October 2016

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Clean, Cheap and Profitable

Boosting Real Estate Valuations the Easy Way
Carter Williams
President and CEO

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Let’s say you’re the CFO of a REIT managing 20 million square feet of commercial floorspace. Chances are you’re paying $2.35 per square foot in utility expense, roughly $47 million annually. If you knew you could reliably cut 30% of this expense, adding $14 million ($0.71/sq ft) in net operating income and an additional $214 million ($10.71/sq ft) in net asset value, would you?

In 2004 I joined Gridlogix, an early leader in the Internet of Things (“IoT”). At the time, an investment in energy efficiency involved major capital upgrades. A good payback was 15 years. Gridlogix reduced this long payback cycle, taking a big data approach: we collected massive bits of data, listening to buildings, prescribing more direct optimization measures, and delivering a 20% energy savings with an 18-month payback. We sold our IoT product alongside large energy projects, targeting government buildings. Ultimately, Johnson Controls acquired us.

This experience shaped the investment thesis at iSelect, where we invest in energy innovation that’s clean, cheap, and can be deployed without incentive or subsidy. Our thesis is simple: the easiest way to save energy is to make savings profitable.

Predictably, in the years since Gridlogix was acquired, innovative new firms have emerged with better, more economical solutions for energy management. One of them is Bractlet, a portfolio company of ours at iSelect.

I’ll talk further about why we invested shortly, but first let’s examine the market for Bractlet’s services and what we see as the opportunity in energy efficiency.

The opportunity in commercial real estate

While commercial buildings are increasingly more energy efficient, they still consume nearly  20% of all energy in the U.S and more than a third (36%) of all electricity. Utility costs comprise 27% of commercial real estate operating expenses. Morgan Stanley estimates that a typical office building integrating sustainable practices can reduce expenses by as much as 30%; the average return on costs for energy efficiency projects exceeds 20%. The opportunity in commercial real estate is large and compelling.

But energy upgrades do not just save energy. Efficient systems lower maintenance costs, equal to or greater than the energy savings. Efficient buildings attract more tenants. For a typical 250,000-square-foot building in San Francisco, direct and indirect effects add an additional $56.55 of net asset value per square foot. Given the cost savings and asset value increases associated with energy efficiency retrofits, commercial building owners should be all over this!  With an estimated opportunity of $72 billion in commercial sector building energy retrofits, why aren’t building owners taking action?

It’s a complex, multi-layer problem, and there are several reasons:

To widely adopt energy retrofits, then, commercial customers need a more solid understanding of both the cost and risk involved, up front. But how?

Enter Bractlet.

When I first met the team at Bractlet, I realized they are clearly building and data geeks that know how to talk to a CFO. Their software optimizes building performance by finding, forecasting, and verifying energy savings in a commercial context. Bractlet’s energy modeling and analytics platform is driven by real-time environmental, building, and equipment-level data that’s collected through an easy-to-install, cost-effective, sub-metering and building automation system integration solution. Leveraging this data, Bractlet generates dynamic building performance models that forecast the energy consumption effects of specific energy savings measures with unmatched accuracy.

contemporary While most analytical solutions measure performance at the end of the process, Bractlet’s low-cost tools let building owners evaluate options upfront, not off a theoretical model but at the specific building level. These models allow all stakeholders to evaluate and prioritize specific energy savings measures relative to cost, return, and payback period. And because Bractlet continuously monitors energy savings measures down to the equipment level, they ensure optimal building performance. Ultimately, Bractlet gives everyone involved a common measurement tool -- so the CFO and efficiency contractors can collaborate to hit savings and return targets, rather than fight over change orders and botched execution. The result: trustworthy energy savings estimates, transparent savings measurement and verification, and expedited payback periods for time-sensitive commercial property owners.

Based in Austin, Texas, Bractlet leverages its sophisticated understanding of building energy use to offer commercial building owners custom-tailored retrofits with payback periods that meet their specific needs. In fact, Bractlet is currently helping five national commercial office building property groups, two major hospital groups, two of the largest university systems, a large data center provider, and an international auto manufacturer save 20% to 50% of their energy spend.

The opportunity is real, the market is growing and Bractlet is addressing a need that serves both commercial real estate operators and those interested in widespread adoption of energy efficiency.

Our team at iSelect is searching for real solutions that drive down the cost of clean energy. The team at Bractlet listened to the market and has reshaped the energy retrofit process by developing answers for the client CFO, reducing risk in the early phase of a retrofit. To learn more about how Bractlet is making energy retrofits profitable for commercial-sector customers, contact Mark Ellsworth, VP of Sales. If you want to stay updated on our future “clean, cheap” investments, visit iselect.

About the Author

Carter Williams is President and CEO of iSelect. Prior to iSelect, he was a director and founder of Boeing Ventures where he led Boeing’s technology planning process. Additionally Carter served as president of Gridlogix, an early Internet of Things company, until it was successfully sold to Johnson Controls in 2008. An active investor and advisor to early-stage companies, Carter led Progress Partners, an energy and technology investment banking practice, was a managing partner at Open Innovation Ventures and a director at Clayton Capital Partners. Carter is the past president and founder of the MIT Corporate Venturing Consortium and Co-founder of the MIT Entrepreneurship Society and has an M.B.A. from the MIT Sloan School.


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