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For Empire State Building, it's easy being green


amny Photo Credit: Getty Images

It may sound like a tall tale, so to speak, but it’s all true. New York’s biggest tower, the Empire State Building, is earning kudos for becoming one of its greenest.

Since 2008, the owners of the skyscraper icon have poured $13 million into transforming the Art Deco engineering marvel into a wonder of environmental friendliness as well. The techniques they crafted to go green will save lots of green in the long run, building managers said.   

The ESB, however, and many towers of its vintage, have a natural advantage that successor steel-and-glass monoliths often lack: something called thermal mass.

Basically, the limestone, steel and concrete “hold heat and cooling inside better,” said Dana Schneider, vice president of sustainability services market lead for building manager Jones Lang LaSalle.

“We’re creating a pathway for buildings to significantly reduce their energy use while making money,” Schneider said.

amNewYork breaks down some of the elements that went into the ESB’s Mother Nature-approved face-lift.

The windows

Instead of scrapping the 6,514 windows,  building managers simply retrofitted the existing ones. They disassembled both panes of glass, cleaned them and then added a third layer of suspended coated film — a heat mirror — separated by spacers. In between the air gaps they injected a mix of krypton and argon gas.  It was 70 percent cheaper than the cost of replacing the windows, and it quadrupled the windows’ energy performance, Schneider said.

Keeping the heat on

On the facade, under the windows, are Art Deco aluminum panels. Inside are radiators prone to leaking heat through the masonry walls.  Insulation was added behind the radiators to block the escape of heat.

Tenant eco tool kit

Lighting redesigns and plug load sensors are being instituted. Computerized tools were developed for tenants to be more energy efficient, and monitor and manage their energy usage in real time. New tenants are taught how to maximize their energy performance.

Better job at chilling

Hidden in the basement, the building has seven giant chillers, and four are electric. Their insides were gutted, the metal was scrapped, and the units were rebuilt on site, covered by the old shells. The controls were upgraded.

Clearing the air

Nearly 500 air-handling units deliver conditioned air on the floors, and they are being replaced with units that are more efficient.


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