Bronx Design & Construction Academy (BDCA) student Ray Figueroa didn't skip a beat when the MC at the Zayed Future Energy Prize (ZFEP) ceremony awarded his school $100,000 for its planted roof - the first city-approved public green roof in New York City. Representing the ninth grade Ecology class and Green Science Club that installed the green roof, the South Bronx teen looked perfectly at ease shaking hands with His Highness General Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, at the bejeweled Emirates Palace Hotel. Led by their teacher Nathaniel Wight, BDCA students teamed up with Columbia University to determine whether it is feasible to combine energy-harvesting technology such as rooftop photovoltaic panels with a green roof planted with sedum and edibles. Their pioneering work and research has earned the humble vocational school one of the most prestigious green awards in the world.
This is only the second year that the ZFEP has awarded prizes to high schools from five regions. Conceived by the Abu Dhabi leadership as a way to promote green developments across the globe, the $4 million annual prize is divvied up across several categories – a lifetime achievement award, one small to medium size enterprise, a non-profit organization, and five global high schools. Each year a corporation is recognized for their green achievements as well, but they don’t get any money.
“Through the Prize, we are not only recognizing tremendous achievement in renewable energy and sustainability, but also funding the organizations, schools and individuals committed to sustainable development among communities around the world,” said HH General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
“More than ever, the world needs innovators, technologies and initiatives that can address our pressing energy challenges,” said Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, director general of the Zayed Future Energy Prize. “The Zayed Future Energy Prize recognises individuals, organizations and schools who are committed to creating a cleaner, sustainable future.
While many New Yorkers may be unfamiliar with the ZFEP, it has already had an enormous global impact evidenced by the above infographic. Thanks to this generous award, five million people have access to clean drinking water, two million solar-powered homes have been installed in Bangladesh, 195,000 women have cleaner stoves with which to cook, and 1,000 women have been trained as green technicians.
BCDA is scaling up their project by adding a new wind turbine to produce even more on site renewable energy. We had a chance to catch up with Ray at a press conference after the ceremony. He eloquently described his school’s incredible accomplishments by saying “I”m so excited to be here. Super excited.” His father, Mr. Figueroa, said “I’m really proud of my son.”
Green roof images courtesy of BDCA, infographic courtesy ZFEP, and ceremony images ©Tafline Laylin for Inhabitat