17 September 2020

Vizcab: taking carbon out of buildings, a great opportunity for the sector!

Guillaume Lafont and Thomas Jusselme are big fans of sustainable construction. They travelled the world to meet construction experts. And the fruit of this initiation voyage was the start-up Vizcab, which has come up with a tool for modelling a project’s carbon footprint right from the earliest stages. We talk to Vizcab joint director Guillaume Lafont.

Why Vizcab?

We are entrepreneurs at heart. After our world trip, which among other things raised our awareness of the need to build frugal and comfortable, we decided 15 years ago to create our first engineering company, dedicated to managing a building’s comfort and its environmental impact.
This path, coupled with an active commitment to teaching & research, led to our creating a start-up in 2015 that addressed the issue of decarbonizing buildings. In energy matters, order givers can delegate, but there can be no such delegation in carbon matters because everything is carbon. With Vizcab, therefore, our approach is to harness the potential of data sciences, together with that of digital solutions, toward a single objective: favouring the construction of low-carbon buildings helped by tools that are accessible to all stakeholders—main contractors of course, but also project owners, initial specifiers who also manage the economic balance of a property development project.

Guillaume Lafont

What offerings do you have on the market?

Our solutions are decisional aid and design tools for lifecycle analysis (LCA). Building and property stakeholders can consolidate the energy-carbon performance of their projects at a very early stage of their project and put together technically robust and financially secure strategies.
Vizcab currently has three solutions: Vizcab EXPLO, a decisional aid tool used in the initial project phases (feasibility, sketches),  Vizcab EVAL, free “Regulatory” carbon calculation software for use by engineering offices, and last but not least  Vizcab DASHBOARD, a complete tool for qualification, capitalization, benchmarking, reporting of E+C– data (greater energy efficiency, less carbon) for operators engaged on a carbon neutrality path. After a training period, our clients gradually become independent in the use of the software and LCA design methods. In our field of business, training and assistance for in-field teams are huge issues. Indeed, this support is a big reason we stand out from our competitors. 

How does Vizcab EXPLO work?

First you have to configure the project’s volumetrics based on a 3D sketch. The tool then asks you a brief set of questions: housing or offices? what region is the project in? what is the building’s aspect? what climate? etc. Once all this information is entered, the Vizcab application takes over and generates a whole host of scenarios. Each scenario is a combination of architectural, technical, and constructional parameters. In theory, Vizcab can create up to 2 billion of combinations, but it runs a statistical sort to narrow this down to 20,000 scenarios, and for each of them it estimates their carbon, energy, and biosource performance levels along with an economic sensitivity indicator. Once this database of simulations, generated specifically for each project, is built, the app provides interactive data visualization modules. These enable the user to explore the range of possibilities and quickly identify what level of multicriteria performance is achievable and which priority design levers must be pulled.  It informs the user at the earliest possible stage how certain choices can restrict—or introduce more flexibility into—the project’s ability to meet its environmental objectives.

As the energy transition gathers pace, what are the prospects for Vizcab? 

There’s a groundswell in the general awareness of anthropic pressure and the impact of human activities on the environment. That’s the playing field we’re on with Vizcab, in the right place at the right time, much like every other solution dedicated to the energy transition. But beyond those behavioural changes taking shape, it’s low carbon legislation that’s the real big lever. We’ve been expecting it for 10 years and that’s 10 years that the sector hasn’t felt ready yet. Now’s the time to stop dithering. The 2020 environmental regulations issue of France’s E+ C– label comes into effect on 30th June, 2021. It’s a paradigm shift that will make carbon calculations compulsory and ubiquitous. France will be the first country in the world to adopt this approach. It’s a fantastic opportunity for the sector. We will be one step ahead of countries like Germany and Britain and will be able to perfect solutions that can be exported at the same time as we throttle up in our home market. We shall go from rhetoric to reality, a genuine opportunity for business to mobilize talents in the building sector, so often spurned by young graduates who believe it unattractive. In this context, our view at Vizcab is that digital solutions are full of potential for speeding up the environmental transition in the construction sector. And with an imperative: to be at the service of people by automating everything that needs to be, thereby kick starting the stakeholders’ thinking and decision-making process directed at more frugal, carbon-free buildings.

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