Architects who harness technology to automate repetitive tasks, such as compiling door schedules, can become more efficient workers. Architects who can author and share these tools can become entrepreneurs. After co-founding the Atlanta-based sustainable design consulting firm Pattern R+D, Patrick Chopson, AIA, and Sandeep Ahuja saw a need for a decision-making tool that could churn through building performance calculations and output results in a user-friendly manner. “Our Pattern R+D clients were impressed with our ability to analyze millions of options and only present those that resulted in both cost and energy savings,” Chopson explains.

Sandeep Ahuja
Sergej Stoppel/LinesLab Sandeep Ahuja

So they developed Cove.Tool, a cloud-based program in which subscribers input building features and design options—for example, glazing, shading, and insulation—and project parameters, such as job location and construction schedule. (Cove stands for COst Versus Energy.) The software then pinpoints the combinations of parameters that offer the required performance within the prescribed budget. According to Chopson and Ahuja—who are the CEO and COO of the eponymous startup, respectively—Cove.Tool reduces a project’s initial cost by an average of 2 to 3 percent, or can improve building performance by 40 percent in exchange for a 3 percent cost premium.

If architects are serious about reducing the energy consumption of buildings, Chopson says, then “we have to change the way we practice architecture.” Ahuja adds that she “was unsatisfied with talking about green architecture without knowing if the decisions I was making were actually helping.” She points out that other industries provide metrics on their products—think miles per gallon and nutritional information. “By bringing the same data- and metric-driven approach to architecture, I have a chance at affecting climate change.”

Chopson predicts that architects will increasingly rely on automation to manage project data, check code compliance, and assess aesthetics. “This data-driven design approach will remove the mundane and repetitive [work] from architects’ roles and allow them to focus on design.” He and Ahuja continually hone their coding skills using free online resources. “I’m convinced that if you can’t code, you can’t find solutions, and you’re stuck with something from the past,” Ahuja asserts.

Chopson agrees. “In order to push transformative change in an industry, one must to look beyond ‘business as usual’ and find crossovers with other industries. The second step is to identify your skeptics and make them believers by proving your value."

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