NYCDOB announces “Hack the Building Code” innovation challenge winners


The New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) has announced the winning entries for the 2021 “Hack the Building Code” Innovation Challenge, featuring what it describes as “five cutting-edge winning ideas that can help shape the future of New York City’s built environment.”

Now in its second year, the “Hack the Building Code” Innovation Challenge was first launched in 2020 in partnership with the NYC Economic Development Corporation and the Urban Tech @ Hub Company Ventures. This challenge invites the public to submit ideas on the best ways to improve how we design, construct and maintain our city of over 1.1 million buildings. This year’s winners include innovations to prevent construction worker falls, capture carbon emissions, expedite the building-permit approval process and closely track activity on construction sites.

“New York City is at its best when we embrace big ideas,” said Buildings Commissioner Melanie E. La Rocca. “This innovation challenge is a reminder that we should never stop striving to think of ways to improve our industry, and I congratulate each one of the winners, who are providing unique and compelling ideas on how we can build a better city for all of us.”

“New York City continues to be home to a strong community of innovators committed to identifying creative solutions and sustainable practices,” said Robinson Hernandez, executive director, Urban Tech Hub @ Company Ventures. “The Urban Tech Hub @ Company Ventures is proud to partner with the Department of Buildings to celebrate these pioneering startups whose innovations help tackle our city’s most pressing challenges.”

The 2021 “Hack the Building Code” Innovation Challenge received submissions from a wide spectrum of design firms, technology companies, organizations, and individuals, with ideas ranging from improving worker safety to streamlining our city’s development process. Winners were selected by members of DOB’s in-house Innovation Committee alongside a special panel of judges comprised of experts from the private sector, choosing winners based on their projects feasibility, impact and innovation. The innovation competition winners will be showcased at the Department’s Digital 2021: Safety, Innovation, and Sustainability Conference.

2021’s “Hack the Building Code” Innovation Challenge winners:

  • SafeRise – A standardized, reusable, and lockable barrier that could prevent worker and material falls in elevator and other shaft ways. Constructed of steel, the SafeRise barricades are designed with safety features to restrict access to only pre-approved construction workers.

SiteSafety – Specific changes to the NYC Building Code to require horizontal safety netting to be installed every 30 feet in shaft way openings on active construction sites. The proposed change is intended to catch falling construction workers and prevent work site fatalities.

  • noya – New direct air capture technology to retrofit existing cooling towers to capture carbon emissions from building HVAC systems. With a compact design to fit on NYC rooftops, this innovative idea could accelerate the city’s transition to carbon neutrality.

  • Future Insight and AoRa Development – A digital platform that could expedite the building permit approval process via the use of building information modeling (BIM) drawings that could be checked automatically against existing building codes and development regulations.

  • – An interactive network of smart badges, sensors, and mobile-phone alerts to track construction workers’ locations. This technology could enable automated headcounts, store and display site safety/training certificates and other compliance documents, alert site personnel when falls or other safety hazards occur, and collect data for predictive analytics.

“In addition to our five winners, the Department of Buildings and our panel of judges would like to honorably mention the comprehensive safety management application submissions from SkillSignal and TracFlo, which also provided innovative ideas on how to improve safety in our city’s construction industry,” the DOB statement said.

The five winners of this year’s innovation challenge will receive technical support and assistance from the department in introducing their technology to NYC’s design and construction industries. DOB does not offer contracts to the winners of the “Hack the Building Code” Innovation Challenge, and they will not receive monetary compensation for their participation.


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