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Queens Skyscraper Cuts Emissions and Costs with Energy-Efficiency Upgrade

image credit: Con Edison
Allan Drury's picture
Media Relations manager, Con Edison

Allan Drury joined Con Edison in May 2009 as a Media Relations spokesman. Working in New York City, the media capital of the world, he speaks daily with reporters from local and national...

  • Member since 2016
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  • Jul 23, 2021

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 One Court Square project is the largest electric-efficiency retrofit at an office building that Con Edison has undertaken. The 53-story building is owned by Savanna, a New York real estate investment manager.

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, program manager for energy efficiency at Con Edison. “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.

Con Edison provided incentives toward the $5.8 million upgrade that will allow the building owner to come out ahead financially in less than a year.

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.


Donovan Richards Jr., Queens Borough President:

"With extreme weather and a higher demand for electricity becoming far too common, we must leave no stone unturned in our effort to make Queens as efficient, resilient and sustainable as possible. We commend Con Edison and all involved for completing this crucial energy-efficiency upgrade of One Court Square and look forward to working with our partners on many more such projects in the future."


John Mandyck, CEO of Urban Green Council:

“With rapidly growing efficiency programs, utilities like Con Edison are uniquely positioned to drive climate progress. 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.”


Thomas J. Grech, President and CEO, Queens Chamber of Commerce:

“The Queens Chamber of Commerce, through its Energy & Environmental Committee, is laser-beam focused on making Queens County the greenest county in the U.S., and the activities of our long-term member Con Edison go a long way in getting there. We have fully embraced Local Law 97 and are working with all stakeholders – suppliers, contractors, building owners and operators – to attain these goals.”


Elizabeth Lusskin, President, LIC Partnership:

“This is a landmark example of how great an impact an owner, in this case Savanna, can both have and realize from working with Con Edison to review and upgrade their energy systems. We work one on one with building and business owners throughout the LIC area, and encourage them to make sure they know all the available energy-efficiency incentives by connecting with Con Edison, for the sake of the grid, the environment and their bottom line. What Savanna and Con Edison have accomplished here is truly impactful, and we hope it inspires others to follow suit.”

Christopher Neely's picture
Christopher Neely on Jul 23, 2021

“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,”

-- I think this is a line that all building managers and utilities need to be thinking about today. If we are going to hit climate goals, green-fitting our more consuming buildings will be crucial, since a majority of them won't be going anywhere in 50 years. 

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jul 23, 2021

Agreed-- though building managers don't have (today) a financial motivation for reducing emissions. Efficiency to save on energy bills, yes, but emissions are going to be the focus of outside forces like policies, which is why such efforts are so important

Jim Stack's picture
Jim Stack on Jul 26, 2021

This is another great project to show how life cycle savings are good for doing an upgrade. I wonder how long the payback would be without the con ed program? 


Con Edison provided incentives toward the $5.8 million upgrade that will allow the building owner to come out ahead financially in less than a year.

Amory Lovins has done upgrade on other NYC skyscrapers that save over 50% of the operating cost like at the Empire State Bldg. 

Matt Karber's picture
Matt Karber on Jul 29, 2021

Thank you for the post, Mr. Drury. As additional motivation for building owners, I would point out that Energy Star and LEED-certified buildings are known to command higher rates for rentals (apartments or offices), as well as higher market values when sold. This represents additional dollars in the owner's pocket on top of the energy cost savings. There may also be tax credits available for energy efficiency retrofits. 

Allan Drury's picture
Thank Allan for the Post!
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