The Empire Strikes Back: Renewing Our Landmarks


With the current barrage of amazing new green building projects, it’s nice to see the old-timers are getting in on the action as well.

More specifically, the most famous profile on the New York skyline – the Empire State Building. This Wonder Of The Modern World looks set to impress the next generation of eco-friendly architects by being the focus of a major efficiency overhaul. Excitingly, not only are the redevelopers shrinking the building’s energy footprint by over a third (and in doing so saving $4 million a year – now there’s a utility bill), they’re also using the experience to trial new techniques, including:

– Viewing the tenants as an important element of a green building, by offering incentives and an automated tenant energy management system to let occupants see how much energy they’re going through.

– Constructing “green suites” to showcase green innovation within office and residential space.

– A performance-based retrofitting contract – so the redevelopers are legally obliged to follow through all their planned energy savings. This also serves as a template for further redevelopment contracts.

For the specifics, take a look at the report at Greener Buildings. To our minds, there are still a few elements missing. Where are the vertical gardens? Any room on that famous roof for a lawn or two? And doesn’t one of the tallest buildings in New York deserve the mother of all wind turbines? (I hope these are in the plans and I’ve just missed them).

The biggest implication? The world’s landmarks are suddenly ripe for a high-profile lick of green. Take the top of the Eiffel Tower, where it gets so windy it makes the structure sway – that’s a lot of electricity to harvest.

Image: Eric Mayville

Mike Sowden

Mike Sowden is a freelance writer based in the north of England, obsessed with travel, storytelling and terrifyingly strong coffee. He has written for online & offline publications including Mashable, Matador Network and the San Francisco Chronicle, and his work has been linked to by Lonely Planet, World Hum and Lifehacker. If all the world is a stage, he keeps tripping over scenery & getting tangled in the curtain - but he's just fine with that.