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The Green Life: The Empire State Building is Becoming a Sustainable Icon

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April 08, 2009

The Empire State Building is Becoming a Sustainable Icon

Empire State Building There is no more potent or widely recognized symbol of New York City than the Empire State Building. Now, the landmark skyscraper is set to become a symbol of the green revolution as well. This summer, the owners of the iconic high-rise will begin a renovation expected to reduce the building's energy use by nearly 40 percent per year by 2013 and result in annual savings of $4.5 million.

Among the project partners in the renovation is the Rocky Mountain Institute, whose Built Environment Team provided recommendations to make the skyscraper more energy-efficient without hurting the building's bottom line. Among the improvements are window retrofits, day-lighting, radiator insulation, and a "whole-building control system" upgrade that will cut emissions while achieving cost savings.

Anthony Malkin, president of Wien & Malkin, which supervises the building, said the upfront price tag is often a deterrent for retrofitting older buildings, but the energy savings for the 1931 structure are expected to pay back those costs in roughly three years. "People associate greening with expense and compromise," he told the New York Times. "We're trying to prove: no compromise and payback."

Malkin announced the details of the renovation at a news conference attended by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has made sustainability a central theme of his administration, and former President Bill Clinton, whose Clinton Climate Initiative is helping facilitate the project.

Nearly 80 percent of New York City's greenhouse-gas emissions come from the city's buildings, with commercial buildings contributing 25 percent. The 102-story Empire State Building has 6,500 windows, all of which will be replaced with insulated glass to reduce summer heat load and winter heat loss. Read more here.

--Tom Valtin

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