By Ed Pilkington
The Empire State Building, the symbol of New York's pre-eminence that held the title of the world's tallest skyscraper for 41 years, is seeking to pierce through the pall of economic gloom that has descended on Manhattan by turning itself green.
The owners of the building announced yesterday they were investing an additional $20m to reduce its carbon footprint and energy consumption. The retrofit is being added to a renovation of the art deco structure that starts this summer already costing half a billion dollars.
It takes a certain pluck to announce such a substantial investment in the middle of a recession. But then the Empire State Building was born in hard times.
Work on the site in midtown Manhattan began in January 1930, months after the Wall Street crash. It went up as the New York and US economies went down.
Now the current owners of the 102-storey office block, Wien & Malkin, hope to buck the economic trend again by improving the building and charging higher rents. Part of the hard sell to potential new clients will be its "greenness" once the work is completed in 2013.
The plan aims to cut the use of energy by almost 40%, which would in turn reduce the emissions of CO2 from the building by some 105,000 metric tonnes a year. That is no easy feat, bearing in mind that the Empire State has some 6,500 windows, 73 elevators and a total floorspace of 2.6 million square feet.
All the windows will have an extra layer of insulation added by secreting a coated film between two glass panes - done in situ to avoid pollution caused by transporting the glass from an outside destination. Insulation will be added behind radiators, and the cooling system in the basement will be replaced with new more efficient machines.
Individual workers in the office spaces will be encouraged to take responsibility for their own emissions by being given access through their computers to monitors which will tell them how much energy is being expended in their part of the building.
None of the changes though will be visible to the outside world. The owners have decided that the famous colored lights - the top of the Empire State turns green, for instance, on St Patrick's day and was a patriotic red, white and blue for several months after 9/11 - will remain intact, arguing they are responsible for relatively little energy consumption.
This piece originally appeared on the Guardian
Image Credit: Murdo Macleod
It is being done in part by Rocky Mountain Institute