When we first heard that the Empire State Building was going to be retrofitted for energy efficiency, we were stoked. Such an iconic building could be a great proving ground for showing building owners big and small the huge benefits of making these types of upgrades and has it ever.
One year after the large-scale retrofitting project was completed, the Empire State Building has surpassed expectations and saved $2.4 million in energy costs. The building saved an estimated 4,000 metric tons of carbon, the equivalent carbon offset of a 750-acre pine forest.
The series of efficiency measures were accomplished through a partnership of the Clinton Climate Initiative, the building owners and a group of organizations including the Rocky Mountain Institute. According to the press release, here are some of the retrofit details:
"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 Jones Lang LaSalle included the refurbishment of all 6,500 windows, a chiller plant retrofit, new building controls, and a web-based tenant energy management system. The project partners developed a detailed engineering design and Johnson Controls guaranteed the energy savings through a $20 million performance contract. With performance contracting, savings in energy consumption from facility upgrades pay for the project over the term of the contract. If the savings are not realized, Johnson Controls pays the difference between the value of the measured and verified consumption and the guaranteed consumption under the contract."
While the core efficiency improvements are finished, there is still more work to be done and more positive environmental impacts to be seen. New tenants are set to build out high-performance workspaces and once all spaces are upgraded, the building will save $4.4 million a year, a 38 percent reduction of energy use that will cut carbon emissions by 105,000 metric tons over the next 15 years.
This type of model is incredibly important. According to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, buildings are responsible for 40 percent of energy consumed in the U.S. In large cities like New York, commercial buildings make up 75 percent of energy used, meaning retrofit projects can have an even bigger impact. If every commercial building in New York City took on the upgrades that the Empire State Building has, carbon emissions would be reduced by 4 million tons – the equivalent of a typical coal-fired power plant.