How a Roadtrip in India Inspired Efficient Building Monitoring

What started as a trip across India looking for energy and environmental innovations led to the creation of a energy efficiency platform that provides real-time access to energy use data.

"It's important that all of us be entrepreneurs," Alexis Ringwald, director of business development for Serious Materials, said during her presentation at the State of Green Business Forum in San Francisco.

Speaking about ways to source innovation, she stressed that it's important to be unconventional in sourcing innovation and to be creative.

Ringwald's previous company, Valance Energy, had developed the aforementioned energy monitoring tool and was acquired by Serious Materials, the maker of efficient windows, glass and other building products that launched the program as SeriousEnergy.

State of Green BusinessAfter graduating from Yale with a Fulbright Award, Ringwald spent the following three years in India, where she Alexis co-founded Valence with a team out of Santa Clara University, and watched as the smart grid increased in importance, and realized that smart buildings was a growing area.

Within that time, she planned a trip across the country, in electric cars and with a solar-powered rock band and Bollywood dancers, to document what innovations and solutions were happening in India. She ran across things like biogas digesters, people using banana leafs as plates and a maharajah that ran worm farms.

In talking to building facilities managers, Ringwald and her team found that the common complaints were that there is a lot of data coming out of buildings, but it's not in real time, it's not easy to share and it's not easy to get building systems to talk to one another.

What is now called the SeriousEnergy Manager is the system she helped develop. It monitors, analyzes and controls a building or a whole portfolio of locations and provides real-time data, which can be broken down in different time increments, so facilities managers can find hot spots in energy use.

Back when Valence launched the tool, it's first customers were two 10th grade students at Harker School in San Jose, who received a grant for using the tool. One thing that was immediately discovered was anomalies in energy use at night; things were turning on when they should not have been. That instant information led to repairs that cut down on wasted energy.

"The point is to empower people with information," Ringwald said.

A short video clip from the presentation is below; the full video is available online from

Photos by Goodwin Ogbuehi,