Empire State Building to go LEED Gold, cut energy costs 38%

An alliance that includes the Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI), Johnson Controls, Rocky Mountain Institute, and Jones Lang LaSalle — has come together to green the world’s most famous office building. By 2013, a team of experts assembled by these organizations aims to reduce the Empire State Building’s energy consumption by 38 per cent, and save its tenants $4.4 million per year in avoided energy costs.

This could be a major flagship project that helps energy efficiency earn its spot next to renewable energy as well-recognized tonic to our environmental and economic ailments (electricity efficiency alone makes up 3 out the 14 stabilization wedges in the full global warming solution).

Of the over 60 efficiency projects that were modeled for the building using cost-benefit curves, the partners identified eight economically viable upgrades:

  1. Window Light Retrofit: Refurbishment of approximately 6,500 thermopane glass windows, using existing glass and sashes to create triple-glazed insulated panels with new components that dramatically reduce both summer heat load and winter heat loss.
  2. Radiator Insulation Retrofit: Added insulation behind radiators to reduce heat loss and more efficiently heat the building perimeter.
  3. Tenant Lighting, Daylighting and Plug Upgrades: Introduction of improved lighting designs, daylighting controls, and plug load occupancy sensors in common areas and tenant spaces to reduce electricity costs and cooling loads.
  4. Air Handler Replacements: Replacement of air handling units with variable frequency drive fans to allow increased energy efficiency in operation while improving comfort for individual tenants.
  5. Chiller Plant Retrofit: Reuse of existing chiller shells while removing and replacing “guts” to improve chiller efficiency and controllability, including the introduction of variable frequency drives.
  6. Whole-Building Control System Upgrade: Upgrade of existing building control system to optimize HVAC operation as well as provide more detailed sub-metering information.
  7. Ventilation Control Upgrade: Introduction of demand control ventilation in occupied spaces to improve air quality and reduce energy required to condition outside air.
  8. Tenant Energy Management Systems: Introduction of individualized, web-based power usage systems for each tenant to allow more efficient management of power usage.

According to the Clinton Climate Initiative press release, the project will:

…prove the viability for energy efficiency retrofit projects to dramatically increase building energy efficiency and reduce overall carbon output with sensible payback periods and enhanced profitability.

It’s probably not a coincidence that the CCI is seeking to help “prove the viability of energy efficiency retrofits” just 2 months after progressives allocated over $20 billion of stimulus funds for energy efficiency-related programs, and 3–6 months before another barrage of massive energy infrastructure and climate bills are scheduled to hit the senate floor.


Using this high-visibility project as an empire state-sized ad for the democratic energy and economic platform is a shrewd maneuver because it helps to popularize the idea of investment in energy efficiency as a economy saver while also providing a replicable model on which future project developers can build.

President Clinton remarked:

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 Building retrofit project possible. It is this kind of innovative collaboration that is crucial to protecting our planet and getting our economy up and running again.

Its good to see that the dems are finally growing a pair and are getting over their reluctance to use a national economic crisis for the advancement of their political ideals. The press release also had a few notable quotes from the private sector leaders involved to help drive home the green jobs and cost savings message:

“This innovative process, which has developed new techniques for modeling and organizing an integrated program, offers a clear path to adoption around the world, leading to significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions,” according to Anthony E. Malkin, of the Empire State Building Company. “Along with other steps taken, in recycling waste and construction debris, use of recycled materials, and green cleaning and pest control products, the model built at the Empire State Building will meaningfully speed the reduction in energy consumption and environmental impact and allow more sustainable operations — while simultaneously enhancing profitability and tenant comfort. This is a real program, happening in real time, creating real green jobs.”

“This project brings to bear every bit of experience, research and innovation we’ve accumulated in our 125 years in this business,” said Iain Campbell, Vice President, Johnson Controls, which serves as the energy services company for the program. “It’s gratifying to know that just as we point to this building as one of the greatest achievements of our grandparent’s generation, so can our grandchildren point to us.”

“Not only will this project dramatically reduce the Empire State Building’s environmental impact, but now we’re able to do it in a way that provides meaningful costs savings to the building as well as its tenants,” said Raymond Quartararo, International Director, Jones Lang LaSalle.

Once underway, the new LEED GOLD Empire State Building retrofit project will provide great ammunition for the progressive framing of the climate issue as an economic opportunity.


Playing up the economic benefits while putting the spotlight on the private sector engineering and construction companies involved (Johnson Controls Inc., and Jones Lang LaSalle) really makes this operation look like a win-win-win: a job maker, money saver and an environmentally conscious move, a link that the American pepole are astonishingly still wrapping their brains around.

— Sean Pool

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