December 2009

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Nathan F. RothmanEMAIL INTERVIEW Nathan Rothman & Ken Sinclair

Nathan Rothman, Founder & CEO
Optimum Energy LLC

Nathan F. Rothman, B.E.P., CSDP, is the President and CEO of Optimum Energy LLC. Rothman’s focus on environmental issues, and in particular the positive impacts of energy efficiency technologies, led him to found Optimum Energy in 2005. Under Rothman’s leadership, Optimum Energy has developed a reliable and scalable software solution that is setting a new standard for heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) energy efficiency in the commercial building industry. Today, Rothman’s vision to do good, do well and prove it is coming true with installations of Optimum Energy’s patented, Ultra High Performance OptimumHVAC software in commercial buildings across the U.S.

Rothman’s interest in sustainable building was born out of 20 years as president of a privately held company that built and managed “green field” manufacturing plants for clients around the world, including locations in Asia Pacific, Europe and the Middle East. Prior to that, Nathan founded Valiant Yacht Corporation, a leading sailboat manufacturer and winner of the pleasure boat industry’s “Product of the Decade” award for the Valiant 40.

Nathan is an alumnus of Northwestern University and Illinois Institute of Technology, and he is a Certified Business Energy Professional.


Increasing Acceptance of LEED

For those customers who are seeking LEED certification, we’re excited to be able to contribute to more than 25 percent of the points needed to achieve LEED Platinum certification.

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Sinclair:  Nathan, you attended the November USGBC Greenbuild show in Phoenix. What were your impressions?

Rothman:  This is the fourth time I’ve attended the annual Greenbuild show and each year it gets better. This year’s record 1,100 exhibitors were showing off a wide array of ever-more innovative products. The audience was enthusiastic and many of the educational sessions had standing-room only crowds. I attribute this years’ show growth to the increasing acceptance of LEED as the green building standard, not to mention the increased attention on buildings as major consumers of energy with the clean energy/climate bills that are being debated in Congress.

Al Gore’s keynote speech was a highlight of the event. He made an important point about how implementing renewable energy and efficiency initiatives can solve three of the greatest challenges facing our times – climate change, economics and national security. This hit home with me because our company is just one example of how applying new technologies to old problems can make economic sense by providing an exceptional return – and have a positive impact on the environment. As our technologies are becoming accepted, we’re growing, creating jobs and revenue even during these difficult economic times.

Gore also talked about how inertia and old habits can slow down progress. That is something we experience every day as a company introducing a radical new controls approach in a relatively traditional industry. With the help of organizations like USGBC, we’re seeing a turnaround and increased acceptance of technologies already available that can help building owners manage their facility’s better and more cost effectively.

Sinclair:  I understand that implementation of Optimum Energy’s solutions supports LEED certification. How does that work?

Rothman:  Even though LEED and other performance standards are rising in popularity, I think it’s important to point out that ultimately, our customers have the primary goal of cutting their day-to-day operating expenses. Implementing OptimumHVAC – our HVAC optimization software designed for use in commercial buildings with centrifugal chiller plants and/or VAV air handling systems – consistently reduces HVAC energy use by 30 to 60 percent, often saving our customers hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

For those customers who are seeking LEED certification, we’re excited to be able to contribute to more than 25 percent of the points needed to achieve LEED Platinum certification. A recent USGBC study reported that the post-occupancy performance of LEED projects in Illinois found that facilities that focused on energy efficiency as a part of their LEED strategy performed better than projects that focused on other areas of sustainability. What could be better than saving money, improving the performance of your building’s HVAC system, and achieving LEED certification?

One of the major ways we can help is through improvements in a commercial facility’s ENERGY STAR score. An ENERGY STAR score of 95 or above earns 18 out of 100 points in the latest version of LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance. One of our customers, Glenborough, saw a 15 point increase in the ENERGY STAR score for their Aventine facility located in Southern California after installing and using OptimumHVAC for a year. With an ENERGY STAR score of 100, they qualify for the maximum number of points in LEED EA Credit 1, helping them in their LEED Platinum bid.

Sinclair:  What are some of the important changes in LEED 2009?

Rothman:  The change that I believe is most significant and that will have the farthest ranging impacts is the increased emphasis on energy efficiency within the overall LEED certification program. Affordable and effective technologies are available today to achieve the kinds of energy savings that will lead to true energy independence for this country. In fact, a recent McKinsey & Company study estimated that 40% of the pollution reduction needed to prevent catastrophic global warming can be achieved through efficiency improvements alone.

Reliable Controls Sinclair:  What do you think of the controversy surrounding the idea of tracking actual energy usage in LEED certified buildings?

Rothman:  You’re referring to the recently launched Building Performance Initiative, which USGBC hopes will close the gap between buildings’ predicted and actual energy and water use. A key to this effort are plans to gather and analyze performance data from LEED certified buildings, something which we, as a company, think is critically important to ensuring the long-lasting energy savings that our customers want.

Advances in building controls will make this possible, and we support this effort with our OptimumHVAC Performance Assurance services. Not only does it ensure ongoing optimization of our customers’ HVAC systems to achieve maximum efficiency, but it tracks system performance and provides measurement & validation information that our customers find invaluable to keeping their HVAC system optimally tuned.

This is one of those areas where, in the words of Al Gore, “inertia” and probably uncertainty about the effectiveness of new technologies tends to cause a level of discomfort that I think is unfounded. Real-time knowledge about a particular facility’s performance as it relates to energy consumption is a requirement to making changes that will achieve new heights in efficiency. That’s what Optimum Energy is all about, and we’re not the only ones who are providing technologies to make this a reality. I think this is a very positive direction for USGBC to be moving in, and I’m hopeful the industry will embrace it.

Sinclair:  How are things looking for Optimum Energy in 2010?

Rothman:  Momentum is building for our products and we’re seeing increased penetration in markets across the U.S., including major markets on the Eastern seaboard, Texas and California. That bodes well for strong growth in 2010. I’m also looking forward to being able to report out on the success of the installations we’ve done this year – early results are outstanding with many buildings achieving wire-to-water kW/ton in the 0.4 and 0.5 range. The best is yet to come.

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