Restoration of Iconic Buildings Means Big Business and Big Energy Savings

The Transamerica Pyramid in San Francisco is one of many older, iconic buildings that are benefiting from retrofitting and restoration.

As reported by National Geographic this month, iconic buildings are often celebrated for their architecture that has withstood the test of time, but what lies beneath those favorite, enduring facades – the cladding and infrastructure — does not usually hold up so well. The majority of the world’s most famous structures were built long before sustainability, climate change, recycling and energy efficiency were key trends and mainstream buzz words.

Enter the age of retrofit and restoration, which has (thankfully!) become the prevailing practice in preserving vintage structures worldwide. Aging buildings of note are being updated with new windows and claddings, lighting, heating and cooling systems, all of which are preserving the historic nature of the buildings, saving owners and operators money while also conserving energy.

Some iconic structures that have set an example for others to follow include the Empire State Building in New York, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Sydney Opera House in Australia, the Reichstag in Berlin and the Transamerica Pyramid in San Francisco.

  • The Depression-era Empire State Building completed a $13 million energy-efficient retrofit in 2013 that cut energy consumption by almost 40%, saving over $4 million annually. The upgrades are expected to eliminate105,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions over 15 years.
  • In keeping with its original raison d’etre as a symbol of engineering prowess, the Eiffel Tower undertook a 4-year, $37 million renovation, completed in 2015. It included everything from installing solar panels to LED lighting, and adding enhanced glazing on glass. In addition to saving energy, the structure now generates much of its own electricity with wind-powered turbines in the building.
  • The 853-foot Transamerica Pyramid, built in 1972, was the tallest building in San Francisco until it was eclipsed last year by the 1,070-foot Salesforce Tower. But it’s keeping up with the newer structure thanks to a sustainability retrofit and a gas-fueled cogeneration plant in its garage that generates 70% of the building’s electricity. In 2011, the Pyramid was certified LEED Platinum, the country’s highest rating for green buildings.

Revitalizing iconic buildings is only a small part of the huge commercial market for restoration and energy efficient retrofitting. New York, for instance, is also tackling the improvement of energy efficiency in less prominent landmarks, investing nearly $500 million to improve its million-plus buildings.

Buildings consume 73 percent of the electricity in the U.S., and indirectly create 38 percent of carbon dioxide emissions—more than industry or transportation. Experts estimate that only 10% of the 5.6 million commercial buildings in the U.S. are now “high performance” thanks to upgrades. The remaining 90% represent a huge market opportunity.

Leaders in the building material and restoration industry such as Sto Corp. have been on the forefront of commercial restoration providing state of the art products and systems that can help preserve an historic structure as well as safeguard a property’s value by conserving energy, reducing operational costs, improving interior comfort, and enhancing curb appeal.


New Energy Saving Calculator for Airtight Building Design

Lido Beach Towers in Long Island, N.Y., a condominium community, used air moisture barriers in a resilient design retrofit that resulted in energy savings of up to 33 percent as well as enhanced structural protection.

The Air Barrier Association of America (ABBA), in conjunction with Oak Ridge National Laboratories (ORNL) and the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) have developed a web based energy saving calculator for building airtightness. This valuable new resource will help the building industry quantify energy savings based on the use of air barriers that increase the airtightness of buildings.

We all know that uncontrolled heat, air, and moisture transfer through a building envelope has a significant impact on energy usage. A comprehensive strategy for concurrently regulating these factors can have a major impact on reducing energy consumption. Air moisture barriers (AMBs) have proven to be effective and economic but now these benefits can be better calculated in advance.

The hope is that there will be wider adoption of air barrier systems in building design thanks to this simple and credible tool that can be employed by architects, designers, and owners to accurately estimate anticipated energy savings if an air barrier system is added to the design. This new energy saving calculator is based on the best science available, it’s easy to use, available to everyone, and best of all – it’s free.


New Web-based Tool for Energy Efficiency Project Financing

New financing navigator facilitates funding for energy efficient building.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has introduced a new web-based financing navigator to help private and public sector organizations understand and access financing solutions available for energy efficiency building projects.

Since limited financing options are often cited as a major barrier to investing in energy efficient systems, the “Better Buildings Financing Navigator”  now offers building owners, facility and energy managers, and other decision-makers guidance on how to connect with investors and lenders  so that they can pursue energy-saving projects. By bringing smart financing solutions to the market, building construction and management teams can move forward more rapidly with energy efficiency refits and upgrades.

The DOE’s financing navigator helps users identify relevant financing options which are tailored to their needs and also provides technical research and advice. The site encourages collaboration between public and private sector organizations across the country to share and replicate successful strategies with the goal of making commercial, public, industrial and residential buildings 20 percent more energy efficient over the next decade. This potentially means saving billions of dollars on energy bills, while accelerating America’s investments in energy infrastructure and creating thousands of jobs.


Passive Design Projects Worldwide Drive Global Energy Savings

Heidelberg Village in Germany will be the largest residential Passive Design project in the world.

Touted as “the world’s largest passive housing” project, a 162 unit residential complex is currently under construction in Heidelberg, Germany. The solar-powered Heidelberg Village designed by the Frey Architekten firm will feature a wide range of sustainable features, as well as rooftop and vertical gardens. The complex is expected to use 75% less energy than a similar project using conventional building design.

The Passive design concept originated in Germany in the 1990’s, and has now been embraced worldwide as an effective and economic way to cut carbon emissions and reduce energy demand in buildings while still providing high-caliber living comfort, superior indoor air quality and structural resilience. While the movement began with a residential focus, passive “house” building principles have been adopted in major commercial building projects as well, setting new standards for heating and cooling efficiency, total energy consumption and air leakage.

The Herman Teirlinch building is the largest Passive Design commercial project in Belgium. Photo: inhabitat

The Herman Teirlinch building is the largest Passive Design commercial project in Belgium.
Photo: inhabitat

One of the most ambitious “passive design” commercial projects currently underway is in Belgium where Europe’s largest passive office complex is under construction. The Herman Teirlinch government office will be a 66,500 square meter mixed use, low-rise, sustainable building designed by Neutelings Riedijk.

While entire passive home neighborhoods have yet to be created in the United States, passive design residential and commercial buildings are cropping up nationwide. The key components are 1) high-quality insulation and thermal-bridge-free construction 2) airtight construction 3) energy efficient windows and doors 4) mechanical ventilation for air quality.

Sto Corp has been a leader in providing passive design projects with energy efficient exterior insulation and finish systems. StoTherm ® ci continuous insulation, air moisture barriers, and advanced wall cavity systems have been used to meet and even exceed passive design energy efficiency standards in various climate zones across the country.

For more information on the Herman Teirlinch office building: http://inhabitat.com/belgiums-largest-passive-office-building-breaks-ground-in-brussels/

For more information on passive design: http://www.phius.org/home-page

For more passive design case studies: http://nypassivehouse.org/new-york-passive-house-2015-the-nyph-flip-book/)