£13.6m green makeover to slash world-famous office building’s carbon footprint by 38%

The Empire State Building, born in a great recession, is to set the trend during another by going green.

The world’s most famous office building will get an energy makeover that will slash its carbon footprint by 38% and could provide a model for green retrofits worldwide.

The building owner, the Empire State Building Company, will spend $20m (£13.6m) of a $500m (£314m) refurbishment budget on the improvements, which are aimed at saving $4.4m (£3.3m) in annual energy costs with a three-year payback.

Eight major measures are being implemented, including: a 6,500 window light retro-fit; new radiator insulation; improved tenant lighting, daylighting and plug upgrades; air handler replacements; a chiller plant retrofit, a whole-building control system upgrade, ventilation control upgrades and new web-based tenant energy management systems.

The program will also encourage property tenants to reduce energy use through:

  • Pre-built spaces that will save $0.70-$0.90 per square foot in operating costs annually for an additional cost of $6 (£4) per square foot;
  • The introduction of pre-built designs to configure or reconfigure spaces
  • Verify reduction of energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions with online calculators supplied by the project team
  • Sub-metering tenant spaces to measure usage reductions and assist in carbon reporting efforts

Anthony E Makin, of building owner Empire State Building Company, said the firm was expecting clear results from the investment. He said: “This innovative process, which has developed new techniques for modelling and organizing an integrated program, offers a clear path to adoption around the world, leading to significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.”

Former president Bill Clinton said the recession offered a chance to make energy cuts. He said: “In this distressed economic climate, there is a tremendous opportunity for cities and building owners to retrofit existing buildings to save money and save energy. It is this kind of innovative collaboration that is crucial to protecting our planet and getting our economy up and running again.”

Program manager, Jones Lang LaSalle coordinated an innovative analytic process with an expert team that included Clinton Climate Initiative, Rocky Mountain Institute and Johnson Controls.

About 3,400 workers built the Empire State Building. It was completed in 1931 in 16 months in a ferocious competition to build the tallest skyscraper in the world. Much of the office space remained unrented as a result of the great depression. Indeed, the famous observation deck took in more money than the building did in rent in the first year of operation.