Case Studies

Alpha Controls & Services LLC

Taking control of facility energy costs and ramping up efficiency in central Illinois

Based in Rockford, Illinois, Alpha Controls & Services LLC is a Schneider Electric authorized independent field office partner using mechanical controls, building management systems, integration and real-time data to make buildings more comfortable, secure and efficient. For more than 80 years, Alpha Controls has been helping building owners and facility managers in the commercial, industrial and institutional markets improve building functionality with locally designed and manufactured products.

Alpha Controls & Services started as Barber-Colman in the 1920s. In 2003, the company was purchased by Brent Bernardi, now president, and Frank Rotello, CEO. “I started 32 years ago out of school as an electrical design engineer with Barber-Colman,” recounts Bernardi. “I advanced my career quickly within the company, moving from engineering to project management and I eventually became the general manager of Barber-Colman North America.”

In 2003 Barber-Colman/Invensys Building Systems decided to sell its 22 regional branch operations, including the Rockford and Springfield, Illinois, locations. “We had the opportunity to buy the businesses,” says Bernardi. “Frank and I agreed to be partners and we purchased the two locations.”

“We’re not just selling them something or solving a one-off problem. We approach the business as a consultative relationship, as a long term relationship and commitment,”  – Brent Bernardi, president of Alpha Controls & Services.

Today, Alpha Controls & Services has 50 employees, serving northern and central Illinois. “We don’t really get into the Chicago market because we’re not looking at high-rise buildings, but we do have great success with private institutions such as banks and office buildings,” says Bernardi. “Public buildings such as schools, primary, secondary and higher education are big markets. We do a lot with cities, states, towns and municipal offices. Hospitals and judicial centers are also large markets. We have the ability to do any type of commercial/industrial work.”

Show me the savings

Alpha Controls & Services has quickly built a solid reputation for timely service and superior customer support. The company has also seen a boom in demand for its services as more building owners and facility managers look to take control of their operational efficiencies.

“In the last five years we’ve started to see a shift — it’s more than just being green and environmentally responsible; building managers want to see analysis of how their investment in energy savings is going to pay off,” explains Bernardi. “As part of this process, an increased amount of state and federal grants, tax incentives and utility rebates have helped create this story and added to the stickiness of it. When you can show someone that they’re going to get 20, 30, 40 percent of their money back, then people really pay attention.”

Through control devices, building management systems, systems integration, power management, lighting, access control, digital vision systems and building analytics, Alpha Controls & Services turns real-time operational data into a clear course of action to pinpoint problematic systems and performance. “I think sustainability really means being able to maintain energy efficiency for a multiyear period. It’s basically a fancy word for the responsible maintenance of facility systems,” explains Bernardi, who compares proper building upkeep to car maintenance.

“It’s like buying a car,” he compares. “When you first purchase it, it’s all shiny and new and you just drive it. You have to do regular maintenance because things wear out. The same thing goes for building infrastructure, which unlike a car, runs 24/7; it requires the same type of care and maintenance. You have to protect that initial investment.”

High-value solutions, long-term customer relationships

In 2006, Schneider Electric purchased Barber-Colman/Invensys Building Systems, making Alpha Controls & Services an authorized independent partner. Since partnering with Schneider Electric, Alpha Controls & Services is now capable of positively influencing more than 50 percent of the energy consumed in any building. “Schneider Electric brought to us more than just building management systems; we now have variable speed drives, metering and electrical switch gear. We have the ability to deliver solutions that start at the supply end of the building and go all the way through load management,” explains Bernardi. “We can deliver these high-value solutions because we don’t have to go in and piece together solutions from multiple manufacturers.”’

Bernardi says Alpha Controls & Services is doing much more than just solving one-time problems when crews service facilities. “Our approach with the end user really sets us apart,” he says. We’re not just selling them something or solving a one-off problem. We approach the business as a consultative relationship, as a long-term relationship and commitment. We’re responsible to the customer for generations. If we make a mistake, we stand behind it and we solve it. We take responsibility. This sounds cliché to some extent, but if you practice business this way, word gets around and we have grown our business through referrals.”

Alpha Controls & Services has also become a trusted adviser to not only building managers and facility owners, but also to other energy solutions companies looking to redo their own engineering services. “We’re soon embarking on a series of projects with an engineering systems group out of Chicago to do mechanical, electrical and controls renovations,” Bernardi states.

Alpha Controls & Services continues to expand its offerings and platform. “We’ve built a direct manufacturer relationship with a maker of LEDs, so this has been an area of expansion for us,” says Bernardi.

As part of the global business alliance, InsideIQ, Alpha Controls & Services is able to deliver solutions to its customers that have facility needs beyond its traditional Illinois business territory.

With an eye on expansion and a lengthy list of longstanding customers, Alpha Controls & Services LLC is helping building managers and facility owners take control of their facility in terms of energy savings and greater operational awareness.

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