The Empire State Building Strikes Back at Energy Inefficiency

SAN FRANCISCO, CA — Green renovations and retrofits will save the Empire State Building more than $4.4 million annually, reduce energy use by 38 percent, cut carbon emissions by 105,000 metric tons over a 15-year period and provide a payback in slightly more than three years.

The statistics on the greening of the Empire State Building are almost as dizzying as the 102-story New York City landmark. And the lessons that can be learned from the efforts by the project partners -- building owner Anthony Malkin, Johnson Controls Inc., Jones Lang LaSalle, the Rocky Mountain Institute and the Clinton Climate Initiative -- are numerous as well.

State of Green BusinessClay Nesler, the vice president of Global Energy and Sustainability for the Building Efficiency business of Johnson Controls Inc., detailed learning points in a "One Great Idea" session at the State of Green Business Forum in San Francisco today.

"The great idea is actually a combination of a bunch of really, really good ideas," Nesler said. They included:

  • Use of an integrative design process. Typically the collaborative method is used to develop a holistic building design. In this case, the project partners used the technique to look at 60 potential improvements and narrow them to eight action areas.
  • Careful selection and timing of the eight measures, which will work together to realize the projected savings. For example, upgrading the glass in 6,514 double-paned, double-hung windows and retrofitting the air conditioning eliminated the need for building a new chiller plant for the property -- retrofitting the existing one did the job. "We saved so much money by not building a new chiller plant, that we paid for all the other improvements," Nesler said.
  • Realizing, contrary to conventional wisdom, that more than half the savings for the building could come from tenant spaces -- and taking steps to help make that happen including changing the leasing structure, and submetering for all tenants so that they pay for their own energy and have the incentive to make improvements. In addition, "every single tenant gets a dashboard" to help them measure and manage energy consumption, Nesler said.