At first glance, the nearly hundred year old Grand Central Station doesn’t look particularly energy efficient—after all, the station does contain 60,000 lightbulbs. But New York City officials are doing their best to make sure the terminal sets an example for other public buildings in the city.
The Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) has replaced the 20,000 interior bulbs in the station with CFLs that look like the building’s original round bulbs. Additionally, the MTA is testing out CFLs for the building’s chandeliers— although finding bulbs that have the correct shape, color, and lighting appearance is a challenge. The bulb-replacement spree will save the MTA quite a bit of money—$100,000 a year, in fact.
And the bulbs aren’t the only part of Grand Central’s energy efficiency scheme. The building is equipped with a unique air-conditioning system that uses low-cost lithium bromide and steam running beneath the building. The air-conditioner is almost twice as efficient as conventional systems and is much cheaper.
The station also collects over five tons of paper each day as part of a newspaper recycling program.
While it is easy to point out other ways that Grand Central’s energy efficiency could be improved—with solar panels on the roof, for example—we have to remember that the MTA is severely limited by the station’s designation as a National Historic Landmark (meaning the organization needs to get approval for almost every change made to the building). So considering what it has to work with, I’d say that the MTA is performing admirably.
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Ariel Schwartz was formerly the editor of CleanTechnica and is a contributor at Fast Company, Inhabitat, Triple Pundit, SF Weekly, and NBC Bay Area Online. A graduate of Vassar College, she has previously worked in publishing, organic farming, documentary film, and newspaper journalism. Her interests include permaculture, hiking, skiing, music, relocalization, and cob (the building material). She currently resides in San Francisco, CA.