New initiative seeks innovations to streamline NYC’s building process

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Dive Brief:

  • The New York City Department of Buildings, alongside an investment arm called the Partnership Fund for New York City, has launched the Buildings Tech Lab for innovations in construction tech. 
  • The goal of the public-private initiative, announced July 8, is to find, evaluate and test innovative technology solutions that will help the DOB manage construction in the city. The costs to run the BTL, which are primarily staff costs, will be paid for by the NYC Partnership Foundation, which is the nonprofit affiliate of the Partnership Fund for NYC, Nick Bader, a media representative for the Partnership Fund, told Construction Dive.
  • The BTL is hosting a competition through Sept. 20 to solicit these solutions for key priority areas identified by the agency, according to the release. These include how to manage internal processes to expedite permitting, building inspections, code reviews and enforcement initiatives and how the agency can better use data to automate operations and increase staff capacity.

Dive Insight:

The early- and growth-stage tech companies that are accepted into the program will participate in an eight-week “proof of concept” phase, per the release. During this time, the DOB will work with each startup to test and provide guidance on their proposal, product capabilities and value proposition. 

“New York is one of the biggest and most innovative cities on earth; we must tap the savviness of our tech and business sectors to sustain our infrastructure in a time of rapid climate change and aging building stock,” said Meera Joshi, the city’s deputy mayor for operations, in the release.

The lab is the newest demonstration of the Partnership Fund’s “Tech in the Public Interest” strategy, which aims to invest in companies and programs that advance new technology and combat urban challenges. The BTL will employ the Partnership Fund’s Innovation Labs model, which it pioneered in 2010 with the FinTech Innovation Lab in the city, per the release.

Alongside the BTL, the city also premiered the Transit Tech Lab with the Metropolitan Transit Authority in 2018, per the release. Then, in 2023, the Fund partnered with the NYC Department of Environmental Protection to create the Environmental Tech Lab.

The city has also established the “NYC Smart City Testbed Program,” which allows city agencies to work with the private sector on tech pilots that will work primarily in public spaces. Examples include drone inspection technology, an air pollution vacuum and sensors on public streets.

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