 percent of stormwater is diverted to bioswales, which work with the plantings to unburden the city’s stormwater system. The team also worked to make the site community-friendly. A ¼-mile path around the building encourages visitors to exercise and learn more about Florida’s indigenous plants.

Looking ahead, PNC plans to apply net-zero-energy features to 12 new branches now in the design phase. Sheils asserts that the Fort Lauderdale project “is not the end of the story, it’s the beginning of the transformation of the branches.”

Other project features include:

  • A canopy covering the building’s southern exposure that cuts cooling costs by reflecting sun during the hottest part of the day while still letting daylight enter.
  • An energy recovery ventilation fan system that uses exhausted air to cool incoming air.
  • 98 percent of demolition waste was recycled. Local and recycled materials were used for the building structure, wall, and interior finishes, and the ceiling tiles and walls were made from products with over 80 percent recycled content.