There are many paths to becoming a successful software developer. One of the less popular ones but nonetheless more credible paths is when you simply build a tool for yourself to do your job better. This was the path taken by the creative web development firm 37 Signals when they launched the Web 2.0 app sensation Basecamp, an online project management application that today is the market leader in their space. It’s about looking at your current workflow and asking: “can’t I do this better?”
That was the place Tommy Linstroth found himself in just a few years ago. Based in Savannah, Georgia, where Spanish Moss trees still line long drives to elegant 18th century plantation homes, the LEED consultant reached deep into this professional experience to imagine a better way to help himself and in turn better serve his clients.
“The problem we were solving was addressing the many lost credits in the process due to the GC not tracking and managing the process better,” says Linstroth, who is the creator and developer of Green Badger, an app for Apple’s iOS and Google Android platforms. It runs on both smartphones like the iPhone and tablet devices.
What’s Wrong with This Picture?
Tommy Linstroth had (and still has) a successful consulting business, helping architects and other AECO players reach their LEED objectives for their projects, when he made the decision to address a key problem he saw nearly daily in the industry. “12 to 18 points are in the design side,” says Linstroth, “but so much can be had in the other side of LEED (which stands for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) and getting this process smoother and easier for the contractor could really help things.”
“If the GC (general contractor) is not managing the process well, you lose points,” emphasizes Linstroth. “This risks certification levels and even the entire LEED validation.” In Linstroth’s daily practice he struggled with many projects where the informational demands on the LEED process were too challenging for various constituents in the process, not just the general contractor but especially the general contractor.
With Green Badger LEED Documentation, users can fully manage the documentation process for Construction Waste (MRc2), Sustainable Materials (MRc3-c7), Erosion Control (SSp1), VOC (IEQc4), Indoor Air Quality (IEQc3.1) and the project as a whole.
The challenge for all professionals engaged in the LEED rating and verification is the amount of paperwork involved in the documentation process itself. Green Badger Documentation aims to alleviate that by converting a lot of that process to a digital process levering modern technologies. “LEED isn’t easy for anyone, including dedicated LEED professionals like myself,” notes Linstroth. “But this application makes it significantly easier. And that’s why we addressed this when taking on the challenge to create an app just for this process.”
Mentorship and Changing Perspectives in Savannah
Recognizing that your business needs a software solution to make both you and your clients happier is just step one. The next step is learning how to make that happen. “At the end of the day I’m just a LEED guy,” says Linstroth, “I can’t code and I wasn’t going to learn.”
But the next step wasn’t about finding a coder. “Industry was the framework that allowed me to believe in this venture, he says, “but what was needed was being able to deliver a product people felt would be valuable.” “I realized I was a consultant for years and now I was going to be a software company. That’s a big shift!”
Linstroth’s next move was a smart one. He found a mentor through a network in Savannah. “There’s a big push to transform Savannah into a knowledge-based economy type of town,” he noted. Through his networks Linstroth found software talent both local and distributed to help launch his software startup venture. In the early part of 2014 his fledging software company brought in its first angel investor to help move the product further along.
The Software Road Map
Linstroth launched Green Badger in November of 2013. Within just a few months the tool added its first major update in the form of its cloud multi-user support. “LEED documentation is tough enough, but another challenging part of the process is keeping everyone in the loop,” adds Linstroth. “Being cloud-based we can handle this now too. Everyone on the team benefits from being able to login and see where the process is, in real time. That is valuable whether you are the GC, owner, consultant or the architect.”
In the mid spring of this year Green Badger shipped with another module on indoor air quality. Linstroth notes that the focus right now is on LEED 2009 but perhaps in the future LEED for Homes may pop into the picture. Eventually LEED v4 will become important. “I want professionals to put their time into the building, making it more sustainable, making improvements to energy conservation and use.”
“I still do the consulting and I hate the documentation part,” he adds. “How do we do sustainable design without all the paper work process? How can we accelerate this? These are the questions that keep me up at night and help shape the product.”
Green Badger Documentation is currently at version 1.6.1 and is available on both the Apple iOS and Google Android app stores. “The Android store is easier to navigate the app approval process, but the flip side is that the Android platform is more difficult to develop for,” adds Linstroth. “With Apple iOS you have a very limited set of devices to develop for and Apple nearly enforces the iOS updates. With Android you have hundreds of devices, versions and testing for compatibility and updates is much more difficult and costly. And there are far more users on iOS than compared to Android.”
Tommy Linstroth isn’t afraid to admit he’s just a LEED guy, but behind this humble stance lies years of professional LEED consulting on over 60 professional projects all around the country. That’s the kind of experience that in the early years of sustainable design—and we are still in the early years, most architects are still not pushing LEED—makes Tommy Linstroth both an expert and an innovator. From concept to within a few years the industry now has a tool that can scan a bar code on a can of paint to instantly check its VOC (volatile organic compounds) content to make sure you are not losing LEED points! And that’s just one of the ways Linstroth’s app is helping the LEED process along.
You can learn about Green Badger Documentation, from Green Badger LLC, here. Prior to going to press Tommy Linstroth told us that Green Badger now has a web-based interface as well as the iOS and Android mobile apps, as the platform builds out to serve an ever-increasing base of happy users.
Other Articles in this Series
London Due Inspires to Make CAD Authoring on Mobile Work — iOS Developer Story Series