I was recently contacted by a lady named Aundraya Ruse regarding the FSB Blog. She is with a company that provides software advice to clients and shared a recent article her company published about software tools that can help construction contractors track activities to properly achieve each LEED point for their project. I took a look and it was an interesting article. Our continued correspondence led to discussions about having them as a guest author on the FSB Blog.
She introduced me to Derek Singleton/ERP Analyst at Software Advice and we eventually had a telephone interview. He only had one photo of himself, so in order to make it into a collage I took the liberties of taking an Andy Warhol approach to manipulating the singular photo in my possession (sorry Aundraya). So here’s my interview with Derek.
Interview with Derek Singleton
by Fred Schmidt
I have been talking to Aundraya and she thought you would be a great person to have a conversation with about what you guys do. She and I have been tag teaming on having you all be a guest on the FSB Blog and having a guest post. Why don’t we start with you telling me a little about yourself?
Derek: In terms of my background?
Derek: I started working with Software Advice about 2 ½ years ago. Prior to that I have a background in political science I was working in urban and environmental policy and I had started working for a solar company in Los Angeles doing basically market research and a little bit of business development. I don’t know how familiar you are but a few years back California had very enticing tax incentives to get people to put solar panels on their homes.
I recall that.
Derek: So I was doing the business development for a smaller solar company and doing market research and helping them get information out to people on how exactly to qualify for these tax credits and different incentives programs. And then after doing that I sort of got interested in clean tech and bounced around a bit; I was from Texas and decided to live in Austin. While in Austin I found Software Advice. We’re not focused directly on clean tech, but they were looking for people who could do some market research on enterprise software markets. So that’s how I wound up here.
So are you are in Austin now.
That’s interesting because I was just in Austin last week on an intercity visit. One of the places we visited was Capital Works the top of an office building where young entrepreneurials could rent a cubicle and try to find their way into the industry. It seems that you all have a very strong emphasis on technology there in Austin.
Derek: Yea, we definitely do. It’s a young city with a lot of tech companies that decided to invest here.
So what made you decide to go into political science? That was kind of your starting point.
Derek: Basically earlier on I was interested in doing some work for; I don’t think I ever wanted to do work in Washington but more doing just political research. What drew me to it was basically, well, I was most interested in working on environmental policy so I got drawn into it from that. And really curious about clean technology so I was going at it from that angle not really a policy perspective.
So tell me a little about Software Advice. That’s actually the name of the company.
Derek: So we are a lead generation firm for enterprise software generators. We work in 25 different software markets and basically what we do is go out and find people on the web that are in need of business software and we connect them to software vendors. One example is people who are out in the construction industry that are looking for some LEED tracking to their project management software will find our website and request information. After a brief consultation we will understand their needs and from that we can recommend 5 vendors that gives them a short list. Then they can set up a demo and request pricing from them.
So what I gather from looking at your site is that your consultation services to future software buyers are free. You are just trying to point them in the direction for the right software for their situation. And when they connect up with that software vendor that’s where you receive some benefit for your services.
Derek: Sure well we get paid for making the connection between the software buyer and the software vendor. Once we figure out what software matches their needs, and we connect them with a vendor and that’s how we get paid.
Well that’s pretty innovative. It certainly gets people to your doorstep that are looking for advice.
Derek: Certainly. It can be very expensive otherwise to conduct the research for your own company.
So when you got there was it at the ground level or was the company already up and going pretty well by then.
Derek: No, when l started there were only 12 people here. Now there are about 55. So in 2.5 years we have more that quadrupled in size.
That’s a good success story right there.
Derek: They definitely have a pretty strong growth rate both in terms of employee count and just revenue growth.
So what’s Aundraya’s role in the company.
Derek: She manages a lot of our media outreach. We are constantly working on a lot of market research. We are doing primary research surveying construction professionals, marketing professionals, things like that. So what Aundraya does is she helps us get the word out about our research which might otherwise go unnoticed. So she’ll help me connect with people like yourself to let them know about different articles that we have written, different research we have conducted. She helps us get found and mentioned by relevant industry publications out on the web.
She’s been very pleasant to correspond with. Some of your discussion about going into political science and environmental policy begins to answer my next question which is what is your understanding of and interest in LEED?
Derek: Well, I would not characterize myself as a LEED expert but my understanding of it would be mostly from the technology side and also from the software side; energy monitoring and LEED certification tracking is where most my knowledge comes in.
Derek: My interest gets back to my background in urban environmental policy. I’m really interested in how; basically understanding more about the building. I went to college out in California and there was a lot of focus on that. While I was going to school there, we built one of our buildings up to LEED silver certification so I think that’s what got me interested in this method of building.
Perhaps this is more Aundraya’s area of activity, but how did you discover the FSB Blog site.
Derek: Sure. Our general strategy for connecting with people is that anytime we publish research or commentary for a particular niche audience we actually go through a simple process will go out and look for people who are talking about the same topics. Generally through simple Google searches. So I think that’s how we came across your website. So it’s basically looking for things like LEED certification standards or LEED benchmark. I’m not sure exactly what brought up your website but something similar to that.
Well, one of the categories of the Blog is LEED and its highlighted when a post touches on that topic. On our project we are on track for LEED gold. The blog is following a project in Sulphur, Oklahoma which is somewhat rural.
Derek: I’ve been up there
You have been to Sulphur?
Derek: I have. I have family in Oklahoma City.
Oh you do! Well this will be the first LEED certified project for the Chickasaw Nation who is the client and the owner which is another interesting piece about the project.
So, have you been to the Blog yourself?
Derek: I have.
And what’s your impression of it?
Derek: It looks good. It definitely gets to showing that full cycle of a LEED project.
So one final question on an acronym. What does ERP stand for?
Derek: Enterprise Resource Planning. It’s a class of software that sort of describes a whole bunch of different applications that are built to work together. It refers to a common acronym in enterprise software.
Very good…I appreciate your time and I’ll send Aundraya a note when it’s on the Blog. I know Aundraya is anxious to see this post hit the web.
The following is a streamlined version of an article written by Derek in December 2012 that I received from Aundraya.
5 Ways Technology Can Help Plan and Track LEED Credits
One of the main difficulties of achieving LEED accreditation is accurately planning out which credits are attainable–and then tracking and managing all of the paperwork that comes with winning a LEED credit. It’s a rigorous and time-consuming process. However, new technologies available on the market can help make this process more manageable.
Today, an increasing number of construction firms are relying on building information modeling (BIM) to plan their LEED credits before the construction phase. Once it’s time to build, firms are turning to LEED-specific project management software to keep documentation in order, improve team collaboration and share knowledge on project best practices. Derek Singleton of the Software Advice website gives five ways these technologies can help drive efficiencies in the LEED accreditation process.
1. BIM Helps Model Which Credits Are Attainable
BIM has been around the construction industry for some time, but it’s becoming more relevant to LEED projects. BIM helps plan LEED credits by allowing architects to layer multiple levels of information onto a 3-D building design. For instance, in addition to knowing the location and size of something like a door frame, an architect can add information about where the building materials were made, and what percent of the materials come from recycled content. Knowing this is useful for planning out something like MR Credit 4.1, which awards a credit for buildings that use 10 percent recycled content.
2. Multiple Projects Can be Managed from a Workbench
Once the plan is laid out in BIM, and it’s time to execute on the design, project management software can simplify tasks related to the construction phase. Project workbenches give users the ability to monitor the number and type of credits planned for a particular project. From this view, team members can prioritize which credits are easiest to obtain, and which are most difficult.
3. Assign Tasks to the Most Capable Individual
Once projects are planned and it’s time to dole out responsibility, it’s important to know what will be required to obtain the credit. Several project management systems provide charrette functionality. This gives the team a snapshot view of the prerequisites for achieving a credit and the options for getting there. The charrette functionality also allows tasks to be assigned to the most knowledgeable person on the team.
4. Earn Bonus Points from Regional Priorities
In many cases, there are region-specific LEED credits that are awarded for meeting a regional environmental priority. For instance, a particular region may incentivize an additional energy use reduction that goes beyond LEED requirements. Project management systems can make identifying these bonus credits easier by providing a regional database of credits. This can be a boon to LEED accreditation as bonus points can help boost your building to the next higher level of LEED accreditation. For instance, the difference between a LEED Certified building and a LEED Silver building is only 10 points.
5. Share Best Practices with the Team
A final way that technology is helping simplifies the LEED process is by creating a database of best practices to help others working on similar projects or problems. Think of this as a proprietary wiki that helps team members complete a project goal by preventing them from going back to rework a problem that someone else has already solved. Aggregating best practices in a single, electronic database can help improve the speed at which projects are completed since all team members can easily look up solutions without going back to drawing board.
These technologies help take some of the guess-work and paperwork out of the LEED accreditation process. However, they still have some room to mature. If you work on LEED project, what would you like to see added to these technologies? What would make your daily life easier on a LEED project? Leave your me your thoughts in the comments below.
To see the full version of the article click “here.”