New York City’s Empire State building underwent some upgrades over the past decade, making it more energy-efficient. (Image Credit: Jonathon Roger/Unsplash)
The Empire State building’s chiller plant consists of a series of pipes, gauges, and steel valve wheels that have gone through some upgrades throughout the years. These were taken apart and reassembled using their original materials as part of an extensive retrofit that began ten years ago and continues today. This project’s goal is to make the Empire State building more energy-efficient while saving costs.
The energy consumption of New York City’s large buildings, which account for 70% of its carbon emissions, makes it more difficult for the city to achieve carbon neutrality. Even then, retrofitting these old buildings to save more energy is difficult from an engineering perspective. It’s also challenging to convince owners that it’s cost-effective.
In 2010, the Empire State Building was retrofitted. All 6,514 windows had a pane of coated film applied to them, effectively reducing heat gain in the summer and heat loss in the winter. Along with that, insulation was installed behind radiators, preventing heat loss. Upgrading its elevator system with regenerative braking allowed electricity to be recaptured while arriving at its destination. As a result, the building’s energy consumption was reduced by 40%, while the owners saved over $4 million annually.
Now, the New York State is implementing a program called the Empire Building Challenge, designed to follow what the Empire State Building has achieved. A group of high-rise building owners is expected to receive $50 million in funding from NYSERDA to test new green retrofit solutions. Everything here is necessary to help fight climate change, which is already affecting the city. The water in New York Harbor has risen by 12 inches over the past century, and the city’s infrastructure is still recovering from damages inflicted during Hurricane Sandy. Water levels around the city are also expected to rise between 1 and 3.5 feet over the next six decades.
The Empire Building Challenge helps solve these issues by producing blueprints from the private sector partners’ earlier projects. This is then shared with building owners so they can get an idea of what to pursue. Many new relevant technologies that are nearly viable could provide buildings with a solution, such as electrochromic glass and flooring tiles that collect energy from a footstep. Building owners would need some funds to test those technologies.
Every day, buildings emit carbon emissions and consume large amounts of energy. It’s expensive and time-consuming to install green building retrofits, and there is a five-to-ten-year window to start implementing initiatives to reach New York’s climate targets.
The Empire State Building owners are adding more upgrades, expected to be revealed sometime next month. They were also selected as part of the Empire Building Challenge. Furthermore, they plan to create instructions on their upgrades for other building owners to use.
Speaking of green skyscrapers, Ukraine architects won first place in the 2021 eVolo Skyscraper Competition for their ‘living skyscraper’ comprised of genetically modified trees. Their theoretical concept for New York City involves planting a group of these fast-growing deciduous trees in specially prepared soil. The branches would be grafted at different levels to produce a network structure, helping to provide additional strength and improve self-supporting properties. They’re even shaped into a skyscraper’s frame while smaller branches mold into walls and rooms during growth.
This would operate in the middle of a grey megalopolis, helping to solve environmental and urban issues. The goal focuses on addressing the city’s growing population problem and decline in green spaces. It also benefits the environment by relying on natural resources like water, fertilizers, and the sun instead of building materials.
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