Bueno founder and chief executive officer Leon Wurfel

Now six years old, the success of Bueno’s data-driven building operations software owes a lot to the maturity of energy performance in the Australian property sector. Now it’s looking to grow its presence overseas, with a new office set to open in New York next year.

Bueno started in 2013 and because its founder and chief executive officer Leon Wurfel had a background in sustainability, back then the focus was on energy efficiency and water usage.

Before long the team realised that customers would get more value out of a tool that covers all operational needs, such as general maintenance and risk assessments.

“The opportunity to benefit the industry is more than just energy savings, if it saves a truck rolling out to a site, there’s also an environmental saving there.”

He says there might be five to 10 engineering systems in an A- or B-grade building and it makes sense to bring these systems together.

The company now has a team of 60 professionals working across Australia and globally, with an office set to open in New York in January 2020 and further global expansion on the cards.

Its software is used in 1500 buildings worldwide, including offices, shopping malls, grocery stores and casinos. Customers include Dexus, Vicinity, Westfield, Mirvac, Woolworths, Crown and Lendlease. The company also has major clients in countries such as US, Canada and India.

Building operations stuck in a time warp

Wurfel told The Fifth Estate that the property industry is dropping behind in the race to digitalise, and the technology used to manage buildings is falling far short of what people expect.

He also says that there’s a skills shortage crisis looming in operations and facility management, with the ageing workforce heading towards retirement without enough new talent coming through to pick up the slack. Technology will be essential to plug this skills gap.

At the moment, best practice building operations involves “running around and checking things” to try and catch a problem before it develops.

“Checking things is a not a value creating exercise. The value of human labour is fixing things and making them run better.”

Instead of running spreadsheet formulas to see which equipment needs or chillers or which could be run more efficiently, the company uses technology and data science to fill the gap between operational technology and occupant requirements.

To make sure analytical insights are converted into actions, customers are presented with a “shopping list of issues” as well as the data presented in dashboards.

“Any building at any time has more than 100 things wrong with. It’s about prioritising which ones you’ll work on first.

“There’s no value unless action is taken.”

Standing out in a crowded market

Although the company has a head start on the competition and is still among the biggest provider of data-based building operations services in the world, “you can’t be the only one in the space if it’s a good idea.”

It’s a crowding market but the company is one of few focused on whole-of-operations and not just energy efficiency.

The competitive Australian market generates good performers

Wurfel says companies like Bueno owe a lot to the competitiveness of the Australian property market on energy performance.

Programs such as minimum energy performance standards for government tenancies and the commercial building disclosure program has driven continuous innovation and improvements in energy performance.

“If it wasn’t for that chain of events Bueno wouldn’t be here, that’s positioned us to have a competitive market to operate in.”

Sustainability still comes first

Although the company offers a whole-of-operations solution, sustainability is still a priority for the company. Because energy savings is so quantifiable and clearly translates into savings, Wurfel says it tends to be the “jumping off point” for clients.

On the other hand, for clients that don’t prioritise sustainability, energy savings can be the unintended but welcome side effect of installing a whole-of-operations platform.

Two types of customers

Customers either buy the software and use it in their own buildings with the training and assistance of the Bueno team, or contractors partner with the company to provide services to their customers.

Woolworths is a customer and the technology is plugged into a broad range of systems, including HVAC, refridgeration and lighting. The platform is also used to detect faults, manage warranties on capital works and more.

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  1. We’re totally deluded by our own greenwash if we believe that the Australian property sector performs well on energy performance. From what I’ve seen, Australian buildings perform pretty hopelessly. I dare the Australian property sector to subject its iconic best buildings to a Probe (UK) study and benchmark themselves against international best practice. Given our benign climate for the most populated parts of Australia compared to almost any other country our buildings SHOULD ALL BE NET ZERO energy buildings by now. With just a decade left to radically deacarbonise or trigger climate spiralling to extinction for our species “Net Zero” should be a prerequisite not the pinnacle of our achievements – in fact it should be NCC by now. What sane species would be greenwashing anything less than zero emissions in a green building rating system now?