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A new app brings precision to designing a building for higher performance

Sustainable Design and Construction

A new app brings precision to designing a building for higher performance

PlanIt Impact’s sustainability scoring is based on myriad government and research data.

By John Caulfield, Senior Editor | April 5, 2017

PlanIt Impact's cloud-based platform is helping CB Properties and Milhaus Development plan a $24.3 million mixed-use building on 27th and Troost Streets in Kansas City, which will include 182 market-rate apartments and 12,000 sf of commercial space. The developers are using this platform to better understand operational costs so tenant occupancy would be more affordable. Image; Planit Impact

Buildings create nearly half of the greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. And AEC firms are challenged to accurately calculate how their designs will impact the performance of a building before construction or renovation begins.

On March 28, a Kansas City-based startup company called PlanIt Impact launched a web application that allows users to determine the environmental and economic impact of a new or renovated building during the design process.

The cloud-based app does this with a 3D assessment tool that incorporates four key aspects of sustainable building design: energy, stormwater runoff, water consumption, and transportation access.

The tool creates a sustainability score for designs by drawing upon open data sources such as U.S. Census, the Department of Energy, City-Data.gov, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Walk Score, which now publishes statistics regarding proximity to amenities like parks, retail, and libraries.

The goal is to make it easier for AEC teams to collaborate, gather real-time information, and model materials costs and the impact of a physical attributes the building and the site.

Dominque Davison, AIA, LEED AP, an architect with DRAW Architecture +Urban Design, is CEO of PlanIt Impact. She concedes that AEC teams could find these data sources on their own. “But the time and energy that would take are considerable. What we’re providing is a low-cost and simple solution that allows teams to work together.”

She went on to say that the platform—which DRAW and its partners have been refining since 2013—“works from a project’s inception to complete. It gives building designs great options to consider all possibilities, and to know the impact of those decisions.”

PlanIt Impact Energy Model scores also translate into energy optimization points for LEED. The tool takes input from any direction and updates its scoring dynamically. PlanIt Impact supports leading software tools, including SketchUp, Rhino, and Revit.

Here’s how it can work: the team designs a building in SketchUp using the PlanIt Impact Palette. The model is imported into PlanIt Impact’s platform, and the user answers a few other questions about the project. Step 3, the user can see and manipulate the results of the sustainability scoring, and compare those results to earlier design versions. And the scoring and designs can be shared with the project’s shareholders.

DRAW Architecture developed this platform with funding from the National Science Foundation/US Ignite (which leverages networking technologies to build the foundation for smart communities), the Mozilla Foundation, and Digital Sandbox, a Kansas City-based firm that provides entrepreneurial financing.

According to PlanIt Impact’s website, a $68 monthly fee gives one user full access to the platform and a SketchUp extension. For $750 per year, one user gets full access plus one hour of training. For $2,000 per year, three users get full access and three hours of training.

Davison says that right now, PlanIt Impact is being marketed directly to AEC firms. And the company is interested in striking relationships with utilities, municipalities, and property management firms.

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