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Unusual Lobby Beacon at New Pittsburgh High-Rise Illuminates Building's Energy Use

By Ronald Kovach Energy Efficiency
Tower at PNC Plaza

The Tower at PNC Plaza in downtown Pittsburgh, which opened in October, is being touted as the greenest high-rise in the world, so it might as well have something innovative in its lobby. Enter the Beacon — a 24-foot-high light and media sculpture that visualizes the 33-story building's performance in real time.

Here's what the lobby Beacon does, in a nutshell, according to information from the PNC Financial Services Group:

"With a variety of sensors installed inside and out, the Tower constantly measures its performance and environment. The Beacon communicates with the building’s data system, and then translates the data into dynamic light patterns that represent different aspects of the Tower’s performance in real time. As you watch, the Beacon reflects how the building maximizes its use of natural resources (sunlight, fresh air, rainfall, etc.) and minimizes its reliance on gas and electricity."

How does it do this? Well, the Beacon combines some 1,600 display panels into an integrated media canvas. Each panel has liquid crystal film that becomes clear when it receives electricity, or opaque without it. Inside is a grid of eight LEDs that show a range of colors. "These elements can be used simultaneously or separately to create animations with a variety of color, motion, and diffusion."

Want to learn more? Watch a video of the Beacon in action at the bottom of this article at the online magazine Slate.com. To see a slide show about the Beacon from its designer, ESI Design, click here.

To watch a short video about the creative process that led to The Beacon, click here.

And now that you have a handle on the Beacon, learn all about the fascinating Tower at PNC Plaza in the April issue of Building Operating Management magazine.

This Quick Read was compiled by Ronald Kovach, Managing Editor of Building Operating Management magazine, ronald.kovach@tradepress.com.


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