Grand Central Station: bringing energy efficiency to an American icon

Tue, 2015-06-30 06:00 -- Doug Peeples

New York City's Grand Central Station is one of the busiest train terminals in the U.S. -– and sure to be even busier with the approaching July 4 holiday.

When Grand Central was built in 1913, the massive 49-acre facility designed in a neoclassical style was considered a marvel of new technology. The pink granite structure was a pioneer -- one of the world's first fully electric buildings, and new electrification technology made it possible for trains to run underground, eliminating steam locomotives' soot. It is also the world's largest rail station in terms of its number of platforms.

Greening up Grand Central
Today, with considerable help from SourceOne, a subsidiary and consulting division of Council Associate Partner Veolia, the midtown Manhattan landmark continues in its role as an innovator. A $22.3 million, four-year energy efficiency upgrade completed last year will save an estimated $3.3 million in operating costs and reduce carbon emissions by 10,000 tons every year.

The terminal is leased and operated by the New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), a Council Advisor. It also is a customer of the New York Power Authority (NYPA) which, in addition to providing power, is a strong advocate for energy efficiency, alternative energy and clean transportation efforts.

SourceOne was tapped by NYPA to handle the design, implementation and commissioning of the Grand Central energy efficiency renovation. SourceOne also manages energy efficiency for several other NYPA customers.

After identifying the most appropriate energy saving measures, SourceOne took on a variety of upgrades that involved installing a lot of new equipment, including:

  • Controls and lighting
  • Chillers and cooling towers
  • Fans, compressors and air handlers
  • Metering and tenant sub-metering systems
  • Equipment monitoring devices

The project also required numerous modifications to the facility's steam distribution system and the addition of a state-of-the-art Building Management System.

Not a walk in the park
Grand Central is in the midst of busy, crowded business district -- and a key part of the upgrade was replacing a number of cooling towers on the building's roof with new, more efficient towers. The individual units are very large and the replacement had to be done at night to maximize safety and minimize disruptions. And extra precautions had to be taken to avoid damaging the well-known statue of Mercury and the ornate stained glass Tiffany clock. To accomplish the task required a crane and a lot of very carefully planned rigging.

But despite what were likely some nail-biting moments during that phase, the project was a success and Grand Central can continue to lay claim to its status as an innovator -- now with much improved performance, savings in water and energy --and substantially lower emissions.

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Doug Peeples is a Portland, Oregon-based writer specializing in technology and energy. Follow @smartccouncil on Twitter.

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