Design data is the main ingredient to making decarbonization decisions

How we see the built environment today:

The world has changed.

The way in which we use our cities in the U.S. is very different today than it was at the turn of the century. We like to think that the pandemic was the cause, but really the change had been coming for some time. The design of cities that was optimized for the car and the commute finally gave way to one that is optimized for remote and hybrid work.

This, of course, has a big impact in how we use our cities and what we need them to do as engines of growth and wellbeing. It's also happened before. Most recently in the post world war 2 period that saw US cities change completely to accommodate and expand as a result of massive car ownership. The suburb finally went from a niche invention mostly reserved to those of means to being the quintessential American middle class experience.

The cities we image when we think of 20th century cities are really based on the second half of the century. What then does the 21st century city look like?

Nobody really knows.

What we do now is that technology has changed retail, work and even dining and our buildings are already adapting to these changes.

Why does this matter to a design software company?

Canoa is a tool for spatial design. Most of our users are interior designers, space planners and furniture planners. Our focus is on what we like to think of as the final layer of design in the built environment. What makes a blank room into a baby's nursery or a CEO's office or a wonderful reading nook is not just the placement and programing of these spaces but also the materials, lighting and furnishings that complete their design's function.

Given the changes we see happening in our buildings over the coming decades, the amount of work that will happen at these final layers of the design process is tremendously large and difficult work.

In fact, this is one of the main reasons we started Canoa. Read our manifesto here.

How does Canoa help design more sustainable spaces?

At Canoa we know that fluid access to data helps us make better decisions.

Based on this principle, Canoa is consistently working to speed up designer's access to critical data so that they can improve decision making in their projects. Examples of this could be to understand the cradle-to-gate embodied carbon estimate for a product that they want to specify, or to be able to keep clear track of the inventory of goods that they already own so that they can more easily reuse them.

Read more about how Canoa enables circularity here.

Canoa embodied carbon index

We strongly believe designers should be armed with the information they need to make good decisions.

Unfortunately, this is far from reality in the world of furniture today. Our research shows that less than 3% of commercial products even publish Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) or life cycle assessments (LCAs) today.

To address this gap in data, we have created our own carbon estimator that applies data science methods to produce directionally-accurate predictions of the carbon footprint of each product and product category. In our tests, our method has been able to reproduce carbon estimates at north of 80% accuracy and in some cases well beyond 90%.

Though imperfect, this is a critical data point to understand the potential embodied carbon in the objects a designer specifies into their project.   

See the Carbon Index in Action

An example of an embodied carbon tracker in a furniture project

Canoa IMS

Designers often have to accommodate products into their designs that are already in use or owned by their client. Designers work in all kinds of companies, including large corporations that need space to operate their business. This could be in hospitality, parks, workplace, industrial facilities, education, government and more.

Designers are everywhere.

Whether they work in-house, for a furniture dealer or an independent design firm, designers are often asked to optimize spaces over and over over the years. This work requires incredibly detailed documentation of the spaces and the inventory of products they contain.

These companies want to be less wasteful and watch their bottom line and have implemented circular initiatives. Canoa then enables circularity at the enterprise level with the Canoa IMS. An industry specific inventory management system that enables designers to access facility management inventory data and put it to immediate use.

Read more about Canoa IMS here.

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