Technology for Change: Performance Systems Development

As part of our Technology for Change series, we’ve interviewed John Behler from Performance Systems Development, a local company focused on promoting energy conservation by improving the energy efficiency of buildings. The company’s use of technology, as well as its dedication to the triple bottom line objectives, makes it an excellent model for our campaign. Singlebrook is grateful to John for taking the time to answer our questions relating to Performance Systems Developments’ objectives and operations.

1. Please state your name, title, and company name, and then describe your role in the company.

John Behler, Marketing Manager, Performance Systems Development (started mid-December 2010). As Marketing Manager, I’m responsible for promoting the company to our various target markets. Our marketing activity is intended to boost awareness, convey our unique value proposition, position the company as the desired solutions provider, gain trust and acceptance, and convert prospects into clients.

2. Could you start out by giving a brief description of your business? (i.e. who you are, where you are based, and what you do)

Performance Systems Development is headquartered in Ithaca, NY with field offices in Philadelphia and Meadville, PA. We promote energy conservation through a three-pronged approach to improve the energy efficiency of buildings.

First, our Professional Services group provides engineering, training, and contractor services. Our engineering team consults on building energy efficiency projects, taking a whole building systems approach to performance to promote energy efficiency, comfort, health and safety. Our contracting group makes the actual building improvements on select projects. And our training academy trains and certifies building performance professionals across the country.

Second, our Program Consulting group provides design, implementation and operational support on energy efficiency programs run by state and local governments, utilities, and non-profits. Over $17 billion was earmarked in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for energy efficiency programs. While this has been a major impetus for new programs, energy efficiency programs and subsidized weatherization assistance programs have been in play for many years. Regardless of the source, all programs have a myriad of players and logistics to manage workflow, verify savings, and award incentives. Our Programs staff are subject matter experts in this arena.

Third, our Products group provides software that supports building performance programs, home energy audits for retrofit projects, and ratings for new construction. TREAT, our energy modeling and building simulation software, is used by energy auditors and raters across the US. Such programs enable the user to accurately estimate the energy use of any building and predict the energy and money savings that will be generated by building changes such as lighting, attic and wall insulation, heat plant upgrades, duct sealing and window improvements. We also sell an integrated suite of software designed to help manage the workflow and communications of program managers, service providers and homeowner participants in a given energy efficiency program. This new package, called Green Energy Compass Suite for Programs, is scheduled for official release in mid-February.

3. In what way(s) are you using technology to positively impact the environment?

Virtually everything we do has a positive impact on the environment by improving the energy efficiency of our buildings. By making building changes designed to use our energy resources more efficiently, we create jobs, mitigate climate change, and limit our dependence on foreign oil.

4. Please tell us how the technology works, in a general sense.

With respect to our energy modeling software, the program applies the principles of thermo dynamics to model energy usage. The user provides details regarding a building’s attributes and historic utility use. With that, and a link to local weather logs, the software disaggregates the energy usage into heating, cooling, and baseload. This step is essential as heating and cooling are the primary areas on which building retrofits can have an impact. In an essential step called “true-up”, the user (typically an energy auditor or contractor) adjusts some of the assumptions made in the initial inputs to calibrate the initial model to match the actual utility bills. This ensures that predictions of savings based on proposed building improvements will be accurate.

With respect to the Green Energy Compass Suite for Programs, several software modules integrate to support each participant group in a program. Program managers having oversight, marketing, support, and approval roles in the program are provided with central tracking/reporting and CRM tools (built on Salesforces) with several views of the program, participants, and job specifics. Data is transferred and shared as appropriate across program actors using internet protocols. The suite includes a website portal module designed to make it easier to deploy a public website for the program. It offers templates, content management, bill disaggregation, peer comparisons, energy modeling, and educational content re energy conservation. There is also an energy audit tool called Surveyor which is essentially a thinner software than TREAT and designed to help contractors sell home improvement jobs by conveying the energy/money savings and program incentives. Together, these components provide effective and efficient workflow management, job tracking, reporting, marketing campaign management, quality assurance integration, and incentive processing.

5. Are there any features of the technology that are particularly unique or innovative? If so, please describe them.

Performance Systems Developments’ integration of several modules into a suite that offers the flexibility to adapt to pre-existing program processes is certainly unique. Other systems are very rigid and dictate the program process. We’ve taken a much more adaptable and customizable approach.

We are also unique in that our tools supports multifamily and commercial programs in addition to single family residential.

6. How are the changes you’re creating most prominently manifested? In other words, how do you measure your progress and influence?

We measure our success by the scale of programs we’re serving and supporting and the thousands of service professionals we’ve trained. For example, a recent success includes a deal with PA’s FirstEnergy to support their New Homes program ( ). We are finalists in numerous other government non-profit and utility sponsored programs.

7. Are you aware of any other businesses or organizations in your area that have similar objectives or operations to yours?

There are a numerous contractors in the region that perform energy audits and do home improvement for energy efficiency and retrofits for alternative energies. However, I know of no other companies in this local area that are pursuing the same markets and applications.

8. Do you collaborate with other businesses, organizations or individuals in the community? In what ways and how often?

We’ve worked with the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative Compass (TCCPI) to provide benchmarking software to be used in the initiative. Such software allows the user to measure and track the energy efficiency of building porfolios. Performance Systems has also provided energy consulting services to Sustainable Tompkins. We’ve also presented at “Meet the Employer” sessions at Workforce New York to boost awareness of our company as a potential and desirable employer.

9. Do you feel that your “technology for change” initiatives are recognized and supported by your local community? Among larger audiences? If not, how do you plan to spread the word about them?

Yes. Our initiatives target energy efficiency programs well beyond our local market.

To learn more about Performance Systems Development, visit their website.
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