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Startup puts buildings on energy diet

Retroficiency raises series A round of $3.32 million to build a cloud-based application to automatically assess commercial building energy use and prioritize efficiency projects.

Retroficiency's Web application is designed so energy auditors or building managers can get a quick idea of energy use and evaluate efficiency projects. Retroficiency

When it comes to sizing up how efficient a building is, a lot of data and analytical software can be quicker than people.

Retroficiency is one of many startups developing software tools for making commercial buildings more energy-efficient. The Boston-based company today announced that it has raised $3.32 million in a series A round of funding from Point Judith Capital to build up its software and sales. It also acquired Clean Energy Solutions, the commercial efficiency operation of renewable energy project developer Nexamp.

Commercial real estate is a large consumer, and often waster, of energy. The return on investment from efficiency measures, such as upgraded lighting, can come in a year or two with lower monthly bills. But it's often difficult to create a profile of how efficient a given building is and understand which projects are worth pursuing.

Retroficiency's software draws on a database of about 10,000 energy audits to quickly create a snapshot of a building's energy use. Energy auditors or facility managers fill out a survey with data such as the age of the building, hours it's occupied, and utility bills to generate the profile. That replaces a process of spending weeks or even months to measure heating and cooling data and enter that into energy models, said founder and CEO Bennett Fisher, who previously worked in commercial real estate.

"Once you give us 10 data points, we can infer very accurately all the minutia that you don't want to collect manually," he said. "In 10 minutes, we can be more than 90 percent accurate."

Clean Energy Solutions had developed a system to create an energy profile and generate efficiency measures based on data gathered regularly from electricity meters. Those tools are being integrated into Retroficiency's current product line, which should improve accuracy, Fisher said.

Currently, Retroficiency's software is being used by about a dozen energy service companies, which turn to it to speed up their assessments. The addition of meter data tools will allow the company to target utilities which have incentive programs to improve the efficiency of their customers.

Many venture capitalists are pulling back from expensive energy ventures in solar or biofuels and are focusing instead on efficiency-related businesses. Commercial buildings, in particular, hold promise because many of the heating and cooling systems are already instrumented, so data is available for analysis.