Empire State Building goes green (and gold)

The 78-year-old building will achieve LEED gold and save $4.4 million in annual energy costs by 2013.


When the Empire State Building was completed during the depths of the Great Depression, it quickly became an icon of progress and the indomitable spirit of America. Now, almost 80 years later, as the country and the world again faces economic crisis as well as a new environmental challenge, the building is again pointing the way to progress, writes Ray Quartararo of Environmental Leader .

The goal is to show it can be financially feasible to retrofit an old building for a high level of energy efficiency. The retrofit program will reduce energy use and carbon emissions at the 2.8 million sq ft building by up to 38% over the next four years, saving the building $4.4 million in annual energy costs by 2013. Carbon emissions will be reduced more than 105,000 tons over the next 15 years.

When the retrofit is complete, the team expects to achieve an Energy Star score of 90, placing the Empire State Building among the top 10% of energy efficient buildings of its size-an incredible feat for an octogenarian building. The building is pursuing gold certification under the U.S. Green Building Council LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance program.

The retrofit plan includes refurbishment of about 6,500 thermopane glass windows, improved lighting design, automation, and controls, replacement of air-handling units with variable frequency drive fans, upgrade of the BAS to optimize HVAC operation, and individualized, web-based power usage systems for each tenant to encourage energy efficiency. Documentation and updates on the retrofit are available on the Empire State Building Sustainability website for owners of commercial buildings and other interested parties to review and download.

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