Nick is a highly commercial and entrepreneurial leader of technology based disruptive propositions in start-ups, scale-ups and corporate ventures. He brings extensive leadership and commercial experience across commercial property, technology innovation and SaaS business scale-up through his roles at Linde, Interserve and Crave Interactive.
A geophysicist by background and with a Cranfield MBA, Nick has over 30 years experience across multiple sectors including commercial property and technology in operations, project and senior business management roles.
How did you become involved in the Smart Buildings industry?
Early 2019 - I joined Crave Interactive as COO, providing innovative guest facing interactive technology to some of the most prestigious hotels in the world. I’d previously run a business unit of one of the UK’s leading integrated FM businesses but this was before “smart” became a thing and at Crave it was exciting to see not only the efficiencies and revenues that could be generated but also the incredible engagement that well designed technology could generate with building users and the insights that could be generated from that data.
What excites you about the Smart Buildings industry?
The opportunity to engage individuals. Anyone can automate something or make it more efficient but that’s only ever going to get us 50% of the way to net zero. User behaviour is the elephant in the room and unless that is addressed with technology that engages, motivates and reinforces positive behaviour we’ll never achieve the goal. Giving individuals feedback on the positive effects of their own personal actions is where we need to get to. We all want to do the right thing but seeing the fruits of our individual efforts is the ultimate motivator.
Are there any particular technologies that we should be aware of?
Installation of smart building tech needs to be easy and maintenance-free. So technologies that are self-powered or energy harvesting are the future. At one end of the scale is our energy harvesting intelligent heating controller but at the other end is a shower head that shines changing coloured light according to the duration of the shower. I need those for my kids!
What services does your organisation offer?
EcoSync’s smart tech enables commercial buildings to stop heating empty rooms, reducing energy consumption & costs by a possible 50%.
We utilise energy-harvesting IoT tech to easily retrofit to radiators making them intelligent, only heating rooms according to occupancy & need. Once fitted, our AI-enabled software allows remote and individualised control of heating using a cloud-based dashboard for building managers & QR code app for occupants.
Our solution can be rapidly deployed with no interruption and complements other efficiency measures such as heat pumps and insulation and delivers a fast payback within 3 years.
Our research highlights that 50% of heating energy in commercial buildings can be wasted by empty rooms. An estimated 220,000 UK buildings including universities, schools, hotels & offices are lagging behind carbon reduction targets. Rising energy costs, tightening emissions regulations and hybrid working are increasing the urgency of the problem.
Are people aware of the regulations that they will need to comply with in the near future?
It depends. My experience is that there are 2 camps – those that are very aware and actively looking for solutions (and this has gathered pace in terms of energy efficiency solutions with the current energy price crisis); and those that are “sticking their heads in the sand”. One of the challenges is confusion and a multitude of options and the age old problem of do I go with a fully integrated solution that is only ever going to be a jack of all trades or best of breed solutions in each area. This was always the debate within clients in my FM days. But the energy and climate crisis needs addressing now, not tomorrow, so the debate should be reframed to what can I do easily, quickly and cost effectively today to buy me time and save me money to invest in the harder, medium term actions. Many organisations have an ambition to have a pathway to net zero but beyond changing the LED lighting, most are unsure what the steps on the path are.
EcoSync’s solution has been called the “heating world’s equivalent of LED lighting – the no brainer first step that many property owns and tenants should take”.
What are the benefits of a smart building?
Smart is not just about technology it’s also about helping people to be smart. We know that comfortable buildings promote satisfaction, wellbeing and productivity. And we also know that we often have different personal preferences. That’s why our energy management solution is designed with individual building occupants in mind, giving them the power to be comfortable as well as engaging them directly in real world climate action.
But more deeply, the way we can use the data to better understand user behaviour but also the building behaviour leads to smarter decisions. For example we can tell whether high energy consuming rooms in a building are due to utilisation, occupant behaviour (eg opening windows, adjusting temperature), or building fabric. Knowing this at a micro level and over time enables informed and targeted occupant communication but also capital efficient, area specific fabric upgrades rather than huge, costly, time-consuming projects – again, low hanging fruit.
Who has been the biggest influence in your career?
An Australian VP called Boyd Kolozs back in my oil & gas days in Singapore who believed in the 24 year old me and gave me the career break of a lifetime, appointing me to run the first contract in Vietnam by a US company after the trade embargo was lifted.
What is the question you are most often asked in your business life?
Should we do this? The great thing about an entrepreneurial small company is that it’s full of people bursting with great ideas. Part of my job is to give those ideas space to develop but we simply can’t do all of them and just because something can be done doesn’t mean it should be done. So I also need to instil an approach of evaluation and prioritisation. And that’s sometimes hard.
What are the best/worst things about your job?
Like most leaders, the best is seeing the team gel in solving problems or achieving objectives. But I also love seeing the “I get it. I want it” eureka moment in prospective customers’ faces. The worst, well that has to be reading about how we’re not doing enough as a country to reduce the carbon footprint and energy bills in our buildings. Or trying to arrange time off!
What advice would you give to someone starting out in the industry?
Keep it simple. Both the solution and the communication. So many people and organisations get lured by complex technology and end up not being able to succinctly say what it does. That’s why we boil our proposition down to Stop Heating Empty Rooms!
What living person do you admire and why?
Unoriginal but it’d have to be Sir David Attenborough. He could have put his feet up years ago, proud of a job well done, but at 96 he is still doing more than anyone to shine a light on the climate crisis and try to hold politicians to account.
Where would you most like to live?
In the South Cotswolds, where I recently moved to after spending the last 30 years near London and travelling internationally. It’s so different!
What is your favourite book?
The Salt Path by Raynor Winn.
How do you relax?
Working with my hands, fixing things, making things. When you spend the week using certain parts of your brain it’s nice to give the rest of it a bit of an outing. Or a pint of organic beer from my local Stroud Brewery while watching rugby isn’t a bad option either.
What sports team do you support?
I tend to only have time to watch international sport these days – mostly rugby and football. But now that I’m within spitting distance of 3 good premiership rugby clubs, I really ought to choose one to support.
What is your desert island disk?
Such a hard question. I have at least 10 but having grown up in the 80’s it’d probably be The Colour of Spring by Talk Talk.
What is your ideal holiday?
That’s easy - touring through Italy in an Alfa Romeo – one of the new EV models of course (which I don’t yet own!)