A retrofit lighting control system for the pre-build tenant spaces in the 80-year-old Empire State Building (ESB) is expected to save the Manhattan landmark as much as 65% in lighting energy costs — and is anticipated to have a payback in 2.75 years.

Lutron Electronics, Coopersburg, Pa., is providing a complete lighting control system on the project, including: occupancy/vacancy sensors that turn light off when office areas are unoccupied; dimming controls that adjust light levels based on available daylight in the tenant spaces; and a digital wireless control system that integrates the components with the dimming T5 electronic ballasts that serve as the general lighting. Connected to the building management system via a network gateway, the lighting control system allows for design flexibility. Each ballast has a unique static address and provides bi-directional data interchange using a 2- wire communications bus. A portable computer, a PDA, or infrared (IR) remote control can set up the schedule of ballast addresses or easily do any reprograming.

According to Michael Malkin, president of Malkin Properties, and owner of the iconic structure, this upgrade, designed to reduce the building’s total energy use by 38% and energy bills by $4.4 million a year, is repeatable in virtually any commercial office building. While he wants the ESB to be an example of 21st century energy efficiency, Malkin noted that he has a personal commitment to other building owners to help then become green and sustainable. He said that the most commonly traded commodity in the world today is the kilowatt.

“If you approach energy savings, you approach virtually everything — the energy tax, general cost reduction, greater competitiveness — and start to do some really interesting things in the workspace. You start making it more productive and healthier,” he added. “For us, it is very clear that one of the biggest wastes is lighting; we starting confronting the issue of how do we wire all of this stuff, and how do we tie all of the systems together.”

The four main goals for the upgrade are to: enhance equipment performance while reduction renovation costs; trim the cost and time required for future tenant improvement; adopt solutions that work with other building systems; and avoid any compromise on tenant services and comfort, since worker satisfaction is a key element of the project.

The Empire State Rebuilding Project was launched in October 2006 with Malkin’s team made up of members of the Clinton Climate Initiative, Johnson Controls, the Jones Lang LaSalle property management firm, and the Rocky Mountain Institute.

Photos copyright Whitney Cox