Founders 10x10: Blue Auditor Ceo/founder Wolfgang Lukaschek on the digital trends in European green
While Green Building Certifications have been around for nearly 30 years, with the introduction of BREEAM in 1990 and LEED in 1998, the global trends to design, build and certify high performance buildings is entering a new era of automation. Several platforms have developed technology such as the USGBC's Arc platform that has created a more dynamic environment for owners to continuously track the changing performance of their buildings. In Europe, where the market has over 6 standards that are regionally more in demand like DNGB, software companies like Blue Auditor are tackling the problem head on by partnering with the German and Austria equivalents of the USGBC to automate their certification process from project inception through commissioning.
Currently, there are more than 5,200 LEED registered and certified projects in Europe, comprising more than 147 million gross square meters of space, and more than 2,500 LEED professionals whose singular focus is to manage the certification process for owners and developers who are not versed in many of the byzantine codes that make up a standard. Automation in the certification world, much the same as autocad reduced the need for an army of draftsmen to design a building, advancements in green certification software will lessen the need for highly trained sustainability professionals to be spending hundreds of hours on administrative process that software can only do better, cheaper faster.
If its taken 30 years for this market to mature, my introduction to Wolfgang Lukaschek could not have happened at a better time. For the past decade Wolfgang has been working in and out of the US market, first coming to Berkley for graduate studies, earning him the credential as "chief building scientist" from several of the energy related startups he has been co-founder and now moving make to Vienna, Austria to build his latest software project: Blue Auditor.
Recently I was in Vienna, and spend time with Wolfgang over lunch at the cities largest energy focused accelerator called WeXerlerate and we discussed his journey and the continued need for European owners and developers to be driving sustainability into their portfolios:
Tell me the genesis story of your company? What was your initial motivation to to pursue your vision?
The business process for certifying a high performance building is very tedious and administrative. I eventually came to a cross-road where I had to decide whether to give it up completely or come up with a solution that will make it easier for any project stakeholder. I chose the latter and decided to build software automation that would address this market issue.
What person in your academic or professional career influenced you to get into high performance buildings/energy/smart devices?
It was really a handful of idealistic lecturers / teachers during my university education that fueled my interest in high-performance buildings. I have always been interested in alternative and non-fossil fuels and my university – which is one of the most prestigious building-science-focused institutes in Europe and maybe the world – taught me many concepts and demonstrated technologies that would allow just that. I was fascinated by off-grid energy concepts and 100% renewable energy-run buildings. Luckily, I was able to combine my European education with a US education at UC Berkeley where I got to experience the start of LEED certification and building commissioning. Ultimately, I brought all my experience into Conectric, a hotel-focused IoT start-up in San Diego where I learned about software development for the energy and sustainable real estate business.
Leading a company requires vision, how do you motivate your team to keep them focused?
I believe that once a vision has been communicated and once it got the spark ignited within the team, it is the contribution of every single person on the team that keeps fueling the vision. Every idea adds value to the entire process and ultimately creates a better product in a shorter time-frame.
Share with us some your most critical experiences starting out, raising capital and recruiting for your venture?
For me, starting out really comes down to answering the question, whether what I want to start out with is actually something that the market needs and wants. How is it better and different to current practices and what do I need to deliver to make people want to use my product.
What are some of the technology advances and changes you envision in the next 5,10 and 20 years in your space?
The building industry is just now waking up to IoT and digital solutions. Granted, building automation systems have been around for decades, however, the synergies between various building technology systems, let alone the combination of various buildings and other infrastructure like EVs, distributed energy resources (DER), etc. is just now starting to gain traction in the built environment.
As a first next step I can see the digitalization of information in the built environment, including data acquisition and monitoring, analysis, reporting, etc. There are many examples of successful companies especially in the US that successfully push this by bringing occupant comfort and productivity into the equation. As a next step I see DER and advanced / automated / smart demand response systems integrating buildings and the grid. Then there is the obvious inclusion of EVs and infrastructure systems which will latest at this point also change the role of the utility in the power system. Not to forget all the potential of blockchain technology for the energy sector. Looking beyond 5-10 years is something I personally find unrealistic. Technology is changing too fast.
What are some of the ethical questions you think about as Ai, big data collection and robotics will have on our privacy?
We all love comfort and seem to enjoy that we don’t have to think much anymore ourselves. We are automatically reminded of our next events and get real-time traffic alerts telling us when to leave to reach our destination comfortably and on-time. Eventually, each and every one of us will have to decide themselves how much of our privacy we are willing to give up. The most important question for me though is not so much what to give up or not, but it’s rather a question of security and ensuring that what we don’t want to share in fact is just not shared. The ethical question becomes a technical question and we all know from past events that it seems to be only a matter of time, effort and willpower for someone to access private information. I do believe that governments need to change their policy and decision-making processes to keep up with the fast-pacing IT environment (refer to crypto-currency for example), especially when it comes to protecting individuals privacy. Additionally, governments need to set examples for executing such laws.
What are the characteristics you look for in talent that you recruit into your company?
Team-fit, flexibility, willingness and ability to execute.
What are your most rewarding moments as a founder?
Seeing my product being used and user’s loving it.
What causes you the most stress and how do you manage these episodes?
I’ve been pretty successful recently to simply take quiet moments during the day to re-center myself and focus on what’s important. In addition, I’ve chosen to basically disable any notifications on my mobile, computer and other devices. While I love how many applications facilitate communication, I had to find out for myself that at the end of the day they lead to more inefficiencies and stress for me than accomplishing what needs to be done.
What big things are in store next for you and the company?
I have a very clear vision where I want to go professionally. What I can share is that my sustainability auditing platform will go beyond just new construction buildings. The opportunities really are endless and I’m working on something that will bring together the best of our past and future and integrate new technologies to improve our well-being.