Green Buildings Software Startup, Retroficiency, Closes $800,000 Seed Financing

A Boston startup that makes energy auditing software for the commercial buildings industry, Retroficiency, raised $800,000 in a seed round led by energy management services firm World Energy Solutions (NASDAQ: XWES), and joined by a number of angel investors including Jean Hammond and Jill Preotle (both early investors in ZipCar) the companies announced today.

Facility managers, auditors or engineers who need to improve the energy efficiency of an aging building input whatever basic information they know about that building into Retroficiency’s system. The software uses the available details, and a comprehensive set of data about tens of thousands of other buildings with similar traits, then uses predictive analytics to generate an energy model for that building. (Retroficiency’s team has been compiling data on commercial buildings and energy efficiency since 2008.)

The site then generates, within hours, suggestions as to what kind of retrofit and renovation projects will have the biggest impact on a building from an energy and cost perspective. Chief executive officer and founder of Retroficiency, Bennett Fisher, offered this example of what the enterprise software can do:

“If you tell us you have fluorescent lights in a certain type of building, we can statistically infer that you have 526 fixtures with four 40-watt T12 lamps and magnetic ballasts. We can then suggest you upgrade to three 32-watt Super T8 lamps and electronic ballasts and show the relevant costs, savings, rebates, increases in ENERGY STAR ratings, decrease in Greenhouse Gas Emissions, etc.

Our optimization engine sorts through thousands of possible combinations like this over all of the building’s systems and builds packages that match the customer’s goal whether that is a specific reduction in energy, a payback period, or total spend limitations. All of the inputs, inferences, etc are fully transparent so a user can go back and change/update any information.”

In pilot testing, Fisher said, the system’s building assessments were at least as accurate as reports done by on-foot inspectors at massive facilities. The company aims to make old-school physical audits obsolete, and instead give auditors a tool to make the whole process faster and easier. “Physical audits take weeks and several employees’ time, and are a bottleneck to advancing retrofit and energy efficiency projects,” Fisher noted.

The market opportunity for a company like Retroficiency is growing. MacGraw Hill Construction researchers predicted:

[By 2015] non-residential green building activity [will likely] triple, representing $120 billion to $145 billion in new construction (40%-48% of the non-residential market) and $14 billion to $18 billion in major retrofit and renovation projects.

Retroficiency’s early customers include facility management firms, which own and operate real estate, and ESCOs or energy service companies which are third-party providers who develop, install and arrange financing for projects to improve buildings’ energy efficiency, and lower maintenance costs over time.