United Technologies Future Buildings and Cities Challenge

Students 13-18-years-old have a role to play in making the world more sustainable. That’s why the New York Academy of Sciences joined forces with United Technologies Corporation to develop an exciting free competition that could result in greener, more environmentally responsible urban buildings.

Over several weeks, teams and individuals develop solutions to a specific challenge question. These are then judged by senior engineers, researchers, and scientists for a chance to win up to $7500 in prize money and become a Junior Academy member.

After all, we need to ensure that the buildings of the future are environmentally sound as a whopping 70% of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050, an increase from 55% in 2017, according to estimates. Although cities cover only two percent of the globe’s land area, they account for 70% of greenhouse-gas emissions, 30% of which are generated by buildings. So, construction of green buildings can help solve the problem by significantly reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.

Urbanization and expanding populations are driving the development of skyscrapers and other tall building. In the meantime, architects and planners are mapping out ways to accommodate the developing needs without further straining the environment.

Now more than ever, it’s vital to develop smart solutions for making buildings greener. That’s where students and educators come in.

The Challenge

United Technologies Corporation & The New York Academy of Sciences invite students ages 13-18 from around the world to participate in an open innovation challenge focused on sustainable building solutions.

How it Works

After students sign up to here to participate, the challenge will take place on our virtual platform Launchpad, which safely facilitates global collaboration and problem solving. Using Launchpad, international students work together, locally, or individually to design a green buildings solution by answering the question proposed. Teams can win up to $7500 for the best responses and be admitted to the prestigious Junior Academy.

On Launchpad, you can meet other solvers from all corners of the globe, create teams, and work collaboratively to tackle the Future of Buildings and Cities Challenge.

Once part of a team, you will have a project page where you can share your work externally, or communicate privately with team members.

Note: Students are free to form teams with other students on Launchpad, they can also create local teams or work on their own.

Key Dates

Challenge Starts: October 17, 2017

Solutions Due: December 17, 2017

Winners Announced: March 2018

Note: participants may join the challenge at any point until the challenge closes on December 17, 2017.


Please ensure that you can meet the following requirements before signing up:

  • All individuals must be between the ages of 13-18 as of the date of registration in order to participate.
  • All participants must sign up on Launchpad and agree to the Terms of Service. Those under the age of majority must submit a parent/guardian consent form before the challenge begins.
  • Challenge materials and solutions should be submitted in English in order to be considered. Participants can work in teams or individually. Teams can be as large as 6.


Winners will be awarded entry into the elite Junior Academy community.


United Technologies Future Buildings and Cities Challenge
Daniel Dempsey, Senior Engineering Fellow, Residential Systems, UTC Climate, Controls & Security
United Technologies Future Buildings and Cities Challenge
Hayden Reeve, PhD, Associate Director, United Technologies Research Center
United Technologies Future Buildings and Cities Challenge
Elizabeth Heider, FAIA LEED Fellow ENV SP, Chief Sustainability Officer, Skanska USA Inc.
United Technologies Future Buildings and Cities Challenge
Mili Majumdar, Managing Director, GBCI India
United Technologies Future Buildings and Cities Challenge
William Sisson, Senior Director, Sustainability, United Technologies Research Center
United Technologies Future Buildings and Cities Challenge
Murilo Bonilha, Ph.D., General Manager, United Technologies Research Center
United Technologies Future Buildings and Cities Challenge
Robert Nachtrieb, Lead Scientist, Lutron Electronics
United Technologies Future Buildings and Cities Challenge
Bill Browning, Founding Partner, Terrapin


Act as an expert advisor in the Future Buildings and Cities Challenge:

Starting on October 19, students from around the world will work together in virtual teams to design solutions to a real-world problem in the area of green buildings. We are seeking STEM professionals with expertise in engineering, sustainability, green buildings or another related area who are willing to give these students feedback and coaching, providing guidance as they design their solutions over a 60-day period.

Applications open from August 4 – September 15. Apply now.

Download the GSA Innovation Curriculum to engage your students in real-world problem solving! Combining principles of scientific research and design thinking, this project-based curriculum takes students through the process of developing creative solutions to challenges facing their local communities or people across the globe. Use it to support students participating in the Future Buildings and Cities Challenge starting October 19, or run a challenge of your own. This free resource offers engaging ways for students to build both STEM content knowledge and 21st-century skills such as critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication.