Decarbonising Construction with Preoptima

Preoptima is a pioneering software platform that uses sophisticated AI algorithms and generative design to offer a unique, iterative approach to designing low-carbon buildings. 

Aileen co-founded Preoptima with Prof. Francesco Pomponi, on a mission to drive radical reductions in the embodied carbon generated from the built environment. 

She is a highly experienced leader of technology companies across a variety of industry sectors, and has an outstanding track record of scaling organisations to deliver superior, sustainable business results. 

Aileen serves as a mentor to the Cambridge Judge business school MBA Venture Projects, and is an advisor for Cambridge Deep Tech Labs and a number of UKRI programs. She holds an M.B.A., an M.Sc. in Computer Science, and a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering.

Q & A with Preoptima

Q: What is Preoptima, and what does it do to decarbonise the construction industry? 

A: Preoptima is a software company that focuses on decarbonizing the built environment. They have developed a tool that allows users, particularly in the early concept stage of construction, to input a simple sketch of a building and then engage in “carbon optioneering.” This involves manipulating various design elements to observe real-time changes in the carbon footprint of the building upon completion. 

Q: How does Preoptima’s software work, and what is the significance of carbon optioneering? 

A: Preoptima’s software ingests early-stage building sketches and uses structural equations and mathematics to assess the carbon impact of different design choices. The tool allows users to play with design variables such as materials and dimensions, providing instant feedback on the associated carbon emissions. Carbon optioneering helps users make informed decisions about the environmental impact of their building designs. 

Q: How does Preoptima address the challenge of the construction industry’s slow digital transformation? 

A: The founder, Aileen Ryan, acknowledges that the construction sector has been slow to embrace digital transformation. She sees the proliferation of tools aimed at aiding this transformation as a positive development. However, she emphasizes the need for collaboration among these tools to avoid disjointed data sets and the absence of a common data model. Working together as a community is crucial to overcoming this challenge. 

Q: What are the obstacles Preoptima faces, and how does Aileen Ryan propose addressing them? 

A: Aileen identifies several challenges, including the industry’s slow adoption of digital tools, the lack of a common data model among emerging solutions, and the pace of legislation. While she believes the first two challenges are addressable through collaboration and innovation within the startup community, she expresses concern about the pace of legislation, which can significantly impact the industry’s ability to decarbonize. 

Q: What is Preoptima’s primary focus in terms of success, and how do they measure it? 

A: Preoptima’s primary focus is on impact, particularly carbon savings achieved by their customers. Aileen mentions a case study where a customer achieved significant carbon savings using Preoptima’s optioneering capability. The team is dedicated to racking up such carbon savings, highlighting their commitment to making a meaningful environmental impact. 

Q: What advice does Aileen Ryan offer to female founders, especially those entering male-dominated industries like construction? 

A: Aileen encourages female founders to pursue their goals relentlessly, not taking no for an answer. She shares her experience of being in male-dominated industries throughout her career and emphasizes the importance of perseverance. Aileen advises that while challenges may arise, finding a way around them is possible, even if the journey isn’t a straight line. She underscores the significance of diversity and actively seeks a diverse team in her own company. 

Q: How does Preoptima view collaboration and diversity in the industry, and what role does it play in driving innovation? 

A: Aileen expresses the importance of collaboration and diversity in addressing the challenges of the construction industry. She believes that diverse groups of people coming together to solve problems collectively will lead to quicker progress. Aileen sees the spirit of collaboration as crucial in a space with enormous opportunities, where different companies can work together to bring about positive change.