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Is There Really An Appetite For Energy Efficiency Within Commercial Real Estate? With Zachary Denning and Jerremy Spillman


In the sixth episode of Season 10 of the Propcast, host Louisa Dickins is joined by Zachary Denning and Jerremy Spillman, co-founders of Hank. JLL’s recently acquired AI-powered virtual engineering platform for buildings.

Zach and Jerremy share how Hank is helping the commercial real estate world reduce emissions and assist clients in their transition to net zero. The guests discuss the geographical differences surrounding the adoption and consensus of technology that they have noticed since Hank successfully expanded to Europe. 

In this episode you’ll hear about the ever changing appetite for efficiency within commercial real estate, how technology can help real estate meet its sustainability goals and what the future holds for Hank. 


Shout Outs:

Key Insights From This Episode:  

  • You could put a Ferrari engine into a building, but if you don’t know how to drive it you’re not going to get anything out of it – Jerremy
  • If you’re not able to satisfy both the ownership and the investor level as well as the property level, you’re never going to have a successful product – Jerremy
  • We’re driving a culture of execution, everybody on the team is on the same mission to drive revenue, if we’re not driving revenue then we’re stagnant – Zachary
  • I figured out that smart buildings aren’t so smart, machine learning is the future of this industry – Zachary 
  • Why not be inside the largest, most progressive property management ownership firm in the world? There’s no more strategic partnership than that – Zachary


About Our Guests:

Zachary Denning:

Zachary Denning earned his degree in mechanical engineering and has always had a strong aptitude for software development. In his +10 years in the smart buildings industry, he was able to identify and solve core building engineering challenges using applied machine-learning and AI – Eventually leading to the development of a new market, virtual engineering. Zach has grown the Hank virtual engineering team to over 50 members under JLL and together they’re pushing the boundaries of machine-learning in building operations to maximise client value.

Jerremy Spillman:

Over the last 12 years Jerremy has worked in the clean tech space ranging from utility DSM program management to battery powered electric vehicle charging stations.  Most recently Jerremy co-founded Hank, an A.I. powered HVAC management tool for commercial office buildings.  Hank was recently acquired by JLL Technologies as a key tool to meet their aggressive sustainability goals.

About Hank:

Recently acquired by JLL, Hank is a virtual engineering platform powered by artificial intelligence (AI) that autonomously optimises the management systems of commercial buildings to deliver increased comfort, air quality and energy savings.

Hank’s system applies machine learning and AI to solve many of the commercial real estate (CRE) industry’s largest operational challenges, including HVAC programming inconsistencies and energy and equipment performance inefficiencies. Its cloud-based platform optimises energy efficiency, air quality, maintenance costs and tenant comfort – ultimately delivering increased net operating income (NOI) to real estate investors.


About Our Host

Louisa Dickins

Louisa is the co-founder of LMRE, which has rapidly become the market leading global PropTech recruitment platform and search consultancy with operations across North America, United Kingdom, Europe and Asia-Pacific.

To promote the industry she is so passionate about, Louisa set up the Global podcast ‘The Propcast’where she hosts and invites guests from the built environment space to join her in conversation about innovation.

About LMRE

LMRE is globally recognised for leading the way in Real Estate Tech & Innovation talent management.

From the outset our vision was to become a global provider of the very best strategic talent to the most innovative organisations in PropTech, ConTech, Smart Buildings, ESG, Sustainability and Strategic Consulting.

At LMRE we are fully committed at all times to exceed the expectations of our candidates and clients by providing the very best advice and by unlocking exclusive opportunities across our global network in the UK, Europe, North America and Asia-Pacific.



[2:04] Zach: Can you tell us about your career journey to founding Hank and also how you know Jerremy?

  • I started out as a mechanical engineer in the smart building industry. I learnt that the owners of buildings rarely know which control systems are in their buildings despite these softwares generating savings. I taught myself machine learning and realised that it has the ability to solve these problems in a long term capacity. 
  • I won a grant and spent time developing a software that proved that machine learning could drive substantial savings in buildings and we can generate huge economics for clients.
  • I went out fundraising through several channels and that’s when I met Jerremy and pulled him in as co-founder and CRO, and this carried us to JLL.  

[4:15] Zach: How long did it take you to develop the software?

  • The first year I spent developing a solid foundation for the software so I had a product that I could test the market with. I received a grant in year 2 and by testing the market, proved that it had improved the comfort within buildings dramatically.
  • By the end of year 3, we had viable proof of the product and concept and therefore the ability to go out and fundraise. 

[6:02] Jerremy: What has it been like since your introduction to Zach?

  • I started my career in sales so since meeting Zach it has been really exciting understanding the new market that there is for technology and quickly picking up the nuances in the industry.
  • This completely new way of managing the largest energy consumer and cost driver in a building has made me really passionate about what we’re doing with Hank.

[7:47] Zach: Can you explain a little bit about what Hank is?

  • The Hank product itself is a true machine learning virtual engineer, we don’t do any physical work in buildings or have an onsite team.
  • Hank enables engineers in buildings to do their job more effectively and not have to worry about changing setpoints, tuning systems in or working with a variety of different stakeholders to solve their problems.
  • We work alongside existing smart building systems that are already in place, we drive a saving on energy of at least 15% and sometimes as much as 50%.

[11:50] Jerremy: How does Hank help investors meet their sustainability goals?

  • Hank is a Software-as-a-Service, so there is no replacing of controllers, we just drive what is already in place to its highest efficiency and that allows them to build their sustainability plan for the future. 
  • If you’re not able to satisfy both the ownership and the investor level as well as the property level, you’re never going to have a successful product.
  • We have utilised the data and found that we can fix comfort without sacrificing energy and we can save energy without sacrificing comfort.

[16:06] Jerremy: How did your acquisition by JLL Technologies come about and what does it mean for your business?

  • We align well with JLL because our number one priority for meeting sustainability is carbon reduction which JLL succeeds in with all of their vendors.
  • Adding JLL’s property management team to our virtual team adds an additional level of expertise and differentiates us from other management services.
  • Zachary: For us to be primed to grow, the most strategic partnership we can use is to be inside the largest and most progressive property management firm in the world. 

[22:05]  Zachary: What core values do you have in your business?

  • We’re driving a culture of execution, everybody on the team is on the same mission to drive revenue, if we’re not driving revenue then we’re stagnant.
  • We have a very transparent approach, we have a mentality that we’re building this together and all have an equal voice. 
  • When we bring people on board they can individually see the impact they’re making and that drives them towards our common goal of producing revenue and growing as a business.

[24:49] Jerremy: Now you have expanded to EMEA, what are the differences you have seen between the US and Europe?

  • Europe is far more advanced and focused on emission reduction which has helped us fit in straight away. They have helped us learn what property teams and investors are doing to push sustainability efforts and what the US needs to do to progress.
  • Buildings in Europe already have the infrastructure in place with other smart technologies that we can integrate into, to feed our machine learning models and produce more data.
  • The market in EMEA is ready for a solution like Hank, whereas in North America we’re having to get the market ready.

[28:02] Zachary: What is next for Hank?

  • We’re in the midst of a complete redesign of a new user interface, we want to give our customers a new evolution of what building automation can be without an additional cost.
  • We want to push forward on evolving this product whilst proving everything to our customers comes under one subscription with no additional fees, we want them to know that this is just an inherent part of our service that we will continue to improve.


L– Touch on the main lessons you have learnt throughout your career.

Jerremy: As long as you have got hard work and dedication you are always going to push things forward.

M – Please give a mention to anyone / product / service.

Zachary: Rob Baker, he was an internal JLL employee that gravitated towards our team, he was a project manager and now he is involved in everything, he has been phenomenal to work with.

R– What has been the most  rewarding  aspect of working in PropTech?

Zachary: Watching this product come to fruition and having Jerremy’s team and our operations team execute it successfully.

E – What are you excited about in the future of Proptech?

Jerremy: I’m excited for Proptech and sustainability to become the norm in the real estate industry.



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