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RISE : NYC Finalist Spotlight: NYC Daylighting

 |  NYCEDC

rockaway flooding

Imagine if a power outage didn't automatically mean darkness.

Among the technologies being considered to help prepare New York City for future storms is one that is deceptively simple: daylighting, or using sunlight to illuminate buildings so that New Yorkers can get back to work more quickly.

Hurricane Sandy not only ravaged waterfront communities and homes across the City, it also damaged more than 20,000 small businesses. In some cases, businesses had to close for weeks or months to get back on their feet.  

Since the storm, the City has worked to ensure that recovery means more than simply rebuilding what was lost. It must mean rebuilding smarter and creating new protections against potential catastrophic damage from future Sandy-like storms, and more broadly against the long-term effects of climate change.

NYCEDC is working to foster this new level of resiliency for small businesses through its $30 million competition RISE : NYC, or Resiliency Innovations for a Stronger Economy. RISE : NYC seeks creative new technologies with the greatest potential to mitigate the threats of extreme weather to small businesses. Launched in early 2014, the competition received entries from across New York City and the globe. The 37 recently-announced RISE : NYC finalists are now fine-tuning their proposals while meeting with Sandy-impacted small businesses who can benefit from hosting these innovative technologies. 

One finalist based right here, in the eye of the storm, is NYC Daylighting. The Rockaway-based company, operated by husband-and-wife team Michael and Susan Shea, offers daylighting through their Solatube system, which brings daylight into interior spaces that traditional skylights and windows can’t reach. Solatube creates a brightened, more productive work environment that immediately realizes large savings on electric costs and keeps bringing daylight into dark building interiors in the event of a power outage during a storm.

michael shea and susan shea

Co-founder Michael Shea and his wife Susan live and work in Rockaway and started their business in 2009. Having been born and raised in Rockaway has significantly shaped their business, says Michael.

The resiliency element of Solatube, and the opportunity to test it in local businesses, has personal meaning for the Sheas. “Seeing the devastation to local businesses, including my own, and our homes was surreal,” says Michael. “Through RISE : NYC, I saw an opportunity to be part of the solution to help rebuild and improve the area.”

NYC Daylighting captures natural light and delivers it to dark interior building spaces through the use of the Solatube Daylighting System. Michael was first introduced to the energy-saving daylighting system while working in the construction and sustainable building industry in San Diego. The innovative natural light fixture technology has since become the bedrock of his current NYC Daylighting business. Recent NYC Daylighting customers include the Association for Energy Affordability in the Bronx and Club Fit in Westchester. The Solatube Daylighting System has even been used abroad for international projects including the Judo Pavilion at the Beijing Olympics (pictured, below).

The future for daylighting in NYC appears bright overall. A recent report by Green Light New York found that at least 114 million square feet of NYC office space could be retrofitted for comprehensive, advanced daylighting controls with the potential to reduce peak electricity usage by as much as 160 megawatts.

What’s next for the Rockaway-based company? If selected as a RISE : NYC winner, Michael says their funding will go toward installing Solatube technology in approximately 40 small businesses damaged by Hurricane Sandy in the Rockaways area.


This profile is published for general informational purposes and does not serve as an official endorsement of NYC Daylighting, nor does it reflect any advantage with moving forward in the RISE : NYC competitive process. Interested in learning about other resiliency technologies? Read more about the finalists and their proposed technologies on the RISE : NYC finalists page.

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