By Rivka Borochov
Ask an operations manager at a mid-sized or large company and they will probably know exactly how to manage fleets of cars, or get good deals on cellular telephones to cut company costs. But ask them about how to better manage energy consumption in the office through HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems) and lighting and you will probably draw a blank, says Nati Freiberg, the CEO of Israeli energy management company Beemtech.
“If you step into a high-rise or high-tech company in the United States you will laugh, because nobody, well less than 1 percent of all the people who manage buildings, will be able to tell you how much energy they consume,” he says.
Most industrial buildings today are not managed wisely simply because there are no solutions or information for operations staff to monitor what’s going on, he notes.
Freiberg’s 18-person company, founded in 2009 and based in Rehovot, Israel, is addressing these issues by confronting the number two expense that companies face after paying employee salaries. In some companies, the cost of heating or lighting a building can account for a whopping 20% of the company’s expenditures, Freiberg explains.
In most companies a temperature is set, the lights are turned on, and from early morning until late at night the setting stays the same until the last person leaves. But who hasn’t walked into a building that’s extremely overheated in the winter, or noticed large vacant meeting rooms being pumped with cold air in the summer? How about rooms with glaring fluorescent light and no one to use it?
Energy overuse doesn’t just take a toll on a company’s “bottom line” and on the environment -- it also cuts down on productivity if the staff feels uncomfortable in the work place.
Is anyone breathing in there?
Beemtech offers a technology solution and a service to help operations managers get a handle on how energy is being used. Consider a 10,000-square-foot office space. Beemtech would place about 80 sensors – one every 125 square feet or so – to measure carbon dioxide levels, which indicate when and how many people are in the room. The sensors also measure light levels, temperature and other pre-set parameters that can help cut energy savings and improve worker productivity.
What makes the Beemtech system extra smart is that it interfaces with the entire office staff through surveys and questionnaires to learn peoples’ preferences in private offices and in shared spaces. In the case of a private office, an employee can get authorization to control the ambient light and temperature through a smartphone or computer while sitting in the office, or remotely if the lights were left on during a lunch break.
A breakdown of energy and office space use
With the massive amounts of information Beemtech collects, the company’s algorithms can also map out how office staff and visitors are actually using the space. In some large offices with 200 meeting rooms, about 80% of them are probably vacant most of the time, says Freiberg. In some cases it can be possible to reorganize staff into different rooms and forego building or renovating another floor of office space. This kind of information in the hands of office planners and architects can literally save a company millions of dollars.
Energy savings graph generated by Beemtech
“We can greatly reduce costs by telling the facility managers what rooms are empty most of the time so they can close these rooms and turn off the power. They can also tell cleaning staff not to clean these rooms,” says Freiberg.
At Microsoft Israel, Freiberg says, the company pays about $2 million annually for office energy needs, and he believes he can shave at least 30 or 40 percent off that bill with his new system. When presented this way, Beemtech starts to become an easy sell.
Beemtech CEO Nati Freiberg
The company’s business model includes a one-time setup fee, about equal to the energy that would be saved in one year of a 10-year cycle. An annual service fee, about 10% of the total energy costs saved each year, pays for ongoing maintenance and support.
In the short term, Freiberg says that his solution is also likely to enhance company performance since people who are feeling good at the office –– sitting in a comfortable, well-lit, well-heated space, without overcrowding – are more productive.
His company is currently working on pilot tests for two undisclosed companies, one in Ra’anana, Israel, and the other in New York City.