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GE invests in high-tech green building outfit

General Electric joins three venture capital companies to invest $22 million in Project Frog, which uses high-tech tools to make low-energy buildings.

An example of a Project Frog low-energy, prefabricated building. One way to reduce electricity use is to incorporate more natural light as this design does. Project Frog

General Electric is making a foray into green buildings by investing in Project Frog, which uses various technologies to speed up new building design and construction.

GE Energy Financial Services will be one of four companies to invest $22 million in Project Frog, GE said today. The other three are venture capital companies: Claremont Creek Ventures, Greener Capital Partners, and RockPort Capital Partners.

The money will be used to expand Project Frog's sales, and GE will install one of the company's prefabricated buildings at the GE Learning Center in Ossining, N.Y.

Project Frog uses software and construction tools to design buildings that meet specific performance requirements, such as energy efficiency, and can be assembled more quickly than a typical building. For example, it uses three-dimensional software modeling to better control building performance and includes materials prefabricated off-site using precise tools.

The technique yields "pre-engineered kits" that can be assembled in one to six months. Many of Project Frog's buildings are schools, but its system can be used for different industries. The buildings can use as much as 80 percent less energy than a typical building in some parts of the country, GE said.

Project Frog's focus on building performance addresses one of the complaints of the LEED certification system, which awards points for different attributes, such as a rainwater harvesting system. But the actual performance of buildings in terms of energy and water efficiency doesn't always meet goals and isn't measured on an ongoing basis.

GE said that investment in Project Frog will help speed up change in the commercial building market. The planned GE Learning Center building will seek LEED certification.