Patrick Chopson is the co-founder of cove.tool, a tech firm that aims to fight climate change by using automation to help architects, engineers, contractors and developers leverage data-driven design. The goal is to keep costs minimal while making the most of buildings and their ESG goals. ESG-related assets will reach $41 trillion by the end of 2022.
Chopson co-founded the firm with Sandeep Ahuja and Daniel Chopson, and together they design and build teams with end-to-end automated performance analysis for each property. The AEC (Architectural Engineering and Construction) industry has the potential to increase positive impact on the environment by incorporating sustainable strategies into their data-driven, day-to-day workflow.
The mission is to incorporate sustainable design and construction practices into new buildings, while reducing carbon emissions in the building industry. “If we reduce building energy usage, we join the fight against climate change,” Chopson said.
In Washington, DC, where the IRA was passed, building-related emissions represented 72% of total GHG emissions in 2020, with the majority coming from commercial spaces. There are ripe opportunities for developers to help battle climate change in relation to energy codes, low-carbon procurement, and technologies. Action is necessary in this sector to reduce carbon emissions by 40% by 2030, as noted in the Act.
cove.tool allows companies to track progress toward their ESG goals as they design, construct and retrofit buildings. It’s a web-based platform that enables design and construction teams to upload their building projects to evaluate their potential ESG impacts. For example, builders can track how they can reduce energy needed for lighting, cooling and heating.
With Climate Week NYC coming up from September 19 through 25, Chopson spoke to Leverage.com about carbon neutral buildings in commercial real estate, and how one app can streamline the building process and save energy costs.
Image provided by cove.tool
Leverage.com: When did you start cove.tool?
Patrick Chopson: It started in 2017. Today, we focus on how architects and engineers make decisions around carbon emissions. It’s to help people make better decisions for daylight, energy and glare, instead of guessing, which is what most people do now.
Why is daylight tracking important, for example?
When you try to optimize for energy, you have to keep in mind the most energy efficient building is one with no windows. You get free heating from the sun, with large windows. That helps in the winter.
How do you track energy in ways that are new?
In the past, people would look at point-based metrics in very, one thing at a time. With our software they can do software simulations in five to 15 minutes, all together. The work that could take long, can be done shorter now, to see if a building complies with certain laws, that type of thing.
When it comes to the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), are they going far enough? What are your thoughts around that?
When it comes to senators, they don’t really understand buildings. For the Build Back Better Plan, a lot of things were not changed. We see investment in energy codes. But even with individual tax credits with affordable housing, or just multifamily housing in general, there’s tax credits. For buildings, it’s a great start in the right direction.
What trends do you see coming in 2023?
Everyone is using low carbon materials for the new energy codes. The IRA has a lot of upgrades to federal buildings that have to use low-carbon materials. With all these new regulations, it’s creating competitive pricing in the market. We’re seeing a lot of investment in companies, too, as part of their portfolios to make and measure that.
Is it hard to convince architects or developers, anyone as part of the building process? What’s the hardest part from the design process to final construction?
The hardest part is just adding it all up, honestly. Only one percent of projects that are shooting for the architecture 2030 goals [carbon neutrality], have this 2030 challenge. It requires a lot of specialized knowledge. It’s harder to add it up, numbers are usually locked away in pdfs, so there’s a lot of time spent sifting through documents all over the place. The real hard part is dealing with the people who finance the project because carbon risk is financial risk. From the finance side, its a low-carbon investment. It pushes down into the developer world. GLL Real Estate Partners is trying to hire 1,000 sustainability professionals right now, I think? To help them with calculating all this stuff. You see that with Cushman & Wakefield, too, they’re trying to figure out how to account for all this stuff.
But isn’t it a better investment to save more money in the long run?
People understand it’s the right thing to do, it’s a lower cost to do that. But it changes management in how you do that. It’s a data management problem. You might have to consult 10 different databases to find out if you’re picking the right insulation, and what it means from the manufacturing, costs, and with the nginner if it’s the right material. We’re centralizing all of that into one place. It’s a collaborative interface where people can chat with each other.
What is your app a cross between, in plain terms?
We have 20,000 projects on the app on the go right now. It’s like Salesforce or HubSpot, because you’re able to see the whole business and the information it runs on. It’s also like Mint, where you manage your finances with graphs. Your carbon budget in a building can be viewed like your spending budget in a home.
How are architects responding to ESG goals and SEC regulations?
I’d say architects are pretty clueless that it’s coming. They know they have to focus on sustainability. They don’t recognize the huge business opportunity that’s coming their way. A lot of these things need to be verified by somebody. You have to accurately calculate your carbon. You have to be careful you are calculating it accurately.
How will this affect commercial real estate?
Most people’s decisions are carbon we are using that is expended before the building is even occupied. It comes from manufacturing. If people think about not tearing down buildings but just renovating them, that’s a way bigger thing. That’s something a lot of people don’t realize.