Empire State Building Update 08/10/23

NYC is a continually evolving metropolis and a world stage that produces a steady stream of highly influential and boundary-pushing projects. With new energy codes and strict requirements on the way for both existing and future structures, developers will have to act deliberately in order to comply with the law. But in the midst of change, some projects don’t just seek to comply; they aim to lead the pack in sustainability. This week, we bring you the second entry of our four-part list that seeks to highlight some of NYC’s most exemplary buildings and current projects that could serve as role models for future sustainable development.


Empire State Building

Owner: Empire State Realty Trust

The Empire State Building may be the most famous skyscraper in the world, but it’s also a 93-year-old structure. Externally since its inception, this landmark has been a defining icon of New York, but internally it was originally built with mechanical and electrical systems that would no longer be efficient for today’s age. However, as a result of several extensive overhauls, spanning the last 15 years, the Empire State Building is now one of the most sustainable buildings in the entire world. So what changed? 

In 2010, all 6,514 of its windows were removed and modified, with each receiving a layer of insulating film and an infusion of argon gas to improve its insulation value. In 2019, all 68 of its elevators were modernized and fitted with regenerative braking systems. These systems not only reduce their energy consumption but also create and store energy that is used to power other building systems. Another major win for the Empire State Building was a 10-year retrofit of its chiller plant. The plant, which is used to cool the entire building, was completely rebuilt, and an automatic control system was added for increased efficiency.

As a result of all of these changes, in 2022, the building had reduced its carbon emissions by 54% and its energy consumption by 40%. Furthermore, by 2030, the building plans to be fully carbon neutral. What all of this goes to show is that, while new buildings will continue to adopt the use of new technology from inception, there are solutions for older structures as well that are equally efficient. We can therefore breathe a sigh of relief that changing energy codes, such as Local Law 97, will not be the bane of existence for New York’s oldest and finest architectural icons.


Stay tuned next week when we’ll present the third entry on this list. Hint: It’s one of the largest projects going up in the city right now and it will come as a major addition to the Manhattan skyline. For more insight on changing energy codes and sustainability right now, you can also check out our other articles, highlighting Local Law 97 and how energy codes vary across the United StatesTo view part 1 of this list, click here.

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