Q&A with Oisín Clancy, CEO of SMART ROOF, A NYC-based Renewable Energy & Sustainable Living Company
Oisín Clancy is the CEO of SMART ROOF LLC, a company comprised of leading engineers, designers, and fabricators whose mission is to create sustainable, profitable, and beautiful NYC rooftops through the integration of sun, wind, and water elements with landscape, environment, and wired technologies. I caught up with Oisín for drinks at Felix to learn more about his background, his company, and his vision for the future (hint: he wants NYC to be known as the Big Green Apple).
BP: Please tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into architecture.
OC: I am from a small town called Dundalk in Ireland. I studied architecture on an artistic bent, because my original desire was to go to the college of art and design but then I also realized that I had a love for physics and mechanics. My high school counselor suggested I try architecture since it was a combination of art and physics. That’s what led me towards architecture. I did a 5-year course and then went to Hong Kong, Vietnam, and Philippines during my studies.
BP: Is that where you got an interest in the sustainable side of architecture?
OC: Yes, I saw the efficient use of materials that was born out of necessity. Out of poverty comes necessity and therefore invention. I took a year and lived in a shanty town in the Philippines even though I was working for a wealthy designer. So there was a juxtaposition of urban squalor and high-end design, and it was where I first realized the potential for an urban rooftop to be a magical space where nature’s elements (sun, wind and water) can meet with man-made morphology. I ended up using that particular neighborhood for my architectural thesis a year and a half later, through which I combined high tech design with indigenous materials.
BP: What are some examples of systems and projects that you build and install?
OC: SMART ROOF uses six elements: sun, wind, water, landscape, environments and wired technology. Examples of projects where our six elements have been incorporated to different degrees include beautiful and habitable planted gardens under raised canopy solar panels, rainwater collection systems, irrigation systems, urban agriculture, and wind turbines; passive house mechanical systems such as ERVs (energy recovery ventilators); green walls; charging stations; passive air systems; storm water catchment facilities; reclaimed wood decks; LED lighting systems, garden systems that produce food; and solar thermal. We have defined 6 elements, with 3 strategies within each, and we have 54 product types that we sell. We currently have projects in several parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn.
BP: Who is a candidate for a SMART ROOF?
OC: Anybody with a roof, though our target market is flat roofs in dense urban areas. From a single townhouse owner with a 1,500 SF roof to the 20,000 SF rooftop of a commercial/industrial property or multifamily tower.
BP: What are the estimated costs and subsequent savings and what is the expected increase in property value for a SMART ROOF?
OC: We typically offer a few options after an initial investigation and design evaluation with our clients; these are the best options to keep it simple. We have package rates starting from $75K. Creating a renewable energy system and green roof, for example, can add 8-18% to property values, depending on the scale and ambition of the owner. Doing a solar power installation is really a no-brainer right now. The federal, state and city incentives and tax rebates are excellent. We collate and acquire the maximum available incentives for each client. The payback on an initial solar system capital investment is typically 3-5 years.
BP: Why would somebody not adopt a SMART ROOF?
OC: Sometimes a property’s roof may be too small, for example, under 500 SF, steeply pitched facing north, fully shadowed from adjacent higher buildings, or have a number of obstructions on the roof (vents, etc.), which ultimately might not be great for solar. That said, we will do a feasibility study and what we call a Design Opportunity Package (DOP) for anyone who contacts us, for a nominal fee. Of course, there is also an educational component to this. People may not yet understand the benefits and savings that come as a result of installing a SMART ROOF. We are happy to provide that education.
BP: What do you get most excited about in your line of work?
OC: The big vision. The vision has potential for making long-term positive changes for the city and for the world. I feel we are on the cusp of a renewable energy and green building revolution here in the USA. We are decades behind some of our friends in Europe. Now is the time for New York City to lead the way. If every building in the city generated even a little bit of energy then there would be countless economic, environmental, quality of life and even geopolitical advantages. Why can’t New York be the new Big Green Apple? I also like day-to-day design; I like to take out my red or graphite pencil and sketch solutions.
BP: What is the best way for a potential client to contact you or your company for further information?
OC: Please just drop me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or ring our office number 1-646- 650-2716 and ask to speak to Oisín. You can also check out our website, www.smartroofnyc.com, and explore the options in more detail by clicking through our Design my Roof sequence here: http://www.smartroofnyc.com/dmr/