New York City's Green New Deal law set ambitious deadlines for its largest buildings to reduce carbon emissions, spurring the city Dept. of Buildings to debut a competition that attracted a range of potential solutions in energy generation and use.

The department announced on Sept. 22 four winners of its first Carbon Neutrality Innovation Challenge, geared to provide solutions for buildings of more than 25,000 sq ft in meeting new green requirements that include cutting emissions from 2005 levels by 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2050.  

The competition received submissions from a wide range of design, construction and technology companies and groups for new ideas in sustainable technology and retrofits of existing building systems.

Winning ideas were submitted by Radiator Labs, Hydromx Inc., WexEnergy and Zinc8 Energy Solutions Inc.

Radiator Labs’ founder and CEO Marshall Cox said at the event that steam heat, a 19th century technology used in 70% to 80% of New York City buildings, has problematic distribution. He said his company’s Cozy platform promotes energy efficiency through smart, insulated radiator covers that are networked to a central boiler control.

The system is easy for users to control and can minimize dramatic temperature swings in older buildings, Cox said, adding that the platform reduces fuel consumption by 25%, on average, in all steam buildings.

Hydromx Inc. offers a solution for more modern heating and cooling systems. It produces a fluid containing nano particles that can replace existing fluids in the closed-loop of HVAC systems, or replace chilled or hot water in run-around loops. The company claims this “nano-thermo technology” enables 20% to 35% savings on HVAC bills and doesn’t impose disruption to building occupants.

Heating and cooling efficiencies can be undone by energy loss. WexEnergy CEO Rachel Rosen said at the event that 50% of cooling dissipates through windows. Besides that financial impact, owners can be fined if their buildings don't reduce such energy losses or otherwise meet green requirements. In one example, Rosen said, owners of a particular New York City building could pay a $66,445 penalty for every year they do nothing to reduce their carbon footprint.

WexEnergy’s WindowSkin product could address such issues, she said. It’s a clear, featherweight custom-fit window insulation system that can be installed on existing windows, purportedly to make single-pane windows work like double-pane ones and double-pane windows work like triple-panes.

Rosen said WindowSkin would not interfere with use of windows and that custodians can be trained to install them in less than 30 minutes.

Greener electricity generation can further boost sustainability. Zinc8 Energy Solutions Inc. has developed a battery system using zinc that can store the energy from renewable energy sources like a building’s solar panels. The system is modular, so it can be configured for a variety of building architectures, the company said in a release.

“Durable and energy efficient battery storage systems are going to be more important to NYC building owners going forward, as we have laws on the books that say that say that every building, and every renovation project that fully replaces the building roof, must have a sustainable roof–meaning either a green roof or solar panels,” Buildings Dept. spokesman Andrew Rudansky said at the event.

In addition to requiring solar panels on some buildings, the city’s Green New Deal, estimated to cost $14-billion, also establishes financing mechanisms to help pay for retrofits, and includes a study to determine if 24 gas-fired power plants in the five boroughs can be shut down. I

t’s estimated that about 50,000 buildings, or 2% of the city’s building stock, will be required to cut emissions, including the Empire State Building and Trump Tower.

“As part of our first ever digital conference, I am thrilled to congratulate the winners of our sustainability innovation challenge,” Buildings Commissioner Melanie E. La Rocca said. “We are proud of our continued partnership with industry to confront this critical issue.”