The Empire State Building Reaches Greener Heights

Posted on Apr 3, 2014


The Empire State Building stands at 103-stories and is thought of as an American cultural icon. Recently, this 81 year old (82 in May of 2014) has received a modern upgrade sweeping through forward thinking businesses: going green. True to the building’s ambitious roots, the undertaking of the green retrofit will be no less ambitious.
The Empire State Building Company reports that over the next 15 years (the retrofit kicked off in 2008), the building’s carbon footprint will be reduced by 105,000 metric tons (the statistical equivalent to removing 20,000 cars from the road). This project is called the “Empire State ReBuilding program” and is funded by multiple organizations, including the Clinton climate Initiative.

The $550 million in funding has already been used to address a number of projects in the program plan. Each window on the building, totaling 6,514, was refurbished on-site making them four times more efficient. Other retrofits already completed include improved air conditioning unit controls, insulated barriers to the radiators under the windows, and real-time monitoring of the building’s systems via wireless network. A two-year contract to purchase wind power from Green Mountain Energy has also been put into place.

While the retrofits may seem small to some, the size of the building is what makes the savings significant. During peak times, approximately 3,400 workers can be expected to inhabit the building, more than 3 billion light bulbs, and 68 elevators. Tenants are being urged to switch to compact fluorescents.

The building has already achieved LEED Gold status. LEED certification is a popular building standard that measures the energy efficiency of buildings. Achieving this industry standard seal is a great accomplishment and there are still more projects underway for the retrofit.

While this ambitious project is will bring monumental savings to tenants and building owners, this is not the overarching goal of the retrofit program. The Empire State Building program partners hope that this retrofit will become a template for other large buildings to follow. As businesses are increasingly expected to integrate green practices into their processes, products, buildings, and investments; retrofitting one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World holds great symbolism. The principal over the program, Anthony Malkin has been quoted, “If we only succeed at the Empire State Building, we have failed.”