Here at CABA our Member Engagement Guidebook outlines ways that member businesses can take targeted action on climate change through sustainability, political advocacy, and community building. Member business, Ekotrope, chose to participate in a Member Interview, an engagement option that allows members to share their thoughts and experiences regarding climate action to enhance the community’s overall perspective.
Ekotrope’s software helps builders, architects and homeowners determine how their home can be more energy efficient. This image displays a few key improvements that can improve a home’s energy efficiency.
Kristin Kelleher: Can you please tell us about yourself ?
Nick Sisler: I am a co-founder and lead engineer at Ekotrope. I studied mechanical engineering at MIT with a minor in energy studies. While I was at MIT I befriended a professor, Edward Crawley. He was building a house and he was unimpressed with the level of sophistication his architect and his builder could give him on energy efficiency, and how he could build the best house for his money. Ed had an idea to create something that could help builders and building designers design more energy efficient houses as cost effectively as possible. That is how Ekotrope was born.
I did my thesis with Professor Ed Crawley. We started Ekotrope about the same time I graduated. We initially started out doing energy design optimizations. We built a software product that could look at all the different ways you could build a house and help you find the most cost effective way to be net zero or to meet the energy code.
Kristin: Can you describe, in simple terms, what exactly Ekotrope does?
Nick: We started out with a design optimization product. To create it we worked with several builders and architects and had some pretty good success. We worked with some of the biggest production builders in the country that are building thousands of homes a year.
However, we were not able to find product market fit and grow our revenue enough to where we were going to be a sustainable business in the time frame allotted. We were basically running out of money so we pivoted a couple times, and we eventually landed on an energy rating tool.
There is an energy rating standard, the RESNET HERS Index, by which last year 227,000 homes were energy rated across the country. We launched a product to serve that industry in 2016 and we just hit our 100,000th rated home with a monthly rate of about 9,000 new homes. Combined with other services that we provide, about one in six new US homes is utilizing our technology.
A picture of one of Ekotrope’s clients celebrating completing the 100,000th energy rating in Ekotrope.
Kristin: What advice do you have for other businesses looking to engage more deeply with their community?
Nick: I encourage other businesses to find ways that you can make a consistent impact. The economy is going to shift in innumerable ways because of climate change. Business leaders need to think about how their business might be able to adapt. There is going to be a lot more demand for solar, demand for batteries and demand for electric cars. I encourage businesses to start thinking about how your business can support that growth and benefit from that growth as well.
Kristin: What is one action you’re excited to take/be taking with CABA? (i.e. policy interests, learning about sustainable practices, events, networking, sharing your perspective, etc.)
Nick: I really appreciate the CABA newsletter. I think your team does a great job. I read a lot of the articles, it’s really a nice and time efficient way to stay abreast of climate information on a local, national, and global scale. I am really excited about the potential of Massachusetts being one of the first states to have a price on carbon. I hope that can then move nationally, but it is really cool that your team is doing instrumental work to make that happen.
Kristin: Have you engaged with the political process at all in regards to sustainability and energy policies? If so, what has that been like?
Nick: Yes, I took part in in a lobby day a few summers ago. I support putting a price on carbon, and I have bought a couple of the raffle tickets for the Carbon Pricing Tesla Raffle.
Kristin: How does Ekotrope help in the fight against climate change?
Nick: We provide software to show people how they can build more energy efficient homes. It is an energy rating software, so its helps with the design. You can play around with different options to see how they can be more energy efficient. Our software also supports compliance verification to make sure homes are meeting the energy code or other energy programs like ENERGY STAR they might want to meet.
Now we are looking into how we can continue to improve and grow. We are engaging in a pilot renovations and additions program with Mass Save and are considering some other opportunities for expansion.
Ekotrope works with builders and architects to create more energy efficient homes. This house in Columbia South Carolina scored a 62 HERS Index and will save its homeowners approximately $1,021/year due to its energy efficient features.
Kristin: How has Ekotrope been received by customers, other businesses, and your community in general?
Nick: We predominantly work directly with energy raters and consultants around the country, and they are extremely happy to have a new software provider. Previously, only two companies were providing energy rating software. The market was pretty stagnant, they had been around since the late 80s and in recent years the software had not undergone many updates. People were actually asking us to get involved because we had been involved in the market. A number of customers have switched to our software in a pretty short period. The last couple years have been really gratifying.
Recently, we started working more with consulting companies that administered the Mass Save programs and different energy savings programs around the country. They are very excited about having a partner that is going to be more proactive about improving the software and looking for opportunities to help them.
Kristin: What has been your impact so far? (i.e. number of panels installed, emissions prevented, geographical reach, etc.)
Nick: Our software is used essentially all across the country, we don’t have a big presence in California because California has their own energy codes and their own software. Other than that our software is used pretty much proportionally to where there is a significant amount of new homes being built, including Texas, the Carolinas, Florida, and in Massachusetts as well.
Kristin: What is one quirky/unique fact about Ekotrope?
Nick: There are a few things that come to mind, our core team of four has been working together since the start of Ekotrope seven years ago, which is unique in the startup world. Ziv, and I both went to MIT, and some board members are MIT alumni. Cy went to Brown and did a research project at MIT with Ed Crawley where we connected. Our other colleague, Ben went to RIT and joined us early on.
Our CEO is Israeli and we have had some Israeli influence from our employees and our board advisors.
I also went to Spain to play professional hockey and worked at Ekotrope while abroad. I am the assistant coach for the MIT hockey team now.
Kristin: If you were to give one piece of advice about climate action to a fellow business, what would it be?
Nick: Climate change is one of the biggest problems facing the world. I am really happy to see organizations like CABA and many other businesses getting involved to try to prevent climate change, and actually do something about it. Today a lot of people think climate change is not real or its inevitable and there is nothing we can do about it. There is a lot that we can do about it. All of the technology we would need to be carbon neutral already exists. It will probably cost more in the short term but it will also create a ton of jobs and economic activity. I think a carbon price is the most cost effective way to address climate change. I think if you set the market right that’s the best way to address emissions. However, it depends on people, it is not just economic strategies, it’s also people working to solve the problem.
Left: The Ekotrope team picture is (L to R): Ziv Rozenblum, Nick Sisler, Cy Kilbourn and Ben DeLillo at the Boston Custom House viewing area. Right: Cofounder and Lead Engineer Nick Sisler