Suburbia - A Wasteland No Longer
Theresa Sheils in Retail Banking

Photovoltaic panels (pictured on the left) generate electricity at PNC Bank’s net-zero-energy bank in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Image © Jasper Sanidad and Gensler

As you drive through suburbia and see the bank buildings, restaurants, and strip malls that dot the commercial landscape, it’s clear that design is often an afterthought. The aesthetics are hardly groundbreaking, and rarely do developers, designers, or retailers think about maximizing environmental and economic impacts.

What if all that changed? That may sound like a tall order, but it is indeed very possible.

In fact, that change is already under way in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the location for PNC Bank’s net-zero-energy bank branch. Not just another box with a drive-though teller, this branch has a clean, modern aesthetic that offers a streamlined, pleasant customer experience and breaks new ground in terms of sustainability.

A stand-alone building in a commercial tenant community that would not usually be associated with environmental impact, the Gensler-designed branch is a positive addition to the landscape. The careful inclusion of more than 200 solar panels and energy-conserving technology means the bank will use 50 percent less energy than a typical branch. In fact, it will produce as much — or more — energy than it needs to carry out necessary functions.

Image © Jasper Sanidad and Gensler

The design of the new branch has already been well received in the community. Many of the design innovations that were implemented here will be incorporated into additional PNC locations around the country.

While many of our retail and banking clients need to be convinced of the economic benefits of sustainability, the net-zero-energy branch design succeeds because the innovations were client-driven and developed with the consumer in mind. At PNC, sustainability is more than just a trend; it’s an integral part of the company’s DNA. PNC is always pushing the boundaries for what can be achieved in the realm of energy efficiency.

PNC’s net-zero-energy bank branch exemplifies the possibilities ahead of us for both retail and banking. Just think: When you pull into a suburban mall in the near future, you won’t be greeted by cookie-cutter buildings. Instead, you’ll see well-designed, environmentally friendly structures that create a positive return for the entire community.

Image © Jasper Sanidad and Gensler

Theresa Sheils is a principal and studio director in Gensler’s Washington, D.C. office. She manages complex and sustainable projects focusing on both architecture and interior design. Some of her most notable projects include the 2,000-key Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, the International Motorsports Center Headquarters, and PNC Place. Contact her at
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