GEO presents at Illinois Renewable Energy Conference

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WASHINGTON — Given its first opportunity to participate in the Illinois Renewable Energy Conference, the Geothermal Alliance of Illinois (GAOI) joined the Geothermal Exchange Organization (GEO) and its members to fulfill a day-long track of geothermal heat pump (GHP) presentations at the Illinois Renewable Energy Conference. The conference was held on July 16, at Illinois State University, Normal, Ill.

Attended by more than 250, the event was coordinated by the Center for Renewable Energy, Illinois State University. Partners included the Illinois Wind Working Group, Illinois Solar Energy Association, the Geothermal Alliance of Illinois, the Illinois Biomass Working Group, the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs, and Western Illinois University.

GAOI Executive Director John Freitag gave the opening plenary address on GHPs. GEO President and CEO Doug Dougherty presented during a breakout session on public policy and moderated a panel discussion on GHP commercial case studies.

“It was refreshing to see our technology identified as renewable energy,”Dougherty said. “Many Illinois public policy decision makers were in attendance, so we seized the opportunity to enlighten them on why GHPs should be included in Illinois’ Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard.”

GAOI and GEO have begun discussions on an effort to accomplish that goal during the state’s next legislative session.


The threat to New York City’s public spaces

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Can New York keep its public spaces pleasant? To see the importance of policing “nuisance” crime, consider three key areas in Manhattan — Times Square, Bryant Park and the Columbus Circle fountain.

When then-Mayor Ed Koch wanted to turn part of Times Square into a pedestrian plaza in 1982, theater mogul Gerald Schoenfeld warned it would “become a place for vendors or three-card monte operators.”

Twenty-five years later, Mayor Bloomberg did it — and Schoenfeld’s prediction has come true.

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton joked to a Broadway Association lunch this month that “there is no longer a Broadway. It is…a trailway.”

Cookie Monster, Elmo and other characters soliciting, er, donations are the “unintended consequences of a well-intended act,” Bratton said.

That doesn’t mean Bloomberg was wrong. By the mid-2000s, annual visitors to New York were up by 17.4 million over the 1990 level; tourism’s up another 10 million since.

And almost everyone who comes to town stops by Times Square. With other added foot traffic from workers from new office towers and commuters from new apartments to the east, tearing out the pedestrian plazas would be untenable.

But so is the disorder that now plagues the square.


New York City Is Getting The Tallest Residential Building On Earth

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The last time we wrote about the Nordstrom Tower, it was due to become one of the tallest buildings of the development boom in NYC’s most insufferable neighbourhood, Midtown East. But new leaked drawings show that its developers are actually planning the tallest residential building in the world.

NY YIMBY has the leaked drawings of the most recent design, by supertall experts Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill, and they show how the tower’s developers plan to clinch the title. The building’s actual facade will rise up to 450m, which would already make it the tallest residential building in the world. But they haven’t stopped there. They have also added a 90m spire to the top, pushing the total height up to 541m.

Now, that number might ring a bell: It’s just one foot shorter than the height of One World Trade center, which stands 541m. If Nordstrom’s developers made its spire just 0.33 per cent taller, they could take the title of the tallest building in the US. But, perhaps out of a gentlemanly concern for WTC, they have held themselves back.

Should spires even count towards total height? There’s a pretty good argument that they shouldn’t. The Council for Tall Buildings and the Urban Habitat published a fascinating report on the spire boom last year, showing how overall inhabitable height hasn’t actually changed all that much over the past decade compared to spire height. In fact, the CTBUH even has a name for it: Vanity Spire.

But even without its vanity spire, Nordstrom Tower will be the tallest residential building on Earth — assuming these leaked plans are shepherded through to completion by 2018 as planned. It will also have the tallest roof in the country. Of course, whether or not any regular New Yorkers will ever get to see the inside of this architectural wonder is another issue entirely.


Contractors can benefit from better understanding of and collaboration with local inspectors

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Codes and inspections are something that every contractor, and professional involved in the design and construction of buildings, must deal with. Anyone who has been in the business for any length of time has inspection stories to tell, and those tales likely range from good to bad to ugly.

A contractor may have a positive relationship with the local inspector, or sometimes it can be a contentious one. While the two parties may be coming at a project from different viewpoints, it’s important to remember that everyone has the same goal: to deliver effective, safe systems in a building.

The perspectives of inspectors and contractors may seem different at times, but they often are coming from the same place. Many inspectors begin their careers on the other side.

“Prior to my employment in plan review and inspections, I was working in the construction field as a plumber,” recalled Shawn Strausbaugh, building plans reviewer for the Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development, Inspection Services Division, for Arlington County, Va. “I first started working for a smaller plumbing and HVAC company, mainly on residential and light commercial. Shortly after obtaining my journeyman plumbing license, I changed companies and started working for a larger mechanical contractor, mainly focused on plumbing and pipefitting work on commercial/industrial projects. In April of 1996, I was hired as a plumbing inspector for the local municipality, and thus began my inspection career.”

Even though many inspectors come from the trades and share the concerns of contractors, the nature of contractor-inspector interactions can invite a level of misunderstanding and mistrust.

“The constant dark cloud I work under is a challenge,” admitted Alexander Keys, plumbing inspector for the City of Oklahoma City, Okla. “This cloud is the belief that the inspector rejects code violations just so the city can make more money on re-inspect fees. Nothing could be farther from the truth. First of all, a municipality encourages construction and goes out of its way to cultivate growth. Second, nobody likes rejections. If the job could go from square one to completion without a rejection and everyone is smiling in the end, the municipality has won. And third, inspectors in mid and large sized cities are so busy they can barely hear themselves think. There is no heartache or paperwork involved in an approval, rejections are a headache, and only double the inspectors’ workload while slowing progress.”

For most inspectors, creating a better understanding with contractors would be a big step toward streamlining the process for everyone involved.

“The plan review and inspection process can be somewhat cumbersome. I have witnessed this firsthand when I was in the field,” Strausbaugh said. “My approach is to try and help the contractor through the permitting process. If the plumbing contractor has overall questions in the beginning, I advise them to request a general inspection so they can specifically address any issues that they are unsure of or have questions about so these can be discussed with the inspector on the site. This can also reveal if there are any necessary changes that need to be made to the approved construction documents so this process can be done in a timely fashion, as this can hold up a project. “

Many contractors may wonder what inspectors are looking for. While each individual inspector and municipality is different, the inspectors Phc News spoke to gave their perspective on what they look for.

“Every code that pertains to plumbing at the federal, state and local level,” Keys said. “But, if you’re looking for the ones an inspector is sure not to miss, those would be protection of the potable water supply, proper drainage venting, gas system sizing along with proper installation, and the water heating appliance. Commercial kitchens are a hotbed of code violations, from air gaps on food prep sink drainage to travel restraints for gas appliances on wheels. It would seem that a commercial kitchen has an endless supply of potential code violations.”

Venting is another area to keep an eye on.

“Improper venting is seen often,” Keys continued. “A lot of contractors miss the concept that the manner in which they vent fixtures, or groups of fixtures, must meet the criteria of the code. That means the venting system should have a name, whether it be a wet vent system, a circuit vent system, common vent system, etc. You cannot just install vents where you think is best. Next would be proper air gaps. If the code calls for an air gap, there must be an air gap. Indirectly wasting through an air break is not an air gap. As a plumber, you can’t say to yourself that air breaks and air gaps [are the same]. These are radically different forms of protection.

Keys added, “Another common issue is B venting for gas appliances must have a minimum 1-inch clearance to combustibles throughout its run. This is a fire hazard. And finally, gas systems are often undersized. From the trunk to the branches, you must understand how to size a gas system through the longest length method.”

According to Strausbaugh, his intent is simply to see a building that does what it is required to do.

“Inspectors and plan reviewers are there to verify compliance with minimum construction standards,” Strausbaugh said. “I would advise contractors to ask questions about inspections and the reasons that a job may not be compliant so they can correct or sometimes even point out that the current installation is compliant. Inspectors are also human and a good inspector should listen to all your questions and be able to respond accordingly.”

One of the challenges inspectors face is properly communicating the gravity and importance each code. Codes aren’t just legal mumbo jumbo; they are intended to safeguard the building and its occupants.

“Relating the dangers involved with code violations is a challenge,” Keys said. “An example of this would be a proper air gap on a temperature and pressure (T&P) relief line. While in the minds of the contractor, builder and general contractor, the chance for back siphon occurring on a particular water heater is extremely low, they fail to understand that the code requiring the air gap governs an entire city full of T&P relief lines. Every one that is not installed per code not only increases the risk of back siphon occurring, it makes a more likely scenario when you consider the number of T&P lines across a city.”

Another challenge for inspectors is staying current on all the latest codes, as well as new and evolving techniques used in construction.

“The biggest challenge is keeping up with ever-changing technology. Materials and products are constantly changing or new things are coming out,” Strausbaugh said. “The building codes in our state are updated approximately every three years, so this also becomes necessary to stay on top of.”

Staying on top of this ever changing landscape requires a high level of engagement from inspectors. Contractors should take a cue from this.

“Inspectors, plan reviewers and contractors all need to pursue continuing education,” Strausbaugh suggested. “Whether this is state or local requirement or voluntary, continuing education must be pursued to keep up with changing construction codes. Typically states or local municipalities will have continuing education training and if it isn’t a requirement to maintain any required licensing then the contractors need to make every effort to attend these type of classes so they can stay informed and educated.”

“I would love to see plumbers investing and taking pride in the knowledge of the codes that govern their profession,” Keys said. “In today’s world, the code is what separates us from being day laborers and provides a knowledge base and a reason for our licenses. Love your trade. It is ancient, noble and beautiful.”

Getting involved with the codes is another way contractors can engage in the process.

“The International Code Council (ICC), which includes the International Plumbing Code (IPC), International Mechanical Code (IMC), International Fuel Gas Code (IFGC) and International Residential Code (IRC), updates their codes every three years. This process is open to all parties who wish to participate…so if you don’t agree with something in the current code or feel that new requirements need to be added, contractors do have a voice,” Strausbaugh explained.

Ultimately, inspectors should be seen as an ally in the battle for a successful building, not an adversary. Contractors have their role and inspectors have theirs, and the two can dovetail together.

“The inspector is charged with the final say of whether or not a plumbing system is indeed safe for the people that reside in a jurisdiction,” Keys said. “This is a heavy burden and an enormous responsibility. Working together can be more easily achieved when the contractor uses the inspector as a resource for knowledge instead of an enemy that is out to get him.”


City Poised to Allow Buildings to Install Temporary Flood Barriers on Sidewalks

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Many buildings battered by superstorm Sandy have begun to consider installing flood doors, flood gates and other forms of flood barriers to prevent surging water from entering. Yet some New York cooperatives and condominiums, among others, have been stymied by the fact their buildings extend out to the property line — and so any flood barrier would have to be on a City-owned sidewalk. Local Law 109 / 2013 allows certain aspects of that, but the entirety of it now hinges on a pair of rule changes proposed by the City’s Department of Transportation.

Next month, the DOT will hold public hearings over new rules that will allow it to issue permits and revocable consents for the installation and maintenance of flood-mitigation systems on public streets and sidewalks. The rules also set requirements, including New York City Department of Buildings and New York City Fire Department approvals, and timeframes for installing and removing flood-barrier components during and after severe weather-related events.

Getting Your Footing

For example, your co-op or condo may want to install a flood-mitigation system that needs footings permanently installed at or below the sidewalk, to order to quickly install the main portions of your flood barrier in preparation of a what the DOT calls a “trigger event.” These include hurricanes, tropical storms or other severe weather events that the National Weather Service or the National Hurricane Center forecast to affect the City.

The rules will amend two sections of the Rules of the City of New YorkSection 2-10(e)(1) will require permits for the placement of all above-groundcomponents of a flood-mitigation system, andsection 2-10(e)(2) will require permits only for at or below-ground components that remain in place at all times in order to expedite installation of the above-ground system components.

Going the Distance

There’s a host of fine print in the proposed rule changes, such as that you can’t install component with 15 feet of a subway entrance, a bus stop, a newsstand or a fire hydrant, 14 feet of a mailbox, five feet of a café, bench or tree, and four feet of a street light or a parking meter, to name just a few examples. Condo and co-op boards will need professional assistance by both an attorney and an engineer or architect in order to know if it’s even worth seeking a permit.

The hearing will take place August 7 at 55 Water Street, Bid Room A, inManhattan. Anyone can comment submit comments to the DOT through the City of New York Rules website at; by email to; by to Michelle Craven, 55 Water Street, 9th Floor, New York, NY 10041; or by fax to her at 212-839-9685. You can speak in person for up to three minutes by first calling 212-839-6550. Disability accommodation and a sign-language interpreter are available if you contact the DOT by July 23, 2014. Read the proposal here.

The City’s Local Law 109 / 2013 allows flood-barrier footings to be installed flush with City sidewalks up to 12 inches from your property line.


De Blasio: Sandy rebuilding speeding up

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New York City has accelerated the rate at which it repairs and rebuilds homes damaged by superstorm Sandy and issues reimbursement checks for such work, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday.

The city has begun work on 132 projects — completing 30 of them — and issued 397 checks totaling more than $6.37 million since he took office on Jan. 1, de Blasio said at a news conference in Canarsie, Brooklyn. The area was hard-hit by Sandy in 2012.

The goal is to start 500 construction projects and issue 500 checks by Labor Day. No construction was begun or checks sent out before Jan. 1.

PHOTOS: Bill de Blasio | NYC mayors

The city’s Build it Back Sandy relief program underwent an overhaul earlier this year that expanded eligibility for applicants, regardless of income, and streamlined the intake process, in part by adding staff to Build It Back and the Department of Buildings, officials said.

“We finally have something in the year 2014 that we never saw in the year 2013: completed homes, people whose lives are whole again,” de Blasio said, in a swipe at former Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

De Blasio, with several other elected officials, delivered the update on Build It Back’s progress in front of the home of Tonyelle Jobity, whose roof, crawl space and boiler room were being fixed. Jobity, 41, had received a reimbursement check for work that she had paid for with her savings and by maxing out credit cards.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, a Democrat, said Build It Back stalled under the previous administration.

“The only thing worse than a terrible storm is a flood of bureaucracy that prevents you from returning,” he said.

About 20,000 people have applied to the Build It Back program and about 15,000 homes require work, said Amy Peterson, director of the city’s Housing Recovery Office. A majority of the work is repairs but many homes need to be elevated and about 750 need to be rebuilt, she said.

De Blasio said he hopes much of the work can be finished this year and next.

Also Thursday, City Comptroller Scott Stringer released an audit showing the Department of Homeless Services in the wake of Sandy improperly paid contractors for ineligible expenses and for services that were never actually received. The agency entered into 20 emergency contracts totaling $19.9 million, though it did not have proper oversight of contractors, Stringer found.

De Blasio said many adjustments have already been made to the agency’s operations.


Deadline nears for World Plumbing Council scholarship

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ONTARIO, Canada — World Plumbing Council (WPC) Chairman Sudhakaran Nair announced the launch of the WPC Education and Training Scholarship Program/

“2014 is the first year that two scholarship opportunities have been offered by the World Plumbing Council,” Nair said. “The scholarships provide an opportunity to increase global awareness of the contribution that plumbing has made to global health and the environment and this year, 2014 sees the introduction of a scholarship program designed specifically for developing and least developed countries in addition to the WPC Scholarship introduced in 2003, which boasts many successful applicants, who having travelled to many parts of the world in their quest for knowledge.”

Nair went on to say that he was particularly proud to announce the new scholarship program which would be known as WPC Scholarship for Least Developed and Developing Countries –Exclusively supported by IPA. He said that this was a great opportunity for WPC and IPA to assist people to access fresh water and sanitation in the least developed and developing countries through plumbing education and training and the creation of a plumbing knowledge base for future generations.

Nair invited personnel involved in the plumbing industry to make an application for these rewarding and educational industry scholarship programs. Each of the scholarships provides up to $10,000 in funding to travel to another country or countries to share innovative ideas and techniques. The scholarships are intended to provide for an educational exchange between countries focusing on plumbing industry training, while at the same time exposing the participants to new technologies and innovations in training systems. They also provide an opportunity to increase awareness of the contribution that plumbing has made to global health and the environment.

Nair stated, “The enhanced scholarship program now offered by the World Plumbing Council was a significant step towards achieving its mission, to promote the role of plumbing in improving public health and safeguarding the environment, by uniting the World Plumbing Industry for the benefit of all.”

The WPC Scholarship program provides the opportunity to live and work within the culture of another country, providing the chance to learn another language and develop friendships. Successful applicants are encouraged to focus on the following areas during their scholarship program:

  • Identification of emerging vocational training needs and trends
  • Plumbing training & education to address the environment and sustainability issues
  • The value of water efficiency to the community and the plumbing industry
  • How does plumbing training or lack of training affect public health in a country or region?


DeBlasio unveils new wave of projects to bolster Downtown Brooklyn growth

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Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced a package of investments in Downtown Brooklyn that will ensure the district continues to grow.

Ten years after the area’s major rezoning, the administration is seeking to knit together Downtown Brooklyn’s parks, commercial strips and institutions.

Included in the package are redesigned streets, opening the ground floors of City-owned buildings to retail development, opening new parks and improving existing ones, and collaborating with the area’s 11 major education institutions to position Downtown Brooklyn as a national leader in technology.

“This is one of the city’s great success stories, and we have an incredible opportunity to take these stunning communities, parks and institutions and knit them together. The investments we are making will help Downtown Brooklyn continue its rise, generate good jobs, and make this a more dynamic neighborhood to live and work,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“Today we proudly announce a new wave of development meant to stimulate the growth of the Downtown Brooklyn commercial district. At the center of the revitalization is the restructuring of the ‘Brooklyn Strand’—the parks, plazas and greenways between Borough Hall and Brooklyn Bridge Park. Furthermore, the city will soon unveil the long-awaited Brooklyn Cultural District BID, and will increase collaboration among Downtown Brooklyn’s higher education institutions to strengthen our creative and technological footprint. As we continue to develop Downtown Brooklyn, we remain committed to facilitating the creation of affordable housing, and ensuring that community voices remain heard throughout this process,” said Public Advocate Letitia James.

“Downtown Brooklyn has become a destination in every sense of the word, a place that people near and far seek out to live, work and play. This transformation was made possible by the investment our City has put into this neighborhood, and once again they are stepping up to the plate, this time under the sound leadership of Mayor Bill de Blasio. I am excited to see Downtown Brooklyn’s full potential unlocked under this exciting plan, including its unique open space, which will soon connect Brooklyn Borough Hall to our one-of-a-kind waterfront, its outstanding arts community and its innovative institutions of higher education,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.

“Through smart land use policy and targeted public investment the City of New York has helped to attract over $4 billion dollars of private investment to Downtown Brooklyn over the last decade, leading to the creation of 8 million square feet of new space including 5,000 new apartments, over 1,000 hotel rooms, and nearly 900,000 square feet of commercial space in our community,” said Tucker Reed, President of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership. “Today’s announcement reflects Mayor de Blasio’s commitment to ensuring that this growth is not a flash in the pan, but a continued and sustained trend that jobs and housing for New Yorkers will continue to grow in Downtown Brooklyn.”

Among the initiatives underway in Downtown Brooklyn are:

Reinventing the “Brooklyn Strand”—The key to connecting Downtown Brooklyn to its waterfront is the redevelopment of the 21-acre Brooklyn Strand. The series of disconnected parks, plazas and greenways between Borough Hall and Brooklyn Bridge Park have enormous potential to become the great promenade and gateway to Brooklyn. The City and Downtown Brooklyn Partnership are developing plans for new connections and improvements that will reinvent this linear park to make it one of the borough’s great destinations and help make Brooklyn Bridge Park truly accessible by creating a seamless connection to major transit hubs in Downtown Brooklyn.

Launching the Brooklyn Cultural District BID—More than 60 cultural groups operate within the Brooklyn Cultural District, ranging from small ensembles with budgets in the tens of thousands of dollars to world-renowned institutions welcoming hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. Small Business Services is working with local stakeholders and existing Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) to form and/or expand a BID to serve the Brooklyn Cultural District and market the area as a destination for theater, dance and the arts. The BID will focus on maintaining, programming, and marketing the Cultural District.

Leveraging City-owned buildings to spur more commercial activity—The City owns 1.4 million square feet of commercial space in Downtown Brooklyn, and is moving to redevelop ground-floors of its buildings for new retail tenants. The City is studying sites like 65 Court Street to determine what space can be consolidated or repurposed for commercial construction and affordable office space for job creating-firms in Brooklyn.

Making streets safer and more inviting—The City is working with local stakeholders on a new urban design strategy that overhauls the area’s most dangerous and uninviting streets.

·         Jay Street: The City and Downtown Brooklyn Partnership are undertaking a planning process with local stakeholders to redevelop this vital north-south corridor as a more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly street with new commercial development on underutilized stretches.

·         Tillary and Adams Streets: This gateway to Brooklyn is currently being redesigned by DOT and DDC as part of a capital reconstruction project. Construction is expected to begin in 2015 with a multi-million dollar budget, encompassing all of Tillary Street and portions of Adams Street. These improvements include relocating and rebuilding medians, installing and widening planted medians, sidewalk widening and new curb extensions. This will vastly improve the bicycle/pedestrian access point to the Brooklyn Bridge and will give this area the gateway it deserves.

·         Willoughby Street: DOT has initiated a planning and conceptual design effort focused on creating an improved streetscape and public realm on Willoughby and Pearl Streets. The project will explore non-traditional roadway design that recognizes and accommodates the heavy use of the area by pedestrians and the local nature of vehicular traffic, which includes deliveries and passenger drop-offs. Assisting with this effort will be a consultant team led by Arup, an international engineering and design firm with experience designing shared street space right here in New York City.

Creating new parks and public spaces—The City is investing in three new and revitalized public spaces that will be new focal points for the community.

·         Fox Square: This summer, construction will be begin at Fox Square to revitalize the nexus of Flatbush Avenue and Fulton Street with new paving, landscaping, street furniture, lighting, and electrical infrastructure. The $1.4 million project will be completed in early 2015.

·         Willoughby Square: The City is moving forward to build a brand new 1-acre public space in the heart of Downtown Brooklyn. Work began in earnest in recent weeks with the environmental remediation of buildings on the site now underway. In the coming year the existing buildings will be demolished, and the overall project is anticipated to be completed by the end of 2016.

·         BAM Park: Closed for decades, BAM Park is about to get a major facelift and reopen to the public. HPD, EDC and the Parks Department are collaborating on the project.  Downtown Brooklyn Partnership is working with the State to secure funding and has procured WXY to design a new public space worthy of the new Brooklyn Cultural District.

Launching a college consortium—Downtown Brooklyn’s 11 colleges are increasingly working together to capitalize on the area’s growing opportunities. The City is collaborating with the area’s educational institutions to develop a college consortium that will better connect the tech, creative, and academic communities, preparing local students and local residents for good jobs in the Brooklyn Tech Triangle. The City is catalyzing the effort with $200,000 in seed funding through its Economic Development Corporation.

Brooklyn Tech Triangle Internship Program—Through a new City-backed internship program, CUNY students majoring in Computer Science and related tracks will be matched with companies in the Brooklyn Tech Triangle. Through the summer 2014 SBS’ Brooklyn Tech Triangle Internship Program, 50 college students from the New York City College of Technology are working in paid internships with companies in the Brooklyn Tech Triangle. The interns work four days per week and on “Tech Fridays,” the interns attend professional development workshops and go on site visits to other local tech and media companies.

“It’s important to celebrate the last ten years and it is exciting to be launching new initiatives and opportunities for Brooklyn to thrive so we can add more jobs and opportunities for Brooklyners to make it in Brooklyn,” said Bre Pettis, CEO of MakerBot.