Greening the Empire State Building



27 August 2015

Tony Malkin, the owner of the Empire State Building has saved 40 per cent of the total energy in the building without any government assistance, by completing a groundbreaking energy efficiency retrofit of this great American icon.

Tony Malkin, the owner of the Empire State Building has saved 40 per cent of the total energy in the building without any government assistance, by completing a groundbreaking energy efficiency retrofit of this great American icon.   
 
Replacing the 6 514 windows in the Empire State Building with high-performance glass has cut the building’s energy costs by more than R40 million per year. 
 
In order to achieve the desired level of energy efficiency, it was necessary to replace all 6 514 dual pane R-2 windows (R-value refers to the resistance of the window to heat conduction), with the super-insulating, high tech R-8 windows.  
 
When Malkin cringed at the waste of having to throw away all the glass from the old windows, which were not more than 10 years old, his team of world class specialists had to think out of the box, and pioneered a way to build a micro-factory on the fifth floor of the Empire State Building, and manufacture new windows that are 4 times more energy efficient onsite.  The team invented a way of removing the existing glass, unglazing it, cleaning it, placing new spacers, suspended film, sealing, injecting gas and curing it - all on the fifth floor.  Additionally, it was done only at night so no one was distracted during the day in his or her office.  
 
And here is the phenomenal part: all the old glass was reused.  100 percent!  No wasted energy, no waste in logistics, and no wasted glass.  The process was totally sustainable.
 
This is innovation at its best.  Invent, manufacture, install.
 
Malkin says the most important lesson learned is that “energy efficiency is not something you add, it’s something you build in.” 
 
Whilst this is an example of American innovation, South Africa is also known for smart thinking.  
 
Karel Steyn, President of the SAEE comments: “There are pockets of impressive innovation happening right now in South Africa.  The country’s power crisis has brought an acceleration of awareness in people.  Our Association is constantly witnessing fresh thinking and innovative solutions with clear benefits which is most encouraging.”
Some older buildings often waste energy and are expensive to maintain.  Built before energy efficient practices, most older buildings waste energy through insufficient heating and cooling systems, poor insulation, outdated electric and plumbing systems, inadequate single- or double-pane windows, and so on.
“The Empire State Building improvement plan shows how energy efficiency and retrofitting with sustainable practices and/or materials is an investment that pays off well into the future, providing a model for other older buildings, like some of ours in South Africa, to use and improve upon.  The Southern African Association for Energy Efficiency Convention, taking place from 11-12 November at Emperors Palace, will, for the first time, cover this important sector and include a track on building envelopes and materials for energy efficiency”, concluded Steyn. 
 







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