The Tower at PNC Plaza

Designed for innovation, collaboration and employee well-being

by Laura Jernegan

Being a relatively small city, Pittsburgh’s skyline is unique in the way that all of the major skyscrapers are concentrated in one main area Downtown. The skyline is a mix of old industry and new innovation with one grand centerpiece—at least for those interested in the sustainability space. The Tower at PNC Plaza was completed in 2015 and embodies PNC’s commitment to improving the city and its communities by providing products and services that support economic development with an emphasis on people and the environment.

I first learned about the Tower at PNC Plaza during a kayak tour with the Green Building Alliance back in May, when I was still new to Pittsburgh and just beginning my MBA Sustainable Business Practices journey. It was during this tour that I learned that the Tower is actually one of the greenest, if not the greenest, buildings in Pittsburgh. The Tower is LEED Platinum-certified, so it fits well in close proximity to the first LEED certified convention center just a few blocks north and aligns with the city’s trend toward green buildings and investments in technology and sustainability. I visited the Tower briefly after a meeting in October but was grateful for the chance to tour more of the building and learn about the different elements incorporated into its design and construction.

The Tower embodies not just how PNC relates with customers, but also emphasizes the commitment that the company has to its employees by focusing on creating a work environment that supports collaboration, utilizes natural systems to create a healthy workspace and integrates a local Pittsburgh feel into many elements of the building’s design. During the tour, I felt giddy with sustainability nerd enthusiasm but, through all of my gawking and “WHOA” moments, I noted a few of the elements that had me especially intrigued:

  • Prior to construction, only 5% of the waste from the deconstructed buildings that occupied the space previously was sent to landfills. All other materials were upcycled, recycled or donated.
  • A large chandelier hangs over a blue and orange PNC sponsored Indy car in the main entrance to the Tower. The chandelier is actually an interactive art display made up of many small beacons that display the electricity consumption per floor.
  • The elevators learn travel patterns and anticipate when and where service is needed.
  • Different areas of the Tower represent the diverse geographical markets where PNC does business.
  • Sustainably harvested oak from Erie and images of all of the bridges of Pittsburgh are part of the interior design of the cafeteria. As a contribution to the cafeteria floor, employees were asked to bring wine bottles from home to be ground into the material used to cover part of the floor. All of the fixtures and furnishings are made from recycled content.
  • Office spaces are organized by business function and specifically located to enable enhanced performance. Two-story “neighborhoods” foster connectivity, collaboration, and innovation among business functions. Related business functions are located in the same neighborhoods to facilitate easy collaboration across functions.
  • Green roofs around the Tower are important for storm water collection and recycling, and large glass windows ensure that all employees have access to natural light.
  • A five-story indoor park provides a nice meeting place or event space where employees and guests can sit among live plants and view the city below through floor-to-ceiling glass windows.

While green buildings provide countless benefits to a business, the community and the environment, one of the biggest benefits that PNC has realized through this investment is employee engagement. More people are excited to come to work in a place that is built to foster their health and success. While this shouldn’t be too surprising, it is something that companies are beginning to notice and is quite exciting for those of us on the look-out for a place to grow, learn, and succeed after graduation.