A step in the right direction: Apple’s headquarters Apple Park

With 2017 coming to an end, we take a look at some of the most interesting projects of the year. Today: Apple Park. Claiming to be “the greenest building on the planet”, Apple’s new headquarters Apple Park opened to its employees in April this year, though the construction is still underway. The flying saucer-like building itself is mostly completed, costing several billion dollars to construct and mostly made out of glass and concrete. So how sustainable is this building?

Sustainable building
Apple claims that the entire campus will run entirely on renewable energy, generated through the use of solar powers and “on-site low carbon Central Plant”, though what the latter means isn’t clear.

In addition, the campus will house about 7,000 trees, most of them fruit bearing, making the building literally green. Trees, of course, turn CO2 into oxygen. The trees are drought-tolerant varieties, planted to withstand climate change.

Healthy environment
The building isn’t just designed with a low carbon footprint for the environment, it is also aimed at healthy for its employees.  Between each floor or the building is a canopy, protecting people from the hot Californian sun. There is also a ventilation system that funnels air in and out of the building though hollow concrete slabs, cooling the building using only natural air (though the building does have conventional air conditioning as backup system). The round shape of the building improves internal circulations.

Most of the building is made from glass, brining in lots of natural light. The glass panels are extremely durable and curved to fit the contours of the ring structure, creating the world’s largest pieces of curved glass.

On top of a hill, an auditorium is build, called the Steve Jobs Theater, capable of seating 1,000 people. The entrance is a 20-foot-tall glass cylinder, 165 feet in diameter, supporting a metallic carbon-fibre roof.

Not so green
To build the current Apple Park, 26 existing buildings were torn down. Though most of the materials from the demolition were recycled, the campus itself gathered new materials from all over the world.

The campus also has 11,000 parking spaces for its 12,000 employees, assuming most will come by car. And very few of those will be electric. It doesn’t seem that Apple promotes cycling, car pooling, or taking public transportation.

The claim of being “the greenest building on the planet” is a bit far fetched, as it not takes into accounts where the building materials come from, or what they are made of. However, a building that is powered by self-generated energy and takes care of its employees is certainly a step in the right direction.

For more sustainable buildings, click here.

Photos: Reuters/Noah Berger / Apple