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There Might Be Gold in the City’s New Green Law

New York City

Gold in Green
May 8, 2019

Since the New York City Council passed stringent new targets for building owners to cut their emissions by 40 percent by 2030, the real estate industry and many co-op and condo boards have claimed that the cost of building retrofits will be beyond their reach.

But technology could come to the rescue – and in the process, a lot of tech companies could profit from the new law. “The retrofit market, the market for energy efficiency in New York City, is about to see a scope and scale unlike anything it has seen before,” John Mandyck, chief executive of the Urban Green Council, a nonprofit focused on New York real estate and a champion of the new legislation, tells Crain’s. “Who knows what innovations are in somebody’s garage today because there hasn’t been a market of this scale?” 

And some existing innovations are likely to get a major boost from the new law. Radiator Labs, for instance, produces a radiator cover that traps heat until the temperature setting activates a fan, which then blows the hot air into the room (each radiator has its own setting). Marshall Cox began developing the technology while getting his Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Columbia University and living in a steam-heated building where the only way to lower the temperature was to open the windows. The covers, which reduce heating costs by an average of 25 percent, are now in about 25 buildings, and the company is doubling staff to 20 employees at the company's Brooklyn Navy Yard headquarters. 

Meanwhile, Brooklyn-based 475 High Performance Building Supply has had some successes since its 2012 founding, most notably its role in helping build North America's first high-rise "passive house." Realizing European builders had developed more advanced technology and materials, Ken Levenson and Floris Keverling Buisman started 475 to connect American builders with specialized products and the know-how to use them. “We knew [passive-house building] was the future,” Levenson says. “We just weren’t sure: Were we five years early? Were we 10 years early? We’ve been waiting for these kinds of mandates to come along and turbocharge people thinking about these issues.” 

Their wait is over.

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