04/21/2022 | by Sarah Borchersen-Keto

A coalition of New York City property owners, spearheaded by Empire State Realty Trust (NYSE: ESRT) and including Vornado Realty Trust (NYSE: VNO), has launched a blueprint to support commercial buildings around the country achieve double-digit reductions in energy use and carbon emissions at commercially acceptable returns.

Known as the “Empire Building Playbook: A Guide to Low Carbon Retrofits,” it has been co-developed with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and supported by the Clinton Global Initiative. The Playbook is based on insights and successes gained through case studies of existing, large, and complex buildings.

Empire State Realty Trust noted that the Empire State Building (ESB) has been leading the charge towards decarbonization for over a decade, under the leadership of Chairman and CEO Anthony Malkin. The first decarbonization effort began in 2007 when the ESB team created the Empire Standard for Sustainable Building, a working group that included the Clinton Climate Initiative, Johnson Controls, Inc., Jones Lang LaSalle, and the Rocky Mountain Institute.

While the results achieved with the first round of work at the ESB were “groundbreaking,” the company said, more needs to be done to achieve the requirements of New York City's Local Law 97, the carbon cap law that could lead to fines exceeding $4 billion on the existing building stock.

Malkin noted that the goal with the ESB has been to “define intelligent choices which will either save money, spend the same money more efficiently, or spend additional sums for which there is reasonable payback through savings.” Addressing these investments correctly, he added, will create a “competitive advantage for ownership through lower costs and better work environment for tenants. Succeeding in these efforts will make a replicable model real for others to follow.”

Fulya Kocak, Nareit senior vice president, ESG issues, said the Playbook “helps achieve significant carbon reduction goals while striking the balance between cost and benefits. We are proud of Empire State Realty Trust’s leadership in moving the real estate industry closer to achieving low carbon buildings around the world.”

A press conference at the ESB to launch the Playbook on April 21 was attended by President Bill Clinton, New York Governor Kathy Hochul, President and CEO of NYSERDA Doreen Harris, and New York City Mayor Eric Adams, among others.