Partners see bonanza in energy conservation New company sees future in conservation

January 30, 1993|By Ross Hetrick | Ross Hetrick,Staff Writer

Brian O. Curran and John Spears see a revolution coming in energy conservation, and they are intent on helping companies lead the charge. And unlike in past efforts, conservationists have an important ally -- the utility companies.

Energy Conservation Management Inc., formed by Mr. Curran and Mr. Spears in April, is one of a new breed of companies focusing exclusively on how to design and outfit buildings for the most efficient use of energy.

While existing engineering and architectural firms advise clients on energy matters, only about a dozen firms nationwide solely work on energy conservation for buildings, according to William F. Lemke, executive director of the Energy Efficient Building Association, a Wausau, Wis.-based trade group. "It's a neat little niche those guys have fallen into."

In Maryland, there are only a few such companies, including Energy Conservation. One competitor, Jack Dale Associates Inc. of Baltimore, was founded in 1976 and one of the oldest firms in the industry.

Energy Conservation had its start in March after a six-hour car ride in which Mr. Curran and Mr. Spears rode together to a conservation conference. "We decided we were about ready to save the world," said Mr. Spears.

The two men felt their different experiences in the conservation field would work well together. "Between my sticks and bricks exposure and his building science and research exposure, there is a meld here," said Mr. Curran, 44.

The sticks-and-bricks part refers to Mr. Curran's experience as the head of Buffalo Homes in Butte, Mont., a company that built energy-efficient modular homes. Started in the late 1970s, the business was sold in 1987 and Mr. Curran ended up on the Eastern Shore working as the general manager for another modular home maker. But he tired of the job after about 18 months and went on his own into energy consulting.

Mr. Spears, 45, got his start in the conservation business in the early 1970s when he founded Environmental Design Group in Norfolk, Va., a company that specialized in solar power. After getting more professional degrees, he worked for a variety of government and private consulting firms involved with solar power and other energy matters.

After the conversation in March, the two men decided to team up. Mr. Curran is president of the new company while Mr. Spears is vice president.

The company has 18 accounts and is already profitable, the two men said. They expect to have gross revenues of between $2 million and $2.5 million this year.

Using computer programs, the seven-person company develops theoretical plans for buildings that track the energy consumption hour-by-hour throughout a year.

They then change various aspects of the building to see how it affects its power needs. For example, a change in lighting that reduces the number of watts per square foot can also reduce the size of the building's cooling unit.

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