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From Site Selection magazine, October 2013

The Lives of Buildings

The Empire State Building is a shining example of energy efficiency improvements in a city and a state focused on the same.

Snapshots from the field show results from efforts to reduce energy use and intensity, while increasing energy efficiency.


t wasn’t enough to help prevent partial federal government shutdown, but it was impressive nonetheless: Earlier this year the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), which builds and manages federal buildings, announced that it cut federal energy spending by $65.5 million in fiscal year 2012 by reducing the energy use intensity levels in its buildings by nearly 25 percent since FY 2003.

In New York City, a report was released in September as required by the city’s Law 84, which requires all privately-owned properties with individual buildings more than 50,000 sq. ft. and properties with multiple buildings with a combined gross floor area more than 100,000 sq. ft. to annually measure and submit their energy and water use data to the City. This second annual report analyzes New York City benchmarking data collected for calendar year 2011 from 13,258 properties encompassing 24,071 buildings, constituting more than 2 billion sq. ft. of real estate, with multifamily comprising 65 percent of the sample and office comprising 22 percent.

Among the most promising findings was the fact that the median ENERGY STAR score for those properties increased to 67 from 64. Those scores are consistent with the scores of buildings in Northeastern states and are higher than the national average of 50.

Among the more compelling graphs in the report is a representation of the benchmarking data by the decade in which the buildings were constructed: The 1920s led all decades in both categories with 320 office properties and 1,737 multifamily properties.

One case study in the report documented the opportunities for improvement in office building stock. In 2011, 5 Penn Plaza, constructed in 1916, was benchmarked with an ENERGY STAR score of 71. “The data also revealed that the building was consuming a large quantity of both fuel oil and electricity,” says the report. “This encouraged building management to analyze the building’s energy use to determine ways to lower its energy use and improve its ENERGY STAR score. Working with CodeGreen Solutions, a sustainable building solutions consulting firm based in New York City, building management initiated an American Society of Heating Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Level 2 energy audit and retro-commissioning of the building’s systems, which identified both large capital improvements and lower cost items to improve building performance.

“The building management immediately began to implement the lower cost items such as upgrading common area lighting, installing occupancy sensors in all base building restrooms, putting timers on each floor’s electric hot water heater to prevent excess usage during periods of vacancy, installing pipe insulation on a large hot water tank (which was previously bare), installing a boiler efficiency module and installing efficient lighting and occupancy sensors during the fit-out of a new full floor tenant.

“As a result of these improvements, the building’s ENERGY STAR score increased to 75 in early 2012, and the building received an ENERGY STAR Certification from EPA. As of early 2013, the score is at 77, and the building recently achieved LEED Silver certification for Existing Buildings, Operations & Maintenance (LEED-EBOM). Additional changes include a five-percent decrease in source EUI, a reduction of electricity use by two percent, and a 25-percent reduction in consumption of heating oil No. 4.”

Start At the Top

The Empire State Building is doing its part too. A report released in June showed that it exceeded guaranteed energy savings for the second year in a row, saving $2.3 million, after saving approximately $2.4 million in year one after its major retrofit.

“The Empire State Building retrofit project is two for two, dramatically exceeding projected energy savings for the second straight year and reducing costs by millions of dollars," said Anthony E. Malkin of the Empire State Building. "This effort clearly demonstrates the sustainability leadership of The World's Most Famous Office Building and that integrating energy efficiency into building upgrades can significantly enhance the value of any real estate asset while also protecting the environment."

The Big Apple’s program meshes well with a similar government-sector effort from the state. In August, the New York Power Authority (NYPA) announced the completion of a report on the energy use of New York State government buildings that provides a baseline for measuring the future progress of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s BuildSmart NY initiative. When fully carried out, BuildSmart NY, which will increase the energy efficiency of those building by 20 percent by 2020, will result in $100 million in annual taxpayer savings.

The report contains information on the energy use at approximately 212 million square feet of space comprising more than 16,000 state government buildings, for which it spends approximately $500 million annually on energy.

More than 90 percent of the state’s square footage and energy consumption is associated with six state government entities: State University of New York (SUNY); New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision; City University of New York; New York State Office of General Services; New York State Office of Mental Health; and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

One of the key findings about the buildings operated by those six entities is that individually-metered buildings are more efficient than master-metered building complexes where one meter records all energy use.

Malkin and the Clinton Climate Initiative Cities program, an aligned partner of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, assembled a coalition of leading organizations focused on energy efficiency and sustainability, including Johnson Controls, Jones Lang LaSalle and Rocky Mountain Institute.

Johnson Controls and Jones Lang LaSalle jointly implemented the program at all 13 properties in Malkin's New York metropolitan-area commercial portfolio, as well as One Worldwide Plaza in New York. Johnson Controls has replicated this same model at 44 commercial buildings in the U.S., including The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and The Port of San Francisco's historic property at Pier 1, the corporate headquarters of Prologis Inc.

Jones Lang LaSalle has also instituted the model at 25 other properties across the nation, including The Moscone Center in San Francisco and Chicago Union Station. In the past year, Rocky Mountain Institute has leveraged learnings from its work on the Empire State Building to collaborate with two large portfolio owners, global communications company AT&T and the Exchange, the Department of Defense's oldest and largest retailer, on an integrated design approach to dramatically improve energy efficiency across their facilities.

It’s a Battle

Meanwhile, the EPA’s 2013 ENERGY STAR National Building Competition: Battle of the Buildings kicked off Aug. 20. It continues to ramp up participation, with nearly 3,300 participants, including 60 from ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year Cassidy Turley. Cassidy Turley participants include buildings located in Washington, D.C.; Northern Virginia, Houston, Cincinnati, Minneapolis and Raleigh, representing more than 10 million sq. ft. of managed space.

“Making the buildings in Cassidy Turley’s property management portfolio more energy efficient is one of the most effective ways for us to improve our built environment and produce cost savings for building owners and tenants,” said Evan Tyroler, vice president, sustainability services, at Cassidy Turley, in September. “We are excited to demonstrate our properties’ ability to shed energy waste.”

The number of participants in the Battle of the Buildings has increased from 14 buildings in 2010. Altogether, last year’s competitors cut their energy costs by more than $50 million.

In related efforts, in July, CBRE Group, Inc. announced five recipient institutions in its Real Green Research Challenge (RGRC), its $1-million commitment to fund leading-edge sustainability research and innovation in commercial real estate. After an evaluation of more than 100 submissions by an independent judging panel, CBRE chose:

  • a rating system for comparative tenant energy use that provides a quantitative foundation for identifying and promoting energy efficient practices (Natural Resources Defense Council’s Center for Market Innovation);
  • a detailed empirical evaluation of EPA ENERGY STAR® energy management strategies allowing facilities and property managers to prioritize energy efficiency projects (Stanford University, Center for Integrated Facility Engineering);
  • a comprehensive economic analysis of the value implications of green building practices on large institutional real estate portfolios (EURO Institute of Real Estate Management);
  • a new industry-wide, regionally sensitive, green building scoring protocol system to inform U.S. office tenants’ leasing decisions and developers’ sustainable building choices (Cleveland State University and Central Michigan University); and
  • a quarterly green building index of the top 30 U.S. metro markets, yielding insights for policy makers, developers and other stakeholders and supporting lenders’ risk management analysis and investors' decisions (Maastricht University).

“The projects supported through the Real Green Research Challenge will add significant knowledge to some of the key sustainability issues in commercial real estate, such as the relative value of sustainable buildings, the most effective energy efficiency initiatives and the location of green building market growth,” said Dave Pogue, CBRE’s global director of corporate responsibility. “These and other issues are the focus of the projects CBRE is funding, and the answers could have a profound effect on how buildings are leased, occupied and improved in the future.“

The NRDC’s tenant recognition initiative is being carried out with New York University’s Center for Urban Science and Progress in order to address practices by commercial tenants. The program will collect and analyze energy usage data for tenants within CBRE’s portfolio and provide feedback on how they compare to their peers. Yerina Mugica, associate director of the NRDC’s Center for Market Innovation, says while many energy efficiency programs have focused on whole building management and practices by those buildings’ owners, few have honed in on tenant behaviors. Among the areas NRDC has focused on is working hand in hand with tenants as they move into new space.

“We set out to highlight the business case for including energy efficiency at the time of the fit-out — what is the return on investment, what is the optimal process?”

A recent NRDC case study looking at a high-performance fit-out by Hong Kong-based consumer goods company Li & Fung’s Empire State Building office. The firm is projected to reduce energy use in its office space by nearly 30 percent, saving $1.8 million over the course of the 15-year lease.

A related area of work is in life cycle costing (LCC). To ease the challenges around long-term building technology purchase decisions for maximum ROI, Frost & Sullivan and the Continental Automated Buildings Association are midway through a project aimed at defining the role of LCC in intelligent buildings, with support from CABA’s Intelligent Integrated Buildings Council (IIBC). The analysis is evaluating the current tools and techniques available to accurately measure LCC, as well as LCC’s current and future impact on the market as a key purchasing factor to consider before any major building technology-related purchase. Sponsors of the research include ConEd in New York; Johnson Controls, Honeywell; the International Facility Management Association, Microsoft, Philips, Trane and Siemens Industry.

“We recognize the challenges our customers have in balancing the demands of meeting first-cost requirements for the original system investment, versus the longer-term impact of the system usage throughout the life of the building,” said Siemens Industry, Inc. Marketing Director Peter M. Seyfert. “We are excited to be hands-on in this landmark CABA and Frost & Sullivan life cycle research.”


Jones Lang LaSalle has applied lessons learned through the Empire State Building’s retrofit program to other properties such as Chicago’s Union Station.

“We look forward to the outcomes of this research, and feel this represents an important and timely analysis that reflects the importance of life cycle costing within our industry,” according to a statement from Honeywell. “We feel the discovery of best practices and appropriate ROI models raises the necessary awareness and provides benefits to all stakeholders.”

End users of space may wish to avail themselves of a pilot project CABA, among others, is backing, called the Life Cycle Calculator, which compares various building types in US locations and takes into account costs of construction, energy requirements, as well as maintenance and repair costs of a non-intelligent building and a fully integrated intelligent building.

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