Monday, March 18, 2013

Business Methods Mash Up

Today we bring you the Business Methods Clean Tech Community Mashup.

A “System and method for building a green community” was patented in mid-January 2013. The business method invention was granted to Nancy Lynne Welsh (Raleigh, NC). Welsh’s invention, protected by US 8,355,995, is for
“a system and method for building a green community construction. The system and method may comprise preparing a site for green community construction, acquiring housing for the site, wherein the housing is acquired below assessed value, moving the housing to the site, and remodeling the housing at the site to form the green community.”
The key features in the patent’s claims are listed below.
  1. A computer-implemented method for managing green housing community construction, wherein the method is executed by at least one programmed computer processor which communicates with at least one client via a network, the method comprising:
    • coordinating preparation of a site for green housing community construction
    • processing acquisition of existing housing for the site, wherein the existing housing is acquired below assessed value, and the existing housing is slated for demolition
    • scheduling transfer of the existing housing to the site
    • managing remodeling of the existing housing at the site to form the green housing community
  2. receiving one or more permits for site construction
  3. receiving funding for site construction
  4. performing foundational work for the site
  5. searching for housing based on at least one of location, value, type, size, and provider
  6. performing at least one of assessments and inspections on the housing
  7. determination of acceptable housing for the site
  8. determining one or more move routes for transporting the housing from an original site to the site for green housing community construction [Editor’s note: how disruptive will moving enough houses from dispersed locations to create the ‘green community’ be?]
  9. acquiring unwanted materials from the original site for reuse, wherein the unwanted materials comprise at least one of brick, asphalt, wood, shrubbery, and recyclable materials
  10. remodeling is achieved in at least one of the following: foundational remodeling, exterior remodeling, interior remodeling, and community remodeling
  11. using at least one of recyclable materials, energy-efficient materials, and green-building approved materials
  12. A computer readable medium encoded with computer executable instructions to perform the acts of the method of claim 1. [Editor’s note: this claim and its phrasing help the inventor meet machine-or-transformation tests necessary for business methods patenting. This is software and the hard-drive it runs on.]
  13. A computer-implemented system for green housing community construction … [Editor’s note: similar to claim 1 contents, but this covers the software, server, and client system; again, needed to qualify for business methods status.]
  14. A method for transforming a plurality of houses initially situated in different locations and slated for demolition into a green housing development solely formed from the plurality of houses …
    • preparing a development site
    • defining a plurality of criteria for the houses, including the distance and route from a present location of the house to the development site, the maximum width and height of the house, and the cost of the house
    • searching for and identifying existing houses that are slated for demolition and that meet the plurality of criteria
    • effecting the transfer of ownership of the houses
    • transporting each of the houses from its present location to the development site
    • installing each of the houses on a foundation
    • remodeling using green construction methods
  15. The method of claim 14, further comprising: hiring at least one disadvantaged person to perform the remodeling, wherein the disadvantaged person is a homeless person, an at risk youth, or a person with a criminal record; training the disadvantaged person to perform the remodeling; and providing a ongoing, customized work mentor program for the disadvantaged person.
  16. criterion for cost is that the house is donated [refers to cost in claim 14]
  17. installing computers and wireless access in the houses at the development site
The problem Welsh is trying to solve is discussed in the patent’s specification:
"Buildings have a profound effect on the environment. … Although green building in residential sectors is receiving increased attention due to environmental issues such as global warming, rising energy prices, and indoor air quality issues, there continues to be high number of residential tear-downs in or near larger cities across the United States with no environmentally viable replacement strategies currently available. In addition, costs associated with green building are often significantly higher than conventional construction. For example, green construction may be 5% to 20% more expensive than conventional construction. Furthermore, designs and plans for green construction do not typically include a comprehensive and integrated approach for using recycled housing, guidelines for using such materials, and strategies for continued neighborhood development. 

As a result, there are significant problems and shortcomings associated with current building techniques. Therefore, a system and method for constructing a green community using recycled housing, implementing custom guidelines for using such materials, and/or continuing neighborhood development would be highly desirable."
We’ve written about business methods, software patents, and clean tech applied to building construction and housing in past posts. Additional information on business methods patents may be found here.

Time will tell whether or not this approach to community construction has any commercial viability. Perhaps it is a modern-day version of the numerous utopian communities that were attempted in the 1800s?

But another question given how residential real estate works is whether this is novel and whether this is patentable.  We'll see.