Queens skyscraper cuts emissions and costs with energy-efficiency upgrade

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one court square
David Shankbone, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

$5.8 million project achieves payback in less than a year with Con Edison incentives

Special to New York Construction News

Con Edison and its partners have completed a major energy-efficiency upgrade at the One Court Square skyscraper in Long Island City, Queens, cutting the building’s carbon emissions, easing demands on the local power grid and saving the customer money.

The $5,809,549 project is the largest electric-efficiency retrofit at an office building that the electrical utility has undertaken. The 53-story building is owned by Savanna, a New York real estate investment manager.

Con Edison provided a $4,703,769 incentive payment, covering 81 percent of the project’s budget. The building owner achieved payback in less than a year, with annual savings of 4,448,832 kWh, the utility reported in a case study published after the project’s completion and evaluation.

Smith Engineering oversaw the work.

See: One Square Court Case Study

The green-tinted skyscraper is a fixture of the Queens skyline, and one of New York’s tallest buildings outside Manhattan.

“The vast majority of the buildings that exist today in New York City will still be here 50 years from now, which is why energy efficiency is often our first and best tool for reducing carbon emissions,” said Amaury De La Cruz, Con Edison’s program manager for energy efficiency. “The One Court Square upgrade is a win-win-win for the customer, the environment, and the reliability of New York City’s electric grid.”

The upgrade improved heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems throughout the 31-year-old building, and will save an estimated 4.4 million kilowatt-hours of electricity each year, or as much as 20 percent of the building’s previous consumption.

In addition to reducing overall energy consumption, the upgrade will lower the building’s peak demand for power, helping Con Edison strengthen the reliability of the electric grid in this rapidly developing neighborhood.

“One Court Square, with the help from Con Edison, is a great example of how we can retool our existing buildings to enhance the quality of life today and make them more sustainable for the future,” said Ben Furnas, director of the NYC Mayor’s Office of Climate and Sustainability. “We applaud Savanna for taking on a major energy-efficiency upgrade to meet the city’s ambitious carbon emissions targets, improve reliability of the electric grid, and increase tenants’ comfort.”

“It has been our pleasure working with Con Edison as a partner to achieve significant energy savings by upgrading our base building systems in a cost-effective manner,” said Peter Rosenthal, principal, director of development at Savanna. “Our objectives at the outset of this important project were to improve energy efficiency, realize cost savings, and enhance the tenant experience at One Court Square, and we have achieved them all.”

Efficiency key to tackling NYC’s building emissions

More than 70 percent of NYC’s greenhouse gas emissions come from its buildings, but change is coming. Local Law 97, passed as part of 2019’s Climate Mobilization Act, will require large building owners to sharply reduce their emissions in the years ahead, and Con Edison is ramping up its energy-efficiency programs to help its customers meet those goals.

The upgrade at One Court Square saw the building swapping out parts of its water-cooling and air-delivery systems for new, high-efficiency equipment and technologies. Such improvements make buildings more attractive places to live and work by improving comfort and air quality, and giving occupants more control over their environment.

One Court Square was also outfitted with new smart control technologies. Unlike older HVAC equipment, which often operates in on/off modes only, newer control systems allow operators to “dim” certain functions and make changes more smoothly, saving money and improving efficiency.

Machine learning will allow such control systems to evolve and become even more efficient over time.

Improving reliability of NYC’s electric grid

One Court Square qualified for additional energy-efficiency incentives due to its location in an area with rising energy demand.

Con Edison encourages its customers to consider available incentives for upgrading their homes, businesses and industrial facilities with new equipment, which will save them money.

The company’s energy-efficiency programs have grown rapidly in recent years, and its Clean Energy Commitment calls for investing another $1.5 billion in efficiency projects by 2025.

“With rapidly growing efficiency programs, utilities like Con Edison are uniquely positioned to drive climate progress,” said John Mandyck, CEO of the Urban Green Council. “This impressive retrofit project shows how strong partnerships, financial support and engineering know-how will propel us toward a reliable grid and a low-carbon future for buildings.”

To learn more about Con Edison’s energy-efficiency programs for commercial and industrial customers, click here.

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