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Empire State Building strikes back...against pollution

The iconic New York skyscraper is going green in a newly launched model project that's expected to save about $4.4 million a year on energy.

What was once the world's tallest skyscraper now aims to be the greenest.

Rocky Mountain Institute

New York's iconic Empire State Building, which played a starring role in the movie "King Kong," is set to undergo a retrofit that could cut the 102-story building's energy consumption by up to 38 percent. The energy-saving measures will initially cost approximately $20 million and will take an estimated two years to implement, according to press materials.

The program includes upgrades of the 1931 Art Deco building's 6,500 windows, radiator insulation, a new air-conditioning and heating system, air handler replacements, energy-efficient lighting, upgraded ventilation control, and an Internet-based system for tenants to monitor their energy use (that also teaches them how to conserve energy.)

"By pursuing these strategies, owners can save millions of dollars and enhance asset values while significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions," said Raymond Quartararo, a director at Jones Lang LaSalle, a real estate consultancy that's helping manage the retrofit. "That's a win-win for owners, tenants and the global environment," he added, according to a press release.

Other organizations involved in the greening of the Empire State Building include the Rocky Mountain Institute and the Clinton Climate Initiative, which has been working with cities on projects to save energy and reducing carbon dioxide emissions in buildings.

In both the U.S. and EU, buildings--both commercial and residential--are the largest consumers of energy, accounting for 40 percent of the total energy consumption in both locations, according to sources including the Energy Information Administration. And in big cities, buildings are dominating the environmental footprint. For instance, buildings are responsible for 79 percent of all carbon emissions in New York City.

Project leaders hope the Empire State Building retrofit will result in an estimated annual energy savings of $4.4 million and could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 105,000 metric tons over the next 15 years. That's equivalent to the annual emissions of 17,500 cars.

"If we can show that in a building like this that it makes money for the owner, and it makes money for the tenants, its pretty hard for anybody to ignore it," said James Russell, of the Clinton Climate Initiative, in anYouTube video. "It is a fantastic global flagship example for others to copy."