Design Brief for the Metals in Construction 2020 Design Challenge: Transform a Facade


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, retrofitting 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 light and air quality, 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, engineers and owners to submit their vision for transforming the facade of one of Manhattan’s 90-year-old buildings—Herald Square Building at 1350 Broadway—creating an environment attractive to today’s workforce while reducing its carbon footprint.

Design Brief

The Metals in Construction magazine 2020 Design Challenge is an ideas competition to upgrade an aging, energy-inefficient high-rise office building in order to comply with NYC’s Green New Deal goals and render it more desirable space for companies competing for highly skilled employees in today’s labor market.

The site chosen for this ideas competition is the Herald Square Building at 1350 Broadway, a 25-story New York City office high-rise constructed in 1929, which overlooks Herald Square and boasts attractive surroundings and easy access to public transportation. Its age makes it typical of the high-rise office buildings that populate Manhattan’s Midtown South, all of which are mandated to reduce carbon emissions by 40 percent in accordance with the city’s Green New Deal 2030 deadline. The Challenge assumes that competition for tech company tenants—a significant and growing component of New York City’s leasing marketplace—is foremost on owners’ minds as they strategize to recover the costs of these energy improvements.

Competing means providing the amenities high-growth companies seek in an office environment. Two features in particular, light penetration into interiors and visual access to outdoor space, are beneficial to employee health and well-being. These benefits, in turn, are linked to increased worker productivity and retention. Savings in this area can be very persuasive when weighing the value of adding these amenities. 

It is for this reason that the publishers of Metals in Construction magazine selected this type of building as the subject of this year’s challenge.*  

Your challenge: Submit your vision transforming 1350 Broadway’s facade to increase penetration of sunlight into the interior and enclose the building using a curtain wall system that balances transparency, views, and energy performance. Your design must be innovative and demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of current technological advances in curtain wall enclosure and glazing. A panel of distinguished architects and engineers will award a $15,000 grand prize to the design judged best at achieving the stated goals of increasing light into the interior and affording tenants greater visual access to the outdoors while maintaining energy performance.

Design Assumptions: Assume that some interior columns can be removed but that is not the function of competition.  

About the site: 1350 Broadway takes up an entire New York City block from 35th to 36th Street between Manhattan’s Broadway and Sixth avenues. The building has a low-rise portion completed in 1940 that faces Herald Square. The building can be entered from both Sixth Avenue and Broadway, the latter entrance bordering a pedestrian mall stretching the length of the site periphery.

*Note: 1350 Broadway, the building chosen for this exercise, has substantially completed an upgrade program under its new owners and the competition is in no way meant to reflect on the success of that accomplishment. This is an ideas competition only, intended to promote ideas of sustainability and technological advancement in the area of facade design.

Submission Requirements

The submission process is composed of three parts:

  • Entrant Information – Contact information of the individual or team submitting. This will not be shared with judges and is only for contact purposes. Enter additional team names in the “Notes” section of the Project Description Prompts.
  • Project Description Prompts – A series of descriptive points related to the design and process of the submission.
  • Proposal Visualization – Up to 10 pages may be submitted to represent the proposal. This attachment should be one (1) multi-page PDF file (max. 10 pages) formatted at 11”x17” (ledger) and can include supporting backup data, calculations, and commentary to supplement the images. Do not link or embed objects. Links to any video or animated components may be pasted into Project Description Prompts. Maximum file size is 20MB.
  • All materials are due by Thursday, February 6, 2020, 11:59 p.m. Once you register via this site, you or your teammates may log in and edit your competition entry as many times as you like until the deadline.
  • See Competition Rules and the FAQ page for more information.


    One grand prize of $15,000 will be awarded at a half-day conference at the state-of-the art TimesCenter in New York City on Friday, March 6, 2020. Along with the winner(s), the jury will select up to 5 honorable mentions for presentation and discussion at the conference. The winner and the top five finalists will also be published in Metals in Construction magazine and its digital platforms.