While waste management, electrified transportation, and renewable energy projects are helping meet carbon reduction targets, large infrastructure projects like buildings often lag behind their targets. According to Architecture 20230, 27 percent of global CO2 emissions come from existing building operations. On top of that, building and infrastructure materials and construction are responsible for an additional 13 percent each year.
Helping building owners, consultants and construction companies reduce waste and emissions is the mission of AC:Studio client Adaptis. Adaptis was founded in 2022 to provide the industry with cutting-edge and proprietary decision-support tools to reduce emissions, decarbonize buildings, and generate accurate reporting as they progress towards net-zero carbon goals.
With $10 million in Government of Canada funding through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), AC:Studio partners with innovation leaders from across southern Ontario to bring high-impact startups and founders the critical capital they need to launch their businesses.
Sheida Shahi, co-founder, and CEO, is a licensed architect and graduate of the University of Waterloo with a Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering. As an architect, Shahi said she was drawn to projects involving deep retrofits of existing buildings, including the adaptation and extension of Havergal College’s campus in Toronto.
“I was baffled by how complex the process is for a deep retrofit project. There is so much uncertainty in those projects with the addition of metrics that require more attention, such as reducing energy use and designing buildings with lowered embodied carbon impacts,” Shahi said.
One possible answer to addressing the challenges of retrofitting buildings and meeting carbon reduction goals is circular engineering. Circular engineering is the practice of quantifying, assessing, and optimizing circular measures based on the circular economy framework, aiming to eliminate waste and pollution, circulate products and materials between projects and regenerate nature.
In 2018, Shahi returned to the University of Waterloo to pursue her Ph.D. with a focus on circular engineering. At the time, it was a new concept, and Shahi said she was one of the first architects to study in the Civil and Environmental Engineering program at the university. It was during her Ph.D. program that Shahi met her co-founder, Aida Mollaei, a civil engineer with a background in sustainability management.
“Her Ph.D. was focused on waste management optimization—so that's where we joined forces. We've worked on multiple projects together, including a Construction Industry Institute research project with the University of Texas at Austin. It was through that project that we worked with a range of different partners on how to implement circularity in the construction industry,” she said.
Shahi and Mollaei quickly realized construction companies and building operators were already doing things in their processes that were part of circular engineering but were missing out on critical processes needed to meet carbon reduction goals.
Adaptis was founded to help meet the industry's goals by commercializing its research in circular engineering. The B2B SaaS platform is used for decarbonization planning for existing buildings and high-performing new construction projects to improve circularity, adaptation planning and to extend building lifetimes.
In January 2023, Adaptis closed a $2-million pre-seed round led by New York City-based 2048 Ventures. Shahi said they will use the funding to expand the team as demand grows for its platform.
“Our innovation is on circularity management that extends the life and adaptability of buildings and their materials. What do you do with those materials if you're demolishing a building entirely or as part of a deep retrofit? What does the deconstruction planning look like? We're on a mission to reduce the waste that goes to landfills, ensure that materials are reusable, and extend the life of the buildings,” Shahi said.
Construction companies have adopted new processes and materials to meet zero energy requirements. Shahi said many projects are already looking at net zero carbon standards, and there is an opportunity to reduce costs and carbon.
“If you build a project that is reusable at its end-of-life, you can get the circularity impact credits today. Even if you use sustainable materials, you can’t get to net carbon zero if you don’t take into account the maintenance of your building and its end-of-life scenario,” Shahi said.
With its focus on circular engineering and net zero and carbon standards, Shahi and the Adaptis team are right at home when they visit the Accelerator Centre in the David Johnston R+T Park. The park is home to evolv1, Canada's first certified net zero energy building. But it wasn’t the building that attracted Adaptis to the AC—it was a post on LinkedIn.
“I saw the opening for applications for AC:Studio on LinkedIn and we applied. We did connect with the team to make sure we were a good fit and they encouraged us to apply—and that was that,” Shahi said.
Shahi’s time in the program coincided with their fundraising, but she said the support from AC:Studio mentors was critical to helping them pivot from MVP to bringing the solution to market.
“I started connecting with folks and saw how helpful they were. The sales and marketing mentors have been extremely helpful getting us set up for success after the raise closed. Now that we have resources, we have a lot of questions. How much should we spend on marketing? How should I organize our customer success journey?” she said.
As Adaptis continues its journey, Shahi said she plans on continuing to take advantage of time with AC:Studio mentors.
“All of the conversations are ongoing. The mentors really help us understand how to move forward. I’m looking forward to getting more feedback as we progress.”
AC:Studio is funded by the Government of Canada through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) and is delivered in partnership with WEtech Alliance, Innovate Niagara, Conestoga College, SnapPea, Uvaro, Bereskin & Parr, RSM Canada, and Gowling WLG.