News Brief

New Tech Startup, Arc Skoru, to Support USGBC, GBCI with Data

Performance data supporting “quality of life” is the focus of USGBC and GBCI’s new for-profit subsidiary, which will work with the LEED Dynamic Plaque.

December 5, 2016

Scot Horst is moving from chief product officer at USGBC, where he has led LEED development and created the LEED Dynamic Plaque, to CEO of Arc Skoru, which will continue to develop the plaque and related data-driven tools. 

Photo courtesy USGBC
Editor's note 1/5/17: This article has been updated to reflect a change in Arc's name that was announced subsequent to GBCI's initial announcement.

Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI), the sister nonprofit to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), recently announced the launch of wholly-owned subsidiary. The new for-profit company, Arc Skoru Inc., is a tech startup with the job of providing data-heavy tools supporting the missions of GBCI and USGBC.

Arc will be led by Scot Horst, who is moving to become Arc’s CEO from his role as chief product officer at USGBC. At USGBC, Horst has been instrumental in bringing LEED v4 to market, as well as in developing and launching the LEED Dynamic Plaque.

The LEED Dynamic Plaque factors heavily into Arc. According to a USGBC press release, “Arc is a state of the art platform that will allow any building to participate and immediately start measuring performance, make improvements and benchmark against itself. Buildings that have not certified yet will be able to use arc to make incremental sustainability improvements and eventually achieve LEED certification.”

These statements essentially describe the function of the LEED Dynamic Plaque and its underlying data platform, LEEDon. According to Horst, Arc is taking control of the development of those platforms, as well as (gradually) LEED Online, the platform that LEED projects use to compile and submit documentation.

In the future, expect these LEED platforms to shed their distinct identities: USGBC is promoting a pilot announced earlier in 2016 (see Dynamic Plaque Piloted as LEED Performance Path) where buildings can enter performance data into LEEDon as a way of satisfying key prerequisites and credits that would normally be documented through LEED Online templates.

Connecting rating systems

In addition, expect Arc to provide a platform that makes different rating systems more accessible to projects.

In an interview with BuildingGreen, Horst clarified the respective roles of USGBC, GBCI, and Arc. Horst refers to each organization’s “core competencies”:

  • USGBC maintains and owns standards.
  • GBCI administers certifications and credentials. (Although GBCI currently owns a number of standards that it acquired, Mahesh Ramanujam, president and CEO of USGBC and GBCI, recently told BuildingGreen that those would, over time, shift to USGBC.)
  • Arc develops and invests in technology supporting both organizations. “The mission of Arc is to connect all actions in a single platform that support a higher quality of life,” Horst told BuildingGreen.

Mahesh Ramanujam, CEO of USGBC and GBCI, which owns Arc, will play a leadership role in the fledgling company. 

Photo courtesy USGBC
A current project at Arc is to allow projects to generate scorecards for rating systems they’re not even registered for. Using compatibilities and formally recognized “crosswalks” between rating systems, a LEED project in arc could see an automatically generated scorecard for the WELL Building Standard. That might encourage projects to look at additional programs, and ultimately to improve the health and wellness of projects from different angles. Horst noted that Arc could also build performance scoring systems for rating systems other than LEED—in other words, a WELL Dynamic Plaque, or the equivalent, could arrive in the future.

Corporate structure

Horst acknowledged that it is unusual for a for-profit company to be spun off from a nonprofit. He pointed to National Geographic Partners as a recent example, which is a for-profit media company owned jointly by the nonprofit National Geographic Society and 21st Century Fox. The for-profit venture was spun off from the nonprofit just last year, with an investment from Fox of close to a billion dollars.

Horst emphasized that GBCI is the sole owner and investor for now. Spinning Arc off into a separate venture provides a more natural environment for investing in technology than the nonprofit environment, where significant technology investments can face headwinds. Asked about whether outside investment was expected, Horst said, “If we needed a significant amount of rocket fuel to build something bigger, we have the structure to be able to do that. It’s not the goal.”

Use Arc for data reporting

In another announcement with arc implications, USGBC announced new pricing for LEED registration and certification effective December 1, 2016. Key changes include:

  • $300 increase for project registration
  • New residential pricing
  • New minimum thresholds for fees
  • Optimized pricing for large-scale projects

In addition, currently registered and certified LEED projects will have automatic access to the Arc platform as of Dec. 1, 2016.

As USGBC noted in its announcement, this is the first price increase since 2010 (which came on the heels the last new LEED version deployment).

In making Arc available free to any registered or certified project, USGBC and GBCI are accomplishing a couple of things, according to Horst. LEED 2009 projects required to track and report energy and water data can use arc. “Hopefully we’ll see a big uptake for people just using it for that,” says Horst.  

Additionally, any project can enter data and generate scoring without an immediate commitment to certification. “You’re setting up your own benchmark against yourself,” says Horst. “People improve when they benchmark against themselves.” And in addition, “We want buildings to benchmark themselves against LEED buildings to see how far away they are, and then hopefully pull them in to do more to get certified.” Also,  cities, communities and districts can use Arc to start tracking data and earn LEED pre-certification, according to GBCI.

Not an e.e. cummings poem

In an email, Chris Schaffner, P.E., founder and president of The Green Engineer, Inc., and a current USGBC Advisory Council member, lauded arc. “I think it has the potential to fix three things that we struggle with,” he said:

  1. “LEED has always been about recognizing the market leaders. Arc has the potential to engage the entire market.
  2. "LEED-EBOM has been a success only in a relatively narrow subset of the commercial office buildings market. Arc may reach a broader market.
  3. "With all new BD+C [Building Design and Construction] projects getting access to Arc, it can help bridge the gap between predictions and performance that we have struggled with for so long.”

Schaffner also noted three areas to improve:

  1. “We now have three separate metrics for energy. BD+C uses percentage improvement in energy cost against a code baseline. LEED-EBOM uses site energy compared to the CBECS data through Energy Star. Arc apparently uses some normalized version of CO2 emissions per building occupant.  All three have their issues, but we really need to pick one.
  2. “The USGBC has done a terrible job at explaining the long-term vision for Arc, while still managing to upset many of the consultants doing EBOM work. USGBC should let us see the entire vision—many of us, once we understand the whole thing, will become strong supporters.
  3. “The no capital letter thing is frustrating. What is it with designers and fonts? It’s a green building tool not an e.e. cummings poem.”

GBCI has already addressed the e.e. cummings point. Between its initial October announcement of Arc and an official December launch, the company got a capital letter—and a second word, making it Arc Skoru Inc. Asked what “Skoru” signifies, Horst told BuildingGreen, “There are a series of words, skor, scora and skoru that are related. Skoru is a version of the ancient Norse of the term ‘score,’ which was a delineation of twenty.  Thus the word ‘score’ for twenty. Still, the idea was not to have the name mean too much as per most tech company names.”

What do you think of Arc and USGBC and GBCI’s strategic directions? Please comment below.

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