Seventy five percent of New York City’s high-rise office buildings are more than a half a century old. Most will still be standing in 2030, a milestone year on the city’s roadmap to carbon neutrality. Since buildings alone account for more than 80 percent of the city’s carbon footprint, equipping as many as possible with energy-efficient features is essential to reducing carbon emissions.  

Owners realize this, but the costs of upgrading aging, energy inefficient office stock can be enormous. Finding good tenants to help offset these costs can be challenging if floor plates lack modern amenities like light and air, functionality, and circulation—features that help companies attract and retain a sophisticated workforce. Given the sheer quantity of buildings involved, demolishing an entire building as a way to overcome these deficiencies is unrealistic and wasteful. Instead, simply transforming the facade to increase penetration of sunlight into the interior and expand views can offer a feasible way of reinventing the building to compete in the leasing marketplace.

In this spirit, the 2020 Design Challenge invites architects and engineers to submit their vision for transforming the facade of one of Manhattan’s 90-year-old buildings, creating an environment attractive to today’s workforce while reducing its carbon footprint.