Nearly everything that we do is inside of a building. Whether it’s going to work, living at home, shopping or eating at a restaurant, the expectation is that the buildings we live and work in are safe and built with high standards.
However, one blind spot for many buildings is energy efficiency. According to one University of British Columbia report, in Canada, operating a building draws 50% of the energy produced, and buildings emit 35% of total CO2 emissions in the country. This is during a time when climate change is increasingly considered an emergency.
However, one Toronto-based startup is trying to tackle this energy efficiency challenge, one building at a time. Parity’s software allows buildings to measure the performance of their HVAC equipment and uses real-time data and automation to control the mechanical HVAC equipment.
“You need to be able to measure it, and then you can manage it,” said Brad Pilgrim, CEO and co-founder of Parity. “What we do is bring the technology into a building to measure energy usage and have good, solid data. The second step is that we actually use that data to develop different types of machine learning algorithms, to be able to control different components of the building better, and measure the outcome. With such valuable information, we can measure the reduction in gas and electricity consumption.”
Currently, researching and understanding carbon data is a slow process, meaning that it’s difficult for buildings to enact real change. National Greenhouse gas emissions are published every April by Environment Canada, “though they have a 12 to 16 month lag time”, said Pilgrim. This means that anyone interested in a building’s impact on the environment is always looking back at data at least a year old. “In recent years, Ontario has really begun to understand the impact of having data transparency and the extreme benefit reporting on a building’s carbon emissions can do for our province, our economy, our utilities and our environment,” Pilgrim said.
Ontario is the only province in Canada that has a mandatory Energy & Water Reporting and Benchmarking (EWRB) program, which requires private buildings over 50,000 square feet to report annual energy and water consumption and performance data. Pilgrim said programs like this are key to pushing buildings to take energy efficiency more seriously. For example, buildings in New York that fail to meet energy targets as per its Climate Mobilization Act have to pay fines.
Pilgrim explained that the energy consumption of cities is an important part of why Parity was started in the first place. “It’s directly correlated to population growth,” he said. “We asked, how many people are being employed in certain urban centres? And when we started the company, that’s something we put a lot of thought into. Where is most energy being consumed? And how can we reduce that to have the largest impact for the greatest number of people?”
The company has already started to see important traction. In May 2019, Parity raised $5 million in venture capital funding to continue building the business, and a few months later, it added new senior leaders to its team, including Mike Mulqueen, former business development lead at Toronto Hydro, as its new vice-president of business development.
Pilgrim said that the growing property technology industry is pushing property managers to be more efficient in many ways, carving a new space for companies like Parity. “A lot of property managers are focusing on tenant engagement, but are also focusing on improving the living environment to make it more comfortable, a healthier place to live, and obviously, more carbon-neutral,” Pilgrim said. “The industry as a whole, it’s fairly young, and it is experiencing that explosive growth right now.”
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Jessica Galang is a tech journalist who has been tracking the Canadian tech ecosystem for the last several years. In the past, she was news editor at BetaKit and a reporter at The Logic, interviewing hundreds of entrepreneurs in emerging industries.