Successful retrofit projects lead to increased confidence in energy efficient buildings sector

September 18, 2012

The energy efficient buildings sector is beginning to see a shift in thinking among commercial real estate owners in the U.S., as highly publicized and successful retrofit and construction projects have generated positive attention for sustainability in the industry.

One of these successful projects was the deep retrofitting of the Empire State Building, and commercial real estate owners everywhere may be influenced by how green the effort actually was for the tenants and property managers.

According to Green Biz, the "green" in the case of the Empire State Building is the money that all involved parties will be saying, and not just the reduction in emissions that will be seen because of the construction.

The "world's most famous office building," according to the company in charge of the retrofit, is now poised to provide its customers with cost-saving opportunities for the next 15 years, a period that will also see a reduction of 105,000 metric tons of carbon emissions.

The Empire State Building will see a 38 percent drop in energy use during the first year following the retrofit project, saving the building owners and tenants more than $2.4 million.

"To me, 'green' is about money," Anthony Malkin, president of Malkin Holdings LLC, said earlier this year at a celebration held at the building. "What we’re really doing here is providing a very real model about what the economic incentive is to owners and tenants that will yield paybacks."

According to Green Biz, not only would the success of the Empire State Building project show investors in New York City that these types of retrofits help to save money, it would add clout to the sector as a whole.

"We knew that by retrofitting the Empire State Building, we would catch the world’s attention," Malkin said at a conference last year. "Through this project, we set out to prove or disprove energy efficiency retrofits’ economic viability."

Similar projects have also garnered attention, as Cornell's Human Ecology Building recently received one of the highest marks ever given to an energy efficient building by the USGBC, according to the university's newspaper.

"The building is designed to use 32.2-percent less…water [that is safe for consumption] and 46.6-percent less energy," a university official told the news outlet.

This type of success within the industry is what has helped the Department of Energy-sponsored Energy Efficient Buildings Hub (EEB Hub) move forward with a number of retrofit projects in Philadelphia.