A Year of Green Progress for the Empire State Building

empire state building saves $2.4 million with energy conservationNew York City’s Empire State Building has been an icon of engineering achievement for generations. Now it has reinvented itself as the standard-bearer for a new generation of green technologies and strategies. Last week, the Empire State Building Company reported that its energy efficiency initiative is performing above its plan, saving $2.4 million in its first year.

The progress is a testimony to the bottom line benefits of a well planned energy efficiency program, and a clear demonstration that the millions of older buildings in the U.S. need not be viewed as a liability, but as a vast, untapped reserve that could make a significant contribution to national energy goals.

Green branding and the Empire State Building

Despite its historic status, the Empire State Building faces the same challenge that many older commercial buildings face, and that is attracting and maintaining first class tenants in competition with newer, more up-to-date properties.

In this context, it would be unhelpful to treat the retrofit simply as a patch for old problems. Instead, the owners seized the opportunity to celebrate the energy efficiency program not only as an achievement for the building individually, but as a new aspect of its vanguard status, pointing the way in a new direction for America’s stock of older buildings.

As explained by Anthony Malkin of the Empire State Building Company:

“First and foremost, making the Empire State Building energy efficient was a sound business decision that saved us millions of dollars in the first year. We have a proven model that shows building owners and operators how to cut costs and improve the value of their buildings by integrating energy efficiency into building upgrades.”

Stakeholders for building efficiency

Since leadership was a feature of the program from the beginning, the owners took steps to ensure that it would be a success for the building’s bottom line, and also a credible model for broader application.

To that end, when designing the program the Empire State Building Company partnered with the Clinton Climate Initiative Cities Program to pull together a team comprised of recognized leaders in the field: energy efficiency company Johnson Controls, real estate services company Jones Lang LaSalle, and the Rocky Mountain Institute. The Clinton Climate Initiative is also a partner in the international C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group.

A more efficient Empire State Building

The core efficiency improvements for the building have already earned it LEED Gold status. They included retrofits for all 6,514 windows by the high tech glass company Southwall Technologies, which resulted in a cascading savings that lead to greater efficiencies in the building’s heating and cooling systems.

Once the tenants are upgraded with high-performance workspaces, the building is expected to realize an energy savings of about 38 percent, which under current prices translates to a bottom-line savings of about $4.4 million yearly.

Image: Some rights reserved by aka Kath.

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.


Tina writes frequently for Triple Pundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes. She is currently Deputy Director of Public Information for the County of Union, New Jersey. Views expressed here are her own and do not necessarily reflect agency policy.

2 responses

  1. I understand that the tenants in this building have the option of having carbon dioxide monitoring done in their space to quantify how much ventilation is actually being provided to them.  Can anyone tell me if any tenants have pursued this option and how much ventilation is actually being provided? 

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