Empire State Building reduces energy consumption by 38 percent for annual savings of $4.4 million

November 24, 2014 Laura McDaniel

As told by Anthony E. Malkin; Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President; Empire State Realty Trust

Our commitment is to make the Empire State Building one of the most energy efficient buildings in New York City and a model for others to follow.

empire state building efficiency

When we secured control of the building in August 2006, we planned a complete redevelopment of the building, The Empire State Building. As part of a market repositioning, we decided to make the building “green." Early outreach by the Clinton Climate Initiative opened our eyes to a better opportunity to rebrand the Empire State Building as a leader, a new model for economically rewarding energy effi ciency retrofits in the built environment.

We are committed to transparency. We not only show that it can be done, but also how it is done. We didn’t patent anything and made all of our documentation—designs, contracts, specs, energy usage studies, costs, data—available to anyone for free … just go to www.esbsustainability.com.

Buildings in NYC account for 70 percent of the energy consumption in New York City, and we estimate that more than 90 percent of the offi ce buildings that will be in the city in 2030 are here today. To reduce significantly energy consumption, we must retrofi t existing buildings for energy efficiency, not just build new, more efficient buildings. 

We worked with a team of experts, including the Clinton Climate Initiative, Johnson Controls and the Rocky Mountain Institute. We had already chosen JLL to be the project manager of the entire Empire State ReBuilding because of our prior positive experience with Ray Quartararo.

We tasked Ray’s team with, among other things, integrating sustainability and energy efficiency into every part of the renovation. This was not to be a scavenger hunt for LEED points, just adding green plant walls, water features, bike racks and showers, but to create a replicable model for quantified investment and return analysis from intelligent choices to reduce energy consumption, and to monitor and verify the outcomes. In the end, this only added an incremental 3 percent to our overall budget. 

Of course, there were some logistical challenges to do the work while office and retail tenants were in the building and our observatory and broadcast operations were operating at full capacity. One of the most interesting of the eight, integrated projects involving energy efficiency we undertook was to retrofit every one of our 6,514 windows.

We did the work on an assembly line we built in the building, removing and reinstalling windows at night without the windows ever leaving the building, and rebuilt 50 windows at a time. We were able to reuse 96 percent of the original frames and glass, installing a mylar sheet and resealing them with krypton/argon gas, and upgrade them from R-2 to R-8 to cut down on heating and cooling losses. 

Today, the Empire State Building is one of the most energy efficient buildings in the world, of any age.

To date, we are ahead of our projected savings. We executed on a plan to create more energy efficient spaces (office tenants consume 60-65 percent of all energy in office buildings), and we are nearly done with installing 67 state-of-the-art Otis destination dispatch elevators which actually generate electricity instead of just heat when braking.

Our original goal was to reduce energy consumption by 38 percent and net an annual energy savings of $4.4 million. We are ahead of our goals and looking to save more energy and make more money.JLL is a fantastic partner. JLL led a complicated project with a large team of outside organizations on a ground-breaking project. The Empire State Building is the most famous office building in the world, as I like to say, 83 years young, with fantastic new tenants like Coty, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, LF USA, LinkedIn, and Shutterstock. We are one of the most desirable addresses in New York City. And this is only the beginning.

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