Empire State Building Achieves LEED Gold Certification

The Empire State Building in New York City has been awarded LEED-Gold for Existing Buildings certification, making it the most well known building in the US to receive green building certification from the US Green Building Council.

The 2.85 million-square-foot building is celebrating its 80th anniversary and is nearing the completion of a $550 million renovation that includes an extensive energy efficiency retrofit initiated by the Clinton Climate Initiative, Johnson Controls, Jones Lang LaSalle and the Rocky Mountain Institute.

The analytical model created by the team is non-proprietary and open-source and is being replicated at other properties around the world.

The retrofit, conducted by Johnson Controls (NYSE: JCI) and Jones Lang LaSalle (NYSE: JLL), is guaranteed to reduce the building’s energy consumption by over 38%, saving $4.4 million in energy costs annually – a three-year payback of implementation costs.

After the energy efficiency retrofit program was developed and its implementation underway, Jones Lang LaSalle led a separate study of the feasibility of LEED certification. The study showed that LEED Gold certification was within reach at an incremental cost of about $0.25 per square foot.

"By earning LEED Gold, the Empire State Building has sent a powerful message that green buildings don’t have to be new – even the most iconic, historic buildings, as grand in scale as in reputation, can be among the most high-performing, energy-efficient, green buildings," says Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO and founding chair of USGBC.

The green building improvements will reduce carbon emissions by an estimated 105,000 metric tons over 15 years. In January 2011, the Empire State Building Company bought carbon offsets totalling 55 million kilowatt hours per year of wind energy, making the Empire State Building carbon-neutral.

"When it was built, the Empire State Building instantly became an icon of its era. Now, due to this remarkable investment in energy efficiency, the Empire State Building will be an icon of the 21st century as well, leading our current era in the retrofitting and upgrading of existing buildings to meet modern energy conditions," says David Bragdon, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning & Sustainability.

The USGBC will also recognize Anthony Malkin of the Empire State Building Company with its 2011 Leadership Award, bestowed on "organizations and individuals who signify vision, leadership and commitment to the evolution of green building design and construction." Malkin is recognized for his commitment and guidance to the team throughout the retrofit process, his promotion of the replicable model and his strong advocacy of energy efficiency before Congress, with US mayors and other government and business leaders.

Some of the renovated green building features at the Empire State Building include:

  • insulation behind radiators to reduce heat loss
  • replaced the chiller system
  • introduced energy management systems on every floor so that tenants can effectively manage and control their energy use.
  • all 68 of the building’s elevators are modernized. In addition to being much more energy efficient, they’ll be able to send regenerated energy back into the building grid, reducing elevator energy use 30%.
  • Installation of ultra low-flow fixtures in the building’s restrooms
  • Refurbishing of the building’s 6,500 windows
  • Use of green cleaning supplies and pest control products
  • Recycling of tenant waste and construction debris
  • Use of recycled paper products
  • Use of recycled content carpets, low off-gassing wall coverings, paints, and adhesives
  • Tenant Energy Management System – energy management systems on every floors engage tenants in energy conservation
  • mandatory green requirements in lease agreements.

In addition to the Empire State Building receiving LEED Gold certification and Energy Star certification, a 3,500-square-foot pre-built space on the 42nd floor is LEED-Platinum under the LEED for Commercial Interiors rating system.

Jones Lang LaSalle built out the space for LEED interior certification to demonstrate the cost and energy savings to tenants and prospects.

The Sears Tower, now called the Willis Tower, in Chicago also embarked on a major energy retrofit in 2009, which will allow it to produce most of its own energy. 

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