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New York icon goes energy efficient

The Empire State Building in New York City is being used as a test case for environmental retrofits. A $500 mi...


Empire State Building, New York City
Empire State Building, New York City

The Empire State Building in New York City is being used as a test case for environmental retrofits. A $500 million upgrade is under way on the 102-storey Manhattan building, with a goal of reducing its energy consumption by 40 per cent.

The retrofit team — sponsored by the Clinton Climate Initiative, Rocky Mountain Institute, Johnson Controls and Jones Lang LaSalle — used a new and replicable model to gauge what components should be part of the renovation, based on a cost-benefit curve. From 60 potential retrofit components, the team chose eight economically viable projects that provide a significant return on investment, both environmentally and financially.

Eight key initiatives of the renovation include:

– refurbishing 6,500 windows using existing glass and sashes to create triple-glazed insulated panels;

– adding insulation behind the radiators

– improving lighting, including adding daylight controls and plug load occupancy sensors

– air handler replacements

– chiller plant retrofit

– building control system upgrade

– adding demand control ventilation

– adding individual, web-based power use systems for each tenant.

The retrofit is expected to save $4.4 million in annual energy savings costs. At the project’s unveiling, President Clinton said: “In this distressed economic climate, there is a tremendous opportunity for cities and building owners to retrofit existing buildings to save money and save energy. I’m proud of the work my foundation’s climate initiative has done with 40 of the world’s largest cities, including New York where we played a central role in convening a unique set of partners that are working to make the Empire State retrofit project possible.”

The Empire State Building was built in 1931 at Fifth Avenue and 34th Street. It has observatories on its 86th and 102nd floors.