Energy Manager

Net Zero News
COLUMN – How Our Future is Delivering Disruption

November 6, 2013 - Delivering Disruption seems like an unlikely topic to speak to but it is exactly the business we all are in today as we provide new solutions that leap over and significantly change our existing marketplace.

November 6, 2013  By  Ken Sinclair

Prior to publishing our online magazine my wife Jane and I worked for 30 years as energy and automation consultants in a time of disruptive change. It was the DDC revolution where physical control devices were being replaced with microprocessors and software and we delivered amazing disruptions to our clients that did stuff never done before with traditional physical controls. The disruption was fed and fuelled from our clients awakening to the personal computer/internet revolution. It was the best of times.

Our retirement plan of 15 years,, has us back in the middle of providing information about several new disruptive changes. These new disruptions are defined as disruptive innovations and by definition, create new markets and disrupt existing markets and industries. Some of the disruptions I am seeing are driven by the mobile cloud data revolution, deep low cost analytics, wireless devices of all types, anywhere/everywhere connectivity, and the LED lighting revolution. And again the disruptive change is fed and fuelled from our clients awakening to the smart device wireless cloud revolution. This will be a time of even great change, innovation, and opportunity.

We as an industry need to well understand the power of our new disruptive tools and calm our clients’ fears with bold new examples of doing what has never been done before. Our understanding of the history of our industry is key, but also can severely limit our thoughts. An example of this from the past was why did we use proportional control to control non-proportional devices? Answer is that with physical control devices there was no other way, but with software programming we could provide non-linear routines that suited the controlled device.

We can now with our new disruption tools add relationships never before considered like smart grid and social media. Of course we have to do this while we “Build Bridges not Fences” and connecting to infrastructure that is “Automatically Smart” and keeps getting smarter automatically like the apps and operating system on your phone.

I am very pleased with our November disruptive issue; it has many examples of the change that is on us and the opportunities within. These are a few examples of the disruption we are all seeing:

In this article, Disruptive Innovation makes Cloud Era Possible, Therese Sullivan of explains:

We are fast approaching the day when all of the sensors, actuators and other assets attached to an Internet-connected building automation network have a common way of communicating their name and location. The global telecommunications industry is throwing its weight behind the effort under the umbrella trade organization TM Forum, with leadership from the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC), for location-service standards.

To date controls professionals and their collaborating architects, mechanical engineers, code officials, general contractors, building owners, facilities operators etc. have not had a common naming convention. Or, to put it in the words of computer scientists, the world lacks a building automation and control ontology. Everyone who services buildings would benefit from predefined and universally understood device names and the equivalent of a GPS in every BACnet controller. No one enjoys time spent lifting ceiling tiles and testing connections to solve all the mysteries and errors in building blueprints and control schematics.

Progress in bringing physical buildings into the digital world has been severely hampered by the ontology void. Project Haystack, an open source initiative within the building automation community, has brought awareness to the problem and some progress through their efforts to develop tagging conventions and taxonomies for building equipment and operational data. This project augments the definitions for data normalization, data use and communication for building controls that can be found in internationally recognized and supported standards from ASHRAE, ISO and IEC, such as ISO 61499.  Yet, none of these comprise an ontology. The telecommunications industry has now identified the issue as one of the barriers to wider adoption of smart grid, M2M networking and other services in the digital ecosystem.

This article tells us it will be the people that will lead the disruption—It is the customers not the technology that will disrupt the industry, Deb Noller of Switch Automation.

In June I wrote an advisory around why rising consumer expectations in property are set to disrupt the Real Estate Sector in an extensive and volatile manner. My arguments were that many industries have already undergone rapid and transformational change due to a convergence of technologies that allow customers to fundamentally alter the way they interact with the supply chain.

Retail, entertainment, airlines and communications are all examples of industries that have experienced a radical and tumultuous change in every aspect of their industry from the way they go to market, advertise, transact, deliver and support their products and services. When an industry reaches this tipping point where the technology can underpin the required changes in commercial activity, the businesses that fully embrace the new paradigm tend to do spectacularly well. Those that continue business as usual but with some concessions to technology change falter equally as spectacularly – think Amazon versus bricks and mortar book stores.

I still believe it to be true that the underlying technology is the driver for any revolution in industry transformation. But this year I have learned it is not the technology itself that causes the change but rather the customer’s willingness to adopt the technology that will drive the disruption.

This article demonstrates the disruption of doing it differently—The Bullitt Center, John Schack of Climatec Building Technologies Group.

Visionary Leadership at the Bullitt Center

Denis Hayes, President of the Bullitt Foundation has been quoted as saying that the Bullitt Center in Seattle is “a bold attempt to do everything right”.  In this case, doing everything right meant disrupting traditional commercial property development practices to implement visionary performance-based design and management strategies, yielding exceptional levels of operating efficiency.

The 50,000 SF Bullitt Center in Seattle opened in April of this year as a new commercial building working to meet the ambitious goals of the Living Building Challenge – the world’s most strenuous performance standard for sustainability. Key building design requirements included Net Zero energy and Net Zero water use – generating as much electricity and water through solar photovoltaic panels and rainwater catchment as would be consumed by the building in a typical year. The building also set standards to avoid the use of many toxic “Red List” materials and to incorporate numerous cutting-edge and environmentally-sound design and construction features including operable full-height windows which open automatically to bring in fresh air on cool days, on-site sewage treatment, and an in-floor heat pump system served by twenty six 400-foot-deep closed-loop geothermal wells.

As you can see our future is delivering disruption; softly, kindly, and gracefully.

Ken Sinclair is the publisher of and can be reached at

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