Mayor Byron W. Brown has announced that that the top prize in the Civic Innovation Eco Challenge – Powered by AT&T – has been awarded to WNY Cool Roof Project, created by Agnes Wilewicz (a partner at Hurwitz & Fine) and Jesse Farinacci (works for IBM’s Buffalo Innovation Center). The two are both from Buffalo, and earned their undergraduate degrees from the University at Buffalo in 2003.
The WNY Cool Roof Project is a grassroots community led initiative that sets out to identify building candidates for the application of cool roofs – roofs that help to combat urban heat islands. The way it works is that large flat roofs are painted white, to deflect the sun’s rays, rather than absorbing them. This allows the buildings to stay cooler, which saves on energy consumption by cutting down on the running of air conditioning units in the summertime. Cities also stay cooler, thanks to the collective deflection of the sun’s rays.
The WNY Cool Roof Project uses GIS mapping and artificial intelligence rendering to pinpoint ideal roofs for the whitewash treatment. Property owners are encouraged to use the online tech solution, to see if their buildings are suitable for a cool roof conversion. The WNY Cool Roof Project also connects local homeowners and businesses with contractors and vendors to get these projects underway.
Mayor Brown said that the civic app will help Buffalo to ultimately achieve elevated status as a Climate Smart City. The designation by New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) sees these types of applications as ways for cities to combat climate change.
“Protecting our environment and working to prevent the most severe consequences of global climate change are the most critical challenges society faces today. The Buffalo Cool Roof Project has the potential to become an important tool for my Administration, our residents and businesses to take climate smart action,” Mayor Brown said. “I congratulate Agnes and Jesse on their innovative and proactive entry.”
Wilewicz and Farinacci said that they are thrilled to be back in Buffalo, participating in the recent resurgence – the two were awarded $7,000 (1st Place) for their WNY Cool Roof Project.
“We left Buffalo after graduation to find work, but thanks to the renaissance in Buffalo under Mayor Brown’s leadership, we were very happy to move back to Buffalo around five years ago,” Farinacci said.
“This competition would not have been possible without the support of our partner, AT&T, which generously donated $10,000 to support the Challenge*. Not only did those funds attract the attention of the participants, it also led to the development of the winning apps,” Mayor Brown said, upon calling on local computer scientists, coders, software developers, designers, tech students, and environmentalists to innovate around the broad themes of ecology and sustainability.
“The quality of the inventive solutions developed for this challenge is extremely impressive and serves as yet another example of the vibrancy and creativity of Western New York’s technology community,” said Amy Kramer, president, New York, AT&T. “AT&T is proud to collaborate with Mayor Brown again this year to host this challenge, and task the local innovation community with creating unique technology for social and civic good. As a leader in harnessing technology and data via our Smart Cities’ environmental solutions to help communities become greener, AT&T applauds this administration for embracing innovation to enhance environmental sustainability.”
To learn more about the cool roofs, and how you can participate, click here. Also, be sure to watch the video above, for details on how to use the program, to see which Buffalo roofs would make ideal cool roofs.
As for second and third place in the Civic Innovation Eco Challenge:
Jonathan Hutchison, an employee of Helm Experience & Design, headquartered in Buffalo’s Innovation Center tech incubator, was awarded the $2,000, 2nd Place prize for his Digital Green Code application. The Town of Tonawanda resident is a graduate of Daemen College. The Digital Green Code is a user-friendly application which makes it easier to search the text of the Buffalo Green Code, the historic update of the City’s 63-year-old zoning code and land use policies which was adopted in 2016.
The $1,000 Esri Award, for the entry which made the best use of mapping technology, was given to a submission from the mother-son team, Susan and Nicholas Shea.
*Mayor Brown also thanked Environmental Systems Research Institute (Esri), supplier of the software the City uses to manage and analyze its geospatial data, for its $3,000 contribution to the competition, as well as Socrata, the web host of Open Data Buffalo, and Modern Recycling, the City of Buffalo’s partner for curbside single stream recycling collection and processing, who each contributed $1,000 to the competition.