The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) states that buildings in this country account for 72% of electricity consumption, 39% of energy use, and 38% of all carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The 2003 Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS) conducted by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) found that non-mall commercial buildings consumed 890 billion kWh of electricity. With these kinds of numbers, it is easy to envision the potential impact resulting from “greening” commercial buildings.
On June 24, the owners of the world-recognized Sears Tower in Chicago announced plans for a $350 million green makeover of the 36-year-old landmark which stands 110-stories tall and contains 4.5 million square feet of office and retail space. The makeover will include insulation improvements, equipment upgrades to the building’s mechanical, plumbing, and elevator systems, modified ceilings and lighting fixtures to better leverage daylight, solar water heating panels, green roofing, and potentially wind turbines exploiting the building’s height. The modifications are expected to reduce the building’s base electricity usage by 80%, a savings of more than 68 million kWh per year.
Figure 1: Sears Tower Upgrade Renderings; Image Credit: Sears Tower
The majority of the savings are expected within five years, and the modernization is expected to generate 3,600 jobs.
The announcement follows on the heels of a planned $20 million green makeover of the Empire State Building which was announced back in early April and is expected to be completed by 2013 and reduce the energy consumption of that building by 40%.
- Green Building Research – U.S. Green Building Council
- Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS) – Energy Information Administration
- Transforming an Icon – Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower)
- Empire State Building to turn green – AFP