One of the questions often asked in property terms is ‘what makes a truly green building’?
Initially one thinks of a new build with all the ‘bells and whistles’ to enable it to comply with current ‘green’ ratings. An example of this in Nottingham would be No.1 Science Park. This is both Green in colour and nature!
However there is a strong argument to say that a truly green building should be one that has been ‘reborn’, thereby being both sustainable and green. The Newton and Arkwright Buildings at Nottingham Trent University fits this description perfectly.
Now New York has a beacon in sustainable building terms in the form of the Empire State Building. It has been undergoing a massive refurbishment (costing half a billion dollars) which is including twenty million dollars of ‘green’ tech to save energy – it will save 38 percent of the building’s energy and $4.4 million annually!
In addition it has now been announced that it will meet all its electricity needs through wind power, not by having turbines, but through a two-year deal, to buy 55m kilowatt-hours worth of renewable energy certificates a year – the equivalent of its annual energy needs – from the Texas-based Green Mountain Energy Company. That is more than double the amount of renewable power purchased by any other commercial customer in New York City.
Apparently the reduction in carbon emissions from the shift to wind power for the 102-storey building is the equivalent of turning off the lights in nearly every house in New York State for a week!
Built in the throes of the Great Depression 80 years ago, the Empire State bucked the trend of the depression and was completed and successful. In recent years, its grandeur has faded, and in 2009 the owners started the $550m renovation project including the energy retrofit. During the refurb, workers installed smart controls for heating and cooling, and stripped out the building’s 6,500 windows to add insulating films.
Some environmental groups have questioned whether renewable energy certificates represent a true reduction in carbon emissions, and therefore argue that this is not a ‘green’ building, this is a fair point, but I disagree. As the tallest building in New York the building does perhaps make a statement to potential occupiers. The quality of the accommodation will be grade A, but it will offer a more environmentally friendly option to the market – that has to be a good thing.