Empire State Building to go "green"

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Empire State Building is going “green” in a model project that will save about $4.4 million a year on energy.

The Empire State Building is lit with green lights during St. Patrick's Day in New York March 17, 2009. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Completed in 1931, the Art Deco building immortalized in the film “King Kong” has been named by the American Society of Civil Engineers as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. It is currently undergoing a $500 million renovation, including $100 million to go “green”.

Anthony Malkin, president of W&M Properties, which owns the building, said the technology was devised as a model to retrofit other buildings.

The Clinton Climate Initiative is putting up $20 million for the first five stages of a $100 million project to make the skyscraper, once the tallest in the world, a model of energy efficiency and conservation. The Clinton Climate Initiative, founded by President Bill Clinton, works with cities on programs to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The entire plan will cut energy consumption in the 102-story building by 38 percent.

The first five stages are expected to take about 18 months to complete and will account for about 54 percent of Malkin’s total energy-reduction goal.

Many new buildings, such as 1 Bryant Park in Manhattan, have built-in technology to make them energy efficient. But nearly 75 percent of the 4.64 million buildings in the United States are over 20 years old, according to U.S. Department of Energy, and were not built to conserve energy.

Commercial buildings are responsible for 79 percent of all carbon emissions in New York City.

The plan that will turn the Empire State Building “green” was devised by energy services company Johnson Controls Inc, project manager Jones Lang LaSalle Inc, the Clinton Climate Initiative and the Rocky Mountain Institute, which evaluates energy policy and initiatives.

The group avoided the parameters for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, a voluntary national rating system of sustainable buildings, so it would not be restrained, Malkin said. However, the finished project will qualify the building for a LEED gold rating.

Plans for the building include:

* On-site upgrades of its 6,500 windows.

* New air-conditioning and heating systems that adjust to demand and also generate cool water.

* Insulating the space between radiators and the outside of the building to trap heat and cold air.

* Installing energy-efficient lighting that can be set to light hallways and common areas only when they are occupied.

* Upgrading the existing building-control system to provide more details about demand and use of its systems.

* Introducing an Internet-based system for tenants to monitor their energy use and show them how to conserve.

Reporting by Ilaina Jonas; Editing by Toni Reinhold