NYC’s Delta Building Uses Smart Tech To Provide Its Own Power

Welcome to the party, New York! With the completion of the Delta building at 142 W. 9th Street in Brooklyn this month, the Big Apple has gained it’s first “self-powered” (i.e., net zero) building. Powered by a combination of solar and wind, this mixed-used building will function as a bed and breakfast, offering green accommodations for schools, tour groups and other travelers interested in what it takes to bring distributed renewable energy to one of the world’s densest urban centers.

Buildings that generate all of their own energy on site (or an amount of energy equal to what they consume) are increasingly common. From green eco-epicenters like California and Oregon to Philly, Detroit and even Iowa, net zero buildings seem to be popping up all over the country. Why, then, has it taken until now for New York to complete its first such building? To answer that question (and a few others), we talked to David Scott, a spokesperson for Voltaic Solaire, the developer behind the project.

EarthTechling (ET): Give me some of the background on this building. What’s the vision behind this building? How did that vision develop?
net zero delta building, NYC

image via Voltaic Solaire

David Scott (DS): The vision is to create pockets of autonomous energy production, especially in industrialized areas and dense city centers, that allow buildings, campuses and communities to power themselves. This reduces our reliance on a centralized power grid and saves money and resources for residents. Black-outs, brown-outs, terrorist attacks, inclement weather, all of these can be ameliorated by nimble on-site power generation (think, for example, of how Fukushima would have benefited from such an approach after their supply chain was so affected by the nuclear disaster).
The Delta developed as an effort for Voltaic Solaire (traditionally a solar-energy residential  installer) to partner with Dynamic Technical Concepts and Designs (DTCD), the design-build firm behind this project and others. Voltaic Solaire’s CTO, Ron Faia, is also a principal of DTCD.
ET: What’s unique about this building, in this place?
DS: What is unique and special about the Delta building, as opposed to all these green developments that are sprouting up all over the world…is that in a really code-heavy city like New York…the Delta really serves as a model for other green builders. To build a [structure] that powers itself on an unusual, triangular lot that has no southern exposure, we had to use a combination of approaches, with both solar and wind.
Delta building solar racking system

image via Voltaic Solaire

When you build in a dense urban canyon, how do you have [enough] sunlight to power your building? Luckily, where we’re at in Brooklyn…you have the capacity with these two, three, four level mixed-use buildings to have significant wind and also ambient light. If you tried to do the same approach on a short structure in mid-town Manhattan, you may experience darkness throughout the day a lack of wind…in those cases, you’d have to modify.

Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.