Energy savings solutions are rapidly becoming big business and keep EcoGreen Energy Solutions busy. The Knoxville-based company works all over the United States on the new construction and retrofitting of energy efficient solutions, with a strong focus on hotels.
The company has been using Countfire for a couple of years to count takeoffs, and say the software is an integral part of preparing estimates. We caught up with Giles King, their Utility Management Program & Bidding Manager, to find out how their processes have changed and streamlined their business with Countfire:
About EcoGreen Energy Solutions
"EcoGreen has been around for about ten years and I joined back in 2012, so I’ve been with them for a while,” says Giles.
“It’s an energy efficiency company which is split up into two entities. One is mainly for construction - new hotels - and the other is for the retrofitting services in existing hotels. Our services for the retrofit entail a monthly service to the client so we can help them as they go, as well as one-off targeted solutions packages.”
In terms of his own role within the company, Giles says: “I came into the company as a sustainability analyst, then worked up to become an energy analyst. Each of these roles focused on our Utility Management Program for our monthly service for hospitality clients. Now I’m a utility management program and bidding manager.”
A big part of Giles’ role is working on bids: “On the bidding side of things I’m the one who puts together the packages for our new construction clients, which includes putting plans through Countfire and coming up with solutions that we see are the best fit. We have a lot of experience working with different flags (brands) - they’re mainly hotels. We have worked with a few schools and nursing homes, but it’s mainly hotels and these are mainly lighting projects with LEDs,” he says.
Giles works very closely with four other people, while the other team members are usually on the road. “EcoGreen is a small private company. We have an office in Knoxville, Tennessee, but half of our people are either on the road visiting the clients we service, or on the road servicing the new construction clients that we are contracted with to help. It’s a small operation.”
We asked about any major milestones the company has achieved and Giles tells us that achieving revenue targets has been a major accomplishment this year:
"We just hit a milestone. I was given a quota and we actually hit it after seven months… so I’m basically done for the rest of the year,” he laughs. “It may not seem like a lot to some people, but it’s what we achieved in all of last year."
"We’ve increased (upon) last year a little more than half way through the year. And we’ve achieved all those projects because of Countfire: having that streamlining from the beginning of the process and then having the ability to check after the projects come in.”
Challenges with manual counting
Prior to discovering Countfire, EcoGreen was counting takeoffs the “old-fashioned” way and looking for a more efficient process.
"Before we were using Countfire we were doing our takeoffs manually. We were using Excel,” says Giles. “We could go over all the plans and count the mark, but you’d need that precision when you’d need to go and check the count. That could get complicated and it was pretty tedious. So we started to process our plans using Excel where you could at least categorise each symbol but that was so taxing and it got to the point where we realised we needed something else.”
The team at EcoGreen was looking for a more efficient solution to counting takeoffs and checking their work. As Giles points out, needing to check their work again after projects come in can also be time-consuming when counting manually.
“It was my colleague Scott who found Countfire and we’ve been using it ever since. Doing takeoffs before Countfire was a drag on our entire process so Scott had been hunting for a solution that could help us. It really is next-level; all you need to do is highlight one symbol once and boom - they will be counted throughout. I don’t think we could have the streamlined process we have today without Countfire,” he says.
Putting Countfire to work
"At the start of the (counting) process we need Countfire. Some of the hotels we work on have 20 marks on one page and we definitely need Countfire for that,” Giles says. “When I get the plans I check through them then upload them onto Countfire.”
On the time taken to get through the work, Giles says: “the takeoffs can go from an hour to a day because they’re so complicated, and that’s due to the plans - sometimes they’re not helpful or overly complicated and in some instances they’re conflicting. I can’t even tell you how long it would take to do these takeoffs without Countfire.”
Ecogreen use Countfire from the start of a project, right through to the end:
"At the end of the process a client will come back to us and ask us questions. The architect’s notes will generally be one of the hardest parts of the job because you’re looking for LED solutions for a new build property. Before we used Countfire we had to find what the architect wanted, but with Countfire we can easily find where the symbols are on the drawing. It gives you more context, more accuracy and you can check your symbols and your quantities,” Giles says.
“That end process used to be a big headache. You’d be dredging up an old project - say we submitted it in January, we might not hear back until August - and having Countfire, where it’s all still ‘live’ makes it easier. It wouldn’t make sense for me to go back through all the plans manually when I have all my notes on Countfire.”
Giles says, "Countfire is super helpful at the start of a project because it streamlines the process and it’s super helpful at the end because it makes sense of older projects against revisions or notes from architects.”
How does the team at EcoGeen feel about the support they receive from the Countfire team?
"Even though the Countfire team is in the UK and across the ocean, I really feel like I get great support and timely answers. Sometimes the team just sends me a link on how to do something and that’s all I need. But a lot of times they’ll follow up to see how I’m getting on or they’ll make contact about changes - totally on the call of duty to make sure the software does a great job. Countfire’s support is huge,” Giles says.
"If someone is doing takeoffs manually and doing what I do - working on multi-floor, 50,000 square foot projects - then I’d say they should at least run a trial with Countfire as they’d see the clear benefit of having the simplified software capture technology working,” Giles says. You’ll then thank yourself six months down the line when your bid lands and your project comes to life again.
"Countfire is perfect for me. I don’t know what we’d do without Countfire; the technology is just so good.”
About Giles King
Giles King is the UMP and Bidding Manager at EcoGreen Energy Solutions. His work involves:
UMP - Coordinate day-to-day operation of EcoGreen Utility Management Program. Responsibilities include facilitating data maintenance, information processing/analysis, and ongoing optimisation. Position entails the oversight of Energy Solutions team as well as determining/implementing future program path.
Bidding - Generate high efficiency energy and water conservation measure recommendation reports for new and retrofit applications.
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