Empire State Building achieves LEED Gold

Empire State Building Co., Jones Lang LaSalle, and U.S. Green Building Council announce milestone achievement.


The Empire State Building has been awarded LEED Gold for Existing Buildings certification as further recognition from the $550 million Empire State ReBuilding program. The Empire State Building is the tallest office building to achieve LEED certification.

The 2.85 million sq ft building is celebrating its 80th anniversary while nearing completion of its renewal and repurposing to meet the needs of 21st century businesses. It is one of a small number of National Historic Landmarks to earn the designation, which was established by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and verified by the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI).

The announcement was made jointly by Anthony Malkin, Empire State Building Co.; Dana Robbins Schneider, vice president of Jones Lang LaSalle, program manager of the energy retrofit, LEED feasibility assessment and application process; and Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO, and founding chair of USGBC.

The LEED Gold certification follows the ground-breaking creation and implementation of a new replicable, transparent, quantifiable process for economically justified energy efficient retrofits in the existing built environment created a team of the Clinton Climate Initiative, Johnson Controls, Jones Lang LaSalle and the Rocky Mountain Institute. The game-changing analytical model is non-proprietary and open-source and is being replicated at other properties around the world. There is a new focus by government and the real estate industry on investment and return in energy efficiency retrofits driven from the well-documented success of the Empire State Building.

The retrofit conducted by Johnson Controls and Jones Lang LaSalle is guaranteed to reduce the building's energy consumption by more than 38%  and should save $4.4 million in energy costs annually, representing an approximate three-year payback of the cost of implementation. The building gained ENERGY STAR certification in 2010 and has maintained ENERGY STAR certification in 2011.

The improvements also reduce carbon emissions by an estimated 105,000 metric tons over 15 years. In January 2011, Malkin agreed to buy carbon offsets totalling 55 million kWh per year of renewable energy, making the Empire State Building carbon-neutral.

"When it was built, the Empire State Building instantly became an icon of its era. Now, due to this remarkable investment in energy efficiency, the Empire State Building will be an icon of the 21st century as well, leading our current era in the retrofitting and upgrading of existing buildings to meet modern energy conditions," said David Bragdon, Director of the Mayor's Office of Long-Term Planning & Sustainability.

"LEED Gold certification is another win for us following our ground-breaking energy efficiency retrofit work. It is my hope that all future LEED certifications for existing building projects will require demonstrable, quantifiable improvements in energy efficiency, delivering economic returns for building owners, tenants, and the communities in which they are located," Malkin said. "I thank Dana Schneider, our Empire State Building team, and the professionals at the U.S. Green Building Council for their hard work in this huge undertaking. I hope USGBC will be incorporating documented energy efficiency improvements into LEED 2012, which is now in public comment."

"LEED certification is one of the top criteria for many tenants today, and it reinforces the strong business case we have made for a cost-effective energy retrofit that lowers tenant occupancy costs," Schneider said. "We have continued our work with building ownership with LEED-level new tenant installations and tenant-based energy efficiency programs, which are now being documented in a new program with the Center for Market Innovation of the Natural Resources Defense Council, funded by a grant from the Goldman Sachs Foundation."

"By earning LEED Gold, the Empire State Building has sent a powerful message that green buildings don't have to be new - even the most iconic, historic buildings, as grand in scale as in reputation, can be among the most high-performing, energy-efficient, green buildings," Fedrizzi said. "The leadership exhibited by Tony Malkin, and everyone involved in this project is monumental and should be applauded."

The USGBC will also recognize Malkin with its 2011 Leadership Award, bestowed on "organizations and individuals who signify vision, leadership and commitment to the evolution of green building design and construction." Malkin is recognized for this prestigious award based on his commitment and guidance to the team throughout the retrofit process, his promotion of the replicable model and his strong advocacy of energy efficiency before Congress, with U.S. mayors and other government and business leaders.

The energy retrofit and other actions leading to LEED certification also helped New York's economy by creating jobs for 250 people, Schneider noted.

The Empire State Building ownership directed that sustainable practices be at the center of new operations and upgrades as part of the Empire State ReBuilding program. Low environmental impact operations procedures were put in place immediately following the transition of the day-to-day operations of the building from Helmsley-Spear to Malkin Holdings, supervisor of building owner Empire State Building Company. After the energy efficiency retrofit program was developed and its implementation was underway, Jones Lang LaSalle led a separate study of the feasibility of LEED certification. This feasibility study showed that LEED Gold certification was within reach at an incremental cost of about $0.25 per square foot.

Beyond energy efficiency, activities at the Empire State Building which helped achieve LEED Gold certification include:

  • Installation of ultra low-flow fixtures in the building's restrooms
  • Use of green cleaning supplies and pest control products
  • Recycling of tenant waste and construction debris
  • Use of recycled paper products
  • Use of recycled content carpets, low off-gassing wall coverings, paints, and adhesives
  • A program of tenant engagement, including submetering, a newly created Tenant Energy Management System, and mandatory green requirements in lease agreements.

 In addition to the Empire State Building receiving LEED Gold certification, the USGBC has notified Empire State Building Company and Jones Lang LaSalle that a 3,500-sq-ft pre-built space on the 42nd floor has been certified Platinum under the LEED for Commercial Interiors rating system. Jones Lang LaSalle built out the space in accordance with the building's interior design guidelines in order to demonstrate the cost and energy savings to tenants and prospects. The northward-facing space with views to the east and west is a key stop on leasing tours of the building, and is also available for lease to a tenant with immediate move-in needs.

- Edited by Chris Vavra, Consulting-Specifying Engineer, www.csemag.com 

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