Solution Overview & Team Lead Details

Our Organization

GS Research LLC

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What is the name of your solution?

WonderWindow

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Provide a one-line summary of your solution.

R7 & R9 Windows that Insulate Like Walls & Improve Whole Wall Thermal Resistance 230% , Providing Living Wage Jobs to Disadvantaged Youth

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Film your elevator pitch.

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What specific problem are you solving?

Windows are the weakest link in the building envelope, responsible for $25 Billion in annual US energy expenditures.  They are radiators of cold in the winter and bring blazing solar heat in summer, causing thermostats to be adjusted to use more energy to maintain thermal comfort than any other element of the building envelope.  At the same time, low density housing in the US, with its high surface area-to-volume, and high transportation expenditures, contribute heavily to the nation's carbon footprint. 

The American Institute of Architects recognizes that there is no way to avoid the worst ravages of climate change without making Near and Net Zero Energy (and Regenerative) homes and buildings the universal norm.  To that aim, firms responsible for over 80% of the built environment have signed onto the 2030 Challenge, requiring architects to be routinely producing Net Zero Energy buildings by 2030.  However, the IPCC's most recent report on climate change indicates that the rate of warming, and the ravages produced, are accelerating & worse than originally thought.  In other words, we don't have until 2030 to start producing Net Zero Energy homes and buildings at scale.  We need to get there NOW.

A few leading national firms are producing NZE buildings, but typically at high budgets of $300-500/sf.  Most of the other firms have signed onto the 2030 Challenge as a worthy aspiration, but with insufficient knowledge & tools to routinely produce NZE homes and buildings affordably.  Those that valiantly attempt to build in energy-efficiency and rooftop solar often see these elements 'value-engineered' out of their projects before construction starts.

California and New York City have mandated Near and Net Zero Energy construction, but the result is adding cost that makes homes less affordable.  Homeownership as the bedrock of 'the American Dream' (and economic security and wealth creation) is increasing out-of-reach for coming generations, increasing divisions in society between 'haves' and 'have-nots'.

An energy-efficient window is not going to solve EVERY problem of social inequity, or every aspect of climate change, but it can become the basis for affordable Net Zero Energy homes and buildings in carbon-sequestering wood frame construction up to 4-1/2 stories, that produces walkable neighborhoods less dependent on high carbon footprint transportation....and assist taller mass timber multifamily buildings in denser urban centers in the move to NZE performance.      

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What is your solution?

WonderWindows are multi-pane acrylic windows that develop R7 to R9 thermal resistance with seasonal solar control.  They provide twice the thermal resistance (and comfort) as state-of-the-art low-e argon-filled double pane.  They develop their thermal resistance by adding up multiple insulating airspaces in an easy to assemble and easy to install package. These patented windows are designed to be made safely by Living Wage makers with modest hand skills, assembled from pre-cut acrylic parts using high bond tapes cut with a scissors, and a brushed-on waterproof siliconized latex low-VOC edge seal. 

Integrating with 24" on-center framing, they safely eliminate headers, jack and cripples studs.  Framing factors, the percentage of the wall occupied by low thermal resistance framing, goes from 24% of wall area documented for typical 16" on-center construction, to only 9% of wall area.  

By looking at the architectural bay of the window and the wall around it as a 'finite element' of the building envelope, and getting that finite element right from a cost and energy standpoint, the approach has been shown to deliver a 230% improvement to whole wall thermal resistance without ADDED COST in many if not most cases.  A written paper is expected to be given on this approach to the ASHRAE/ORNL BUILDINGS Conference in December.

The window + wall combination makes for affordable Near and Net Zero Energy construction, particularly adaptable to the townhomes and multifamily housing that can reduce life's transportation carbon footprint.        

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Who does your solution serve, and in what ways will the solution impact their lives?

The ultimate beneficiaries are the home owners and renters that get to live in quality housing with low carbon footprint, BY DESIGN.  However, the business is B2B2C, understanding that architects and builders are the decision-making customers and must be 'sold' on the approach.  

When a 6' wide bay that is 9' tall requires 8 pieces of lumber to build instead of 22 pieces, as is current practice, there is an opportunity to create an 'aha' moment that will attract early adopters searching for supply chain solutions, housing cost and affordability solutions, and/or Net Zero Energy solutions.  

Those early evangelists help support and grow the business until it becomes an attractive 'bandwagon' for many to jump on.

Most importantly, the solution attracts those who want to make the lives of disadvantaged youth in their communities better by providing them Living Wage jobs assembling these windows.  The Makers Workshop also includes Friday Lunch 'N' Learn sessions on a variety of STEAM and entrepreneurial topics that aspire to improve life trajectories for these young makers.

The 10 year bottoms up financial projections show a triple bottom line set of benefits:

PEOPLE: 10,000 makers from disadvantaged backgrounds with improved life outcomes every year

PLANET: Over a million Net Zero Energy homes and buildings produced with several hundred thousand NZE homes added annually

PROFIT: $1.6 Billion revenue yielding over a half billion in Net Operating Income   

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How are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?

The CEO has designed, financed, built and sold $75 million of 1-4 story wood-frame housing and mixed use buildings, including affordable housing, building a 32 person team that kept 200 subcontractors in work.  The firm won the NAHB Green Multi-family Building of the Year Award in 2008 for an 84,000sf  Near Zero Energy building before the Great Recession forced the firm to close.

The firm developed a Green Template for such buildings, based on 14 foot spans between bearing walls was partly inspired by the Framework + Infill work of NJ Habraken, former Head of Architecture at MIT.   The current work based on 24" on-center framing efficiencies and high performance windows that fit that framing builds upon this foundation, understanding that buildings get built ONLY because someone is willing to pay for them.  

In other words, first cost matters.  The approach presented is believed to be able to compete on the basis of first cost if given a chance.

The CEO has been an AIA Approved Provider of Continuing Education, and has taught Net Zero Energy Building Design to the Boston Society of Architects and Saudi Aramco engineers and architects.  He has been an active member of AIA and NAHB Chapters, and knows how risk adverse the construction industry is, and how change is typically slow.  However, he has the drive, energy, and knowledge to overcome that inertia, understanding it's a marathon more than a sprint. 

The strategic partnership forged with the Boys and Girls Club of the Gulf Coast is particularly unique and important.  Executive Director Keva Scott has worked in the national office of the Club, which provides experience that will be particularly important in scaling this effort to other locations.  The local Club has a Maker's Space, with a single 3D printer and a bunch of computers, but not so much Maker activity.  The Clubs also have underutilized real estate, not so active until schools is out.  Finally, the Clubs have a small intern program for older teens and young adults, but not much funding to scale it.  

The strategic partnership benefits both partners.  The Club meets its Work Force Development and STEM education Work Force Readiness goals, scales the intern program, and serves its disadvantaged community with Living Wage income opportunities that change life outcomes.  The Company benefits by outsourcing the Human Resources and payroll accounting functions to the Club, which has long-term experience, and benefits from low-overhead facilities that allow growth and scaling.

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Which dimension of the Challenge does your solution most closely address?

Enable mass production of inexpensive and low-carbon housing, including changes to design, materials, and construction methods.

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Where our solution team is headquartered or located:

Bay St. Louis, MS, USA
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Our solution's stage of development:

Pilot
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How many people does your solution currently serve?

We have conversations going with 3 Solar Decathlon teams and 2 engineer home owners about using WonderWindows in their homes.

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Why are you applying to Solve?

We need small demonstration buildings to pilot our approach & prove its cost-effectiveness in building Near and Net Zero Energy single and multi-family homes, quickly building up in scale.  Cold climate locations like Massachusetts, New England, New York, and Colorado are especially of interest.  California is another important early adopter market.

In addition, we want to expand our Makers Workshop model, pioneered with the Boys and girls Club of the Gulf Coast, to these same locations, saving an average of over 1000 miles of truck delivery transportation for every building built compared to traditional window manufacturers.

Our outreach to architects and builders requires excellence in You Tube videos that introduce the windows and 24" on-center approach, and placing small sample windows in their hands made in the Makers Workshops, so that they can share these with their clients and colleagues to build a pipeline of projects that sustain the operation paying Living Wages (per the MIT Living Wage calculator) to disadvantaged youth.  

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In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?

Product / Service Distribution (e.g. expanding client base)

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Who is the Team Lead for your solution?

Mark Isaacs M.Arch.'80, BSAD '77, MIT

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More About Your Solution

What makes your solution innovative?

Simple and easy-to-make windows become the catalyst for simplifying building construction, eliminating waste and improving efficiency and yield in energy, cost, and real estate terms.

Simple but not simple-minded:  Guardian Glass just recently abandoned 20 years of effort to develop Vacuum Insulated Glass because they recognized that sophisticated technology comes with cost and warranty problems. 

Our windows are viewed as something of a Holy Grail for making Near and Net Zero Energy construction affordable, pervasive and commonplace.

Their production in local Makers Workshops making a difference in the life outcomes of makers from disadvantaged backgrounds begins to realize the world we wish to see.

I anticipate others will follow this production model.  I expect our own innovations to continue to crank out a range of energy-efficient building envelope products, and solar hot water heaters, for example. 

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What are your impact goals for the next year and the next five years, and how will you achieve them?

1 Year Goals:

See windows placed in 1 to 5 small new construction demonstration buildings, with validation of construction details, techniques and cost.

Initiate the first Makers Workshop with the Boys and Girls Club of the Gulf Coast, making small sample windows that seed early adopter markets of AIA 2030 Challenge architects, LEED Green Building Accredited Professionals, and DOE Zero Energy Ready Home Builders.

Realize modest first revenues.

5 Year Goals:

$10 million in Net Operating Income 

Makers Workshops established and operating sustainably in 9 locations serving the nation with 'local' production hubs that deliver windows within a day's drive of 500 miles, but with most jobs delivered within 100 miles, saving over 1000 miles of truck delivery compared to conventional supply chains.

Affordable Net Zero Energy performance proven for a wide range of building types.  Green Template Net Zero Energy designs available at low cost to support the growth of the business and the rapid adoption of NZE performance.   

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How are you measuring your progress toward your impact goals?

Key Performance Indicators:

Revenue generated

Number of Makers from disadvantaged backgrounds earning Living Wages

Number of Architects and Builders Reached by email, You Tube videos, and Continuing Education curses

Number of small sample windows made and placed in the hands of interested architects and builders

Number of full size windows made & sold

Number of Near & Net Zero Energy buildings built with this approach and their size in square footage of floor area   

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What is your theory of change?

DO IT NOW!

The fierce urgency of NOW propels meaningful concrete action that can move the needle on climate change and the clean energy transition NOW.

Patanjali's first yoga sutra is: NOW the yoga begins.  NOW is the moment of turning.

It is not a matter of theory: it is a matter of practice.  It is what you and I DO in this moment NOW and the next one that make a difference.

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Describe the core technology that powers your solution.

The key technology powering this is PERSISTENCE.  Edison was right: 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration.

Humanity has reached an Apollo 11 moment:  Houston, we have a problem.  The problem is climate change and we have a limited kit of parts to solve the problem just like those engineers had a limited kit of parts to keep those astronauts alive until they could be safely returned.  Today, Spaceship Earth has that same need of using what is at hand, ad hoc, to solve this crisis.

Understanding that building energy use, embodied carbon footprint, and their generation of transportation carbon footprint, have all been motivators for finding this particular point of leverage in windows as the weakest link and solving the architectural bay as the finite element of Net Zero Energy homes and buildings in walkable transit-served communities. 

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Which of the following categories best describes your solution?

A new business model or process that relies on technology to be successful

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Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:

  • Manufacturing Technology
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Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your solution address?

  • 1. No Poverty
  • 2. Zero Hunger
  • 3. Good Health and Well-being
  • 4. Quality Education
  • 5. Gender Equality
  • 7. Affordable and Clean Energy
  • 8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • 9. Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  • 10. Reduced Inequalities
  • 11. Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • 12. Responsible Consumption and Production
  • 13. Climate Action
  • 15. Life on Land
  • 17. Partnerships for the Goals
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In which countries do you currently operate?

  • United States
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In which countries will you be operating within the next year?

  • United States
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Your Team

What type of organization is your solution team?

Hybrid of for-profit and nonprofit

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How many people work on your solution team?

1 full time Chief Everything Officer, with grant funded R&D accessing the best in the business: International codes Council Evaluation Services, Intertek Architectural Testing (the world's largest), MS Polymer Institute. Pending proposals include Larence Berkelely Labs, National Renewable Energy labs, and Oak Ridge National Labs. The Boys and Girls Club of the Gulf Coast is strategic partner in the Makers Workshops proposed.

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How long have you been working on your solution?

5 years on windows and 14 years on Net Zero Energy building technologies after 28 years in energy-efficient design and construction

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What is your approach to incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusivity into your work?

Our small southern Mississippi town is a pretty unique place: when the state legislature considered laws that would allow retailers to discriminate as to whom they served, the downtown merchants all put up signs saying ALL ARE WELCOME HERE.

My Net Zero Energy home, office and workshop has a Black Lives Matter sign in the front window.  I was an outspoken leader in the flag change effort statewide, because ALL should feel welcome in my world.

Our strategic partnership with the Boys and Girls Club of the Gulf Coast is key in benefitting both partners.  Executive Director Keva Scott formerly worked in the Club' national office, experience that will benefit the Company as it seeks to establish production hubs in other locations.  The Company also benefits from the experience the Club has in managing Human Resources and payroll accounting and in providing a low overhead facility.  The Club benefits from having an active Makers Workshop rather than just a single 3D printer with low use.  The Club benefits from having active engagement and income opportunities for older teens and young adults, allowing it to grow its Work Force Development and STEAM education initiatives.  The Club increases utilization of its facilities, which have very little activity until school lets out on the typical day. 

The proof in the pudding, however, will be found in the way the success of this business rests with the young makers who come from disadvantaged backgrounds, the vast majority of whom come from low income single parent households.  The $20 per hour Living Wages paid to them may offer immediate benefits in life outcomes, but it is also hoped that the mentoring that occurs in our Friday Lunch 'N' Learn sessions will propel life trajectories for the better for the long haul.  

I fully expect the future leaders of the Company to come from the ranks of these makers.  Many more will learn the confidence and skill sets to be their own boss as entrepreneurs or have successful careers elsewhere.  We expect to BE the change we wish to see.    

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Your Business Model & Funding

What is your business model?

In short, we make windows at a 33% gross margin in a low overhead operation and sell them typically to the builders of new construction buildings.  Retrofits and replacement windows are a more bespoke process, requiring multiple visits to measure and quote; we seek to avoid such time sinks, particularly in the early going.

The initial focus is on a limited number of window sizes that can accomplish the most in 24" on center construction, following Henry Ford's lesson that you can get your Model T in any color you want, as long as it's black.  Variation & diversity in the product line can come as baseline bootstrapping income is established.

The Go-To-Market strategy focusses on emails to architects and builders, sometimes working in partnership with AIA and NAHB local chapters, to drive traffic to You Tube videos and Continuing Education courses that help fulfill requirements of professional licensure.  Architects and builders then understand the overall cost-savings to be achieved with this approach, and early adopters have the potential to become customers for life.  The business model benefits from the fact that one architect or builder has the potential for specifying or purchasing 2000 to 5000 windows a year, as a way of growing and multiplying the scaling factors of the business model.

The fact that disadvantaged youth makers of these windows stand to benefit with improved life outcomes helps attract and retain customers for life. 

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Do you primarily provide products or services directly to individuals, to other organizations, or to the government?

Organizations (B2B)
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What is your plan for becoming financially sustainable?

1. Educate architects and builders through You Tube videos and Continuing Education webinars and place small sample windows in their hands to be shared with clients and colleagues.

2. Those architects and builders start, grow and maintain a project pipeline of demand for the windows.  Sales of windows sustain and grow the business.

3. The low capital expenditure requirements of the business allow production hubs to be established in multiple locations to serve the nation with low carbon footprint: a $200 chop saw is the most expensive piece of equipment required to start production.

4. With time, wider product offerings fuel growth.  WaterWindows are already showing promise as an added energy-saving feature that can be realized at low cost, for example.  Our Net Zero Energy Pattern Book undergoing development, and related CAD-integrated software products, could offer additional revenue streams.

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Share some examples of how your plan to achieve financial sustainability has been successful so far.

About $250,000 in non-dilutive funding has been received so far, enabling the windows to be developed, prototyped, tested to national standards and code certified.  About $80,000 of the Founders money has been invested.  2 USDA SBIR grants, several MS/FAST Phase 0 mini-grants of $2-3000 each, a $5000 award through the DOE V-Quad Regional Accelerator, $7500 from Innovate MS's Co-Builders Accelerator, and $10,000 from the Mississippi Seed Fund.

While we await word on our $200,000 DOE Inclusive Innovation Challenge Prize entry, we are applying to Caltech's Rocket Fund for California-based demonstrations of building technology, and expect to be applying to Mass Challenge/Mass Clean Energy Center, NYSERDA and California Energy Commission to establish production presence and pilot buildings in those states.

We expect to bootstrap the first Makers Workshop here on the Gulf Coast this summer, even if at a small scale.  The $200,000 Inclusive Innovation Prize, if awarded, would pay for 600 small sample windows to be made and placed in the hands of architects and builders to seed the market, in addition to building full size windows for early pilot projects.   The sample windows help build a pipeline of demonstration projects to sustain and grow the operation.   

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Solution Team

 
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