Is the One Vanderbilt the World’s Cleanest Skyscraper?

Emily Meneses

The One Vanderbilt opened on September 14, 2020. “This new skyscraper is one of the world’s tallest buildings at 1,401 feet in the heart of Manhattan,” said CNN. The reason the One Vanderbilt is set so far apart from other tall buildings is because of its unique design: it has a self-contained, catastrophe-resilient power plant that allows it to generate a huge amount of energy, as much as six football fields of solar panels.

The One Vanderbilt obtains fallen raindrops that fall on it, then reduces runoff, allowing it to convert them into heat or cool off its 9,000 visitors each time. “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,” said Ben Ryder Howe, a New York Times reporter.

The One Vanderbilt is the headquarters for many banking, law, and real estate firms. This building offers innovative office design, technology offerings, best-in-class sustainability practices, and a prime location near Grand Central Terminal. This is a step into the future, setting an example for what future office markets will look like. Though this skyscraper is spectacular with its climate change-aware design striving to have offices built that have a positive impact on us but less on the environment, it uses turbines that burn natural gas, which is against New York’s goals to get rid of fossil fuels in all of their buildings in the future.

Natural gas contains a variety of volatile organic chemicals that are very toxic if leaked, causing cancer and increasing the ozone concentration in the atmosphere. According to TRD staff, an author of TRD “Under Local Law 97, greenhouse gas emissions are supposed to be cut across city buildings by 40 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050. The penalty phase of the law begins next year, though, and many buildings aren’t ready to meet the environmental standards, which the Real Estate Board of New York estimated could result in $900 million in cumulative fines by 2030.”

With the One Vanderbilt having one fallback to making it an all-green office building, their efforts into changing that to be run by all electricity are trying to improve themselves. Jonathan Wilcox has said that the future of the turbines will be eliminated for their future building, the One Vanderbilt.