Empire State Building Gets a Green Makeover to Cut CO2 Emissions

By Ed Pilkington
April 7, 2009

The Empire State Building in New York is getting a $20m environmental makeover
Photograph: Murdo Macleod/Murdo Macleod

The Empire State Building, the symbol of New York's pre-eminence that held the
title of the world's tallest skyscraper for 41 years, is seeking to pierce
through the pall of economic gloom that has descended on Manhattan by turning
itself green.

The owners of the building announced yesterday they were investing an additional
$20m to reduce its carbon footprint and energy consumption. The retrofit is
being added to a renovation of the art deco structure that starts this summer
already costing half a billion dollars.

It takes a certain pluck to announce such a substantial investment in the middle
of a recession. But then the Empire State Building was born in hard times.

Work on the site in midtown Manhattan began in January 1930, months after the
Wall Street crash. It went up as the New York and US economies went down.
Now the current owners of the 102-storey office block, Wien & Malkin, hope to
buck the economic trend again by improving the building and charging higher
rents. Part of the hard sell to potential new clients will be its "greenness"
once the work is completed in 2013.

The plan aims to cut the use of energy by almost 40%, which would in turn reduce
the emissions of CO2 from the building by some 105,000 metric tonnes a year.
That is no easy feat, bearing in mind that the Empire State has some 6,500
windows, 73 elevators and a total floorspace of 2.6 million square feet.

All the windows will have an extra layer of insulation added by secreting a
coated film between two glass panes - done in situ to avoid pollution caused by
transporting the glass from an outside destination. Insulation will be added
behind radiators, and the cooling system in the basement will be replaced with
new more efficient machines.

Individual workers in the office spaces will be encouraged to take
responsibility for their own emissions by being given access through their
computers to monitors which will tell them how much energy is being expended in
their part of the building.

None of the changes though will be visible to the outside world. The owners have
decided that the famous coloured lights - the top of the Empire State turns
green, for instance, on St Patrick's day and was a patriotic red, white and blue
for several months after 9/11 - will remain intact, arguing they are responsible
for relatively little energy consumption.


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