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Great potential for behavior change, which is one of the most impactful levers because it can carry over to everything a person does, not just their house. Team made substantial improvements and clarifications to their proposal from the first round.
Comments from Judge 1:
Interesting approach to tackling the split incentive problem- there is a lot to like in this proposal, but also many challenges going ahead. I hope that the author/s acknowledge and strategize pathways to overcoming these as they develop the proposal.
- The use of data transparency in looking at this problem is certainly innovative; and I appreciate the author/s for looking at the challenge holistically, ie not on the basis of energy costs alone but also recycling, transportation, etc.
- My personal opinion is that transparency alone will not overcome some of the structural challenges present-
- landlords should be given access to existing incentives towards investing in energy upgrades, whether through utility programs or others. - If the author/s haven't done so yet, it might be useful to look at work by ACEEE and others in addressing this problem. Also, on-bill financing programs have been undertaken or are currently in place in a number of states that seek to tackle the cost issue of improvements. This initiative can serve to drive and promote such programs if they exist in that particular city.
Comments from Judge 2:
Novelty: While the idea of energy and environmental transparency in real estate transaction is not original, the multi-headed approach to gathering and serving this information to the rental housing market is highly interesting and novel. Leveraging small-scale projects with individual cities and universities is also a unique approach compared to the typical application development proposal, which tends to seek maximum market penetration as fast as possible.
Feasibility: The proposal itself underestimates the barriers to collecting and sharing/reporting on actual utility bills; further discussion of these challenges is provided in the referenced documentation, but several issues are remain understated. For example, how do the authors propose to draw comparisons and rankings from tenant utility bill data? Actual utility costs and usage are highly variable based on occupant behavior, and historical costs may not be accurate predictors of future costs with different tenants. How do you distinguish between energy use driven by the building infrastructure and energy use driven by anomalous occupant behavior? I would like to see more discussion of how properties would be effectively scored/ranked based on the information collected. Will the site only display raw/normalized data and trust that the prospective renter will be able to use that information effectively? Or will properties be ranked? I would also would like to see more discussion about the rationale for building an entire search tool as opposed to building a plug-in that can be used by the dominant search tools currently in use nationwide. Why try to out-compete Zillow on its strengths? Wouldn't it be more effective to build the engine that makes it possible to easily serve up energy, water, waste, and transportation performance data directly into a variety of search tools through an API or plug-in? For example, RentRocket could function similarly to TripAdvisor, where many of the leading travel search tools and owner websites embed the TripAdvisor ratings in the content provided for hotel properties.
Impact: A fully mature RentRocket tool clearly has the potential to drive enormous reductions in carbon emissions globally. The idea is highly scalable and is not limited to a certain technology or source of emissions. The focus on impacting consumer choices and providing transactional transparency has been proven by programs such as Carbon Disclosure Project and CERES.
Presentation: The proposal is immediately appealing but not yet clear and persuasive. I would like to see the proposal include more focus to how the grant money will be used, as opposed to just recruiting more cities or generally building out more functionality.The proposal describes jump-starting site development to improve the user interface an incorporate more information sources. However, it is not clear that incremental site development will advance this project with respect to the core data collection and analytical challenges. The proposal could be strengthened by citing specific development tasks and how those tasks will help remove specific barriers to larger implementation.
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