10 Global Landmarks You Didn’t Know Were Green

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1. The Empire State Building – New York City NY

For years, the Empire State building was one of the tallest buildings in the world, and a symbol of commerce and modernity.  It was also famously and iconically featured in the 1933 movie King Kong, when the titular giant ape King Kong fell from the Empire State Building to his literal, and arguably metaphorical, death.  To many film buffs, it was an image of the modern world’s dominion over the natural world.  But, this conflict between natural and modern doesn’t apply so much anymore.


But, more recently this iconic building has had a re-fit, with $20 million dollars being invested into making sure that energy consumption and carbon footprint of the Empire State Building is reduced by 40% over a three-year period.

2. Transamerica Pyramid –  San Francisco CA

A unique element to the San Francicso skyline, and the 106th tallest building in the world, the Transamerica Pyramid has become a symbol of the city itself.  Not only has it come to be an important feature in the identity of San Francisco, it has also been featured in popular culture on film, appearing in movies as diverse as the James Bond movie A View to A Kill to the most recent Star Trek Film, and in video games like Call of Duty 4.


But the Transamerica Pyramid is also LEED-gold certified, a part of a city-wide effort to reduce energy consumption and to maximize efficiency.  Where in the past, this structure represented pure commerce, it now stands as a symbol of what a modern city should strive towards in the light of global climate change, and best use of limited resources in the 21st Century.

3. The Staples Center –  Los Angeles CA

Recently the site of the Michael Jackson memorial concert, and therefore the focus of the whole world, the Staples Centre in L.A is the host to major league sporting events, and large scale concert appearances by some of your favourite artists.   Built in 1999, it is historically recent yet stands as a major cultural center and West Coast landmark.


And apart from being a super-modern facility, a recent emphasis on sustainability at the Staples Center has been put into place as well.  This takes the form of responsible waste management and recycling, to using green-friendly cleaning products, low-voltage lighting arrays, and waterless urinals, just to name a few.

4. VANOC 2010 Winter Olympic Headquarters –  Vancouver, BC  Canada

This building which is the hub of the long-awaited and globally-focused 2010 Winter Olympic Games was  built as a beacon to the world for architectural innovation, highlighting green technology and practices as a global example to other urban developers.  The VANOC center was awarded  recognition for excellence by the World Green Building Council.


In addition to the headquarters, The Richmond Oval where many of the events will be hosted is also recognized as an example of sustainable building, for its use of discarded pine-beetle wood for use as ceiling beams, and other examples of an efficient use of resources.

5. Canary Wharf Tower – London England

Built in the historic Docklands area in the Tower Hamlets Borough, East London on the Isle of  Dogs (actually, not an isle so much as a peninsula on the River Thames…), Canary Wharf is an iconic representation of refurbishment of the area.  It has attracted international business and kick started a new business center outside of Central London that has brought new life to a once flagging urban district.


But another innovation the Canary Wharf Group have brought to the area is an emphasis on greening the area, particularly in the areas of green roof development.

6. HSBC Bank Headquarters Tower – Mexico City, Mexico

HSBC  merged with another banking group in Latin America, and refurbished the former Torre Angel building.  On the main thoroughfare, this building defines the district, and provides an example of modern design both to the region and to the world.  And from here, developing a strategy for more efficient use of the space began as well.


The result of the effort was LEED-gold certification, a first in Latin America.  This was accomplished through developing natural light use via open plan offices, green roofs,  onsite gray-water treatment facilities, certified furniture and flooring, and even simple things like accessible public transit proximity and allowing space for bike racks.

7. Commerzbank Tower –  Frankfurt, Germany

When this paragon of engineering and architectural achievement was built in 1997, it was ranked as the tallest building in Europe.  That distinction has since passed to the Triumph Palace in Moscow.  In the pop culture stakes, this building appears as a tile in the urban planning video game SimCity.  But, this building that took three years to create after additional years of planning, has another distinction – it’s green, too.


Among other technologies the Commerzbank Tower incorporates green roofing, and use of natural light, improving city air quality and reducing energy requirements respectively.

8. National Library – Singapore

Built as a replacement to the venerable old National Library in 2005, this new 16-storey building is touted as a cultural center as well as being a tourist destination.  The building has enjoyed visits from dignitaries including former American First-Lady Laura Bush, to Queen Elizabeth II, and stands as a source of national pride.


But among these distinctions – you guessed it – it’s also a recognized green building, designed for maximum natural light, “bioclimatic vegetation” to improve indoor insulation, sophisticated lighting control systems, and many other features.   The National Library Building  is a member of the Singapore Green Building Council.

9. Harvard University – Boston MA.

A seasoned, traditional, and illustrious Ivy League center of higher learning it may be.  But Harvard University being the seat of the minds of the future, it makes a certain amount of sense that sustainability will be an emphasis.  And it certainly is central to the institution’s Green Campus Initiative, which seeks to shift investments towards applied green building and sustainability principles.


Some of these efforts have garnered more green building credits than any other university in the country, along with an investment in locally grown organic produce in the school cafeterias, to use of biofuel for on-campus shuttle vehicles.

10.  Shanghai Tower – Shanghai , China

This is more of a ‘global landmark to be’ maybe.  The completion of the project is currently set at 2014.  But, since China is one of the fastest growing developing region in the world in terms of urban development, this project is still iconic as the tallest planned building in China.  But apart from being the tallest building, it is also one of the highest profile green building projects in the world, too.


Incorporated into the design of this building of offices and a high-end hotel is a glass facade which cuts down on wind-resistance, meaning that less materials are needed to make the building structurally sound.  Also, rain harvesting technology, wind turbines, and a design that places a skin on the outer surface of the building for simple insulation on a design level are also elements which make it a distinctly 21st century, green-c0nscious achievement.

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Rob Jones

Rob served as Editor-In-Chief of BuildDirect Blog: Life At Home from 2007-2016. He is a writer, Dad, content strategist, and music fan.