Evici: decarbonizing residential buildings
Service design, Thesis, Climate change, Energy, Business idea,
Evici: sustainable living done.
Evici is a service platform that empowers homeowners to own more carbon efficient homes. Evici pushes decarbonization at scale by streamlining energy efficiency renovation processes, integrating with service providers, and align with local climate action plans.
Hanif Wicaksono, advised by Jock Herron (Harvard GSD)
Thesis project for Master in Design Engineering at Harvard
Student-organized climate strikes are happening today. Source: Grist
Topic: carbon emission in built environment
Buildings & constructions accounts for huge chunk of our total emissions. To meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, which aims to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the built environment’s energy intensity—a measure of how much energy buildings use—will have to improve by 30 percent by 2030, according to UN Environment.
We are still moving too slow to reach our carbon goals. From my research, there are three key trends that are happening at systems level:
Top-down policy measures are changing
Fortunately, we are entering an era of progressive movements and the world starts to allocate power & resources into it. Many major cities in the world are starting to commit to be more sustainable. Megacities like NYC starts to require any new buildings or major renovations to install green roof or solar panels.
“Green” technologies are getting cheaper
Technology has improved significantly, making it cheaper and more accessible (electric cars, solar panels, etc…). There is a trend in electrification, pushing big changes like renewables, and most importantly, most of these are all out there in the market.
Climate matters. Especially now.
Climate strikes are happening along with many disruptions in the world. It’s an exciting space to work on where many things could happen in many levels (policy, business, technology,...) However, obviously it’s not easy to implement the changes at macro scale.
Navigating the energy ecosystem in Massachusetts
Different organizations and purposes in delivering energy efficiency measures.
As part of thesis, this is a yearlong project and I spent the first semester to research systematic issues and trends around decarbonization. I decided to investigate things locally here and spoke to stakeholders at different levels. I did desk research and interviews, among other things. The second semester was focused on building prototypes, iteration, and testing the solution.
Stakeholders I interacted with: Municipality, government initiatives, businesses, homeowners, apartments, landlords, property managers, renters, energy startups.
Research question: what hinders adoption at scale?
Initiatives, rebates, incentives, services, and tools exist out there but we haven’t seen highly energy efficient house as the general mainstream. There are gaps between knowledge and action. What hinders adoption at scale?
I distill three things that are especially painful for homeowners:
1) Energy is invisible, affordable, and the comfort of staying default
2) Many, many hidden layers of complexity and each of them comes with variety of cost
3) Massive learning curve but the trade-off isn’t worth it since you only do it once
These tangled, exhausting process is a nightmare to go through.
Complexity in homeowners’ journey
As a homeowner, say you want to go from A% to B% and increase your home efficiency. It seems clear: search, get someone to do it, execute project, have a renovation. However, the reality is not that simple.
Lots of costs, often unexpected, involved in the process. Homeowners need to build and maintain relationships with a lot of different businesses, figure out financing, and also find the right people to do it.
Renovation is almost always a nightmare for homeowners, and with the typical process all of these costs are mostly burdened on the homeowner and gets higher as they progress.
Complexity in the process is hindering adoption of carbon efficient homes at scale. It’s always disruptive, hard work, and expensive. Whatever the reason is, all these things comes into play, and you lose people in the process.
Evici: concept and design principles.
Designing a service that makes sense
What can we learn from all of these? all of these complexities contribute to high learning curve and integration is needed to get things done. Given that...
What if we design an integrated service to make efficiency improvements easy for homeowners?
Integrating with turnkey model
Turnkey solution is a type of system that can be easily implemented into current business processes. This model makes sense since all the pieces are already there, but it’s still a pain to navigate.
Evici: sustainable living, done
Complexity is not a technological problem but a human one. Evici is a combination of human and software solution that employs design principles with its own key functions.
Evici system orchestration.
The three main components of Evici.
Evici: streamlining homeowners’ journey
Instead of going through the complexity in renovation, everything takes place in one platform and also making every step clear for homeowners. In addition, Evici will be guiding homeowners throughout the process from start to finish.
There are three main components in Evici platform:
Direct interface with a specialist
Evici’s human intervention is represented by a specialist who nurture and guide homeowners. These specialist are people who are already out there as energy auditors with, at minimum, industry standard & knowledge. There’s an opportunity to take their work one step further with our platform and equip them with new tools & increase business. Key positioning here is we work on behalf of customer, nurturing them throughout the process.
Trusted, quality work by vetted service providers
To get things done, We build a network of vetted and trusted service providers. Why vetting? pre-vetting helps eliminate the risk of upselling homeowner, increasing satisfaction & experience in Evici they are able to focus on what they do best: execution.
Financing options & directly applied benefits
With Evici, we ensure that the homeowner gets the best deal. The key final piece that gets into homeowner’s head when they are making decisions. We partner with initatives and finance institutions to directly apply the benefits, rebates, and incentives the homeowner is eligible for, and providing flexible financing options if needed.
Homepage and dashboard
I find it presenting this solution as a company makes it much easier for people to relate, understand, and test. From the prototype, I tested:
- Value proposition
- User experience
Some feature pages were developed as part of the prototype testing:
The homepage of Evici describes the service pitch and overview to potential users and partners.
The solutions page describes the value proposition in detail.
Online energy assessment
a 10 minute assessment to help homeowners get the general idea on how efficient their house is. Adapted from utility benefit programs’ framework of online home assessment
Registration - login page
I prototyped the experience of login for homeowners
Dashboard and efficiency pathways
The dashboard visualize the house in a glance and also chats, history, and recommendations from Evici specialists.
Browse and shop renovation projects
Homeowners can see and order projects directly within the platform, with clear picture on disruptiveness, cost, timeline.
Browsing and booking projects
Prototyped UI screens
Initial prototype testing feedback
I tested the prototype with homeowners in greater Boston area, a mix suburban and urban, using in-depth interview and usability testing.
What were appreciated
- People find value and don’t mind paying for this type of service
- Process is easy to follow and simple enough to navigate
- Transparency in setting up a potential project
- Having someone to have their back in the process
- Direct access to energy report to make informed decision
What needs to be studied more
- Accountability. Home is personal and directly related thus setting the right branding is extremely important
- Not that attractive to people who already have trusted worker or network, the opposite to people who’s starting from scratch
- Communicating the vetting process to user is important
- The overall specialist consulting user experience
Pricing and business model
From the initial testings, I got the chance to talk about pricing model that makes sense and it seems like general contractor / consulting combo makes sense - the question next is how much and how percentage fee or service markups but it’s definitely something to explore in the future.
A big thank you to all experts, instructors, and professionals that have been helping me to complete this academic project.