Online Platform Makes It Easy For Homeowners To Enjoy Comfortable, Sustainable Homes
Most people don’t own homes just to turn them over for a quick profit. In fact, according to Realtor magazine, home ownership tenure is at its highest level in 18 years. What we do want from our homes is comfort, security; we want to feel good in our own private spaces.
Like many new parents, when Matt Daigle and his wife Mallory Lennon of New Brunswick, Canada, had their first child, their idea of home changed. “We bought a 2,200-square-foot mid-century fixer upper. And it was basically a race against time… to get the house done for our first kid. [W]e were able to do that in April 2014 about a month after our first daughter was born.”
During the renovation, the couple replaced old windows with Energy Star double panes, removed wood cladding and sided with vinyl and a fiber cement product; they added insulation, and except for reconfiguring the kitchen layout, they did a mostly cosmetic interior remodel that included new cabinets made of particle board faced with wood, a quartz counter and butcher block island.
They did not look at whether the cabinets or any other products were made with formaldehyde (which can cause health issues), didn’t research whether double pane windows were really going to make the home less drafty, or whether siding was the best option—perhaps painting the original wood was the better choice and would have saved them money.
About six months after the renovation, Daigle says, he compared his power bills with the one’s left to him by the home’s previous owners. “That was a pivotal moment,” he says. The bills were “super high and not much had changed. Our home was aesthetically pleasing, but it didn’t meet our core values.” Daigle, who at the time worked in the tech industry, says he didn’t consider himself an environmentalist but “having your first kid you start to think about the future more.”
Something about that moment sent Daigle on a path that would lead to a new business. He felt that there was no place to find the information that he and Lennon, an interior designer and owner of Reimagine Designs, could have used to remodel their home to be not only beautiful but healthier. So Daigle set about creating an online platform called Rise, whose tagline is, “Turn any home improvement project into a sustainable one.”
The easy-to-use site is chock full of information about hundreds of products – from siding and roofing to lights, water fixtures, doors, insulation — and ways to save by using them, as well as rebate information. Click on one of the inspiration homes in the “Lookbook.” There you’ll see several photo tabs (in the shape of question marks) placed on the image. Click on the living room window tab, for instance, and you get a page of links to articles on windows, information on the benefits and features of a particular type of window, what to look for when purchasing the window, its average cost and lifespan and a few fun facts, like this one: “Before glass became widely manufactured, translucent materials including paper, animal hides, flattened animal horn, and even thin slices of marble were used as window panes.”
His goal is to make it seamless for homeowners to have a sustainable home. “We want consumers to make informed decisions,” Daigle says. “We’re offering them buying power.”
Rise began marketing itself in 2018 and had about 5,000 unique visitors a month; a year later more than 105,000 visit each month. “We hit over a million unique users on a rolling basis,” says Daigle, who now has a staff of 20 and is raising another round of financing. The company was recently became a Certified B Corp. “Our content helps people make big decisions, and we want them to be happy and successful and have homes in which they can thrive.”
As for his own home? "We love it more and more now and are increasingly focusing on the things that matter. We're still working to make it better than it was when we first renovated it." They've replaced Edison bulbs, which Daigle says used as much energy as any incandescent, with LEDs. They've installed a smart thermostat. Their bills have gone down some, but they learned through an energy audit that they were losing 30% of their heat through the basement. They've enrolled in local utility rebate program and are putting in a heat pump water heater and insulation in the basement.
They're also paying closer attention to new furniture they purchase. "Anything you're exposing your family to has an effect," Daigle says. "You might wake up after a renovation and your throat is itchy or your eyes are gunked up. There’s a reason for that."