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How Two Sets of Windows Will Create a Porch at the New PNC Skyscraper

The glass skin is starting to be installed on Pittsburgh’s newest skyscraper, and Pittsburgh-based PNC Financial Group says it will help make the building more energy efficient in the long run and is helping to grow the local economy in the short term.

The so-called "curtain wall" is actually two layers of glass held in place by steel and recycled wood in a manner that creates what might be best described as a massive storm window.

“We provide exterior glass, and then there is a no man’s land … there is a catwalk in the no man’s land … and then there is an interior pane of glass,” said PNC Corporate Real Estate Director Gary Saulson. 

When the conditions are right, air will be allowed to flow through the “no man’s land” and workers will be able to open floor-level vents, windows and even sliding glass doors to bring the fresh air into the building or even step out onto the catwalks.

“The way they will know it is a proper time is we actually have a green light that will go on telling them that the conditions are all correct and that they can open their door,” Saulson said.

Models have shown that building managers will be able to naturally ventilate the building 42 percent of the time, and the multi-paned system will help the building to be about 50 percent more energy efficient that other skyscrapers. 

Saulson said PNC decided to use the design, which is unusual in the United States, after touring some of the most energy efficient buildings in Europe. 

After designing the building, PNC told the firms looking to build the curtain wall that to win the contract they would have to open a facility in the region. The Italian company Permasteelisa won the bid and opened an assembly plant in Crafton where it employees 20 to 25 workers.

“Curtain wall companies are much like car manufacturers in that they don’t really make anything themselves, they put together parts and pieces that they buy from others,” Saulson said.

Saulson said approximately another 75 workers have been hired by other local companies supporting Permasteelisa’s operations. The plant in Crafton is expected to remain open through August, but Saulson said the company is so pleased with the local workforce that managers have told him they are thinking about shipping other work to the facility.

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