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Rising to the Challenge: NYC Daylighting Inc.


By Nicole Spina and Kokei Otosi, Urban Innovation & Sustainability, Center for Economic Transformation

Solatube Daylighting Systems create a more resilient New York by bringing daylight indoors. 

When Superstorm Sandy hit in 2012, Rockaway residents and business owners Mike and Susan Shea were firsthand witnesses to the devastation. While they worked to repair their home and family business, the dire situation highlighted an opportunity for the Sheas to strengthen the resiliency of their own community by decreasing its reliance on the power grid.

The Sheas are long-time owners of Rockaway-based NYC Daylighting, a family-run small business that installs a passive technology to transfer natural daylight indoors. Focused on simplicity, cost effectiveness, and reliability, Solatube Daylighting Systems combine patented technologies with progressive engineering to deliver sunlight to dark interior spaces, even in overcast conditions. The system captures sunlight via a rooftop dome and uses reflective tubing to channel the light through a ceiling-mounted diffuser, spreading sunlight evenly throughout a room. In the event of a power outage, Solatube systems will continue to provide interior light. Realizing the benefits this technology provides to Sandy-impacted small businesses, NYC Daylighting is rising to the challenge to create a brighter New York.

As one of 11 winning teams of NYCEDC’s RISE : NYC competition, NYC Daylighting will share up to $30 million with the other winners to install Solatube Daylighting Systems at Sandy-impacted small businesses across the city. We spoke to owner and co-founder Mike Shea about how this technology can increase energy resiliency in New York City.

Learn more about NYC Daylighting, Inc. here.

Basic Facts About NYC Daylighting Inc.

Team: Co-founder Michael Shea and his wife Susan live and work in the Rockaways and started their business in 2009.

Name of Winning RISE : NYC technology: Solatube Daylighting Systems 

About: Solatube Daylighting Systems passively transfer sunlight from a roof to dark interior spaces. In the event of a blackout, Solatubes continue to provide lighting, allowing small businesses to conserve generators for other essential equipment. Beyond resiliency benefits, Solatubes also provide energy cost savings and lessen the strain on the power grid.

Technology Category: Building Systems. Technologies in this category help improve the resiliency of critical building components before, during, and after a storm.

An Interview with NYC Daylighting Inc.

When and how did you get the idea for your technology/ solution?

Solatube International was the first to patent a tubular daylighting device, sometimes called tubular skylights, in 1986. The first installation occurred in 1991. Since then, Solatube International engineers and designers have continued to innovate and improve product performance through patented technologies that increase daylight capture (especially early morning and late day sunlight), optimize light delivery and quality with highly reflective tubing, and improve energy efficiency by deflecting radiant heat and operating with an optional LED integration.

As a Premier Dealer for Solatube Daylighting Systems who was also severely impacted by Hurricane Sandy, I was inspired to educate my community on how daylighting systems can provide reliable daytime lighting when the power grid is down.

What went into developing your technology? How long did it take?

The mechanics of a Solatube Daylighting System appear simple – a domed tube that allows daylight into building interiors. However, there’s a lot of engineering built into the product. The dome alone features two unique and patented technologies that aggressively capture and divert maximum daylight into the tube, even in severely overcast conditions, to illuminate the building interior. Solatube’s Spectralight Infinity tubing set a new industry standard in reflectivity, allowing for efficient light transfer around bends and extremely long tube runs, and still deliver 99.7% of light.

Technology development is still ongoing.

What resiliency benefit does your technology provide?

Solatube International sees daylight as a basic human right and takes pride in the fact that we’ve developed a product with superior technology to provide daylight deep in building interiors. Daylighting is a key factor in LEED and energy efficiency projects. But more importantly, it creates environments that people want to be in. And studies have shown that workers are more productive and students learn better in day lit environments.

In regards to the RISE : NYC Competition, and in areas around the world in which access to electricity is limited or less than reliable, Solatube Daylighting Systems can become a source of consistent lighting that operates off the grid – for homes and businesses.

What type of small business/buildings would most benefit from your technology?

All businesses – home, retail, small businesses, schools, large manufacturing and warehouse facilities benefit from natural, off-the-grid lighting.

Applications are not limited to top floors of buildings. Lower floors, stairwells, even underground parking structures, depending on design, can be day lit to create safe and accessible environments.

How do programs like RISE : NYC support innovation and climate adaptive technologies like yours?

RISE : NYC was a godsend for both NYC Daylighting and for the introduction of Solatube Daylighting Technology to NYC. New York City is a perfect fit for Solatube technology. The tremendous amount of interior spaces that need daylight and the versatility of the Solatube product are a perfect fit. Through RISE : NYC, we are confident that the education about this product will reach far more ears than we could have imagined previously.

About the Rising to the Challenge series: Eleven innovative resiliency technologies are helping to build a stronger, more resilient New York. What are they and who are the companies behind them?

This blog series shares the stories of each of the winning RISE : NYC technologies and the impact they will have on businesses and communities in New York City. Read all profiles here

Blog Tags: RISE NYCRising to the Challenge




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