Empire State Building’s Green Transformation Earns LEED-Gold

The iconic Empire State Building, whose green retrofit and refurbishing have become almost as celebrated as the landmark, earned LEED-Gold certification today.

The recognition from the U.S. Green Building Council and its green building verification arm, the Green Building Certification Institute, is the latest laurel for the 102-story skyscraper that was completed 80 years ago.

The environmental upgrade of the building was the largest retrofit of its kind to date in the United States. It is expected to reduce energy use by more than $4.4 million annually, cut carbon emissions by 105,000 metric tons over a 15-year period and provide a payback in slightly more than three years.

Anthony Malkin, whose Malkin Holdings supervises the Empire State Building Company, brought together Johnson Controls Inc., Jones Lang LaSalle, the Rocky Mountain Institute, the Clinton Climate Initiative and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority for the project. Their work on the project has been documented online at Malkin’s behest to serve as a resource for other building owners interested in improving the energy efficiency of their property.

The retrofit was part of a broader $550 million renovation of the 2.85 million-square-foot building. 

Watch video about the ESB deep retrofit project

"LEED Gold certification is another win for us following our ground-breaking energy efficiency retrofit work," Malkin said in a prepared statement. "It is my hope that all future LEED certifications for existing building projects will require demonstrable, quantifiable improvements in energy efficiency, delivering economic returns for building owners, tenants, and the communities in which they are located."

In an interview earlier this year, Malkin underscored his view that green buildings pay off for owners and occupants. "Everything that we’re doing at the Empire State Building is about business and, bottom line, that’s the first and most important thing," Malkin told me. "We’re not about paying more to do something qualitatively different, we’re about market-ready solutions."

Pursuit of LEED-Gold certification was in line with that mindset. Real estate services company Jones Lang LaSalle, the sustainability program manager for the Empire State Building, showed that it could be done at "an incremental cost of about $0.25 per square foot."

The LEED-Gold certification applies to the entire structure as an existing building. A 3,500-square-foot area in the building has just received LEED-Platinum certification (the highest designation) under the USGBC standard for commercial interiors. The USGBC also plans to recognize Malkin’s work and his vision for the Empire State Building’s green transformation by honoring him with the organization’s 2011 Leadership Award.

Other articles on the retrofit, the expected environmental performance of the building and the decision to buy green power for the site are available at GreenBiz.com.

Image CC licensed by Flickr userJoF.

Originally featured on Greenbiz.