In 2008, the climate world rejoiced with the news that the Empire State Building, the iconic symbol of American prosperity, was undertaking an energy efficiency retrofit project that would make it more "environmentally friendly."
Anthony Malkin, Chairman, CEO, and President of Empire State Building Company announced his goal to make the Empire State Building one of the most energy efficient buildings in New York City and one of the most environmentally conscious buildings in the genre of older buildings, especially those built before 1945.
He committed to making the process transparent so that other building owners would have a model to follow in the effort to pursue green projects.
"Buildings in New York City create 65-70% of the city's entire carbon footprint. Constructing new buildings won't move the needle in mitigating this problem. It is far more important to address the existing buildings in stock."-Anthony E. Malkin
About 43% of all the buildings in New York City was built before 1945. The "built" environment consumes 80% of all energy used in New York City and accounts for 80% of the city's CO2 emissions.
This scenario is replicated around the globe with buildings accounting for buildings accounting for over 70% of energy usage in cities. Ninety percent of the current worldwide inventory of buildings will exist 20-25 year from now and the opportunity to reduce energy consumption is significant.
Business owners understand that for any project to make sense, there should be a profit or a return on investment. The biggest barrier preventing building owners from making the investment in energy-related projects is the lack of demonstrated understanding of the costs and returns to be achieved.
The project TEAM assembled for the Empire State Building Sustainability Project included the "best in class" experts in the field of energy efficiency and environmental design and sustainability. The TEAM included the Clinton Climate Initiative, Jones Lang LaSalle, Johnson Controls, Rocky Mountain Initiative, Empire State Building Operations.
The TEAM sought to "prove or disprove" that cost-effectiveness of energy efficient retrofits can produce the returns required by ownership groups by reducing operating costs, greenhouse gasses and promote other sustainable projects. Energy efficiency would enhance the long-term value in the Empire State Building by increasing occupancies and lease rental rates over time.
They sought to attract environmentally conscious tenants concerned about the environment and desirous of providing a healthy workplace for their employees.
One of the very first projects undertaken by the TEAM in Phase 1 was the refurbishment of the building's 6,514 windows. This was one of the major projects that resulted from several brainstorming sessions among stakeholders to discover energy efficient ideas that could be accomplished without considering equipment upgrades. The heat was seeping out of the existing double paned windows in the winter and cool air in the summer.
Replacing all 6,514 windows would have been cost prohibitive as well as creating substantial waste material. The TEAM devised a program to refurbish each of the 6,514 windows on site with energy efficient glass making them 4 times more efficient in keeping heat and air conditioning inside the building.
The process, as shown in the above photo from the ESBNY Sustainable Exhibit, required the windows to be disassembled and cleaned. A suspended low-emission film, as well as an insulating mixture of gasses, was added between the double panes of glass intended to reflect and trap heat inside and provide insulation in order to retain temperature control.
The results in energy cost reductions were impressive. Further, the building operations were able to retrofit their chiller plant instead of full replacement which was in their original capital improvement budget.
"The Empire State Building retrofit project has dramatically exceeded projected energy savings for the third straight year, reducing costs by millions of dollars. As we continue our energy efficient installations for incoming tenants, we are confident we will meet and exceed our complete project goal of saving $4.4 million each year. As for now, we are ahead of our projections and that means more savings and more returns on our investments to date."-Anthony E. Malkin
According to a press release from the Empire State Building Sustainable Program as of August 14, 2014, the program has generated approximately $7.5 million in energy savings over the past 3 years.
Improvement measures performed by Johnson Controls and Jones Lang LaSalle included the refurbishment of the 6,514 windows, insulation behind all radiators, chiller plant retrofit, new building management system controls, new revenue grade meters serving the entire building, and web-based tenant energy management systems.