Hong Kong: Empire State of mind at West Wing

Historical buildings such as the West Wing of the old government headquarters on Government Hill are much better off being retrofitted to make them greener rather than tearing them down, an American building efficiency expert said.

New York-based Paul Rode said retrofitting makes good business and environmental sense.

Johnson Controls, the company where he works as business development director for building efficiency, completed the retrofitting of the iconic 80-year-old 102-story Empire State Building in April 2010 and still provides ongoing services.

“We ended up getting 38 per cent more savings in energy,” said Rode, who was recently in Hong Kong to conduct a workshop on green buildings.

The Empire State is a heritage building, included in New York City’s landmark’s list, which made the project more difficult but not impossible, he recalled.

When deciding what to do with a historical building such as the 53-year-old West Wing, Rode said the basic rule of “carbon footprint economics” is: “It’s always better to rebuild and reuse than tear down and do nil, because the embodied energy in the building that exists has already been spent.”

But if the building is not functional, “the business rules will outweigh the carbon rules.”

The government announced in June that after public consultation, the West Wing of the former central government offices, which was completed in 1959, will be demolished for redevelopment “due to its lower historical value.”

Rode said the owner of the Empire State “wanted his building to be competitive with the new buildings going up in Manhattan, so he planned for a very large upgrading of the building.”

While green buildings are not mandated by state or federal laws, Rode said New York City recently passed laws in which the energy intensity of buildings is made public.

His company also analyzed the Empire State and five other buildings it had retrofitted and found that energy-efficient buildings have lower vacancy rates.

“They call it ‘green premium’ and the green industry for years has been saying if you do green you will make more money on the building,” he said.

 

Source: The Standard Hong Kong

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