Neal Bach teamed up with the late Mike McGee to create Energy Profiles Limited (EPL) in 2000, and the company has grown to become a leader in helping companies drive down energy and water use and costs in building portfolios across North America.
“Our real stock in trade is in quantifying changes in energy use with numbers you can trust to make decisions on,” Bach says of a company that has 40 people working in offices in Toronto, Montreal and, as of November, Calgary.
The software side of the business focuses on data management and using tools for tracking and reporting utility consumption and costs, while what Bach calls the “on the ground side” puts its employees into buildings to work with people to quantify and help reduce energy use.
“We work with onsite people because ultimately they’re the ones making the difference,” says Bach. “Software doesn’t save energy, people do. Our software systems give operators a clear scorecard on the performance of the building. The way we can improve that is by working with the people who can make changes and do things well.”
EPL started with a handful of clients, but things started to take off when Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating systems were introduced to Canada by the Canada Green Building Council in 2003. Property owners started paying more attention to energy use and sustainability when they realized not only could they save money by improving the performance of their buildings, they also could gain an upper hand in attracting tenants by receiving a LEED certification.
“We offer independent and impartial advice,” stresses Bach. “We aren’t selling equipment, we only guide. We’re paid by the owner or manager to provide independent advice.”
EPL’s team of electrical, mechanical and software engineers track energy, water and waste usage as well as greenhouse gas emissions, and it provides data that can be reported to rating systems such as LEED, BOMA BESt and GRESB. Their systems support and engage a range of parties, including operations teams, occupants, accounting personnel, sustainability managers, property and senior management.
The company works with major property owners and managers from the retail, commercial office, industrial and multi-residential real estate sectors that collectively represent approximately one per cent of Canadian electricity consumption. Its aggregate portfolio is comprised of more than 2,000 properties with $450 million in annual utility costs.
“We weren’t trying to grow, but we found that if you were focused on doing really good work for good people, those good people tend to get promoted to more responsibility with larger asset classes or more geography,” says Bach, who adds EPL pays little attention to promotion and marketing and relies on leading by example to attract clients.
EPL was a pioneer in the field and a number of software companies have since emerged to compete with it in some areas, but Bach says they typically offer a somewhat narrow range of services.
“A full-service company on the reporting and tracking side”
“What makes us different is that over a number of years we’ve taken on responsibility in a host of different areas, so we’re a full-service company on the reporting and tracking side, but also on the implementation side in going to buildings and figuring out issues.
“We’re finding now that the areas where we’re adding the most value is where there’s a combined effort with the two sides of the business. We understand the buildings thoroughly and build software systems to support the analysis and management of the details associated with these buildings.”
Bach emphasizes EPL Is committed to research and development and is constantly improving its systems to make them more accurate, intuitive and technically advanced to “provide real insight into where energy is going in the building in ways that people onsite can understand. There are a lot of behind-the-scenes techniques for extracting and analyzing data that are transparent to the end user.”
EPL’s experts can answer questions and provide explanations to building owners on behalf of property managers and other onsite employees who may lack their technical knowledge, which eases their burden and allows them to focus on their day-to-day work.
Bach declined to discuss specific costs of EPL’s services, but says companies that use them make sure the value equation works and that decisions aren’t typically based on price alone.
“We’ve focused on being the best and doing things really, really well and charging a reasonable cost for it.”