It’s Not Easy Building Green | Paul Shahriari at Ecomedes

The vast majority of people constructing new buildings, whether it be a home or a skyscraper, want it to be green. It’s not just good for the planet, it’s good for the pocketbook. But Paul Shahriari discovered this aspiration was heavily impeded by a fractured marketplace for eco-friendly systems. So he started Ecomedes, a sustainable product catalog for building developers.

In this episode of UpTech Report, Pauls talks about his business model that serves as an automated middleman, refining research on hundreds of thousands of products and connecting buyers with sellers, which he hopes will make green construction as easy as buying groceries.

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Paul is an authority on green building and the application of technology in the real estate, design and construction industries. He specializes in the application and implementation of sustainability into the real estate, design, construction and manufacturing industries.

He works throughout organizations helping to establish visions, train teams, develop methodologies, create tools and enhance marketing and communications strategies. He enjoys working with key industry service providers such as architects, engineers, and construction managers to develop world-class service offerings for high-performance green building projects around the world.  

Paul founded three greentech companies: 

  • Ecomedes (2016): A software platform that simplifies economic, environmental and social ROI analysis of sustainable solutions.
  • ecoScorecard (2007): The first web-based environmental documentation software for manufacturers working in commercial and residential construction.
  • ecologic3 (2005): The first project based software platform that produced cost/benefit analysis for green building projects pursuing the US Green Building Council’s LEED rating system. 

He serves clients in the real estate, design, construction, manufacturing and software industries, who look to him to help them understand how trends in sustainability and technology affect their customers and their businesses. He has consulted on over $20B of real estate, design and construction projects around the world.

DISCLAIMER: Below is an AI generated transcript. There could be a few typos but it should be at least 90% accurate. Watch video or listen to the podcast for the full experience!

Paul Shahriari 0:00
because you don’t wake up every day going, I want to buy a green house, I want to buy a green building. But you do say, I want to protect my occupants, I want to save energy, I want to save water, I want save carbon. So we try to make that easier for you.

Alexander Ferguson 0:17
The vast majority of people constructing new buildings, whether it be a home or a skyscraper, want it to be green. It’s not just good for the planet. It’s good for the pocketbook. But Paul Shahriari discovered this aspiration was heavily impeded by fractured marketplace for eco friendly systems. So he started Ecomedes, a sustainable product catalog for building developers. In this episode of UpTech Report, Paul talks about his business model that serves as an automated middleman refining research on hundreds of 1000s of products and connecting buyers with sellers, which he hopes will make green construction as easy as buying groceries. Paul, I’m excited to be with you hear your insight in this journey that you’ve been on with your company you can means and to start us off, I’m going to ask you, if you had to describe your company in five seconds, just five seconds. Yeah. What would you say?

Paul Shahriari 1:13
We’re like the whole foods for green building products.

Alexander Ferguson 1:17
Oh, I like that whole foods of green building products. This started early on as if initial concept about 64567 years ago, how did that journey start? And then to get to where you are today?

Paul Shahriari 1:32
Sure. The whole journey started as a consultant, I was always out looking for information and data to present to my owners and my project teams to justify the sustainability. And that problem just became a data scavenger hunt. So early on, it was just finding the data, building it building it for myself building in a spreadsheet building in this home office I sit in now. And the whole idea evolved that if it wasn’t helping me or my project teams, it really need to get out there. And it kind of lends itself to technology. How can I share what I’ve learned? How can I share this with more people than just myself because everyone’s probably repetitively doing this step over and over again, I thought what a great idea. And that’s the idea of EcoVadis Archimedes leverage the data to make a better decision.

Alexander Ferguson 2:10
So with eco media starting off with consulting you saw this data problem and being able to aggregate it at what year did then it trying to transition to more of a technology company as an offering of the data

Paul Shahriari 2:22
share the big year for us was 2018 that’s kind of when we really got enough of the data got together the both the buyer side of the marketplace and supplier side of the marketplace, rating systems and eco labels started evolving. So there’s a lot of data players that kind of play this game of ping pong, it’s not like I just need to find one thing on the web and I want to just use customer service you know, reviews, it’s more in depth it’s what does it use for energy what is it used for water does it have environmental transparency documentation, so it’s a multi noted problem in our industry delivers buildings in a very different way than we normally buy other products where they’re single manufacturer, single supply chain and a single use a building as a you know, like a salad bar item, you know, it’s 2000 products could be making up a single building. So understanding all those pieces and like what you get from a toilet manufacturer is different what you want from a lighting manufacturer is different what you want from a foreign manufacturer, but ultimately, you want a sustainable building. And that’s kind of the the crux of the problem. It starts with consulting but eventually if we could kind of do that all once and then share that data with everyone that’s the promise I think of scalable technology.

Alexander Ferguson 3:25
I like the the concept of the salad bar there’s so many options of this or that when it comes to the green building. So really what you’re doing what you’ve done is aggregate all the data allowing builders to say okay, what exactly would be the best option here for this instance is that I get that correctly the problem

Paul Shahriari 3:42
I mean, think about it like a diet dietary driver, you know, you have owners that say I care about ROI for my buildings, I want to increase asset value so that drives to energy and water saving devices. They care about human health and wellness which is obviously the number one concern right now it’s like how do we make sure we have the right products that go into building the making make them better, but also now it’s like, how good is my HVAC system cleaning the air is it is it you know, taking the new UV zapping it to kill the Coronavirus recirculating system, because every apartment in multistatic, you know, building all use the same return air flow in the same supply, that’s probably not going to fly very well. So there’s gonna be a lot of changes. But I think the idea is is a very long salad bar. And depending on what you start out the salad bar going for, like, I want an all vegan diet, I want a vegetarian diet, I’m a pescetarian. I lead things that are 500 miles away, like there’s a lot of different ways you can imagine. You know, like the whole foods salad bar, like it’s different than other salad bars is probably different than showing the salad bar. So you got to kind of figure out how to do that constantly. But since it’s so long, we want to be able to help people find those things that drive to the mission that they want because you don’t wake up every day going. I want to buy a green house I want to buy a green building but you do say I want to protect my occupants. I want to save energy I want to save water I want to save carbon so we try to make that easier for you with kind of like a click diet or like we’ll just send you your freshly prepared meals. I love those new Hello and all these things like, you’re probably not a good cook, you probably don’t want to go through every aisle in the grocery store. What if we sent you a box? We’re trying to do, at least from a digital perspective, we’re not going to send you the stuff. But here’s all the stuff that is green, choose the best stuff based on your own parameters. Got

Alexander Ferguson 5:14
it. So really then connecting those builders with the data with the end products, the suppliers, as he said, What’s your business model? Then? How does it How does that work for you?

Paul Shahriari 5:24
So our main databases, we gathered it together, we then said, Well, how can we obviously make money with this, this is, you know, that’s good for the world. And our goal is to make sure every decision is made as sustainably as possible because as a consultant, I travel about 1.5 million miles away from home to do that work. So selfishly, I built this so that I could actually do more good, but not have to be there holding everyone’s hand for eight hours and fly for hours on either side of that trip. So the idea is that we model the Platform as a Service software as a service. And people can license the entire technology and white label to their own needs. Because every owner I’ve ever worked for let’s for something different to green. So the federal government’s user, they have green building guidelines, and they only see products that meet their guidelines, we pre curate the Whole Foods experience. So imagine walking in and hopefully there’s a green store. But imagine if you walked in said I am, you know, a vegan, and I only want things that were manufactured locally, and I only want things that are non GMO free that store even as a green shopper, you’d love to know where all that stuff is imagine you walk in and that was just one long shelf. And it was only the things you wanted. That’s what technology affords us without having to be a brick and mortar versions. So that’s kind of where our main focuses is customizing and then licensing, what probably would take a normal team, three to four years at least to build on their own. They can just flip a switch tell us what their configuration options are what they’re, you know, I call like the eHarmony, almost like what are you looking for out of your potential soulmate for a plumbing fixture lighting fixture? We can curate that for you. And then you see only the ones that meet those performance standards, you’re still going to do that. What does it cost? Where can I get it does my vendor sell it to me, but at least the performance metrics, the biggest parts of that, that eHarmony blend in very well,

Alexander Ferguson 7:04
ie harmony for builders to connect to suppliers, you’re good, you’re just spewing out analogies. And whole foods too. So how much of this process is automated versus still than a service where you have the data, then you manually help each

Paul Shahriari 7:20
client constantly are getting better at the configuration. So we don’t do any more consulting per se, what we do is we say here’s all the data on all the things that are defined at the highest level of green. So kind of imagine that being the Amazon, and they define what they care about at the Whole Foods level, which is the whatever parameters that you care about energy, water, human health, Planet health, co2, and then that is now a much smaller database, we go from like, say, 750,000 products right now that we have in our main system, we can figure it down to maybe 150,000 that are compliant with a rating system you care about or the 220,000 configured to the federal guidelines. And then for manufacturers, we also charge and we give them the entire powerful database. But then we help them take their catalogue and only their products on a branded, white labeled version. And now they can say these are all the things from Herman Miller, these are all the things from Toto, these are all the things from interface that meet the guidelines, so they can sell more effectively, buyers can buy more effectively. And in the middle, you have all these other influencers that need the data anyway. So that’s the whole point.

Alexander Ferguson 8:20
So being able to the the buyers, the builders, they can they pay for access to be able to customize and choose their options. And then suppliers are paying to be able to customize and import all their their options.

Paul Shahriari 8:32
But main platform is free, we only charge if somebody needs our main platform configured to their specific buying needs, or the selling needs. We don’t want to have to charge everyone. We think that the people that want a white labeled version for their own buying needs and project management needs or their selling needs. They obviously are getting a lot of network effects. I think we had about 50,000 users just last quarter. And you know, about 500,000 actions were automated that would have been had had done by hand or by eye clicking or a scavenger hunt on Google’s all that automation came to about $800,000 worth of save. Yeah, about $800,000 for some of our clients in just one quarter of optimized efficiency. And that’s, that’s really amazing to us as we want to make it easier to be greener, but also save you money doing it. And if you do the right thing, you buy the right products and you put them in your building. What’s nice is there’s a long tail that we haven’t even begun to really capture the true value of yet we know it and totally but we’re now working to kind of define what that is because that’s 1020 years of less energy, less water, less maintenance, healthier buildings, and that’s going to be in the billions of dollars of impact.

Alexander Ferguson 9:39
Going as you already shared some of the data 750,000 different products that I got that correct that are they’re accessible. And already last month, how many active users you said

Paul Shahriari 9:49
50,000 users just the last quarter on 18,000 or so a month. But what’s nice is it’s growing and those users are either buying things and find things to buy or they’re more actively selling, I think this entire world is going to go to a digital workflow. And it’ll stay, it’s not going to slow down, it’s we’re all sitting in buildings. Now we’re in both, you know, in our house a lot more than we probably normally are commercial buildings as they reopen, they’re gonna have to become a little different, like we’re starting to see those lights, these guards up at Costco, and I think there’s gonna be a reshuffling of like what the new normal is. And real estate is going to be where we spend that time 98% of our time is spent indoors. So there’s going to be a huge shift of what are we going to do and how we’re gonna make those buildings healthier than in green building. And resilience has been talking about this for a long time. But maybe now is going to be the time when we really start focusing on what do we do, and that’s going to take products, it’s going to take solutions that take systems and we’re so happy to see the digital workflow already being enabled by our platform, even though there’s a lot less project work, the users actually have stayed very steady, that maybe a 500 user reference point difference between January and March. So there’s not a lot of like, you know, a cratering because people are not having to do all this work, but just digitally via zoom and Google and other things.

Alexander Ferguson 11:04
Definitely a growth in this direction. As with with the current world situation, people want to be able to look online connect and find solutions to problems. And this is a can only amplify that it’s on having to go out and talk to other people and build connections, this direction and for the future of your company. What Where do you see it five years from now?

Paul Shahriari 11:23
Yeah, I think I think this this idea of resilience in general sustainability in general, balancing economics, people and planet, that’s a bit of the cornerstone of what I focused on for 20 years, it’s Abdun flowed when I graduated, there’s a little bit of a dip in the recession, so that in the 2000s, it was a little slow, then we had the the debacle of the real estate world and then 2008. So I think you know, I’ve gotten used to it, and Gen X has just gotten kind of used to those kind of like ebbs and flows. And what’s interesting is that, you know, real estate’s the largest asset class in the world, we’re spending time in it, you know, we’re most of us don’t live outside. So we are constantly in buildings. And I think if we’re spending that much time in them, I think we’re going to rethink how resilient they are, whether it’s the elevations or off for climate change, or how good the air systems are other parts of the world have had to deal with bad, you know, bad outside air. So they’ve created unbelievable methodologies to clean outside air in America, you know, usually want fresh air in buildings, but how you bring that in is, is also kind of important from an energy standpoint. So I think sustainability provides us an amazing framework to help people figure out what things go into buildings, are they sustainable from both the economic perspective, but human health and planet health? You know, normally, the economics was at the top, and then, you know, Planet health was the next one. And then the social aspects of sustainability, were kind of like that third leg of the stool that didn’t get a lot of attention. I think that might become the North Star for the next, you know, 18 to 24 months and say, Are these places really healthy? Can we? Can we work in them? Can we live in them? And you know, ers are very healthy to have air scrubbers on but I think we’re gonna start seeing some more of that technology. I think healthcare is gonna go through an amazing, you know, probably like a Marshall Plan rebuilding not that they’re destroyed, but I think they’re gonna have to rethink how do you deal with another version of this COVID-19? If there’s a COVID, 2021, or whatever that is, it, there’s going to be something that we’re going to have to face. And I think resilience is part of sustainability. And that’s going to become, I think, a major focus of people just how resilient are we as companies? How can we pivot? You know, for startups, it’s easy. That’s, that’s our daily existence, all we do is evolve and pivot and ask customers. So I think startups are, in some ways, a little bit better shape. But, you know, sometimes startups don’t have the financial capacity to weather a storm. So we’re going to be very nimble, as much as we can. And I think ride this, this little bit of a tumultuous set of waves.

Alexander Ferguson 13:39
I appreciate the vision of resiliency, being part of that sustainability in the future, that that your painting is coming together. What what’s a good first step for somebody to take? And where can they go to learn more?

Paul Shahriari 13:52
Yeah, just it’s a free website, we have bracketed all of our products and kind of buckets that are natural, we were trying to work within the confines of the green data, which is very wonky and very kind of data driven stuff made not a lot for like consumers. And I think you know, I always think consumer first not that we’re a consumer focused product, but like we have all the appliances you get by so you’re out, you know, stocking up your you know, your fridge and you’re like, Well, you know, maybe it’s time to go out and shop and get a deep freezer or another refrigerator for your garage. You know, I don’t encourage people to have a larger energy footprint. But if you are going to do it, you know, you can go to our site, click appliances, find the brand that you like, search by capacity and go, I want to start these biannual energies and you’ll find the best ones.

Alexander Ferguson 14:33
Be sure to check out part two of our conversation with Paul, in which he tells us about the challenges he’s faced determining what data will be most useful to buyers and how he benefits from observing technology deployment from other industries.



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