Our Mission at PlanIT Impact

Dominique Davison / December 13, 2016

OUR MISSION at PlanIT Impact is to Enable Sustainable Design to be as Affordable, Accessible, and Achievable as Possible… let me break that down and explain further what that means for us.

Affordability has been something that has not typically been associated with sustainability. Though the USGBC reports that approximately 20% of commercial projects are benchmarking their sustainability requirements in the US and that number is expected to double every 3 years globally (Ref 1), there is less clear data on the true costs of benchmarking, which requires documentation, review and approval from many players. While some Clients have been led to believe it shouldn’t cost more, the fact remains that the reporting process, additional research and documentation is losing many architecture and engineering firms money – through lost time, fees and therefore reduced profit. Clients either don’t fully understand the effort required or are not able to pay for all the time it takes to achieve LEED and other benchmarking processes, and the burden then falls on the professionals to absorb that cost.

And though the industry still wants to do the right thing – we are an industry of “do gooders” – the enthusiasm around benchmarking seems to have waned amongst the peers we have interviewed who are veterans to the process. The same is true for Clients we have interviewed – who are increasingly requesting to design to LEED standards and not actually certify, because of the added costs they incur without a clear Return on Investment (though this may change with the Dynamic Plaque option).

This is a shame – because the USGBC has done an enormous service to our industry through education and awareness around the critical importance of achieving higher levels of performance in our buildings and communities. They have elevated the quality level of building, which is also partly responsible for the increased costs, but is sometimes unfairly attributed to simply the “Green” aspects of the design.

But the fact is, sustainable design should be affordable for everyone and not come with a higher cost – either in time or money. And now with the advent of new technologies of Open Data, High Speed Networking, and improved Data Science, it can be. The analysis can also be very geo-specific, to a zip code, census tract, or address, and pertain to the exact geometry of the design in question. All this, virtually instantly. This approach of Data Driven Green Design is what we have been developing at PlanIT Impact as the solution to the issue of Affordability.

“PlanIT Impact will provide the tools to efficiently manage sustainability costs in the design process, and enable better profitability by providing more value to your clients”

Accessible means it is not a process that creates a burden on the user. Workflow and process is something we have looked at every step of the way…what 3D modeling software should we align ourselves with? The answer was clearly SketchUP, at least initially, because it is intuitive, fun, has a low learning curve, and is even free to non-commercial users. They also have 30 million users who are already using the software. And SketchUP is actively looking to expand their analysis capabilities with other tools such as Open Studio and Sefaira, and provide easy integration.

Also along the lines of workflow, level of detail and time to input values was something we have been challenging ourselves to always simplify – because we are focused on the early phase of design – the first 20% of decisions, where a disproportionate 80% of the impact of a project is determined (Ref 2). With PlanIT Impact, you can skim the surface or dive in deep – it’s up to you how many of the inputs you want to adjust and iterate with.

We also worked with User interface designers who specialize in intuitive navigation. But in the end, we rely on our users’ feedback. Through our customer service portal, to want to hear from you to know whether we have achieved the goal of minimizing adoption speed, keeping the learning curve low and still providing helpful results that enable your clients to make more informed decisions. We know we could be doing better and we will continue to refine and always push for an easier system.

Achievable. The reason for all of this – our WHY – is because we have accepted a mandate as an Industry to work toward net zero design (2030 Challenge) in order to address the very real threat of Climate Change we are facing as a global community. But also at issue is the increasingly alarming scarcity of potable water in our communities, as well as the vast backlog of infrastructure projects our Cities are facing estimated at 3.6 trillion (Ref 3). The building and construction industry is responsible for 1/3 of emissions globally and some estimates put it at closer to 47% within the US (2030 Challenge). This means that we must be addressing the entire B&C industry, not just new, commercial construction, which won’t move the needle enough due to the fact that these projects replace only 2-3% of our total building stock in the U.S annually (Ref 4).

We must address the residential markets – where about 15% of housing starts are currently looking to achieve some level of efficiency/sustainability (Ref 5). Because of increases in population, the residential sector is increasing its annual contributions to CO2 emissions by 1% a year in spite of moves toward more efficient fixtures and increased awareness (Ref 6). That’s a direction we can’t afford to keep moving in. We can do better, but the industry needs new tools and technology to disrupt business as usual.

Again, that is where PlanIT Impact is coming to play since it can be applied to both residential and commercial projects. Homeowners are often making the biggest financial investment of their lives when they build custom or buy a spec home. All too frequently these decisions are being made in a vacuum, with little to no long-term operational cost factored in – that just doesn’t make sense.

Lastly, existing buildings are increasingly engaging in building monitoring and Smart City technology/ IoT. The EPA’s Portfolio tool is an excellent tool and its rating system is what we aligned our Energy Module with. Existing commercial buildings account for  percent of our building stock in the US. And operators want to have more control of their utility costs. Modeling an existing building and plugging it into PlanIT Impact allows users to understand within a number of minutes, what potential changes to their envelop, systems, or fixtures might do to improve efficiency or save money. That’s empowering.

And ultimately that is what we at PlanIT Impact are trying to do – empower our communities to make better decisions about the built environment, so we can all breathe easier and be better stewards.

Thank you,
Dominique Davison AIA LEED AP BD+C
CEO, PlanIT Impact
Principal, DRAW Architecture + Urban Design

  1. Dodge Data & Analytics World Green Building Trends 2016 SmartMarket Report.
  2. The Pareto Rule of economics
  3. The American Society of Civil Engineers’ Report Card for America’s Infrastructure
  4. Sustainabilityworkshop.autodesk.com – New vs. Existing Buildings
  5. www.statisa.com “Projected sue of green single family housing market” and McGraw Hill data on total construction starts
  6. www.eia.gov, “Emissions of Greenhouse Gases in the U.S.” 2011 report

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