Empire State Building to Go Green

April 13, 2009

New York City’s Empire State Building may no longer be the world’s tallest building, but it’s still in the spotlight—this time as a test case and model for retrofitting older existing buildings for sustainability. World-class environmental consulting, non-profit, design, and construction partners, including the Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI), Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), Johnson Controls Inc., and Jones Lang LaSalle, have partnered to create a process for analyzing and retrofitting existing structures for environmental sustainability, and the process will be used to help the Empire State Building go green.

Initially costing about $20 million itself, the retrofit project is part of a larger, $500 million renovation presently underway at the Empire State Building. Work has already commenced, and despite the hefty initial costs, the retrofit is expected to save the building $4.4 million in energy costs annually and reduce its energy consumption by close to 40 percent, in addition to cutting its overall carbon footprint. Commercial and residential buildings account for over 70 percent of New York City’s carbon footprint.

“In this distressed economic climate, there is a tremendous opportunity for cities and building owners to retrofit existing buildings to save money and save energy,” said former President Bill Clinton, whose own CCI is a member of the retrofit planning team. “I’m proud of the work my foundation’s climate initiative has done with 40 of the world’s largest cities, including New York, where we played a central role in convening a unique set of partners that are working to make the Empire State Building retrofit project possible. It is this kind of innovative collaboration that is crucial to protecting our planet and getting our economy up and running again.”

The program used for the Empire State Building retrofit project will provide a replicable model for similar projects around the world and will prove the viability for energy efficient retrofits to dramatically increase building energy efficiency and reduce its overall carbon footprint without sacrificing profitability. The project is expected to be fully completed by 2013, with the work scheduled within the first 18 months to account for over 50 percent of the projected energy savings.

The project includes eight key initiatives, including window light retrofits to refurbish approximately 6,500 windows; a radiator insulation retrofit; tenant lighting, daylighting, and plug upgrades, including installation of occupancy sensors in common areas and tenant spaces; air handler replacements; a chiller plant retrofit; a whole-building control system upgrade to optimize HVAC operation; a ventilation control upgrade; and installing tenant energy management systems to allow each tenant to more efficiently manage power usage. The building owners plan to pursue LEED® Gold certification for existing buildings.

“To make cities cleaner and more energy efficient, we urgently need a replicable model for retrofitting existing major buildings,” said Amory B. Lovins, chairman and chief scientist of RMI. “This visionary example will help inform and inspire initiatives that can cut carbon emissions, save energy, save money, make jobs, and provide better workplaces in buildings all over the world.”

For more information about the Empire State Building retrofit project, visit www.esbsustainability.com or www.esbnyc.com.

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