The Real Deal New York

Midtown East’s glass towers are energy guzzlers

March 25, 2013 09:00AM

Advocates of the city’s proposal to rezone a large swath of Midtown East can add green efficiency to their list of promised benefits, as a new study shows that a bulk of the current towers in the area are woefully energy-inefficient, Crain’s reported.

It would be more environmentally-friendly to bulldoze the buildings and start over rather than let them stand, the report, prepared by Terrapin Bright Green and sponsored by bodies including New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and the Real Estate Board of New York, stated. This would be true even if the new buildings were “upzoned,” or built larger than the existing ones, the report added. 

The Midtown East plan would incentivize qualifying developers to tear down old buildings in the business district and construct modern skyscrapers by allowing them to build higher, as The Real Deal and others have reported. A building that is torn down can be rebuilt with 44 percent more square footage and still use 5 percent less energy, the report said. The energy needed to tear down and rebuild a tower could be offset by energy savings from the new structure in between 15 and 28 years.

Preservationists have long believed that demolition expends more energy than preserving an existing structure, a claim that the new research directly challenges.

“The tragedy of these [midcentury modern] buildings is that they can’t be adapted,” Bill Browning, a co-founder of Terrapin Bright Green, told Crain’s.

Preservationists maintain that midcentury glass towers are essential to the area’s visual makeup. “These buildings were incredibly interesting developments, built for the expectations of 1950s corporate America,” Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the Historic Districts Council, told Crain’s. “They should be seriously considered for preservation.” [Crain’s]  –Hiten Samtani