Test it before you buy it. Or in PNC Financial Services Group’s case: test it before you build it.

The company has taken that concept to a whole new level over the past year and a half en route to completing the construction of its new 800,000-square-foot headquarters, The Tower at PNC, in downtown Pittsburgh.

Photo courtesy of PNC.
Photo courtesy of PNC.

In 2013, PNC had a 1,200-square-foot mock-up built, replicating the southwest corner of the 33-story building and implementing its technology and design elements on a small scale. Located just outside of downtown Pittsburgh, the mock-up is positioned to receive the same solar exposure as the actual southwest corner of the Tower.

For more than a year, the company has tested various features of the building’s design—including its “double-skin” façade.

Permasteelisa is the contract glazier for the project. The curtainwall’s outer façade  features windows that pop out, while the inner wall has vents that allow air in and through the building. The mock-up allowed PNC to work out any kinks with that system, among other features of the façade.

“We tested the double-skin facade at the mockup to confirm that it functions properly and efficiently,” says Gary Saulson, PNC director of corporate real estate. “We also wanted to ensure that the double-skin facade’s components, including the sliding door and the automated blind system, all work according to plan.

“Finally, the mock-up allowed us to test and fine-tune the process by which the building will naturally ventilate at least 42 percent of the year.”

PPG manufactured the glass for the project, and J.E. Berkowitz was the fabricator.

The Tower, designed by Gensler and sustainability consultants Paladino & Co., features more than 400,000 square feet of fabricated vision glass panels, according to J.E. Berkowitz. One of the “skins” consists of two lites of Starphire laminated glass with a special interlayer, and the other is made up of insulating glass.

The building is scheduled for completion this year.

Saulson says the mock-up testing saved PNC more than $5 million, and “allowed us to evaluate various products and to make informed purchasing decisions.”


  1. Nick,
    Why didn’t you mention the interlayer used on this job instead of using the word special interlayer?
    Do you know what interlayer was used?

    1. Hello Beth,
      What interlayer was used? We’d be more than happy to add it.

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