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Noesis crowdsources building efficiency

In the busy field of building energy software, startup Noesis Energy will try to give away its software and build a community willing to pay to see how different efficiency projects perform.

Noesis wants to tap into the wisdom of experts through a community-oriented site to crack into the building efficiency software business.

The founders of Noesis Energy believe building managers will put a high value on peers' efficiency tips.

The company this week disclosed its open-source-style business plan and the acquisition of Managing Energy, an Ottawa, Ontario-based company that makes cloud-based software for measuring a commercial building's energy consumption.

Because commercial buildings use, and often waste, a lot of energy, there is a growing number of tools to assess and manage projects to improve efficiency. Large companies IBM and Cisco have software applications for managing multiple buildings while startups such as First Fuel have ways to suggest and prioritize energy efficiency tasks.

Noesis Energy is using the "freemium" model of giving away its software and then developing services to charge customers for. The idea is that efficiency consultants and building managers will use its Web-based application to get a snapshot of energy use and then use the software to track how useful different projects are. Over time, the company hopes to make money by charging for access to a large database of efficiency suggestions, said founder and CEO Scott Harmon.

"We think there's a great opportunity to use cloud-based SaaS (software as a service) tools to automate the housekeeping and record keeping on energy usage," Harmon said. "(But) the real goal is a community of suggestions around a free software platform."

The company's intent is to analyze the data it collects and offer recommendations to people with a similar building profile, Harmon said. For example, one contractor considering an energy-efficient lighting retrofit could consult the community database to see how different lighting technologies performed.

Noesis Energy's software is in private beta now and will be made freely available in January. The company raised $6.5 million from Austin Ventures to build out the cloud-based platform, Harmon said.

Giving away software has proved effective in games or software development tools, which could be an effective tactic in the increasingly busy area of building software. Like other software segments, how Noesis Energy fares with its paid services largely depends on how active a community it can create.