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December 20, 2017

Leading New York Solar Experts Discuss Best Practices in Solar Technology at “DDC Talks” Lecture Series

Crystal Santos

Long Island City, NY – New York Solar Ombudsmen, Bill Oberkehr and Derric Meister talk to the NYC Department of Design and Construction (DDC) staff about the key elements to look for when upgrading public buildings with solar technology. Their discussion was part of the monthly lecture series ‘DDC Talks,’ which presents lecturers from around the country to address the City’s design and construction professionals. Oberkehr and Meister’s talk centered on the basics of solar installation strategies and best practices.

“Our staff looks for every opportunity to learn more about solar technology and how they can make it part of the City’s public building projects.” said DDC Acting Commissioner Ana Barrio. “DDC is a proud partner in Mayor de Blasio’s OneNYC goal to create a sustainable and resilient City. The use of solar technology will help us accomplish that goal by significantly reducing the City’s carbon footprint over time.”

In September 2014, Mayor Bill de Blasio committed to reducing 80% of greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050, joining the world’s leading cities to reduce the carbon footprint of the City and the impact it has on climate change. Solar installation at public buildings is a key part of the City’s strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions because solar energy does not produce waste or emissions.

“Folks at DDC are going to be the ones in charge of either designing or reviewing designs. If you’re involved in any way shape or form, knowing this information is going to make your life much easier,” said Bill Oberkehr, New York Solar Ombudsman from NYSolar Smart program at Sustainable CUNY.

Oberkehr and Meister suggest DDC project managers look at roof replacement projects in the pipeline and begin surveying whether those buildings can be candidates for solar technology. Things to look for include: exposure to direct sunlight, potential obstructions like HVAC equipment plus current structural conditions on the rooftop and in the electrical/utility room. Additionally, the New York Solar Ombudsmen say DDC project managers should check the local power grid’s capacity to accept solar production and whether upgrades to the grid are necessary to make the solar installation project work.

Oberkehr says DDC project managers shouldn’t be discouraged if they find challenges when considering solar installation projects because those challenges allow project managers to get creative and think outside the box.

“New York is old and has a long history of attracting innovative people to it and that hasn’t stopped, solar is no exception, folks are building these different type of structures to get around all kinds of obstructions, a popular one is a solar canopy,” said Oberkehr. “What folks have been doing in recent years is elevating the solar panels 9 feet above the roof on a canopy system so that HVAC equipment and other obstructions don’t cause a problem. This is an example of innovative solutions and what makes New York City one of the most interesting places to work on solar.”

DDC employs numerous strategies in its designs to increase energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including green roofs, solar panels, geothermal climate control systems and high-efficiency lighting and machinery. DDC makes solar generating capacity part of many of its public building designs, including at the new home for the FDNY’s Rescue 2 in Brooklyn. The agency’s Guiding Principles for Design Excellence released in 2016 encourage contractors to use renewable energy sources including solar technology when designing projects for DDC.  Additionally, earlier this year, DDC installed solar charging stations outside its Queens headquarters to power its fleet of electric vehicles. All with the goal of decreasing the City’s carbon footprint whenever possible.

About the NYC Department of Design and Construction
The Department of Design and Construction is the City’s primary capital construction project manager. In supporting Mayor de Blasio’s lenses of growth, sustainability, resiliency, equity and healthy living, DDC provides communities with new or renovated public buildings such as such as firehouses, libraries, police precincts, new or upgraded roadways, sewers, water mains in all five boroughs. To manage this $15 billion portfolio, DDC partners with other City agencies, architects and consultants, whose experience bring efficient, innovative, and environmentally-conscious design and construction strategies to city projects. For more information, please visit