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DOB looks to real estate, tech sector for next big thing

The Department of Buildings has launched of the first-ever “Hack the Building Code” Innovation Challenge.

The contest is part of a partnership with NYC Economic Development Corporation and Urban Tech Hub @ Company.

The agency invites ideas on the best ways to improve the city’s 1.1 million buildings, keep construction workers and the public safe, and modernize the construction process.

The winner of this innovation challenge will be supported for inclusion in the 2020 NYC Building Code, agency Buildings Bulletin, or industry best practices guidelines. They will also be featured in upcoming DOB industry seminars and events highlighting how NYC’s Building Code keeps every New Yorker safe.

All entries can be submitted online by August 21, 2020.

“New York is a city built on innovation and creativity, and this challenge allows us to strengthen our mission to create safe neighborhoods by looking directly to our friends and neighbors,” said Department of Buildings Commissioner Melanie E. La Rocca.


“We are always looking to further improve and modernize our Building Code to meet new challenges and keep New Yorkers safe.”

The “Hack the Building Code” Innovation Challenge is seeking proposals on:

  • Improving worker safety
  • Identifying new regulations that would foster innovation or new technology, plus finding outdated regulations that are impeding innovation
  • Minimizing the effects of construction (ex: noise, dust, vibrations)
  • Creating innovative fire-resistant and construction techniques
  • Designing new fire resistant materials
  • Innovating façade inspections and repairs
  • Developing adaptive architecture
  • Facilitating design-build collaborations
  • Creating new takes on business processes to improve customer experience and become more efficient
  • Incorporating Building Information Modeling (BIM), digitizing the workplace and other design innovations
  • Developing safe work practices to continue preventing the spread of COVID-19

The competition will be led by DOB and the Code Innovation Committee, comprised of representatives from the construction, design and real estate industries. Finalists will be selected after review by the committee, and will present their proposals at DOB’s Build Safe/Live Safe Conference on September 25, 2020.

New York City’s Building Code is one of the nation’s oldest and most comprehensive set of rules regarding construction in both new and existing buildings. Regulations adopted by New York City frequently inform model codes on the national and international levels.

The “Hack the Building Code” Innovation Challenge is part of DOB’s ongoing commitment to finding the best ideas from the public to create a safe, sustainable NYC.

In April, DOB announced the Carbon Neutrality Innovation Challenge to solicit ideas to increase energy efficiency among NYC’s buildings. Both challenges are open to all members of the public and entries must be submitted by August 21, 2020. Winners will be announced this fall.

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.

“The Urban Tech Hub @ Company is proud to partner with the Department of Buildings to surface innovative ideas to improve worker safety and building design and to create more resilient spaces in the wake of COVID,” said Robinson Hernandez, Executive Director of Urban Tech Hub @ Company.

“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.”

“On behalf of the professional engineering community, ACEC New York strongly supports Commissioner La Rocca and the DOB’s Building Code Innovation Challenge,” said Jay Simson, President & CEO, American Council of Engineering Companies of New York.

“We look forward to our continued partnership to promote and advance building and worker safety and modernization of the NYC Building Code in these challenging times.”


“It’s critical that the building industry embrace innovation throughout the design and construction process and continually improve the way we build, and that includes modernizing the Building Code,” said Carlo A. Scissura, President and CEO, New York Building Congress.

“We applaud the DOB and Commissioner Melanie La Rocca for this initiative and look forward to working with the Department to build a better New York for all.”

“Safety, and wellness, for our workers, neighbors and all New Yorkers is always our number one priority,” said Louis J. Coletti, President and CEO, Building Trades Employers Association. “Lessons learned from the pandemic have compelled BTEA contractors to go above and beyond the minimum requirements and institute a higher standard of protections. This competition is the perfect vehicle to promote many of the protocols we are currently using and we thank the Department for the opportunity to be heard.”

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