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A Facebook Site for the Building Industry?

Honest Buildings is a new social media platform that connects people to the buildings they live, work, and spend time in.

By Paula Melton
March 20, 2012
The Honest Buildings website profiles more than 50,000 buildings (and counting). The founders hope that transparency and competition will accelerate demand for high-performance buildings.
The Honest Buildings website profiles more than 50,000 buildings (and counting). The founders hope that transparency and competition will accelerate demand for high-performance buildings.

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Imagine an online social network that’s all about buildings. Architects, contractors, and engineers can connect with future clients and subcontractors, give and receive referrals, and even get RFPs and submit bids right in the same platform. Property managers and building owners can show off their retrofit projects and rental spaces.

At the same time, prospective tenants can click a button to compare the energy performance of a whole group of properties in the same neighborhood. Occupants can praise—or kvetch about—the buildings where they work.

This is the promise of Honest Buildings, a new social media platform that could be a powerful marketing tool for the design and construction community while also giving tenants and building occupants unprecedented knowledge and influence. Are we ready for this kind of transparency?

Yes, says Josh Boltuch, chief marketing officer at Honest Buildings. More to the point, he argues, we need it. “There will be more competition to be better than your next-door neighbor,” explains Boltuch. ”By creating this transparency, we’re catalyzing competition and accelerating demand for high-performance buildings.” Honest Buildings already had more than 50,000 building profiles in more than 5,000 cities at the end of its pilot phase; now it has opened the beta platform to everyone.

Any individual or organization can join the network, and anyone can submit and review buildings. Once the profile is in the system, it begins building up its “Honesty Rating”—up to seven stars—based on user reviews, location (there’s a built-in Walk Score engine), activities, projects, and energy performance. Building owners and managers can find contractors and designers to help them with their next project. Service providers can showcase completed projects and network with potential clients for free or can sign up for a premium membership that includes advertising and targeted lead-generation opportunities. Boltuch’s vision is to “take that word-of-mouth process that’s so important for every service provider and really make it efficient and 21st-century.”

Although some service providers or building owners might hesitate to lay their buildings open to public criticism, Boltuch asserts that the goal is to be positive and constructive, and that owners have a lot to gain by participating. The overwhelming trend is for more open data and transparency not only in the real estate world but also across industries, he says. Emphasizing that tens of thousands of buildings are already profiled on the website and many more will be coming, Boltuch encourages owners to claim their buildings so they can “get ahead of the curve and market what’s great about their buildings.”

Honest Buildings, which was founded by Riggs Kubiak (former global head of sustainability for real estate developer Tishman Speyer) has developed partnerships with the Energy Star program, the Environmental Defense Fund, Building Operator’s Certification, and the CUNY High Performance Building Lab. The startup has received funding from a number of investors, including Spring Ventures.

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