The Empire Technology Prize was created to help tackle New York’s biggest climate challenge - buildings - which account for 70% of New York City’s GHG emissions and a third of the State’s. And it’s not just a New York problem. Buildings are the cause of 40% of global GHG emissions. The taller the building, the more complicated it is to decarbonize. It bears repeating: If we don’t decarbonize buildings, we don’t solve the climate crisis.
To focus the prize, we conducted extensive research with the real estate community, uncovering a critical area of need and market demand. Heating is the largest single source of buildings’ GHG emissions - over 30%. Heat pumps are a great solution for decarbonizing building heat, however existing technologies can be difficult to integrate into New York’s buildings. Most heat pumps work best with low temperature hot water distribution systems, however the majority of New York's tall buildings operate on steam distribution (1B sqft), or high temperature hot water distribution (0.4B sqft).
New York needs new solutions that will help avoid expensive and disruptive installation: a new class of heat pumps that work with the existing steam or high temperature hot water infrastructure, and new distribution solutions that make it easier to adopt existing centralized low temperature heat pumps.
Solving this problem in New York alone is a $10B market, in the US $40B, and so that’s where we’re focusing the $10M Empire Technology Prize – on developing and demonstrating easy-to-install high temperature heat pumps or distribution systems for NY’s existing tall buildings.