Adaptis secures $2 million CAD to help building owners move to net zero with AI

Adaptis CEO and co-founder, Sheida Shahi.
“Using deep tech to do deep decarbonization is really where we think the gap is.”

Toronto-based cleantech startup Adaptis has closed a $2 million CAD ($1.5 million USD) pre-seed round to expand, automate, and optimize its building adaptation platform.

2048 Ventures led the round, which closed at the beginning of January, with participation from Blue Vision Capital and Powerhouse Ventures. Adaptis CEO and co-founder Sheida Shahi told BetaKit that future rounds would go toward scaling its technology.

Adaptis uses AI to enable building owners, architects, and engineers to make informed decisions for decarbonizing buildings and lowering the costs of planning.

Adaptis claims its platform automates and optimizes the planning process for building owners and consultants who are working to make their property more energy efficient and trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from their buildings. The platform also claims to help buildings become more climate change resilient.

The startup uses artificial intelligence (AI)-powered technologies to enable building owners, architects, and engineers to make informed decisions for decarbonizing buildings and lowering the costs of planning.

Buildings account for nearly 40 percent of energy-related global carbon emissions, according to the Rocky Mountain Institute. As well, inefficient use of existing buildings and a lack of planning for future reuse lead to the majority of demolition projects, with the latter making up 25 percent of solid waste in landfills in North America.

The Government of Canada has committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 in order to fight climate change. Achieving net zero means the economy either emits no greenhouse gases or it offsets its emissions.

In order to meet greenhouse gas reduction targets, a majority of the existing building stock requires some form of adaptation or renovation. New construction projects will need to be circular: adaptable, reusable, and resilient.

The circular economy, which Adaptis employs, is different from the so-called linear economy, where resources are extracted, used and then disposed of. According to the Government of Canada, the circular economy retains and recovers as much value as possible from resources by reusing, refurbishing, and recycling products and materials.

Recently, the circular economy has attracted investment, most notably through the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), which has used its Climate Tech Fund to invest in the sector.

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As well, just ahead of Earth Day in 2022, Cycle Capital and Demeter announced the first close for a new €150 million ($244.5 million CAD) Circular Innovation Fund (CIF).

CIF invests in circular, sustainable, and profitable growth-stage solutions from North America, Europe, and Asia. The fund is particularly interested in solutions that contribute to climate change mitigation and circular use of resources across various sectors, including new materials, packaging, recycling and waste, logistics, eco-efficient processes, and design.

Another fund investing in the circular economy is Vancouver’s Active Impact Investments. It closed its second fund in 2021, securing an additional $13 million CAD to support early-stage climate tech startups across North America.

Despite significant recent investments in the circular economy, Adaptis maintains that building adaptation and material reuse planning remains complex, involves many stakeholders, and is time-consuming and expensive. Adaptis aims to simplify the process with its platform.

Adaptis wants to ensure the continued use of buildings while limiting demolition and reducing carbon by at least 60 percent through better planning.

Adaptis’s platform provides real-time analysis of options from early-stage building design to project maintenance and long-term planning. The startup claims this will help ensure the continued use of buildings while limiting demolition, reducing carbon in buildings by at least 60 percent through better planning.

Shahi, along with her CTO and co-founder Aida Mollaei, have previously investigated strategies for reducing carbon emissions in the construction sector at the University of Waterloo. Since 2020, Shahi and Mollaei have worked on a Construction Industry Institute-funded study to identify opportunities and business models for working on the circular economy in the construction sector.

Before launching Adaptis, both Shahi and Mollaei carried out research at the University of Waterloo’s School of Architecture and Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Shahi has worked as an architect for over nine years, working with firms such as Diamond Schmitt Architects and Entuitive.

Mollaei is an expert in waste management, and circular management. She’s collaborated with multiple stakeholders including Flour, Wood, PCL, and the Smithsonian Institute as part of her work.

While Adaptis was founded in April 2022, Shahi noted that its work and partnerships have been based on multiple years of research and contributions and industry work. “So it’s been a long time coming,” she said.

With offices in Toronto and Waterloo, Adaptis consists of architects, engineers, researchers, and circularity experts. The firm said that it helps stakeholders in the construction industry better understand their existing assets and be informed about the possibilities for reducing cost, carbon emissions, and improving circularity most efficiently.

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Currently, Adaptis employs 10 people, six full-time, and four part-time. The startup expects to have eight full-time by mid-April, and 15 full-time by the beginning of the summer.

The Vancouver-based cleantech accelerator Foresight Canada identified in December what it deemed were Canada’s 50 “most investable” cleantech companies, with Adaptis landing on the list.

Powerhouse Ventures explained that the robustness of Adaptis’s solution attracted its investment in the startup. “Today, projects must not only be optimized for building cost and time-to-completion, but also for operational carbon emissions, embedded carbon emissions, salvage value, spatial daylight autonomy, and total lifetime costs,” the venture capital firm noted.

The investment firm maintains that currently, there are no robust tools to help building owners, design consultants, engineers, and architects jointly evaluate trade-offs across these indices, nor are there integrated, dedicated tools to help building owners monitor the ongoing outcomes of their decisions.

“For a given project, Adaptis generates hundreds or even thousands of potential design options, all with key environmental and economic attributes associated with each design,” Powerhouse Ventures said. “Users can filter down to the designs that meet their minimum constraints and easily compare tradeoffs between those that remain.”

Sealing the deal for Powerhouse is that behind the user interface, Adaptis’ platform is powered by two proprietary methodologies and databases, custom-built machine learning algorithms, and models developed during the founders’ Ph.D. research.

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At this point, Adaptis is working with several large architectural firms, but the small AI cleantech startup has big ideas about the future. “Using deep tech to do deep decarbonization is really where we think the gap is, and that’s what we’re filling,” Shahi said.

For example, some municipalities only require that buildings reduce their greenhouse gases by 10 to 15 percent, which may be done by ramping up HVAC systems, redoing the windows or other minor readjustments, according to Shahi. But she noted that when you’re dealing with the federal government or the City of Toronto that 80 percent decarbonization of its building stock by 2050, “you need to get creative on how financially you’re going to make that happen or feasible.”

That’s where Shahi sees the future. She described Adaptis’s dream customer as a large portfolio company, or municipalities or federal governments, for example. “We want to get involved in assessing a large number of buildings to impact supply chains and materials we use at a scale,” she said. “And it involves in the future getting every existing building on Adaptis’s platform and being able to manage their circularity over time. That’s kind of where we want to be.”

Charles Mandel

Charles Mandel

Charles Mandel's reporting and writing on technology has appeared in, Canadian Business, Report on Business Magazine, Canada's National Observer, The Globe and Mail, and the National Post, among many others. He lives off-grid in Nova Scotia.

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