Submetering: you probably know more about it than I do. But as I continue to play myself into shape here at gbNYC, submetering — and the constellation of companies seeking to refine it — has emerged for me as one of the more interesting green topics. I love an ambitious new skyscraper or green condominium development as much as the next guy (and, as previously noted, my affection for insulation is intense enough to probably warrant law-enforcement attention), but I’m more into the idea of increasing efficiency. I don’t know what kind of dork that makes me — although I am sure it makes me some species of dork; I trust the reference resource at left will help me figure it out — but it probably explains why I was so interested in Eric Wesoff’s Greentech Media profile of Agilewaves, a start-up that has developed a very promising new Building Optimization System.
As is probably true of many people, I have recently found that my response to the mindless, incantatory public argument that “letting the market work” will bring about earthly paradise — letting the market do its unbridled thing, has instead, given us something very different and very un-paradisiacal and all those other things you already know if you’ve ever even walked past a newspaper. And yet it’s clear that, however neat the ideas we discuss in this space are, they need to make some basic market sense before they’re anything other than the stuff of Earthshippy dilettantism. That is, they’re not going to fly outside of, like, me and Stephen and Ed Begley Jr. unless they provide a tangible, obvious economic benefit. One of the most interesting (if also fairly tautological) points in David Owen’s “Green Metropolis” — which I’m still reading — is that the most effective macro-scale efficiencies are the ones you never think about or notice; think the unconscious greenness inherent in everyone in NYC taking mass transit to work and living in smallish apartments, for instance. The reverse, though, is equally true — when nothing but the goodness of our hearts or the nagging of our consciences incentivizes turning off the lights when we’re not in the office, those lights are going to stay chugging carbon. Your better submetering systems — and this is what I like about them, if hardly a novel point — are such a vital part of green retrofitting because they bring the incentives into alignment on both sides. Landlords get a look at who is using the most and the least, and can punish and praise (that is, economically incent) accordingly; users, too, get both information and incentives that work. You already know this, probably. But I’m basically crying with joy over here at the pure sense of it all. And your more-appealing submetering systems — and, to my untrained eye, Agilewaves seems to have one of those — add an elegance to that basic, logical right-ness.
So, belatedly: to this particular system and company. Agilewaves is an angel-funded company founded by a pair of ex-NASA engineers, and the Building Optimization System and Resource Monitor is its signature product. The Agilewaves BOS, like those of the other bigs in this field, monitors electric, water and gas usage per unit and then integrates and packages that information. The novel part of Agilewaves’ BOS approach is that it monitors usage without having to rely on utilities for data, delivering utility-quality accuracy in real time through an easy-to-read dashboard (and even to wireless devices, if you’re into that sort of thing) (if you are, we’d both salute you and urge you to consult that pictured reference). “By adding the Agilewaves system to accurately track the energy usage for a given tenant, the owner has a system in place to shift tenants to paying their utility bill directly with the added benefit of marketing the building as a green building,” Wesoff writes. “New York City actually offers subsidies for owners who provide sub-metering.” Agilewaves CFO Ed Campaniello tells Wesoff that the program can deliver possible savings of 15-25 percent in the first year, which is obviously ambitious, but also obviously appealing. And in submetering — as in everything having to do with green retrofits — it’s that fundamental bottom-line appeal that matters most, and which makes whatever cool thing will blow minds next possible.