Tim Cook calls the new Apple headquarters "the greenest building on the planet". It's not.
Because it's not what you build, it's where you build it.
I am writing this on a Macbook pro, and confess that I am waiting with bated breath for my new iPhone 6 to arrive. I love Apple's products. But when Tim Cook says this about Apple's new headquarters in Cupertino at Climate week in New York, I get upset at his tunnel vision, and at the tunnel leading into its parking garage.
We’re building a new headquarters that will, I think, be the greenest building on the planet. It’ll be a center for innovation, and it’s something clearly our employees want and we want.
This post is illustrated with renderings of the new headquarters, starting with the multilane tunnel leading to underground parking for 10,500 cars, or one space for every 1.35 projected employees. That is an insanely great parking ratio, if you love parking Audis and Porsches. In other green buildings i have admired, the ratio is 0 per employee. The fact that a big proportion of them might be Teslas doesn't change much; in a previous post I crunched some numbers:
Apple doesn't tell us where all their employees live, but the average commute time in the area is 30 minutes and the average speed a roaring 14.3 MPH, and the average passenger-miles per gallon is 34.3. That crunches out to 6,300 gallons of gasoline per day, burned just getting all those apple engineers to and from work.
Oh but wait, there is a separate drop-off for all those private buses that people are so fond of in San Francisco. That makes it all OK.
© Apple via City of Cupertino
And there are bike lanes. For all the cyclists who can afford (or want) to live in Cupertino.
Tim Cook is perfectly welcome to build his panopticon in the suburbs. The building itself is pretty spectacular; I have called it a marvel of architecture, engineering and landscape architecture. But as we know from the work of Alex Wilson, the transportation energy intensity, or the amount of energy used getting people to work, has far more impact than the energy of the building itself. Location matters more than just about everything else, but Steve Jobs grew up in suburbia and loved Cupertino. So that's where it is.
You can call this building many things, including astonishingly beautiful and a technical tour-de-force. But you can't call it the greenest building on the planet.