Bringing modern technology and sustainability to older buildings.

The Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City was designed by architect James Ingo Freed of I.M Pei’s firm. Construction began in 1979 and was finished in 1986. It was one of the smallest convention centers for a large city at 2.1 million square feet. Now it is the busiest convention center in the U.S. with over 3.5 million visitors a year. It generates $2 billion in economic activity and has 17,000 employees.

Governor Cuomo wanted to build a new and larger convention center for New York City when he first took office. He proposed a new 3.8 million square foot convention center in southern Queens. The development of the far West Side, including the High Line and Hudson Yards, has breathed new life into the Javits Center. Plans to build a new convention center have been dropped. A massive upgrade of the Javits Center had already begun in 2009 and was completed in 2013. The Center remained open and operational during the upgrade.  Alan Steel, the current president and CEO of the Javits Center, was appointed in 2012.

The next phase of renovation, the expansion of the Jacob K. Javits Center, broke ground in 2017. It is expected to be completed in 2021. It will increase the size of the center by 50%. While the Center did not need much more exhibition space, it did need systems and trucking space. When it is finished there will be a new solar energy facility, a four-story truck facility to ease traffic congestion on surrounding streets and a terrace that will hold 2,500 people. There will also be a new subway station, a 60,000 square foot ballroom and a 500,000 square foot exhibition floor.

It is the renovation of the existing Javits Center that is of real interest. It was completed in 2013 and now the Javits Center is setting the industry standard for the modernization of older commercial structures. It has a cutting-edge energy dashboard and is on track to achieve LEED Silver certification “exceeding New York State’s mandate of reducing energy and water consumption by 20% by 2020.” The interior renovation has brought the building into the 21st century with the latest in sustainability features. There is an energy-saving green roof – 6 ¾ acres planted with sedum – the second largest in the U.S. and roughly the size of 5 football fields.

In addition to the green roof, there are the new glass windows. It is estimated that nationwide, hundreds of millions of birds are killed annually by crashing into houses and buildings. In 2009 the Javits Center was found to be in the top three bird-killing buildings in New York City by the NYC Audubon Society. 6,000 glass panels in the Javits Center have now been replaced with bird-friendly glass.   The windows have glass that birds can see. They are fritted, translucent glass windows designed to prevent bird collisions. There is ceramic in the glass that helps break up reflections but does not reduce visibility for people inside. Since the glass was changed at the Javits Center, data show a 90% decrease in bird collisions.

The Javits Center has sponsored a study by the NYC Audubon and Fordham University to learn what bird species are using their new green roof. Researchers counted over 524 bird sightings on the roof during one spring and summer. The birds came from 12 different species. The researchers were particularly happy to see baby American kestrels (a beautiful bird of prey, photo left) on the roof, learning to walk and eating grasshoppers and crickets.

The new glass and the green roof are naturally cooling the building. Those two things and other improvements like solar panels have reduced energy consumption by 26%. The green roof also captures rainwater which helps reduce the inundation of storm water into sewage treatment plants. The roof is home to two weather stations from Drexel University and three beehives. The hives are producing Jacob’s Honey.

Other improvements include new entrances, recladding the entire building enclosure with a new high-performance curtain-wall and skylights, advanced recycling practices, new energy-efficient lighting and reducing office waste 10% annually. We hope the Javits Center’s “world-class technological innovation” will serve as a model and motivation for other cities with older commercial buildings.

Take a tour of the Javits Center Green Roof

Learn more about the New York City Audubon’s Project Safe Flight.