Data spurs competition for high-performance buildings

Data spurs competition for high-performance buildings

Honest Buildings is intent on disrupting the real-estate market. With a growing database of building information and interactive social-media tools, the company hopes to kickstart owners and managers into making greener, more energy-efficient buildings.

The New York City-based startup has launched a website with data from 350,000 commercial and mixed-use U.S. buildings -- including square footage, ownership and management details, building certifications and project renovations -- bringing together information that has historically been hard to find at all, let alone in one place.

The interactive platform is intended to connect building owners and managers with architects and service providers to share information and catalyze competition for building-improvement projects and energy-efficiency measures.

While the majority of the building data is from New York City, the company announced today the addition of another 15,000 commercial- and mixed-use buildings from the Washington, D.C., area.

"By populating a database and mapping relationships on top of that data, we are a highly useful tool for the real estate business," says Josh Boltuch, chief marketing officer for Honest Buildings. Building owners can speed up the process to find architects or contractors for their next project, he says.

Honest Buildings collects the building data in three ways: user-generated data, where building owners, contractors and tenants input data through the website; from public databases such as Energy Star certifications and city or municipality "sunshine laws" that require energy benchmarking of commercial buildings; and through proprietary relationships with developers, nonprofit organizations and others.

The company offers a "freemium" model where anyone can join for free and register their organization and post projects based on size, location of buildings and types of renovations or services needed.

Architects and service providers can become premium members through a subsription model to get access to select requests for proposals or qualifications (RFPs and RFQs) as well participate in an array of targeted, geo-based advertising.

Headquartered in New York City and Seattle, the idea for Honest Buildings came from co-founder and CEO Riggs Kubiak, who worked as global head of sustainability for Tishman Speyer before starting the company in June 2011. Kubiak recognized that without access to information, building owners were leery to take on new energy-efficiency initiatives without clear business benefits. 

"Technologies were there for improving high-performance buildings, but the problem was on demand side," Boltuch says.

In addition to exploring info on commercial or residential addresses, Honest Buildings also includes code maps of benchmarked energy use in San Francisco and New York City. This information helps owners, tenants and operators better understand energy and water consumption as many cities now enforce goals to reduce energy emissions and carbon consumption.

Photo provided by Honest Buildings.