Are greener building products worth the investment in design and construction?

Ekotrope, a software developer in Cambridge, Mass., spent 18 months testing a program called HomeSEED for analyzing, managing, and designing energy-efficient buildings.

That software’s difference, says Blake Bisson, Ekotrope’s vice president of sales and marketing, is its flexibility in comparing component and construction options so that architects and builders can determine which fit their energy and cost goals. “The algorithms are the ‘secret sauce’ for designing an efficient home,” he explains. Mark Doughty, president of ThoughtForms, a custom builder in West Acton, Mass., points out that builders who try to introduce sustainability into a house that has already been designed are at a disadvantage with customers. HomeSEED “allows us to plug in options and spit out the answers,” he says.

Since the development team began testing the program, originally designed by MIT aeronautics and astronautics professor Edward F. Crawley, HomeSEED has been folded into Ekotrope’s software product suite. The software lets users analyze energy-efficient and cost-effective configurations of different building envelopes and heating and cooling systems.

By analyzing whole systems and comparing different configurations, architects, developers, builders, and consumers are able to find the sweet spot that saves energy, lowers operating costs, and provides a return on investment.

Useful for new construction or remodeling, Ekotrope “allows you to make simple assumptions at early stages of the process,” says Brian Anderson, a partner with architecture firm AndersonPorterDesign, in Cambridge, Mass. 

—John Caulfield, senior editor, BUILDER.

Editor’s note: A version of this article appeared in the May 2012 issue of BUILDER, a sister publication of REMODELING. Some details were updated to reflect changes in the software’s name and positioning as part of a product suite.