Greentown Startups Share Insights on the Buildings Sector

Greentown Labs supports startups that are decarbonizing the key greenhouse-gas-emitting sectors—agriculture, buildings, electricity, manufacturing, and transportation—and building resilient communities.

This year, we’re introducing quarterly sector spotlights, where we take a deep dive into the technologies, partnerships, financing avenues, and policies that are needed to decarbonize each industry.

First up is the buildings sector. Buildings account for about 40 percent of the United States’ energy consumption, which means reducing emissions in this sector is critical to society-wide decarbonization. We proudly support 20 building tech startups that are innovating on everything from concrete made of recycled industrial waste (Alkemy Environmental), to super-insulating glass for energy-efficient windows (AeroShield), to a database that aggregates green building incentives offered from all levels of U.S. government (IncentiFind). 

These startups are on the cutting-edge of the buildings industry, and their leaders have unique insights to share about what it’ll take to decarbonize the industry. Hear from some of them below!


Techstyle Materials CEO Derek Stein

Techstyle Materials develops smart building products for the construction industry that are based upon a proprietary multifunctional material technology

“Buildings represent a very big piece of the energy pie—about 40 percent of U.S. primary energy use. We know we can make deep cuts in energy use for heating and cooling by improving building envelopes. The challenge is to do that without compromising durability, comfort, or affordability. Today, making a building envelope more energy-efficient involves increasing its insulation and airtightness so it effectively traps heat. But that same building envelope will tend to trap more moisture, which increases the risks of mold, rot, and other forms of moisture damage that can lead to structural damage, poor air quality, and reduced comfort. 

We urgently need technologies that enable buildings to adapt to conditions in ways that enable energy efficiency, comfort, and durability increase together. We also need to embark on a process of consolidating building layers and automating installation practices, which can drive down costs while increasing reliability.”

InventWood CEO Josh Cable

InventWood creates advanced wood material innovations, including strong yet light “super wood” I-joists that can replace steel I-beams in buildings.

“There’s an incredible opportunity to have an impact in the building space. The building industry has a bit of a reputation of being, to be honest, quite wasteful when it comes to material usage and decarbonization activities. And so there’s an opportunity for the world to look at how buildings are made and to improve, both from a functionality standpoint and from a sustainability standpoint, the way the buildings are made. 

We’re really excited about the increased use of wood in buildings in the form of mass timber. The mass timber movement started to gain traction about 15 years ago, where innovations in wood, things like cross-laminated timber, started to be used much more widely in buildings. At InventWood, we see ourselves as continuing that movement and taking it to the next level through our materials.”

Transaera CEO Sorin Grama

Transaera is developing a new class of affordable, energy-efficient, environmentally friendly cooling systems.

“Extreme heat events are one of the leading causes of weather-related deaths and illnesses in the United States. During the 2021 record-breaking heat index in the Pacific Northwest, more than 2,500 people sought emergency care for heat-related illnesses. Americans affected by extreme heat events lack access to air conditioning. Transaera is developing energy-efficient and cost-effective cooling solutions to protect vulnerable populations from extreme weather events.”


IncentiFind CEO Natalie Campos Goodman

IncentiFind is the nation’s only database to coalesce green building incentives offered from all levels of the U.S. government and make them searchable to residential and commercial sectors using a property’s address.

“There’s an opportunity for many people in the buildings industry to bring insights to the fact that greening a building is great. It adds value to a building, it reduces operating expenditures, it creates a healthier living environment for those tenants that sit in buildings all day long. It also contributes to a healthier environment overall.

The opportunity is huge right now to really put a dent in how we can positively affect our environment while saving people money on their electric and water bills. It gets our team jazzed up.”

Onboard Data CEO Ryan Holy

Engineering and data science teams, from startups to the Fortune 500, use Onboard’s AI-powered software and API to collect, enrich, and stream data from buildings to their digital products and services.

“We have a unique view into the smart building or property tech market given we serve data science teams that sit within startups, large engineering firms, and the Fortune 500. There’s a noticeable change from just three years ago. 

Today, real estate owners are readily buying technology products because many use-cases have proven to be valuable. Sustainability, tenant wellness, space utilization, and place-making are all top of mind. And underlying each of these drivers is the utilization of data. We are seeing a growing number of engineers and data scientists exploring data from buildings so they can offer new products or technology-enabled services for their real estate clients.”

Zero CEO Grant Gunnison

Zero develops automation software that enables hassle-free home retrofits to improve comfort and eliminate emissions.

“Single family homes are the climate challenge. And an undervalued piece is the health component of it, on an individual scale—there’s a severely undertold story about human and public health in our buildings. I think Zero has an interesting potential role to play in the public health space: if we do these sets of things to buildings, if we can bring this sort of information to light for homeowners, we can really impact people’s health in a very material way.”


Dandelion Energy President Kathy Hannun

Dandelion Energy designs and installs geothermal heating and cooling systems for homes.

“For new residential buildings, one of the big roadblocks is the split-incentive challenge. The builder’s incentive is to keep the upfront costs of the new building low so that more buyers can afford it, but the signature of renewable energy tends to be that the upfront cost is high and the operating cost is low. And so we think that financing products will be key to making renewables take off in new buildings, by resolving that split incentive problem. 

On the homeowner side, I do think that homeowners care more than ever about having their home not emit a ton of carbon. There’s an opportunity for many startups to take advantage of, because the desire is there.”


Enerbrain International Sales Director Filippo Ferraris

Enerbrain develops a plug-and-play IoT solution ready for the market that monitors and controls heating, cooling, and ventilation systems in buildings to make them smarter, healthier, and more sustainable, thanks to AI and IoT technologies.

“The first pillar for an effective ecological transition process is decarbonization. The second pillar is the electrification of all economic activities and tools of daily use. 

But then there is a third pillar, which is perhaps the most important today: digitalization. Digitalization is the gateway to big data and characterizes the Fourth Industrial Revolution; thanks to IoT and artificial intelligence, huge quantities of data enable the use of intelligent use of energy. It’s about moving from centralized models with weak distributed networks to a weak center distributed on smart grids, introducing more flexibility. 

At Enerbrain, we have developed a solution to reduce buildings’ consumption using IoT sensors to monitor air quality and consumption in real-time, channeling data to the cloud. Thanks to advanced algorithms, we can control HVAC energy systems and contribute to balancing the energy network, for example with demand-side-management or pre-heating and pre-cooling, obviating the stress on the grid due to intermittent renewable energy supply.

The Greentown Labs ecosystem demonstrates that often technologies can only be developed by young and lean startups that can quickly innovate and scale, confirming that disruptive actions can really change the world.”