June 10, 2007

When Charlotte, N.C.-based Bank of America ($1.3 trillion in assets) completes its 2.1 million-square-foot crystalline tower in 2008, not only will it be the second-tallest building in Manhattan, it also will be the world's most environmentally-friendly skyscraper. In fact, experts are saying that the building could change the way high-rises are built.

The $1.3 billion building is being constructed largely of recycled and renewable building materials and will feature a wide range of energy-saving and environmentally friendly technologies, including passive solar heating and individually climactically controlled workstations. The building also includes water-saving features that utilize rainwater for the septic system, for example, and roof gardens to deflect heat.

Bank of America's IT environment also will be going green. In addition to utilizing energy-efficient hardware, the bank will employ energy-saving systems, such as under-floor displacement air ventilation, for cooling.

There's a high amount of interest from bank and financial services clients in the greening of IT, relates Rich De Lotto, principal analyst for Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner. "Anything involved with the greening of IT reduces your costs," he says. Right now, most banks are reaching for the low-hanging fruit — technologies or practices that reduce energy costs, De Lotto says. Those can be as simple as buying energy-saving IT equipment, moving to virtual servers, and turning off lights and computers in the evening, he notes.

To further the cause, Bank of America is preaching what it practices. As part of a $20 billion environmental initiative announced in March, the bank is encouraging the development of "green" economic growth by supporting environmentally sustainable services, products and technology.

Environmentalism In Vogue With Banks

Citi also has moved to secure its place as a leader in green banking. In May, the company announced that it will direct $50 billion over the next 10 years to address global climate change through investments, financing and related activities to support the commercialization and growth of alternative energy and clean technology among its clients and markets, and within the institution itself. Among its plans is a $2 billion investment in renewable and alternative energy.

According to Gartner's De Lotto, over the next five to 10 years more and more banks will get involved with building environmentally friendly offices and branches. In 15 years, he says, the greening of IT will become part of the mind-set of big firms.

Some of the key areas of green IT that will become more prominent over the next five to 10 years, according to Gartner, are electronic waste reduction and the impact of global warming caused by the electricity that computers consume. De Lotto says that banks also will aggressively reengineer processes to encourage and give incentives to customers who opt for paperless relationships.

While the peer pressure created by Citi and Bank of America — not to mention the potential cost savings — will encourage other banks to move to greener pastures, De Lotto says banks may be more than just saving face. "Banks in general are good global citizens," De Lotto contends. "Banks are living on this planet, too."

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