By: Peter Lehner
Executive Director, NRDC
Last week the Empire State Building received the LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. The award confirms what so many of us already know: This iconic skyscraper has become a model of energy efficiency and sustainability, and it is thanks to the dedication of its owner, Tony Malkin.
Tony, the president of Malkin Holdings, is also a co-founder of NRDC's Center for Market Innovation and the husband of long-time NRDC Trustee Shelly Malkin. Tony has been a pioneer in bringing efficiency solutions to commercial real estate, and the US Green Building Council will recognize his transformative role when it gives him its 2011 Leadership Award in Toronto next month.
Tony has been deeply committed to turning the Empire State Building's great gray tower into a green energy beacon. Mastering the retrofit is a critical endeavor, because even while new eco-friendly office buildings appear in skylines across the nation, the vast majority of commercial spaces were constructed before this trend began.
In order to realize the full potential of America's energy savings, we have to transform existing buildings. Tony has given us a powerful example of how to achieve that. He took a an 80-year-old building, constructed in the Great Depression and draped in Art-Deco concrete—not the sleek steel and glass of new green buildings—and gave it a cutting-edge, cost-effective, energy efficient retrofit.
The changes to the building will cut its energy consumption by more than 38 percent and save $4.4 million in annual energy costs. They will also reduce the building's carbon emissions by 105,000 metric tons over 15 years. Meanwhile, they will get a return on their investment in just three years.
Throughout the retrofitting process, Tony has been committed to making the lessons learned at the Empire State Building non-proprietary and open-source so they can be applied to other projects.
He has also played a critical role in NRDC's Center for Market Innovation's new efficiency retrofit demonstration initiative that was just unveiled at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York this week. Together with a team of industry leaders, including Goldman Sachs, Johnson Controls, Jones Lange LaSalle, Vornado Realty Trust, and the Greenprint Foundation, we launched this project to accelerate the growth of efficiency retrofit market.
We are targeting commercial tenants who are already moving from one office space to another and encouraging them to include energy efficiency retrofits as part of the remodeling they would be doing anyway. Our goal here is to deliver efficiency installations and potential financing solutions that will serve the interests of both tenants and building owners.
Tony has given invaluable guidance as we designed this demonstration project with our partners, and one of our earliest case studies took place in the Empire State Building with tenants Skanska. Now we are working with LinkedIn, another Empire State Building tenant, and Bloomberg. We look forward to seeing these demonstrations—and Tony's example—inspire other businesses across the nation.
Photo credit: Benjamin Dumas