Empire State Building Reaches New Heights in Energy Efficiency

On February 25, 2010 the Sustainable Building Industry Council’s (SBIC) 2009 Beyond Green High Performance Building Award was given to the Empire State Building (ESB) Integrated Energy Efficiency Retrofit team, consisting of:  Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), Jones Lang LaSalle, Clinton Climate Initiative and Johnson Controls. These awards distinguish initiatives that shape and catalyze the high-performance building market, as well as the real-world application of high-performance design and construction practices. The winners were competing in a field of over forty applicants judged by a panel of distinguished architects. On hand for the presentation were Congressman Russ Carnahan (D-MO) and Congresswoman Judy Biggert (R-IL), co-chairs of the High Performance Buildings Congressional Caucus.

The ESB team took pains to go beyond the typical 15-20% energy retrofit reductions, to showcase what they believe represents a new generation of building energy retrofit technology, strategy and philosophy.  Rigorous cost/performance analysis models were developed and refined which enabled the team to identify the most cost-effective energy reduction strategies. Among the initiatives selected were:

  • Refurbished windows by using  thin film and pumping in inert gas.
  • Reducing lighting with daylighting, occupancy sensing & high efficiency bulbs.
  • Placing radiative barriers behind radiators to reduce losses.
  • A chiller plant retrofit
  • Variable Air Volume air handling units
  • Direct Digital controls that optimize heating and cooling operation

The resulting package is estimated to achieve a 38% reduction in energy consumption, which translates into $4.4 million annual cost savings with 105,000 metric tons of CO2 avoided over the fifteen year monitoring period.

The Empire State Building, once the tallest building in the world and now ranked number ten, with approximately 3 million square feet has an annual energy budget of $11 million. It emits an estimated 25,000 metric tons of CO2 per year.  In general, building operations use roughly 70-80% of a city’s energy.

According to the team, their winning formula was to apply the right measures in the right order. First, reduce building loads, then use efficient technology, then apply controls for optimal operation.

Johnson Controls Inc will deliver 61% of the total savings using a performance contract mechanism. Five different performance contracts have a total cost of $20 million and guaranteed savings of ~20% percent.

This award is coincident with the launch of RMI’s new initiative, RetroFit. Building off both the success and lessons learned from the Empire State Building project, this initiative–which will be funded in large part by philanthropy–aims to encourage the retrofit of the entire U.S. commercial building stock to use, on average, 50 percent less energy by 2050.

“As our nation pursues strategies that allow us to use our natural resources more efficiently, a focus on high-performance buildings is a must,” SBIC Executive Director Bud DeFlaviis stated. “Rocky Mountain Institute and their partners have demonstrated the role that retrofits will play in this effort. Their work will undoubtedly help inspire other forward-thinking building practitioners who are creating a new generation of buildings that are mindful of the people they serve and the environment they impact.”

This project was the subject of an earlier post, when it first got started,

Other entries receiving honorable mention from SBIC include:

Emerson’s Energy-Efficient Global Data Center, St. Louis, MO

Charlotte Vermont House, Charlotte, VT

Kroon Hall, School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, Yale Univ., New Haven, CT

Water Independence in Oregon’s Buildings, Portland, OR

RP Siegel is the Executive Director of Cool Rochester and the co-author, with Roger Saillant of the acclaimed sustainability thriller Vapor Trails.

RP Siegel

RP Siegel, author and inventor, shines a powerful light on numerous environmental and technological topics. His work has appeared in Triple Pundit, GreenBiz, Justmeans, CSRWire, Sustainable Brands, PolicyInnovations, Social Earth, 3BL Media, ThomasNet, Huffington Post, Strategy+Business, Mechanical Engineering, and engineering.com among others . He is the co-author, with Roger Saillant, of Vapor Trails, an adventure novel that shows climate change from a human perspective. RP is a professional engineer - a prolific inventor with 52 patents and President of Rain Mountain LLC a an independent product development group. RP recently returned from Abu Dhabi where he traveled as the winner of the 2015 Sustainability Week blogging competition.Contact: bobolink52@gmail.com

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