Green Giant

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The Empire State Building soon will stand as a model for retrofitting existing structures for environmental sustainability.

Five leading consulting, design, non-profit and construction partners—including the Clinton Climate Initiative, Rocky Mountain Institute, Johnson Controls Inc., and Jones Lang LaSalle—are undertaking a $20 million project that aims to reduce energy use by 38 percent and energy costs by $4.4 million annually at New York’s tallest building.

The ”green” upgrade, part of a $500-million overhaul of the landmark skyscraper in midtown Manhattan, also will reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the building by an estimated 105,000 metric tons during the next 15 years, with much of the project funded through energy and operational savings.

Energy-efficiency improvements will include:

— Refurbish all 6,500 thermopane glass windows in the 102-story structure. Existing glass and sashes will be incorporated to create triple-glazed insulated panels.

— Apply insulation behind radiators. This will reduce heat loss and heat the building perimeter more efficiently.

— Update lighting designs and add controls that mix lighting with available natural light.

— Install power-saving plug load occupancy sensors.

— Retrofit chillers and ventilation controls to improve efficiency, air quality and comfort.

— Give each tenant individualized, Web-based power usage systems.

Work already has commenced on the environmental sustainability project at the world’s most famous office building, and building systems work is slated to be completed by year-end 2010. The balance of the work in tenant spaces should be concluded by end of 2013. Work that is scheduled to be completed within 18 months will result in more than 50 percent of the projected energy savings.

The project aims to prove the viability for energy efficiency retrofit projects to dramatically increase a large building’s energy efficiency and reduce its overall carbon output with sensible payback periods and enhanced profitability.

At the end of the project definition process, the project team analyzed steps to be taken towards sustainability within the framework of the existing USGBC LEED rating system. Internal calculations show that the Empire State Building will be able to qualify for GOLD certification for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for Existing Buildings, and ownership intends to pursue such certification.

The Clinton Climate Initiative, created by the non-profit foundation headed by former President Bill Clinton, brought the project coalition together. During an eight-month design phase, the team considered more than 60 ideas geared toward providing the optimal balance of financial and environmental return on investment.

Commercial buildings account for one-fourth of New York City’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to The New York Times.

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