Chicago’s National Retrofitting Group Sees Light in Commercial Energy Savings

By March 23, 2011

This post written by Brian Koles

After slogging away as a well-paid but under-inspired banker for several years out of college, Chicago native Scott Bernstein decided it was time to scratch his entrepreneurial itch and set out on his own combining his passion for the environment with his financial sensibilities. “I was always interested in the green movement, but understood that most people were not willing to ‘Go Green’ if it didn’t make financial sense. The combination of new technology and government support created an opportunity like never before for people to retrofit.” He started National Retrofitting Group (NRG) with his own savings in 2010, and recently partnered with a mentor who has experience growing a robust network of contractors to begin rolling out a national program helping commercial real estate properties of all types save money and decrease their environmental impact through the installation of energy efficient lighting systems.

Bernstein’s enthusiasm for the ‘low hanging fruit’ opportunity presented by lighting retrofits bleeds into just about every sentence of our conversation. The two main rallying cries are that “using less energy does NOT mean less light!” and surprisingly “Typical projects have an ROI of under 2 years.” There is a strong movement within the green community for both residential and commercial properties to address energy efficiency opportunities before investing in flashier but more expensive renewable energy projects, and NRG is “already doing work in numerous states from Nevada to New York” with a goals of “working in all 50 states, creating new jobs and lowering carbon emissions.”

NRG is certainly not the only commercial lighting retrofit company on the block. Actually, several other major players are based here in Chicago too, so I pressed Scott on how his company is different. His reply was “Aside from our turn-key approach (buzzword alert!), I think there are two main things that separate us from the competition. The first is our quality of service and turnaround time. No one else in the business focuses on providing customers with the same level of service as we do. Second, our competitors sub-contract work to electricians who do not specialize in lighting retrofits, and in many cases teams they have never met. All of our crews are expertly trained by the manufacturers to guarantee an unsurpassed quality of work.” Customer service and quality work are not exactly revolutionary selling points, but Scott seems to means them earnestly, so we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.

Changing light bulbs and fixtures (ironically) may not be the flashiest green project, but it’s often the first step in a long-term vision of making your commercial property more energy efficient. NRG will be there to help you make the green leap.