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Apr 072009

From Green Right Now Reports

The Empire State Building is getting a $500 million energy efficiency retrofit that is expected to reduce the iconic skyscraper’s energy consumption by up to 38 percent.

The project, already underway, is intended to become a model for analyzing and retrofitting existing structures for environmental sustainability. The makeover is a collaboration among a group of world-class environmental consulting, non-profit, design and construction partners, including Clinton Climate Initiative, Rocky Mountain Institute, Johnson Controls Inc. and Jones Lang LaSalle.

Building systems work is slated to be completed by the end of 2010, with final completion of tenant spaces by the end of 2013. Work that is scheduled to be completed within 18 months will result in more than 50 percent of the projected energy savings.

With an estimated project cost of $20 million, additional savings and redirection of expenditures originally planned in the building’s upgrade program, and additional alternative spending in tenant installations, the Empire State Building is projected to save $4.4 million in annual energy costs, reduce its energy consumption by close to 40%, repay its net extra cost in about three years, and cut its overall carbon output.

At the project’s conclusion, the Empire State Building is expected to gain GOLD certification for the government’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for Existing Buildings.

Partners in the project are eager to create a replicable model for similar projects around the world by proving the viability of energy efficiency retrofit projects. Their goal is to dramatically increase building energy efficiency and reduce overall carbon output with “sensible payback periods and enhanced profitability.”

“Commercial and residential buildings account for the majority of the total carbon footprint of cities around the world – over 70 percent in New York City,” Anthony E. Malkin of building owner, Empire State Building Company, said in a statement. “Most new buildings are built with the environment in mind, but the real key to substantial progress is reducing existing building energy consumption and carbon footprint.”

The project partners created a repeatable process to analyze the Empire State Building and establish a full understanding of its energy use, as well as its functional efficiencies and deficiencies.  In reviewing more than 60 optional activities, the team identified eight economically viable projects, applicable to building-wide renovations, electrical and ventilation system upgrades and tenant space overhauls that would provide a significant return on investment, both environmentally and financially.

The eight projects were:

1. Window Light Retrofit: Refurbishment of approximately 6,500 thermopane glass windows, using existing glass and sashes to create triple-glazed insulated panels with new components that dramatically reduce both summer heat load and winter heat loss.

2. Radiator Insulation Retrofit: Added insulation behind radiators to reduce heat loss and more efficiently heat the building perimeter.

3. Tenant Lighting, Daylighting and Plug Upgrades: Introduction of improved lighting designs, daylighting controls, and plug load occupancy sensors in common areas and tenant spaces to reduce electricity costs and cooling loads.

4. Air Handler Replacements: Replacement of air handling units with variable frequency drive fans to allow increased energy efficiency in operation while improving comfort for individual tenants.

5. Chiller Plant Retrofit: Reuse of existing chiller shells while removing and replacing “guts” to improve chiller efficiency and controllability, including the introduction of variable frequency drives.

6. Whole-Building Control System Upgrade: Upgrade of existing building control system to optimize HVAC operation as well as provide more detailed sub-metering information.

7. Ventilation Control Upgrade: Introduction of demand control ventilation in occupied spaces to improve air quality and reduce energy required to condition outside air.

8. Tenant Energy Management Systems: Introduction of individualized, web-based power usage systems for each tenant to allow more efficient management of power usage.

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