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Empire State Building programme cuts US$7.5 million in energy costs

A refurbishment of all 6,514 windows windows now makes them better at keeping heat and air conditioning inside

The Empire State Building has surpassed the energy savings guaranteed through its innovative energy-efficiency programme for the third consecutive year reducing energy costs by 16 percent.

Over the past three years, the programme has generated a total of approximately US$7.5 million in energy savings at the landmark New York building. The savings is the result of continued enhancement of the iconic building’s new systems and the addition of many new tenants occupying thousands of square metres of office space retrofitted according to programme guidelines.

In 2009, the Empire State Building, The Clinton Climate Initiative Cities programme, an aligned partner of C40 Cities, launched a comprehensive retrofit of the building to reduce energy costs, increase real estate value and protect the environment.

Jones Land LaSalle (JLL), a professional services and investment management firm, took part in the project that has since implemented the model at more than 50 other properties across the US, including The Moscone Center in San Francisco and Chicago Union Station.

“Investing in energy efficiency for any type of building–from the Empire State Building to the local school or hospital–provides building owners with significant financial returns and creates comfortable and efficient environments,” said Clay Nesler, Vice President, Global Energy and Sustainability, Johnson Controls, an energy and operational efficiencies technology company. “Performance contracting provides the model to invest in upgrades with no upfront costs to the owner and the ability to pay for the project with the savings. It’s a risk free model that everyone should take advantage of.”

Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), a ‘nonprofit think-and-do tank’, pioneered a whole-systems approach to the Empire State Building project and helped identify how a ‘deep’ energy retrofit could be achieved using a similar capital expenditure to a traditional retrofit. By incorporating elements beyond just energy cost savings, the retrofit achieved a Class-A rating and the increased rents that come with it and provided a replicable example of how other buildings can be both energy efficient and profitable–and healthier, more productive and more lucrative workplaces.

The retrofit project focused on eight innovative improvement measures addressing core building infrastructure, common spaces and tenant suites. Improvement measures performed by Johnson Controls and JLL included the refurbishment of all 6,514 windows, installation of insulation behind all radiators, a chiller plant retrofit, new building management systems controls, new revenue-grade meters serving the entire building, and a web based tenant energy management system.

“It is exciting to see the Empire State Building example being replicated,” said RMI Co-founder and Chief Scientist, Amory Lovins. “With the country’s 120 million buildings consuming 42 percent of our nation’s total energy and 72 percent of our electricity we must accelerate the adoption of deep energy saving retrofits–even at the pace of hundreds of buildings at a clip across entire portfolios.”