BuildingIQ wants the market to know that it’s not just a company that optimizes the energy consumption and usage patterns of building heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems anymore. Instead, like many of its competitors in the building energy management software space, it’s putting an increased emphasis on services, and the human touch.
That’s the main focus of the company’s new cloud-based platform unveiled last week. Over the past year, the San Mateo,Calif.-based company, which went public on the Australian Stock Exchange in December, has been building -- and buying -- its way into a whole new set of software and service offerings.
The company, which has seen its share price fall to roughly one-third its IPO price over the past seven months, is still offering its core technology for analyzing and controlling HVAC systems in large buildings, dubbed its Predictive Energy Optimization (PEO) platform. BuildingIQ has been doing this kind of installation for years, with some significant users in cities ranging from New York to Las Vegas, as well as in Australia, where the company was founded in 2009.
But it’s also expanded to meet the more basic needs of building owners and operators, CEO Michael Nark noted in an interview last week. “We’d love to say that 10 out of 10 buildings are ready to take advantage of optimization” of the scope offered by BuildingIQ’s PEO software, he said. “The reality is that one out of 10 is probably ready, or one out of 20, depending on geography,” he said.
BuildingIQ has acquired or partnered its way to reaching some of those portions of the market. Those include two software platforms, Energy WorkSite and Facility WorkSite, acquired in April from Minneapolis, Minn.-based NorthWrite, which allow building facility or property portfolio managers to track and organize submetering data, work orders and other nuts-and-bolts pieces of the building energy management puzzle. The purchase also gave BuildingIQ the roughly 200 North American customers using the software.
BuildingIQ’s software suite for commercial real estate portfolio managers, in turn, comes to it courtesy of AMP Technologies, which partnered with BuildingIQ in April. “This opens us up to be much more portfolio-centric, rather than building-centric,” he said.
And late last month, BuildingIQ announced it had spent $500,000 Australian ($377,000) to acquire the rights to software from Australian government research institution Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). Dubbed OptiCOOL and ComfortSENSE, the software is designed to give building occupants the tools to inform the system as to whether they’re comfortable, too hot or too cold, and then adjust building HVAC settings accordingly -- a critical part of any commercial system that seeks to alter air conditioning for energy savings without alienating tenants and owners.
BuildingIQ has spent some time integrating these different systems into its core software, which includes some sophisticated retro-commissioning and measurement and verification (M&V) tools, Sampath Gomatam, vice president of product, said in last week’s interview. Retro-commissioning is the term for analytics that can double-check the expected performance of building management systems (BMSs) against real-world performance, to identify where and how failures or inefficiencies are occurring.
M&V, in turn, is critical for proving out efficiency or energy usage improvements, particularly as these investments move beyond traditional rebates and assumptions of savings, and toward more performance-based incentive structures, as California has now started to require.
All of these features can be purchased as a package or piecemeal, most typically on a subscription basis, with pricing based on the square footage of buildings it’s being applied to in most cases, Gomatam said. While the more advanced features require the installation of on-site servers and BMS integration, the simpler features can be implemented directly from the cloud, using available utility meter or installed submeter data, he said.
To ensure that the people in charge of running the building HVAC systems and implementing efficiency programs don’t get overwhelmed by the new software, BuildingIQ offers its own support staff, Nark said. That’s more expensive than simply making software available, but “we already have the resource pool to support this on an ongoing basis -- we’ve had that network operations center from day one,” he said. “It just hasn’t been visible.”
The world of building energy management has seen its share of startups with software-only offerings that haven’t delivered on their promises, as we’ve covered in some detail. Even software platforms that do deliver on the optimization and efficiency benefits they promise can find that they’re only suitable for the most sophisticated buildings, which limits their market potential.
This isn’t a fact lost on competing building energy management software providers. FirstFuel, a startup with its roots in virtual energy auditing, has also expanded into more cloud-based offerings for building owners and operators, to name one example.
BuildingIQ, which has raised capital in its early years, in 2013 and 2015, announced that it raised AUD $20 million (US$15.1 million) in its December IPO, for a market valuation of about $85 million Australian ($64 million). Since then, it has seen its share price decline from about AUD $1 to about 38 cents Australian as of this week.
Nark declined to comment directly on BuildingIQ’s financial performance since it went public, but said that “we’re exactly where we planned to be” in terms of its long-range goals.
On June 28, the company reported that it has seen a loss of AUD $5.51 million (US$4.46 million) on revenues of AUD $1.225 million (US$920,000) over the first six months of 2016, with about AUD $1.3 million (US$980,000) spent on business acquisitions.
BuildingIQ’s 2016 revenues to date represent a 33 percent increase from the comparable period in 2015, the company noted. It also received a AUD $1.7 million (US$1.28 million) research and development grant from the Australian Tax Office in May.