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Startup turns to big data for cutting building energy

Retroficiency, a startup out of MIT that uses software and big data to create energy retrofits for buildings, has raised a round of $3.2 million from Point Judith Capital and has acquired the energy efficiency division of Nexamp, called Clean Energy Solutions. The Boston-based startup already has backing from investors like World Energy Solutions, and it has a working relationship with major property management firm Jones Lang LaSalle that will give it a chance to test the tech out in the real world.

Retroficiency’s Software-as-a-Service (Saas) platform is designed to replace a lot of the manual and time-intensive work that energy services companies, building owners and property managers go through today to plan and execute efficiency retrofits for buildings. Making buildings more energy efficient — by doing things like replacing windows or putting in lighting control systems — can save energy costs in the long run. But without the proper software tools, it’s hard to tell what measures to take, how long the return on investment will be, and what parts of the retrofit to tackle first.

Retroficiency’s software aims to cut those up-front costs and time by delving through tens of thousands of pieces of data to compare potential retrofit target buildings to others of the same square footage, age of construction, use and occupancy patterns, weather, climate, and reams of other similar data. The end result is an accurate characterization of each building’s energy use, typically within 3 percent accuracy, without auditors having to come to the building or install any hardware in the building. Retroficiency says it can increase the productivity of energy auditing by more than 50 percent.

The idea sprang from Retroficiency’s CEO Bennett Fisher’s experience in the commercial property management world before entering MIT Business School, where he found customers who were contemplating energy efficiency retrofits saying they were having trouble justifying the up-front costs. With the acquisition of Clean Energy Solutions, the company has doubled its head count and is bringing on board a COO and three VPs. The acquisition will also help Retroficiency target utilities.

Buildings consume 40 percent of the energy in the U.S., and estimates indicate that up to half of it is wasted in one form or another. The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy predicts that efficiency upgrades in commercial and industrial buildings could represent a $250 billion market over the next decade.

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