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. 

Among the most energy inefficient of this aging office stock are 1960s-era buildings enclosed with single-glazed curtain wall systems. These buildings are characterized by large glazed areas that create high energy demands for both heating and cooling, making them heavy contributors to the city’s carbon footprint. Owners needing to replace aging curtain wall systems in accordance with the city’s new decades-long plan toward lowering carbon emissions must find viable solutions. 

The 2020 Design Challenge invites architects and engineers to submit their vision for transforming the facade of one of Manhattan’s 60-year-old buildings to reduce carbon emissions and address the city’s Green New Deal. 

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 63 Madison Avenue, a 15-story New York City office high-rise constructed in 1962. Its age makes it typical of the office buildings that populate Manhattan’s NoMad district, many of which are mandated to reduce carbon emissions by 2030 to comply with the city’s new building emissions standards, known as the Climate Mobilization Act (CMA). The CMA’s emissions targets are stringent: to comply, 63 Madison must cut its emissions in half by 2030.1

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.2

Your challenge: Submit your vision for transforming 63 Madison Avenue’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 significantly reducing carbon emissions in accordance with New York City’s Green New Deal targets.

About the site: 63 Madison is located between 27th and 28th streets in Manhattan’s NoMad neighborhood.  

  • 1. Data on energy use of individual buildings can be found here: and here:
  • 2. 63 Madison Avenue, the building chosen for this exercise has a planned upgrade program under its current owners and the competition is in no way meant to reflect on the viability of that plan. This is an ideas competition only, intended to promote ideas of sustainability and technological advancement in the area of facade design.