NYCHA Tech Pilot at 33 Saratoga

Greg Smith of the New York Daily News published a piece over the weekend that highlighted difficult data from a NYCHA tech pilot that our firm, BlocPower, is working on.

Out of concern for the residents of 33 Saratoga, (the address where our tech pilot is taking place), and to help answer questions that other NYCHA or NYC residents may have, we wanted to clarify, as much as possible, what we know and what we don’t know about the air quality in the building.

Our tech pilot uses generic air quality sensors, which don’t allow us to scientifically identify specific chemicals in the building. What we can see is that there are chemicals present. These chemicals all come from a list of “Volatile Organic Compounds” created by the Federal government. There are over 90 different kinds chemicals, and our sensors aren’t able to identify WHICH chemicals are present.  Some Volatile Organic Compounds are very toxic, but others are emitted by common household cleaning products. So we need to find out what type of Volatile Organic Chemicals are present, and how long they may have been in the building.

We spoke to professors of public health at Harvard and MIT, who said that the appropriate next step was to hire an industrial hygienist to collect air quality samples from a lab. Those lab results are the only way to figure out what might be wrong in the building.

The tech pilot is focused around helping NYCHA to learn to use low cost temperature and air quality sensors to create an early warning system to detect heating and cooling needs, and to reduce energy costs, which can generate money to be used in improving NYCHA buildings. Across the city, we believe that NYCHA can use solar panels and clean energy and improved heating systems to generate over a $1bn to invest in making buildings healthier and safer. We want to support NYCHA’s attempt to embrace innovation, which is why we have donated 100% of the sensors and our services.

Who are we? BlocPower is an early stage technology startup, focused on making buildings greener and safer, by: analyzing sensor data, equipment data, energy consumption data, building physics data, weather data, and financial data to identify and understand all of the ways that buildings overconsume and waste fossil fuel energy. Then we recommend fixes, and upgrades and solutions to reduce the buildings energy bills, so that the savings can be invested in fixing the building.

NYCHA is one of the institutions that makes New York special. NYCHA needs billions of dollars of new green infrastructure.

It’s time for all of us to come together as New Yorkers and use our time, talent, and technology to help upgrade and support NYCHA’s conversion to green infrastructure.


BlocPower Challenge: Columbia Impact 2017

This following post details the challenge for Columbia Impact 2017.  BlocPower is a proud sponsor and looks forward to seeing the great ideas generated by the teams. Good luck and have fun!


Bronx AsthmaWhile performing energy audits on New York City buildings, BlocPower has learned a great deal about the environments in which people live and work. A huge issue we’ve discovered, outside of our energy efficiency work, is indoor air quality (IAQ).

Humans spend most of their time inside, and the air we breathe has enormous impact on our health and ability to be productive. Air quality problems are especially prevalent in low-income communities like certain parts of the Bronx, where the rate of hospitalizations for asthma are 21 times higher than in more affluent parts of the city [1]. The increase in hospital visits strains an already delicate and expensive healthcare ecosystem, as well as impacting peoples’ ability to work and go to school.

This is a problem the city government is aware of, and a bill was introduced this week to collect more data about asthAthsma hospitalma rates within the city [2]. While measures like this are important, the government alone is not equipped to solve the problem. For example, government funded public housing in Red Hook is still suffering from mold that originated from flooding during Hurricane Sandy in 2012 [3]. As climate change continues, and the severity of storms increases, this problem can be expected to get worse.

This problem encompasses a large population of the city, and a solution would provide clear economic gains from infrastructure improvements as well as increased worker productivity and wellness. BlocPower is hoping to inspire innovative business and product ideas to improve IAQ and quality of life for the citizens of New York, particularly in disadvantaged communities.

Traditional Solutions

The current strategy for addressing IAQ problems in these areas is through 311 complaints. Contractors will come to remove the mold and plaster omoldver it. These repairs are done through the New York City Housing Authority, and are sometimes incomplete or totally unaddressed. The entire process can be time consuming and frustrating for tenants.

In addition, many of the buildings are old and underserviced, meaning that the building standards at the time may not have been as strict on ventilation. The ventilation required in more modern buildings makes them better equipped to prevent these issues in the first place. 

Some Approaches

One of the big tech developments that may help is the decreasing cost of air quality sensors. High resolution air quality data, both indoors and outdoors, could help diagnose air quality issues and make source management more seamless. Some strategies attempt to involve and empower the community to make change, often through education and local events.

In 2010, a toxic mold task force commissioned by the city issued a report on mold conditions in the city [4]. The report is filled with data and recommendations for standards and actions to be taken by the government, which might help with idea generation.  The city also publishes all of the 311 calls it receives, and the dataset for IAQ calls may give insights on both the types of complaints and the areas of concentration [5]. You are also encouraged to find your own sources and information, as there is a lot of available insight on the topic!







Mentor Info

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask one of the three BlocPower employees who will be attending the event:

Michael Burton
Electrical Engineer

Alessandro DiMarco
Software Developer

Boya Yu
Data Scientist

Prepare for Heating Season with Community Retrofit NYC

In preparation for the fall heating season, BlocPower’s Community Retrofit NYC team has been all over Brooklyn this summer helping building owners and contractors prepare. The team canvassed weekly throughout East New York, Bed Stuy, and Bushwick meeting nearly 200 new building owners along the way. Whether installing a new boiler, upgrading a thermostat, or navigating the vast world of government incentive programs, the Community Retrofit team is eager to tackle the complex problems facing New York City’s building owners.

Michel + Henry Keilmanowitz

Margarget Smith + Tyler

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Our team collaborated with Brooklyn Assemblywoman Latrice Walker to host an event on July 27th for building owners at Marion Hopkinson playground in Bed Stuy. We met 23 new building owners who were connected with our free energy assessments and consulting services. These building owners were able to access a wide variety of services from our partner organizations including free LED lighting from Con Edison, free low flow water fixtures from National Grid, and the Green Housing Preservation Program.

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On August 10th we hosted a contractor training event to educate contractors about energy efficiency and help them expand the scope of their business. We brought in industry experts including Grundfos, Rathe Associates, and Venco to discuss new building technologies and energy efficiency best practices. This event helped grow our pool of qualified and experienced contractors to assist our clients with retrofit projects.


As the fall heating season approaches, Community Retrofit NYC is here to help! Contact us to learn more about the free services available for your building(s) at or 347-762-4792. 

Energy Efficiency Contractor Training: 8/10 in Brooklyn

Join Community Retrofit NYC for a free training session on Thursday, August 10 from 9am-1pm on solutions and technologies for common energy efficiency retrofits. This training is open to general and specialized contractors servicing small and mid-sized multifamily buildings. Continue reading Energy Efficiency Contractor Training: 8/10 in Brooklyn

Behind the Scenes: How Job Creation at BlocPower Impacted Me

My journey started during the harsh winter of 2015, I was just dismissed from college and I felt trapped. However, that wasKeith_Ford_Headshot just one new obstacle in my path. With no home, no job, and the pressures of college weighing on my mind, I was completely alone, fighting a battle without the proper equipment. Eventually, ​I was introduced to Green City Force, an AmeriCorps program that hires residents of the NYC Housing Authority, and was given a second chance ​to finally fix my broken life. Continue reading Behind the Scenes: How Job Creation at BlocPower Impacted Me

We Can Help Building Owners Lower Bills Today!

pasted image 0 (1)BlocMaps is finally in the hands of the New York City residents who need it most, and our customers are ready to save money on their building gas, heating oil, and electric bills. This week, the BlocPower team deployed BlocMaps in the field for a long-time resident of Brooklyn. With the power of our predictive energy consumption model at her fingertips, our customer was able to visualize her building’s performance and better understand her energy needs. Continue reading We Can Help Building Owners Lower Bills Today!

How We’re Collaborating with Intel to Scale our Business

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BlocPower is thrilled to be working with Intel to scale our technology and more rapidly help communities in cities across America.  With the Intel Xeon Scalable Processor, we have been able to run hundreds of building engineering assessments at the neighborhood and city level– in the time it currently takes us to model one building.  Continue reading How We’re Collaborating with Intel to Scale our Business

Behind The Scenes: Two Journeys Collide, A BlocPower Love Affair

Just like a love journey, the energy industry is full of exciting challenges. My journey began studying energy engineering. I saw many problems in the energy industry: climate change, underserved communities, and wasted resources. Over time I began to question how I would make this business more sustainable and pursued an MBA degree at Brandeis University. I then met BlocPower and settled down as an Investment Associate, where I help solve access to capital issues within the energy industry. Continue reading Behind The Scenes: Two Journeys Collide, A BlocPower Love Affair

BlocPower at Civic Hall Smart Cities Innovation Event in NYC on May 10

Where should innovators be focused on building the next generation of smart cities?  NUMA New York and Civic Hall recently invited the community to “Smart Cities NYC Recap Event” at Civic Hall. Key leaders and stakeholders gathered to share perspectives, participate in interactive workshops and connect with each other- watch the livestream now! Continue reading BlocPower at Civic Hall Smart Cities Innovation Event in NYC on May 10

Power to the People at Smart Cities NYC ’17

Look for BlocPower at the SmartImage uploaded from iOS (1) Cities NYC’17 conference this week. Don’t miss our CEO, Donnel Baird, on the “Power to the People” panel in Duggal I at 3:30pm on Thursday, May 4. And make sure to stop by and say hi to us at the Urbantech NYC booth inside the Duggal Greenhouse (10-11am on Thursday, May 4 and 12-1pm on Friday, May 5). Continue reading Power to the People at Smart Cities NYC ’17