The Empire State Building, once the world’s tallest building and the skyscraper famously scaled by King Kong, is now set for a $100 million ‘green renovation.’ The great symbol of New York and America, which sits in the heart of midtown Manhattan (one of the most efficient cities in the nation with per capita emissions one third the US average), just underwent an eight month modeling and analysis program and will receive a massive overhaul. The Clinton Climate Initiative, Johnson Controls Inc., Jones Lang LaSalle and the Rocky Mountain Institute partnered to come up with a plan to reduce the building’s energy consumption by 38 percent, or $4.4 million, annually!
The 102-story building was built during the Great Depression; now, as we face new economic ‘stumbles,’ it is poised to lead the way into a more efficient future. “We have a very deep commitment to sustainability,” Tony Malkin of the Empire State Building Company says. “Without applying sustainable practices in all aspects of our businesses and lives, we will greatly harm our future.”
The group has decided not to apply for LEED certification, opting instead to making the building as efficient and healthy as possible without such guidelines. This is an interesting approach in a time when many cities seem to be embracing the USGBC’s guidelines like giant apes to skyscrapers, but it appears as though the numerous planned upgrades and technological additions will do great things for the building and its inhabitants without applying the LEED checklist.
The partners involved are fully aware that this project will be serving as a template for the massive efficiency upgrades in store for many of the nation’s buildings in the not so distant future. Seventy-five percent of the 4.5 million buildings in the United States are more than 20 years old and need energy retrofits (buildings alone account for over 40% of our energy use!). While a 38% predicted reduction in energy use is an incredibly ambitious undertaking, the Rocky Mountain Institute is not an organization for pulling punches and neither are the folks at the Clinton Climate Initiative, Johnson Controls Inc., or Jones Lang LaSalle. Some of the measures included the Empire State Building’s renovation agenda include a total overhaul of the HVAC system, improvements to the building envelope, triple-glazed windows, electronic readouts to make users aware of their personal energy consumption, maximized daylighting, tenant demand ventilation control, and occupant sensor controls.
This retrofit is just what New York needed. It does the job and does it well. If the parties involved are able to achieve the savings they anticipate, there will be no excuse not to look to the Empire State Building as the symbol of progress and American ingenuity that it was when it was built.