Summary:

Making the automation systems in commercial buildings smarter – that’s the idea behind startup Scientific Conservation, which today announced a new $15.65 million funding round led by DFJ Growth Fund Managing Director (and Internet exec entrepreneur) Barry Schuler.

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Making the automation systems in commercial buildings smarter – that’s the idea behind startup Scientific Conservation, which announced a new $15.65 million funding round on Wednesday, led by DFJ Growth Fund Managing Director (and Internet exec) Barry Schuler.

Scientific Conservation came out of stealth back in the summer of 2009 after spending years developing and selling its product, a web-based software platform that links into a building’s existing automation system — which monitors heating, air conditioning and other energy-consuming systems — and applies analytics to continuously predict, detect and diagnose system faults and anomalies. CEO Russ McMeekin has estimated the company will grow from 15 million square feet under management today to 100 to 150 million square feet by the end of 2011, and customers include Neiman Marcus, California’s Santa Clara County, Boeing and General Electric.

Then-CEO David Wolins told us back when the company launched that building managers have been on the defensive in terms of energy-efficient buildings for a long time, because they are forced to react to a degradation of performance. For example, a room is too hot or too cold, and they have to adjust the system accordingly. But Wolins explained to us that Scientific Conservation’s software helps building managers go on the offensive, providing a tool for them to be able to react prior to a system turning too hot or cold.

Most large commercial buildings in the U.S. rely on some type of automation system for operators to monitor their buildings. Scientific Conservation’s tools pull in data from existing sensors installed in a building, combine that data with weather data and power pricing from utilities, run simulations, and identify faults. The software can predict imminent failures by comparing data with past performance. It also prioritizes the maintenance needed and estimates the cost of inaction. Sensors or other devices that are malfunctioning — even intermittently — are identified and, once replaced, make air conditioning and other energy hogs in a building run as they were intended

Other companies offering similar services include Pulse Energy, Building 2.0, and Cisco’s Building Mediator. While long-established companies like Johnson Controls have been developing automation systems for decades, these newer entrants are leveraging advances in information technology and the Internet to make buildings run more efficiently. But if these startups are to be successful, they’ll need to prove to customers that their technologies can save money and bring value, such as by making building operations more efficient.

Scientific Conservation’s funding round brings the company’s total funding to $24.65 million, and previous investors include the Westly Group. Scientific Conservation was also named by GE as one of its 12 Ecomagination Challenge winners. Alan White, SCI’s VP of corporate development, told us in a December interview that landing GE as a customer and potential technology partner was just as valuable as the investment involved in that transaction.

Image courtesy of roblisameehan

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