Built environment professionals are starting to recognise the importance of accounting for the carbon footprint of building materials but decisions about this are typically left last minute or slip off the planning agenda entirely.
A new platform created by Sydney startup Giraffe could see embodied carbon elevated to the early stages of the design process, along with other environmental considerations such as site-wide thermal and wind comfort.
The recently launched web-based design tool allows users to simply and quickly design in both 2D and 3D, with instant and dynamic metrics created as they go. It’s designed for anyone doing feasibility scale thinking and planning.
There are countless design tools for planners and architects but Giraffe co-founder Lucy Booth says these are all standalone tools. “We want one platform that can pull in different advice and data.”
Urban planners, architects and engineers can share their simple data model mocked up on the platform with other consultants who provide overlays of advice or data via API.
The Footprint Company has become one of the startup’s early partners, allowing users to draw on its database that shows the embodied carbon of building materials.
Users are able to immediately understand the embodied carbon footprint of their designs, allowing for quick comparisons of, say, a concrete façade versus a cross laminated timber one.
Booth says this capability will be really important now that architects and engineers have declared a climate emergency.
“They need to be making these decisions about carbon footprint much earlier.”
The startup has also partnered with an Austrian university that’s developing a thermal comfort tool so that designers will be able to visualise hot, unpleasant streets and make design decisions accordingly. A wind comfort tool is also in the works so that planners can avoid nasty wind tunnels.
The sky is the limit, really. Booth says that down the track, users should be able to model onsite solar so to optimise energy generation.
Booth and her cofounder Rob Asher both left their fulltime roles at Cox Architecture to take the company to the next level (but the architecture studio remains a supporter of the endeavour). Booth hopes the pricing of the product, at $50 per month per user, is affordable enough to attract new users.
As part of the climate cohort of the Startmate Accelerator, the startup has received “a little” funding. There’s now a team of five, including the two cofounders, two developers and someone in sales and marketing.
Almost as easy as designing a house on “The Sims”, Booth says the tool has already attracted the attention of major enterprise clients as a tool to communicate with clients in meetings, and facilitate codesign.
“Instead of a static meeting, it’s easy for clients to understand how design decisions change the different metrics.”