Green Skyscraper by Cook + Fox

Expected be the first LEED Platinum skyscraper, the 945-foot- (288-meter-) tall Bank of America Tower is located at 42nd Street and 6th Avenue in Manhattan, opposite Bryant Park.

The 2.2 million-square-foot (204,000-square-meter) high-rise tower was developed as a joint venture between the Durst Organization and the Bank of America, and was designed by Cook + Fox Architects, with executive architect Adamson Associates Architects. Bank of America will occupy three-quarters of the building as its New York headquarters.

The base of the tower creates a variety of important public spaces, including the restored Henry Miller Theater on 43rd Street. It also provides three times the public circulation space of a typical as-of-right office building, including an urban garden room and a new entrance to the Times Square subway station.

The integrated strategies for this high-rise building focus on daylighting and indoor air quality, which foster human comfort and employee productivity. The double-glazed envelope consists of floor-to-ceiling low-iron, low-E glazing for maximum transparency and thermal performance. The raised floor plenum contains a filtered displacement system fed by floor-by-floor air-handling units. This decentralized strategy facilitates greater individual control and response to local conditions. Carbon dioxide sensors adjust fresh air ventilation based upon local, current room air conditions rather than predetermined air exchanges per hour for the whole building.

At the core of the building's energy system is a 4.6-megawatt natural gas-fired cogeneration plant. The plant supplies steam and electricity for the building. During the night, the plant produces ice for cooling loads the following day, offsetting electrical demand during the days.

The building also captures and reuses almost all of its stormwater and graywater in 329,000-gallon (1.25 million-liter) tanks. Waterless urinals and low-flow toilet and sink fixtures throughout the building, along with storm- and graywater systems, will save ten million gallons (38 million liters) of water annually.

Complexity, Composition, and Integrated Design

Contemporary architecture is characterized by a growing awareness of its inherent complexities. While the notion of complexity in architecture is occasionally expressed in complex building shapes, the actual complexity of architecture is difficult to apprehend visually. Rather than the composition of static objects, complexity in architecture can be more productively understood in terms of its own contingencies, performances, and potential effects.

Any building project is contingent upon an idiosyncratic assemblage of theoretical, practical, ecological, economical, political, social, and cultural parameters that presuppose the design and performance of architecture. Reflexively, architecture in turn affects these parameters. The role of architecture in the effectuation of sustainability is a prime example. The real complexity of architecture is in the cogent organization and integration of these multivariate parameters directing its potential effects toward some larger end through an architectural agenda.

Integrated design is typified by architects integrating and practicing this complexity. Thus integrated design involves not only deftly integrating the increasing complexity of building production — an expanding list of consultants and communications, increasingly complex building technologies and envelopes, energy-efficient techniques and technologies, software, fabrication and construction delivery methods, economic and ecological limits — but it also formally incorporates and directs the behavior of complexity.

Complexity in scientific thinking focuses upon systems that self-organize or otherwise produce novel effects not evident in the initial conditions or state of a system. Familiar examples include practices that denigrate a milieu (ecological, economic, or social) and also practices that sponsor mutually beneficial and productive ends for multiple, simultaneous milieus. The difference between the two practice types is the degree to which the respective agencies acknowledge and integrate the complexities of the assemblage that presupposes their work.

Depending upon the context, integrated design may mean that a building's spatial, construction, energy, and systems logics are intertwined. It may also mean that a building is the product of new social relationships amongst architects, clients, developers, buildings, communities, and consultants. Integrated design inevitably means many things to different practices depending on the context; however, each form of integration promises new futures for architecture and its constituencies.

In all cases, it is apparent that architects are uniquely positioned to engage the systemic nature of integrated practices that will characterize the new century. While architecture may not yet have overt theories of integration, all complexity thinking requires creativity, multiple-variable problem-solving, spatial and temporal thinking, the ability to visualize complex phenomena, and the ability to articulate rich — if not simple — and appropriate solutions to complex information. These are all characteristics evident in architectural education, and in the Bank of America Tower.

Another important theme from complexity thinking is that the concept of context is shifting to more comprehensive and productive applications that reflect the inherent complexity of architecture. No longer merely considered in the context of the adjacent real estate surrounding a project, the Bank of America Tower and other examples of integrated design emerge from a much more conscientious understanding of the systemic yet idiosyncratic contexts of any project: physical, social, economical, ecological, climatic, regulatory, and programmatic. Integrated design fundamentally involves a strategic reconstructing of the given, yet broadly defined, context(s) of a project.

The incorporation of architecture's complex contexts is central to integrated design and accordingly shifts what constitutes the term "composition" in architecture. Until recently, this term had always been dominated by the logic of a visual image. The logic of construction and its delivery, the logic of a high-performance building, or the logic of a particular market condition, for instance, provide equally potent and rigorous logics for composition alongside the role of visual logic.

In buildings such as the Bank of America Tower, it is clear that what composes architecture materially and immaterially is a broadened understanding of context and the multivariate assemblage of factors and forces that compose buildings. This understanding of "composition" is particularly evident at the confluence of two salient aspects of this expanded understanding of context: the energy milieu of every building site and the social construction of architecture.