Empire State Building refaced for savings

Gotham icon completes window phase of energy retrofit by refurbishing original glass with high-tech insulates, estimated to save $400,000 in energy bills a year.

Candace Lombardi
In a software-driven world, it's easy to forget about the nuts and bolts. Whether it's cars, robots, personal gadgetry or industrial machines, Candace Lombardi examines the moving parts that keep our world rotating. A journalist who divides her time between the United States and the United Kingdom, Lombardi has written about technology for the sites of The New York Times, CNET, USA Today, MSN, ZDNet, Silicon.com, and GameSpot. She is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not a current employee of CNET.
Candace Lombardi
2 min read
The Empire State Building in conjunction with the Clinton Climate Initiative is hoping to lead the world in commercial energy retrofits by example. Empire State Building Company

One of the tallest buildings in the world, New York's iconic Empire State Building, hopes to once again lead the world by example.

It was announced today that the window phase of the iconic skyscraper's sweeping energy retrofit has been completed.

Does this mean the beloved Art Deco landmark will now be sporting all new windows or a different look? No, not even close.

Instead, 96 percent of the Empire State Building's 6,514 windows, which includes the original frames, and 26,000 panes of glass were reused.

A workshop set up by Serious Materials, a tech company that develops sustainable green building materials, was established on a floor within the Empire State Building itself to turn the existing dual-pane windows into super-insulating windows. The team did this on site by separating out each window's components, then rebuilding them with the original panes of glass but including special gas fill, new spacers, and a layer of coated film suspended between the two original glass panes.

The removal and replacement work was done at night so as not to disturb the building's workday occupants or tourists, and took about seven months to complete.

The window change will reduce the solar heat gain of the building by more than 50 percent and save an estimated $400,000 annually in energy costs. While the refurbishment cost a pretty penny at $700 per window, it was actually cheaper than replacing the windows altogether, which would have cost $2,500 per window, according to the Empire State Building Company.

The window retrofit, which was overseen by Johnson Controls, is just part of the Empire State Building's energy retrofit renovation that was announced in April 2009 by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and President Bill Clinton. The project is a collaboration including the Empire State Building Company, the Clinton Climate Initiative, Johnson Controls, Jones Lang LaSalle, and the Rocky Mountain Institute.

The building has already been awarded an Energy Star rating of 90 out of 100 for commercial buildings. When the entire project is completed, the Empire State Building's total energy usage is expected to be reduced by more than 38 percent resulting in a savings of $4.4 million annually in energy costs.

Anthony E. Malkin, owner of the Empire State Building Company, said in a statement that he hopes the skyscraper will set an example for commercial buildings around the world.

"The window retrofit is a key milestone in the Empire State Building project, already proving that buildings can be retrofitted efficiently and economically while providing rapid payback," Malkin said.

Commercial building retrofits could actually make a huge difference in the United States' energy consumption. A report released in July 2010 by Pike Research calculated that if all U.S. commercial buildings in existence as of 2010 were to be retrofitted for energy efficiency, the result would be a savings of $41.1 billion a year in energy bills.