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Empire State Building Gets Eco-makeover
Green Futures, 26 May 09
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by Rebecca Schischa

Iconic skyscraper to slash energy use by 40%

New York’s most iconic landmark, the Empire State Building, is set to become one of the city’s greenest buildings, thanks to a $20-million retrofit that will slash energy use by nearly 40% over the next 15 years.

Forming part of a wider $500-million rebuilding programme for the 381-metre high skyscraper, the refurb will save an estimated $4.4 million each year in energy costs and has a payback of under five years.

“We’re putting our money where our mouth is and showing how this is not just good for the environment, but also good for people’s pockets,” says Dana Schneider of Jones Lang LaSalle, one of the key project partners working with the building’s owner, Tony Malkin.

Measures include:

  • Insulation: trapping radiator heat; triple-glazing the tower’s 6,500 windows (manufactured on-site to reduce transportation)
  • Low-energy air con: refurbishing the existing system, and sending waste metals for recycling
  • Educating tenants: a model ‘green’ office suite on display
  • Incentivising tenants: an energy metering system displaying their real-time usage; sub-metered billing to replace flat-rate charges

Aiming for LEED Gold accreditation (the highest category in the The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design green building rating system developed by the US Green Building Council), Schneider wants the project to be an exemplar for building retrofits worldwide. “Existing buildings currently create 40% of the world’s carbon emissions, rising to 70% in cities like New York and London, so we have to act.”

They’re also hoping to get the message out to the four million or so tourists who visit the Art Deco skyscraper every year: “It’s part of our mission that every single visitor will know about our retrofit.” The team plans to install an interactive energy display wall in the lobby to keep visitors amused as they queue to board the lifts for the nail-biting ride up to the viewing platform on the 102nd floor.

This piece originally appeared in Green Futures. Green Futures is published by Forum for the Future, one of the leading magazines on environmental solutions and sustainable futures. Its aim is to demonstrate that a sustainable future is both practical and desirable – and can be profitable, too.

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I wonder if this project has done anything different to address the common disincentive of retrofitting commerical building, that is the landlord do not want to pay for capital improvement because the benifit will go to tenant, who is responsible for utility expense.

Posted by: Wai Yip Tung on 28 May 09

This is so awesome! Thanks for sharing!

Posted by: hinkley on 8 Jun 09

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