In 2002, Pittsburgh-based PNC Financial Services Group became the first major U.S. bank to pledge that it would apply green building standards to all of its newly constructed or renovated offices. The company already had an impressive record, opening the nation’s largest corporate green building its 650,000-square-foot Firstside Center in 2000.

Today, Pittsburgh’s Three PNC Plaza is one of the largest environmentally friendly mixed-use buildings in the United States, and construction about to begin on the Tower at PNC Plaza, the world’s largest green skyrise. PNC has more newly constructed Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified buildings than any other company in the world. As PNC Vice President and Energy Manager Nana Wilberforce (known by those within PNC as the company’s “Energy Czar”) recently told the Energy to the Power of Pittsburgh (E2P) public awareness campaign, the company has turned doing what’s good for the environment into doing what’s also good for the bottom line. (Click here to read the first of this two-part series.)

Green Wall at One PNC Plaza, Wood Street, Downtown Pittsburgh

E2P: PNC is about to begin construction of a new tower in downtown Pittsburgh, and it’s been predicted to be the world’s greenest skyrise. What exactly does that mean?

NW: The Tower at PNC is going to be the greenest skyrise in the world, and the basic idea is that the building is going to use less energy than any comparable building in the world. It’s also going to more efficient just in terms of the operation of the building itself. It won’t necessarily meet the definition of what’s become known as a “living building,” but that’s definitely the direction toward which we wanted the design to lean.

E2P: In what ways, apart from green building, is PNC working to become a greener company?

NW: With energy management, we have the controlled side that is doing lighting retrofits and similar energy efficiency improvements, and we have the uncontrolled side that has to do with the intangibles like the behaviors of the people who inhabit our buildings. PNC has been very good at educating our employees to make energy conservation a real part of our culture. We reinforce our commitment to green business practices everyday, and our employees really take pride in doing their part, even if that just means switching off their computer monitors and their desk lights when they’re going to be away from their workstations.  We also have green teams within the company – employees who meet and share ideas about how to further reduce energy consumption and, in turn, our environmental impact.

But when we talk about PNC Green as a part of our culture, it’s really evident in the degree to which it’s permeated every facet of the business. In the financial services industry, PNC has always strived to be at the forefront of every technological advance that might make our businesses more efficient and that might create more value for our customers. And now we look to do the same when it comes to technologies that can help us improve energy efficiency and reduce our impact on the environment. We have an innovation team within our real estate group that is continuously looking at new materials, processes and technologies to determine what’s applicable for our purposes. We’re very proud of the fact that we’re frequently leading the way and rarely trying to catch up when it comes to implementing new technologies. Lighting retrofits is a great example. PNC has spent more than $8 million on lighting retrofits to dramatically improve energy efficiency in our existing facilities. We can see the long-term benefits, and so we understand the value of that investment. We’re definitely leading the way as other companies continue their cost/benefit analyses and struggle to justify an expense that we already know will pay for itself in the long run.

E2P: PNC’s headquarters in Pittsburgh is virtually surrounded by companies that are finding innovative solutions to the energy challenges that many predict will define the 21st century. Are you partnering with any local companies as you continue your pursuit of green building and greener business practices?

NW: We’re actually working with a lot of local contractors. For example, we work with Scott Electric and LaFace & McGovern Associates, which are both local electrical distribution companies. We work closely with the utility providers in the area, like Duquesne Light, to ensure our buildings are as energy efficient as they can be. These are just a few examples.  We’re fortunate to have so much expertise and so much ongoing energy innovation happening here in the region, and we won’t turn a blind eye to good ideas from anybody if they help us to better control our energy consumption, improve productivity and reduce PNC’s environmental impact.

To read the first part of this series, click here.