(p. A13) One Vanderbilt, a commanding new skyscraper in the heart of Manhattan, seems to be reaching for the future. One of the world’s tallest buildings, it pierces the sky like an inverted icicle and fuses seamlessly with an expanding network of trains and other transport at its foundations.
It is also the rare skyscraper designed with climate change in mind.
. . .
But One Vanderbilt is also something else. It is already out of date.
Some of the building’s most important green features were the right answer to the climate problem in 2016, when design work was completed. “And then the answer changed,” Mr. Wilcox said.
Unlike many skyscrapers, One Vanderbilt generates much of its own electricity. This was a leap forward a decade or so ago — a way of producing power that saved money for landlords and was cleaner than the local grid.
However, One Vanderbilt’s turbines burn natural gas. And while natural gas is cleaner than oil or coal, it is falling from favor, particularly in New York City, which in recent years has adopted some of the most ambitious climate laws in the world, including a ban on fossil fuels in new buildings.
. . .
The truth is that most buildings in New York, big or small, old or new, are bad for the environment. Boilers and furnaces burning fuel in basements are the city’s single largest producer of carbon dioxide, emitting more than double the amount from millions of cars and trucks traveling its roads.
One Vanderbilt, according to its owner, is designed to be more energy-efficient than most new buildings. The structure features several design elements, some exorbitantly expensive, to minimize energy use, such as high ceilings to let in more natural light.
Yet because of the rapidly evolving energy-policy landscape, driven by increasing global concern over climate change, even the most ambitious attempts at sustainability often find themselves facing the possibility of retrofitting the moment the elevator doors open. One Vanderbilt is one such case.
. . .
Landlords such as SL Green say New York City’s new laws will force dramatic changes. Unlike energy codes of the past, one of the key laws, which restricts pollution, doesn’t merely apply to new construction: Existing buildings, no matter how small or how old, must gradually comply and retrofit as well, potentially at eye-watering cost.
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(Note: the online version of the story was updated Feb. 16, 2023, and has the title “New Skyscraper, Built to Be an Environmental Marvel, Is Already Dated.”)