With science and software, energy efficiency audits made easier

New software seeks to help energy performance contractors come up with green building retrofit plans more quickly.

How do you distinguish your home efficiency services company? You develop software that helps make your more efficient at energy audits and home performance audits. Then you raise $8 million from the world's second largest home improvements retailer to help market and distribute the application nationwide.

That's the story of Recurve, a six-year-old home performance contracting company from San Francisco founded by energy efficiency expert, Matt Golden. "There are answers to how houses work, but they are housed on lab paper. Building science needs to scale," says Golden, who holds positions on all sorts of national board devoted to energy efficiency, including Efficiency First.

In order to help shave off three to five hours from the audits that retrofitters typically do before coming up with an energy efficiency plan for your house, Recurve developed a tablet-based application that runs either online through a web browser or offline. (Sorry folks, because the software runs certain simulations in the background, it doesn't work on an Apple iPad.) The software typically is used on netbooks.

Golden says there is one primary target customer for Recurve's software: Home contractors who need to become more savvy about energy efficiency and building design that helps improve it, and utility companies that are trying to help their customer bases get smarter about their individual energy use. "If we can predict the savings that a house will incur, we can approach utility companies with this information," he says.

Right now, the software is being used internally by Recurve's own team, which handles between 30 and 40 houses a month. But Golden says that's only the tip of the iceberg: he estimates there are 70 million single family homes eligible for retrofits in the United States.

"To bring this industry to scale, we have to leverage the greatest in information technology," he says.

Recurve is far from the only company in this game. Just last week, KWhOURs released a mobile application called kW-Field that can help reduce the audits for commercial and industrial buildings by 30 percent. The software works on a touch-screen PC and, like the Recurve application, data is loaded up into an analytics program provided by Energy Star that provides results pretty much on the spot.

Here's perspective from Colin Davis, founder of the company: "There are approximately 87 billion square feet of commercial building space in the United States, much of which is audited every three to five years. The practice of dispatching qualified engineers armed with pencils and clipboards is a major impediment in realizing the promise of energy efficiency quickly. Without audits, retrofits cannot effectively move forward."

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com