New York skyscraper will function as a 55-story air filter

August 11, 2010

It’s safe to say that when the 4,300 employees of Bank of America’s New York operations move into their new home at One Bryant Park in 2008, they will be breathing some of the cleanest air in any office environment.

Developed jointly by BOA and The Durst Organization, the 55-story Bank of America Tower at One Bryant Park will be fitted with high-efficiency air-filtration systems commonly found in clean-room environments that will extract 95% of particulate matter, as well as ozone and volatile organic compounds, from the outside air. In comparison, typical building mechanical systems filter about 35-50% of particulates and extract very few VOCs or ozone matter. The robust air-delivery system will not only maintain a “near clean-room” environment inside the 2.2 million-sf structure, but it will also help clean the atmosphere immediately around the skyscraper, according to Robert Fox, Jr., partner with local design architect Cook + Fox Architects. “The air that is eventually exhausted from the building will be much cleaner than the air that came in,” says Fox. As a result, the building will effectively function as a “giant air filter” for the city. It’s a novel concept that, if applied to a great number of buildings within a city or region, could make a noticeable difference in the fight against pollution. Outdoor air will enter the building at two locations—at the upper level of the podium (about 150 feet above grade) and at roof level (about 850 feet)—and will be filtered through MERV 15-rated air filters to remove particulate matter as small as 2.5 microns in diameter. (MERV, or minimum efficiency reporting value, measures the efficiency of air filters on a scale of 1 to 16, with 16 being the most efficient.) A second filter, called an “activated carbon” filter, will remove VOCs, ozone, and other pollutants, according to Scott Frank, partner with Jaros Baum & Bolles, New York, mechanical engineer on the project.   “This is not done in a typical class A office building,” says Frank. MERV 10 filters are the industry standard for buildings like Bank of America Tower, and air intakes are commonly placed near grade level. “With the air intakes located high up in the building, they’ll be removed from major sources of air pollution, like vehicle exhaust.” “My hope is that building systems like this will become the norm,” says Fox. “And that it will become common for potential tenants and brokers to ask building owners about the type of filters they have on their air-delivery systems.” Can the design of buildings actually improve the atmosphere?
“Certainly,” says Fox. “But there’s other factors at work here, namely vehicles and power plants.” Once those are under control, then buildings like Bank of America Tower can truly make an impact.

         
 

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