Empire State Building Latest Icon to Go Green

Although the real estate market is in a severe slump, the green trend remains a hot topic, and Jones Lang LaSalle is keeping the movement at the forefront with a new energy sustainability program that kicks off with the greening of New York City’s iconic 2.6 million-square-foot Empire State Building. The iconic tower is the latest high-profile property to go green, following on the heels of Chicago’s Merchandise Mart and the former Sears Tower–now known as Willis Tower–both of which enacted green programs earlier this year.The “Empire State Building, Leadership in American Progress in Stability” initiative was conceived in a collaborative effort to create a new methodology for incorporating large-scale efficiency retrofits into existing structures. Jones Lang LaSalle is serving as the manager of the program, which was initiated by Anthony Malkin, president of Wien & Malkin, the firm that owns the 78-year-old Empire State Building office property.  The pilot program calls for a $20 million investment that will ultimately result in the decreasing of the building’s energy use by a whopping 38 percent, the reduction of energy costs by a yearly $4.4 million and the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions by 105,000 metric tons over the next 15 years. A list of eight major projects will be implemented, including the introduction of radiator insulation; improved tenant lighting; daylighting and plug upgrades; air handler replacements; a chiller plant retrofit; a building-wide control system upgrade; ventilation control upgrades; the incorporation of new Web-based tenant energy management systems, and the retrofitting of 6,500 windows. The entire endeavor centers on sustainability from beginning to end. The windows, for example, will be rebuilt at the site, thereby eliminating the need to transport news ones, and all glass will be reused. Waste and construction debris will be recycled, recycled materials will be incorporated, and green cleaning and pest control products will be utilized. If all goes as planned, the Empire State Building will achieve an ENERGY STAR score of 90, a rarity for pre-war properties, and LEED Gold certification.   The greening of the Empire State Building will get underway immediately and much of the work will be completed within the next two years. However, the conclusion of work at the renowned New York City skyscraper will really mark a beginning since, as mandated by the property owner from the beginning, this endeavor really isn’t all about the Empire State Building. “This is Anthony Malkin’s passion and it was clear he wanted us to develop a model that is replicable, but also practical for retrofitting in a commercially feasible way,” Raymond Quartararo, international director and program lead for JLL, told CPN. In its effort to develop Malkin’s vision of a program that could be widely duplicated, JLL worked with a team of experts that included the Clinton Climate Initiative, energy efficiency expert Ro cky Mountain Institute and energy services company Johnson Controls Inc., to evaluate and determine the best process for creating the model. “The concept going forward is to roll this model out to building owners as a program that offers a practical commercial way to achieve green retrofitting, creates value for the asset, and increases property demand, as more tenants are demanding that building landlords be environmentally friendly. Everyone understands the social benefits of going green, but the key for the real estate industry was to make this program commercially viable and drive up real estate values. No one was going to do it purely for the social value, so it has to be commercially driven.” Creating a replicable model that is commercially and financially practical was the core mission of the program, but making it accessible to property owners who cannot readily afford to institute the program was a primary goal, too. “One of the mandates was to form a financing program,” Quartararo said. “Our goal is to develop a relationship with banks and private equity entities who are interested in retrofit, so people who don’t have access to capital can move forward with the program.” And despite the presently challenging financial climate around the world, the issue of sustainability has not fallen by the wayside.   “The current economic environment has put constraints on spending in general, so people have to prioritize,” he noted. “But even in these times, people are going to look very hard at this. We’re going to come out of the repressed market and people are going to be looking at what to do. Their long-term requirement will be how to build value in an asset, and this is a key part of that. Sustainability has gone from being something that is nice to have, to something that is necessary.”  As for taking the program beyond the Empire State Building, JLL will continue to offer its services as overall program manager, overseeing scheduling, costs and management. And the firm’s internal energy and environmental sustainability team will play an integral part in the program by evaluating its performance over the long term.