Landmark New York City Skyscraper Already Considered Outdated

One Vanderbilt tower uses natural gas to power the building as industry shifts to all-electric.   February 22, 2023

By Dave Lubach, Managing Editor

Less than a year ago, Building Operating Management profiled One Vanderbilt, a high-profile and high-rising skyscraper in New York City, touting the management company’s efforts to maintain high indoor air quality to keep tenants in the new building comfortable in light of the COVID-19 pandemic

The 1,400-foot, 73-story behemoth opened during the pandemic and has received praise from all areas of the design world for sustainable operations. 

So, it was a bit jarring this week to see a headline in the New York Times stating that One Vanderbilt – open only around three years – is now considered outdated because of changing technologies, design trends and new city rules surrounding future construction. 

One Vanderbilt was designed and constructed as “the rare skyscraper designed with climate change in mind,” the Times article reads. It touts the building’s power plant that can generate as much energy as “six football fields of solar panels,” and captures enough runoff rain to “heat or cool its 9,000 daily visitors.” 

But while One Vanderbilt generates most of its own electricity, it burns natural gas during a time when designers and building standards are quickly steering toward electric power to adapt to rapidly changing climate laws in many parts of the country. 

The building owner, SL Green, is the city’s largest commercial property owner and realizes the future for new construction is electric, spurred on by a 2021 rule change for the city. The law is still fresh enough that the city’s Department of Building is still working on implementing how the law will be enforced and anticipates more layers being added to the rule. 

One Vanderbilt’s building operators admit that changes are eventually going coming to the building that not long ago was considered a landmark environmental feat. As the building’s director of engineering Jonathan Wilcox indicated, the future of the gas turbines in the One Vanderbilt is, “to be determined.” 

Dave Lubach is the managing editor of the Facilities Market. 


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