Willdan offers energy-efficient solutions to multiple markets
Whether to cut costs or to be more eco-conscious, an increasing number of businesses, schools, hospitals, and municipalities are looking for ways to become more energy efficient. For more than half a century, such energy and engineering solutions have been provided to clients across the United States by Willdan.
Originally a two-man municipal engineering company, Willdan has grown dramatically — especially in the past decade since it realigned its energy services and made a significant commitment to invest heavily in acquisitions. One notable acquisition was current Senior VP Scott McVey’s and Aaron Etzkorn’s 360 Energy Engineers. McVey told BOSS that the company’s strategy has allowed it to offer a range of services including turnkey design-build and performance contracting, utility energy program design and delivery, smart city solutions, and data analytics and software solutions.
McVey explains, “We’re trying to provide clients with solutions that solve their core infrastructure needs with an energy performance component, which is addressing those needs with solutions that save energy. And that energy savings, in turn, helps fund some of those deeper infrastructure needs.”
Clients looking to make their buildings more energy efficient are often presented with the option of hiring contractors that tend to push what they are comfortable installing or dealing with vendors who are trying to sell products. Willdan offers a unique alternative, an engineering-led model that takes a holistic look at facilities, including evaluating aged infrastructure as well as energy opportunities and needs. The company then determines what is truly best for their clients without trying to peddle labor or products.
As McVey puts it, “Our model is really an engineering-led model, so our DNA and structure of our division looks a lot more like an engineering firm. We are providing unbiased and well-thought-out solutions selected through thorough life-cycle analysis.” The successful model includes a multi-pronged approach.
The process begins with an in-house design group consisting of electrical, mechanical, and energy engineers that evaluate the facilities and put together a plan for solving infrastructure needs and greater energy efficiency. Afterwards, the construction team works with trusted trade contractors who are given detailed engineering plans. Providing full details to contractors prior to pricing eliminates unknowns and reduces the risk for both parties, allowing for more pricing accuracy and lower prices. During project implementation, the construction team then spends significant time onsite coordinating the work and making sure it meets Willdan’s and its clients’ standards.
Toward the conclusion of the implementation stage, the commissioning group comes in to optimize the systems that were modified or installed and tests their ongoing functionality and performance. This is not a one-time inspection, the team of engineers remains engaged for years, measuring energy savings and resolving issues that arise. McVey discusses the importance of this stage, “Historically, a lot of performance issues exist because controls on building systems aren’t operating correctly from day one. They’re simply not implemented correctly, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a brand-new building or a 20-year-old building — chances are they’re losing energy and suffering from unnecessary comfort issues because the original contractor didn’t implement controls correctly.”
Data and Analytics
Part of the reason Willdan is so successful at optimizing energy efficiency is its growth and acquisitions, namely the 2019 acquisition of the Weidt Group and the 2017 acquisition of Integral Analytics. Due to these acquisitions, Willdan is able to better model energy potential in buildings and allow electric grid planners to predict power congestion at any point on the grid.
“Analytics has found an important place in our performance contracting projects. We have been deploying a solution that collects real-time operational data on building systems, uploads it to the cloud, and analyzes the data for utility consumption. Willdan’s software gathers data and uploads it to the cloud. It then compares this actual operational data to what the software predicts for an optimally performing system and notifies Willdan and building operators when and where performance issues exist, often before they are noticed by the building occupants. This aspect of our performance contracting and design-build projects is what makes the company stand out.” McVey continues, “Our approach is very novel, and our business was founded to fill in some of the voids that exist in the traditional approach.”
It’s not uncommon for Willdan to encounter clients who have recently sought out energy efficiency solutions elsewhere and not been completely satisfied with the result. One such example was a recent project with Pueblo County School District 70 in Colorado. The school district had conducted a similar project five years earlier that focused on a few simple energy efficiency measures. However, the project lacked what was important to the district’s maintenance staff and administration: addressing failing systems and nagging maintenance needs.
Willdan completed their holistic assessment of all Pueblo’s facilities — including roofs, windows, and parking lots. A big discovery was that the previous contractors had simply installed new HVAC controls on top of failing systems without addressing underlying issues. Willdan went in and completely updated the old buildings, eliminating much of the district’s differed maintenance while solving energy.
TJ Vinci, CFO for Pueblo County School District 70, lauds the company for its work, “Willdan demonstrated a commitment to understanding our district's challenges, scope priorities, and stated financial framework that was tangibly different from other companies D70 has worked with in the past. They show a willingness to listen to our unique needs and requirements and worked to create a project to match our desired outcome.”
Understanding clients’ needs is a driving force at Willdan. McVey points out, “In the end all of our clients’ energy savings appeal to them, but it’s not just high utility bills — it’s the age and condition of facilities that are big maintenance headaches. Their true interest is in updating facilities.”
Willdan recognizes that being on the same page as clients is important to the success of any business. McVey concludes, “Our clients really feel our understanding of what’s important to them and realize that we believe in the same thing.”
Such an understanding will no doubt lead to continued success as Willdan continues to expand and provide energy-efficient solutions for clients well into the future.
Willdan (NASDAQ: WLDN) provides professional consulting and technical services to utilities, public agencies and private industry throughout the United States. Its broad set of complementary disciplines span energy efficiency, distributed energy resources and software, engineering and planning, public finance and economic consulting. Willdan provides integrated technical solutions to extend the reach and resources of its clients, and provides all services through its subsidiaries specialized in each segment.
Founded in 1964, Willdan has 1200+ employees and annual revenues of ~$275 million.
Willdan benefits from long standing, well-established relationships with local and state government agencies, investor-owned and municipal utilities, and commercial and industrial firms throughout the United States. Headquartered in Anaheim, Calif., Willdan operates from offices in more than 20 states across the US, with its largest operations in California and New York.