Cities & Climate Change

Innovation Through Collaboration

The Clinton Climate Initiative serves as convening partner for ESB retrofit

April 6, 2009 – The Empire State Building is once again leading the way in the commercial building sector as it prepares to undergo an energy efficiency building retrofit project to improve building efficiency, reduce its carbon footprint, and save on utility costs. The Building Retrofit Program of the Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI) – designed to bring together many of the world's largest building owners, energy service companies, financial institutions, and cities to lower greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption in existing buildings – is one of the key facilitators of the Empire State Building retrofit project. A cornerstone of the fight against climate change is to address emissions in existing buildings.

In the United States alone, existing buildings contribute 50 to almost 80 percent of urban greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, 80 percent of building lifecycle costs are incurred after initial construction, with 18 percent of this from utility costs alone, according to the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA).

As of March 2009, CCI has helped initiate more than 250 retrofit projects across the public and private sectors, encompassing over 500 million square feet of building space in more than 30 cities around the world.

From its inception, the retrofit of the Empire State Building has been a truly collaborative process. Under the leadership of owners Empire State Building Company, a team comprised of Jones Lang LaSalle, Johnson Controls Inc., the Rocky Mountain Institute and CCI have worked to combine expertise and ingenuity to create a deeply sustainable project that sets a bar for building retrofit in the commercial building sector.

The Empire State Building will apply for LEED certification under the U.S. Green Building Council's (USGBC) LEED program.  With the increase in energy efficiency achieved by the project, and other sustainability measures undertaken by ESB ownership, the building will be able to pursue Gold level LEED certification as an existing building. The USGBC and CCI are strategic partners and are working together to accelerate the number of existing buildings that can achieve LEED certification, become more energy efficient and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

"One of the more remarkable takeaways from this historic retrofit project goes beyond the technical expertise and creativity – and that is the extraordinary benefit that comes from collaboration and teamwork,” said Kathy Baczko, CCI New York City Director. “Although in some ways they could be considered competitors, all members of the Empire State Building team came together as partners right from the start. It was an honor for CCI to act as a convener and catalyst and then watch the experts deliver such amazing results. Our expectations are that the Empire State Building will show others the way by sharing these best practices."

For many building owners, capital costs are a barrier to investing in building retrofits. Using energy performance contracting (EPC), a building retrofit generates guaranteed energy savings that, over a number of years, can be equal to the cost of the project including financing costs. Typically, owners can keep these savings or apply them toward the debt repayment on the project.

Using this EPC model, ownership can pursue maximum energy savings while minimizing the financial risks. Johnson Controls is providing a unique set of contracting terms and conditions including streamlined procurement, transparency in pricing, and other processes to reduce project cost and development time, and guarantees that the energy savings will be achieved.

The work includes several types of energy efficiency technologies including high-efficiency window glass replacement, redesigned heating and cooling systems and controls, lighting improvements, and radiative barriers. The project also incorporates behavior changes including management and operations updates and tenant engagement. Together these steps cost-effectively could reduce energy use by 38 percent and save 105,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions over the next 15 years.

For CCI, this project also represents an exciting opportunity to work with a leading commercial building owner on a project using contract documents and tools created specifically for the commercial market by BOMA International and CCI.

The Empire State Building retrofit project will demonstrate that buildings can effectively reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. It will show that a holistic building retrofit is a smart business proposition, which improves the building's marketability, asset value, and operating costs. For building owners and tenants -- and the climate -- commercial building retrofits can deliver a win-win outcome for all.

For more information about the Clinton Climate Initiative and the William J. Clinton Foundation, please visit: