Empire State Building: The Big Apple Turns Green

Case Study: Lifecycle planning

Location: Empire State Building, New York City

Challenge: Transform a floor of the iconic building into a flexible space that will meet high environmental standards throughout a 15-year lease.

Empire State Building

photo credit: aturkus via photopin cc

 Empire State Building Skanska's office

When Skanska secured a 15-year lease on the 32nd floor of the Empire State Building for our U.S. flagship office, we wanted to show that environmentally responsible renovation, leading to reduced energy use and environmental impact, is possible even 330 feet up in a 75-year-old skyscraper.

We initiated the project through a planning session with all key project partners – designers, subcontractors and the building owner, Tony Malkin. This way we could draw on the expertise of the entire project team. Our vision was for the nearly 25,000-square-foot office to accommodate a variety of needs, without requiring extensive redevelopment work to adjust to our future needs. A largely open-plan configuration was chosen.

“We broke open the floor plan by letting in light through glass internal walls,” said Beth Heider, Skanska USA senior vice president. “Ninety percent of the space has full daylight access, and all full-time occupants have an exterior view.”

The daylight – in combination with smart lighting and ventilation, as well as other energy-saving measures – has resulted in this office having an energy consumption that’s 35 percent lower than baseline standard. Those efficient systems include an under-floor ventilation system that is individually controlled, and operable windows that allow natural ventilation. Additionally, the space reduces water usage 40 percent below Energy Policy Act standards.

Our 32nd floor office is the first in the Empire State Building to obtain LEED certification (LEED Platinum). Moreover, the renovation means our 15-year contract will save significantly on energy costs. Now, the building owner is adopting the same thinking on other floors.

With this new office, we demonstrated that you can radically lower energy use and adopt flexible solutions in older buildings – even those built as far back as the 1930s. Skanska now benefits from a 58 percent reduction in electricity costs compared to its prior office, which is projected to save the company approximately $680,000 in energy costs over the life of its 15-year lease. Imagine if similar efforts were made in buildings of the same age nationwide.

Elizabeth Heider

Elizabeth Heider

Chief Sustainability Officer, Skanska USA

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{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Nilesh Mistry July 31, 2013, 5:21 pm

    Great article on how old buildings can be refurbished to modern standards and adopt sustainable engineering solutions. Would love to work in New York doing similar projects, must be very rewarding.


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