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DOB launches Hack the Building Code challenge

The Department of Buildings today announced the launch of the agency’s second-annual “Hack the Building Code” Innovation Challenge, sending out an open call to the public for ways to improve New York’s built environment.

The contest is a partnership between the DOB, the NYC Economic Development Corporation and Urban Tech Hub @ Company Ventures.

Building on the success of our first ever “Hack the Building Code” innovation challenge held last year, DOB is once again seeking ideas on the best ways to improve how we design, construct and maintain our city of over 1.1 million buildings.

Submissions for the challenge can incorporate a wide range of ideas, including new technologies, resiliency standards, building sustainability, construction site safety, public safety, public quality of life issues, removing inefficiencies in the development process, and modernizing construction techniques.

The winners of this innovation challenge will receive DOB technical support and assistance in introducing their technology to NYC’s design and construction industries. In addition, winners will be featured in upcoming DOB industry seminars and events highlighting how NYC’s Building Code keeps New Yorkers safe.

Submit your entries online here by November 3, 2021.


“Time and time again we have seen that the best ideas can come from anywhere. That’s why we’re challenging New Yorkers to share their proposals for how we can make New York a safer and more sustainable city,” said Buildings Commissioner Melanie E. La Rocca. “We want to leverage the creativity of the city’s design and construction industries to keep us at the forefront of innovation, protect the public and help New York continue to lead the fight against climate change.”

“The Urban Tech Hub @ Company Ventures is proud to continue to partner with the Department of Buildings to surface innovative ideas to modernize construction techniques and sustainable practices and to create more resilient spaces in the wake of COVID,” said Robinson Hernandez, Executive Director of Urban Tech Hub @ Company Ventures. “We’re calling on New York City’s tech and real estate communities, as well as the general public, to help us update and modernize the city’s Building Code so that it better serves everyone.”

The “Hack the Building Code” Innovation Challenge is seeking proposals in categories including, but not limited to:

  1. Construction Practices
    1. Creating innovative design and construction techniques
    2. Improving construction process efficiency and safely reducing cost
  2. Sustainability & Resiliency
    1. Enhancing resiliency of buildings and systems
    2. Improving building energy and emissions performance
    3. Innovative new materials or practices that improve sustainability
    4. Renewable energy systems
    5. Reducing “embodied carbon” that is stored or emitted during construction
  3. Improving Conditions for Tenants, Occupants, & the Public
    1. Best practices for complying with tenant protection regulations
    2. Innovative technology that coordinates and minimizes disruption of services in occupied buildings, including heat, hot water, and elevators;
    3. Minimizing the impact of construction and building maintenance on tenants in residential buildings, including but not limited to reducing noise, dust, vibrations, and other detriments to tenants’ quality of life, as well as other innovative ideas to maintain safe and code-compliant egress from buildings during construction
    4. Minimizing the effects of construction on other building occupants, the public, and neighboring properties, including but not limited to the factors set forth above
  4. New Design Standards & Practices
    1. Identifying regulations that should be phased out or modernized
    2. Innovative façade inspections and repairs
    3. Incorporating new technology and data into building design
    4. Improving building safety and structural performance
    5. Improving fire safety
  5. Worker & Construction Site Safety
    1. Innovative construction techniques that improve safety
    2. New technology that improves fall protection
    3. Identifying methods of construction that limit/reduce impact to the public right-of-way and pedestrians
    4. Best practices and innovations for protecting adjoining properties during construction

Judging for this competition will be led by DOB’s Code Innovation Committee, comprised of DOB staff and representatives from the construction, design and real estate industries. Finalists will be selected after review by the Committee and will present their proposals at a virtual DOB conference to be held in November.

New York City’s Building Code is one of the nation’s earliest and most comprehensive set of rules regarding construction in both new and existing buildings. Updated regularly, our Codes set a strong framework for how buildings are designed and maintained in our unique urban environment. Earlier this year, the Department announced sweeping revisions to existing Codes, with more than 600 major changes to existing regulations, which we look forward to the City Council passing them into law. Regulations in our Codes frequently inform model codes on the national and international levels.

The second-annual “Hack the Building Code” Innovation Challenge is part of DOB’s ongoing commitment to create a safe, sustainable city. Last year, winning proposals to improve building and worker safety and increase energy efficiency among NYC’s buildings included a wide range of measures to improve our city’s built environment. In addition to showcasing the 2020 winners at digital industry conferences, the agency also issued Buildings Bulletins in support of these innovators, official guidance documents which provide technical approvals in New York City for the use of products, processes and technologies that are not specifically enumerated in our Codes.

Urban Tech Hub is home to 50+ startups working on the future of smarter cities alongside corporate partners and NYC government agencies, helping the city to capitalize on innovations that address the most pressing urban challenges.

“It is critical to the well-being of our communities to promote the modernization of the built environment in New York,” said John Evers, President & CEO, American Council of Engineering Companies of New York. “Our organization will continue to partner with the DOB and Commissioner La Rocca on initiatives such as the ‘Hack the Building Code’ challenge, which promotes greatly needed innovation and resiliency efforts.”

“Innovation is an essential part of the real estate industry’s efforts to advance sustainable development, promote construction safety and maintain state-of-the-art buildings for residential and commercial tenants,” said Zachary Steinberg, Senior Vice President of Policy at the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY). “We applaud DOB for leading this exciting initiative and look forward to the proposals it will generate as we continue working together to modernize our built environment and strengthen communities across New York City.”

“The BTEA is proud to once again participate in the Department’s “Hack The Building Code” innovation challenge. It is exactly these collaborative efforts that help to move both the Industry and the Department forward. We look forward to hearing and seeing more fantastic and innovative concepts,” said Donald Ranshte, Building Trades Employers Association, Executive Vice President.

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