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ConstructionPro Week, Volume: Construction Advisor Today - Issue: 3 - 05/14/2009

Empire State Building Pursues LEED Gold Retrofit

A $20 million package of retrofits will make New York City's Empire State Building stand as a landmark for sustainability. Building upgrades are to include chillers, controls, ventilation and glazing and are designed to decrease energy use and carbon footprint while increasing occupant comfort. The project team includes Johnson Controls (JCI), Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), the Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI), and Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL). The energy savings should amount to $4.4 million per year and reduce energy use by 40 percent. The Empire State Building will serve as a test case and model for analyzing and retrofitting existing structures for environmental sustainability.

Adopted as core elements of the more than $500 million upgrade program presently underway at the world's most famous office building, the program is the first comprehensive approach that integrates many steps to use energy more productively. The program is expected to reduce energy consumption by up to 38 percent and will provide a replicable model for similar projects around the world.
Work has already commenced, and building systems work is slated to be completed by year-end 2010. The balance of the work in tenant spaces should be concluded by end of 2013. Work that is scheduled to be completed within 18 months will result in over 50 percent of the projected energy savings.
The project will prove the viability for energy efficiency retrofit projects to dramatically increase building energy efficiency and reduce its overall carbon output with sensible payback periods and enhanced profitability.

Going for Gold
At the end of the project definition process, the team analyzed the steps to be taken in conjunction with other steps towards sustainability as part of the Empire State ReBuilding program within the framework of the existing USGBC LEED rating system. Internal calculations show that the Empire State Building will be able to qualify for LEED gold certification for existing buildings, and ownership intends to pursue such certification.

"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. Beginning in February 2008, the Empire State Building has been used as a test bench to create a replicable process to reduce energy consumption and environmental impacts," said Anthony E. Malkin of building owner, Empire State Building Company. "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 used existing and newly created modeling, measurement and projection tools in a new and 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. This analysis provided actionable recommendations along a cost-benefit curve to increase efficiency and without harming bottom line performance. 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 will provide a significant return on investment, both environmentally and financially.

"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," said President Clinton. "I'm proud of the work my foundation's climate initiative has done with 40 of the world's largest cities, including New York where we played a central role in convening a unique set of partners that are working to make the Empire State Building retrofit project possible. It is this kind of innovative collaboration that is crucial to protecting our planet and getting our economy up and running again."

Realistic Cost Savings
With an initial 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 will save $4.4 million in annual energy savings costs, reduce its energy consumption by close to 40 percent, repay its net extra cost in about three years, and cut its overall carbon output through eight key initiatives.

1. A window light retrofit will refurbish 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. A radiator insulation retrofit will add insulation behind radiators to reduce heat loss and more efficiently heat the building perimeter.
3. Tenant lighting, daylighting and plug upgrades will improve 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 with variable frequency drive fans will allow increased energy efficiency in operation while improving comfort for individual tenants.
5. A chiller plant retrofit will reuse 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 will optimize HVAC operation as well as provide more detailed sub-metering information.
7. Demand control ventilation in occupied spaces will improve air quality and reduce energy required to condition outside air.
8. Tenant energy management systems will allow individualized, web-based power usage systems for each tenant to create more efficient management of power usage.
The pilot program launched at Empire State Building moves from theoretical and directional steps to quantifiable action plans which can be broadly adopted around the world.
"To make cities cleaner and more energy efficient, we urgently need a replicable model for retrofitting existing major buildings. This visionary example will help inform and inspire initiatives that can cut carbon emissions, save energy, save money, make jobs and provide better workplaces in buildings all over the world," said Amory B. Lovins, chairman and chief scientist of Rocky Mountain Institute.

 

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