“There is a great dynamic of mutual aid at bluefactory”
Based at bluefactory, yord is marketing an energy optimiser to reduce heating consumption in buildings. Sébastien Bron tells us how four chemists got into heating.
How did chemists become heating experts?
With my colleague Denis Zufferey, I used to work in an engineering practice in Valais. Our principal mandates were working on air renewal systems for pharmaceutical clean rooms. Ventilation is key in this context. Frequently the client’s need was met by oversizing the whole system to ensure a margin of safety. The only problem being that everything else was over specified to match.
After some research and calculations, we found that the energy cost of ventilation is much lower than that of heating, which accounts for three-quarters of a building’s energy consumption. In Switzerland, 55% of this heating is provided by fossil fuels.
And what skills have you implemented, as chemists?
We started from the principle that a building works like a chemical reactor: it is basically a tank that is brewed and heated by the people in it, the sun, air infiltration, heating, etc. In chemistry, when you develop a production laboratory, you cannot simply multiply to go from grams to tonnes. Chemical reactions must be calibrated according to the quantities of heat released, levels, etc. We developed our algorithms for buildings on the same basis.
There is a lot of energy saving equipment coming onto the market. What sets yours apart?
Our strong point is anticipation. Our yord box can be installed very easily on all types of boilers and in any building. In half a day, we can set up the entire device, with the indoor and outdoor sensors. As soon as the elements are installed, the algorithms understand the building’s thermal inertia by considering many aspects: the orientation of the building, its glazed surfaces, the insulation and thickness of the walls, the use of the building by its inhabitants… Once all these elements are integrated, we can anticipate heating in function of weather data.
We equip the system with fairly simple features. It then learns very quickly and autonomously, making calibrations to become smarter. For example, it can characterise a temperature increase, determining whether it comes from heating, the sun or a stove. For the system, these are different signals that it is able to interpret. Energy savings are made from day one.
So it’s your algorithms that set you apart from the competition?
Yes, this is at the heart of our business, and we are very happy with the results. We are sure to achieve a 10% reduction in all types of buildings, and we believe that we will ultimately reach 20 to 25% regardless of the type of building.
Where are you in your development process?
The first forty boxes produced have been sold and will be installed in January-February, half in private homes, the other half in municipalities and businesses. The four co-founders, all chemists from the University of Engineering and Architecture of Fribourg, Denis Zufferey, Lucien Blanchard, Vincent Pilloud and myself, have been joined by Julie Carron, responsible for communication. Starting next summer, two of us will be 100% dedicated to yord and we will hire other people with complementary skills.
You have settled at bluefactory. What does this work environment bring to your business?
We moved into the wood-iD building in September 2021. Fri Up, which has been following us and helping us since October 2021, is installed next door. We are also surrounded by companies with whom we can exchange ideas and who can only inspire us, like Climate Services or Roomz who are our neighbours in the building, or Bcomp. There is a great dynamic of mutual aid at bluefactory. Thanks to our location on this site, we will be able to work with the Smart Living Lab to find synergies. We are therefore in the ideal place for our activities.