Empire State Building to Become a Model of Energy Efficiency

OAKLAND, CA — The Empire State Building Company, efficiency solutions giant Johnson Controls Inc., commercial real estate services leader Jones Lang LaSalle and titans in the battle against global warming, the Clinton Climate Initiative and the Rocky Mountain Institute, are teaming up to transform the New York City icon into a model of energy efficiency.

Representatives of the five partnering organizations announced their $20 million project this morning in New York. Their retrofit of the Empire State Building, where a sweeping renovation has been under way since 2007, is expected to cut energy consumption in the 79-year-old, 2.85-million-square-foot building by 38 percent and reduce energy costs by $4.4 million a year.


The collaborative project, a key component of the $500 million renovation of the Empire State Building, is a first on many fronts, according to Johnson Controls executives Iain Campbell, vice president and general manager of North America Service and Global WorkPlace Solutions, and Clay Nesler, vice president for Global Energy and Sustainability. The major element that sets it apart is its approach to achieving energy efficiency, Campbell and Nesler told GreenBiz.com.

Instead of pursuing incremental improvements, the project partners asked themselves "How can we do this differently to achieve a different outcome ... what would be the way to achieve maximum efficiency," Campbell said.

"The idea was," Nesler said, " 'How can we make the investment smarter?' "

The result, Nesler and Campbell said, was a series of innovations that were developed for the Empire State Building efficiency upgrade but can be applied to other major commercial buildings.

The first group of innovations involve a whole-building approach to data collection, analysis, achieved and projected energy performance, and evaluation of potential improvements (60 measures were examined) based on the amount of carbon reduction and financial returns.

The second innovation involves providing tenants as well as the building owner with incentives to further efficiency efforts. In the Empire State Building, the owner and the occupants each account for half energy savings. The building owner benefits by realizing the savings made possible by the retrofit investment. And to better engage the occupants, a web-based tenant energy management system is being installed to measure energy at a floor level. The tool is designed to provide tenants with the data and advice to help them manage their energy use. In addition, several "green pre-built" suites are being constructed in the building as a models of high-performance, energy efficiency and cost effective office space.

The third leg in the innovation triangle involves the use of a performance contract in the project. Johnson Controls is guaranteeing the energy savings via a performance contract, and such an instrument would be effective in obtaining third-party energy efficiency financing for retrofit projects, Campbell and Nesler noted. Though such financing wasn't necessary for the Empire State Building project, it could be crucial for retrofit projects undertaken by others.

The ability to replicate their model has been among the guiding principles of the project, Nesler and Campbell said. To that end, the measurement, performance modeling and financial tools and other material developed in the analysis process by the project partners are being made available online for public use at
www.esbsustainability.com and www.esbnyc.com

"It will all be there for others to use," Nesler said.

The efficiency project at the Empire State Building involves eight major steps. They entail:

A window light retrofit. About 6,500 thermopane glass windows are to be refurbished by using existing glass and sashes to create triple-glazed insulated panels with new components. The change is expected to significantly reduce summer heat load and winter heat loss. Together with other changes to the building shell, this upgrade is expected to decrease chiller load by 33 percent, Nesler and Campbell said, noting that analysis showed the benefit of making these changes were far greater than replacing the chiller — which is a typical move in retrofits.
A radiator insulation retrofit. Insulation is to be added behind radiators to reduce heat loss and more efficiently heat the interior perimeter of the building.
Upgrades in tenant lighting, daylighting and plugs. Improved lighting designs, daylighting controls and plug load occupancy sensors are expected to reduce electricity costs and cooling loads.
Air handler replacements. Air handling units are to be replaced with variable frequency drive fans to enable increased energy efficiency in operation and improved comfort for tenants.
A chiller plant retrofit. While using the existing chiller shells, the "guts" are to be replaced and upgraded to improve efficiency and ability to control the chiller. Changes include the introduction of variable frequency drives.
Upgraded whole-building control system. Improvements to the existing building control system are expected to optimize HVAC operation and provide more detailed sub-metering information.
An upgrade in ventilation control. Demand control ventilation is to be introduced in occupied spaces to improve air quality and reduce the energy consumed to condition air from the outdoors.
Installation of tenant energy management systems. These individualized, web-based systems enable tenants to better manage their power use.

Work on the buildings systems for the efficiency upgrade at the Empire State Building has begun and is expected to be complete by the close of 2010. Work in tenant areas is slated for completion by 2013. In general, work that is scheduled for completion in the next 18 months will account for more than 50 percent of projected energy savings.

Campbell credited Anthony Malkin of the Empire State Building Company and president of building owner Wein & Malkin with being the catalyst for the efficiency partnership and the project.

"He very much had the vision," Campbell said.

Malkin reached out to the Clinton Climate Initiative, which in turn brought in the Rocky Mountain Institute, Johnson Controls and property manager Jones Lang LaSalle. That outreach occurred after an unusual convergence of events involving environmental efforts by organizations and businesses.

The project to renovate the Empire State Building was launched in 2007, the same year that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg kicked off the PlaNYC sustainability project and the Clinton Climate Initiative began its Building Retrofit Program to unite businesses, organizations and institutions in efforts to shrink the carbon footprint of existing structures through joint projects to green them.

The Empire State Building project serves as a "broader opportunity to educate" policymakers and civic leaders worldwide, building owners, property managers and tenants about the ability to reduce costs, energy use and carbon footprints through efficiency, Nesler said.

"I think with this project we proven that it's possible to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a way that's very, very cost effective," said Nesler.

Also see the blogs by Johnson Controls Vice President and General Manager Iain Campbell, GreenerBuildings.com Executive Editor Rob Watson and the Rocky Mountain Institute on the Empire State Building project.


Images CC licensed by Flickr user Tony the Misfit