To Scale, Climate Tech Companies and Funders Focus on Efficiency

Residential building and CO2 emissions on scales. Greenhouse gas Emissions. Improving energy efficiency, lowering impact on environment.

Of the many buzzwords in environmental sustainability, resilience may be the most overused, but there’s good reason behind it. Resilience is about both the capacity to endure challenges (like flooding from once-in-a-century storms) as well as the elasticity to adapt to difficulty (like installing permeable concrete to absorb the runoff).

The built world accounts for almost 40 percent of global emissions, according to the UN, and with a goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, we need to develop resilience - and fast.

While a daunting task, there’s much to be excited and hopeful about, say leaders in the AECO space. At BuiltWorlds’ Venture West conference Thursday, we heard from four who gathered as part of a panel to discuss the industry’s journey to reduce greenhouse gasses, and the sustainable technologies and innovations at the forefront of this adoption curve.

“There’s an opportunity for change on a holistic level,” said Allison Myers, co-founder and general partner at Buoyant Ventures, which invests in digital solutions focused on mitigating and adapting to climate change. “It’s an amazing point in time to think about how we can do this better, how we can solve for inefficiencies in the system.”

Buoyant’s approach focuses on software and processes that can scale with speed. Portfolio companies include Audette, which aggregates big, open-source data sets and aerial imagery to quickly develop strategies to decarbonize buildings.

That kind of “drop-in” solution is key for an industry historically slow to evolve, said Joselyn Lai, co-founder and CEO of Bedrock Energy, a startup that designs, constructs and delivers geothermal heating and cooling systems.

Retrofitting buildings safely is time-consuming and difficult, Lai noted, “so when we are able to, as entrepreneurs and as an ecosystem, support drop-in solutions, we need to make things easy for those that are adopting them.”

Symbium, which launched out of Stanford University in 2019, aims to address one of those pain points with its online dashboard that helps homeowners and contractors easily submit and manage permits and rebates for solar panels and other decarbonization projects. The company is venture-backed, but also draws on grant funding.

Government subsidies, particularly the Inflation Reduction Act in the US, are helping to accelerate the shift and fund the development of solutions bottlenecking the industry.

Climate entrepreneurs need both to move quickly, said Leila Banijamali, CEO of Symbium, who joined the panel. “Regulators are the slowest to innovate,” she said.

While grants support experimentation and moving a product down the cost curve,“venture funding is essential,” agreed Nick Martin, COO and co-founder of Carbon Reform, which designed an attachment for existing HVAC systems that permanently captures carbon from the air.

“We don't have time to bootstrap climate companies.”


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