Noon – 2:30 PM ET, Thursday, November 2, 2023

Restoring the Past, Protecting the Future: Decarbonizing Historic Skyscrapers

Decarbonizing our existing building stock is a critical challenge in addressing the climate crisis. How can we transform landmarked, high-rise buildings with large carbon footprints into high-performing, energy-efficient ones that still respect their history? We answer that question with the deep energy retrofit of New York University’s (NYU) Rubin Hall student residence. Designed to meet EnerPHit certification— Rubin Hall is the model for the billions of square feet of pre-war construction in New York City and beyond. Originally constructed as a hotel in 1926, the 17-story building in NYC’s Greenwich Village Historic District now houses 700 students and faculty.

The existing building includes uninsulated brick with terra cotta backup walls, single-pane steel-framed windows, and steam heating provided by fuel-oil-fired boilers. The existing building lacks air conditioning. The renovation includes robustly insulating and improving the envelope’s airtightness, historically appropriate triple pane windows, and all-electric mechanical and ventilation systems.

In this PHN Online Symposium, we will discuss the challenges encountered during Rubin Hall’s retrofit design phase and the creative solutions developed by the project team to achieve EnerPHit pre-certification. Project team members will share their perspectives on architectural and space planning, the landmark approval challenges, envelope improvement strategies, adding cooling and ventilation systems, and EnerPHit and sustainability considerations.

Thank you Sponsors for helping make this event happen.


  • Cecil Scheib, New York University
  • Cheryl Saldanha, Simpson Gumpertz and Heger
  • Dylan Martello, Steven Winter Associates
  • Jeffrey Rios, AKF Group
  • Michael Syracuse, FXCollaborative

Learning Objectives:

  1. Describe the challenges of retrofitting a large historic building to perform at EnerPHit levels.
  2. Outline exterior envelope detailing techniques to achieve EnerPHit-level airtightness.
  3. Describe the modeling process and steps required for EnerPHit certification.
  4. Outline potential solutions to achieve an all-electric HVAC retrofit to eliminate fossil fuel use in historic buildings.

See our previous PHN Online Symposiums on our YouTube Channel.