Energy Manager

The Reinvention Convention

On June 9, 2009, I will be in Santa Clara, California overseeing the presentation of several sessions on “The Reinvention of Building Automation” as part of ConnectivityWeek. Although I did not invent building automation, I was there when it happened. I saw hardwired logic machines give way to a mini-computer with dumb panels, and in 1975 was involved with possibly the first distributed computerized Direct Digital Control project for a large Canadian university campus. I was lucky to be part of this project that installed pure DDC without any conventional controls. This was radical thinking at that time.

May 8, 2009  By  Ken Sinclair

The computers were as big as refrigerators, the standalone panels not much smaller. We had our own system analyst and a team of software programmers, plus we created and built most of our own sensors as most end devices had not been invented yet or industrial versions were too costly. We were replacing an early generation mini-computer system that was based on resetting pneumatic controls, which had never achieved stated performance.

After this project was up and running, I moved to the West Coast of Canada where a new DDC industry had turned from main frames and mini-computers to micro-processors cutting costs and greatly increasing functionally. I grew with the west coast wave that was the start of the DDC revolution. Being part of those early teams that created extremely interesting leading edge systems greatly increased my understanding while spawning many life mentors.

Over 10 years ago, we created to explore online the relationship the DDC revolution would have with the web revolution. I am extremely pleased to again be part of the wave of our reinvention in leading these sessions in the Silicon Valley at Santa Clara.

The track of the conference that I will be involved in is called “Reinventing Building Automation.” Building automation is evolving to be a web service that presents and connects the traditional building automation industry to the new, evolving enterprise energy, economic, and environmental equation. We must achieve more with less human and natural resources while providing better services. Our present economic situation demands this.


“Evolving the Reach of our Reinvention” is one of the sessions taking place. BIM, evolving ASHRAE energy standards and their adoption, the green building movement, LEED etc., are all rapidly forcing the reinvention of building automation. Solutions that provide wireless connections to devices of the past now get coupled with open source enterprise thinking and IT network standards. Lighting and its control are an integrated part of this reinvention.

I am very pleased to have as a panelist in this session Gordon Holness, President Elect of ASHRAE.

“ASHRAE is working on a wide range of green initiatives to support our efforts towards net zero energy buildings – Advanced Energy Design Guides, improvements to Energy Efficiency Standard 90.1, a new High Performance Green Building Standard 189.1, a BIM Manual, an IBD Manual, etc.,” notes Holness. “We are also working with USGBC in many of these areas, and providing technical support behind LEED 2009. All of these initiatives will require more sophisticated BAS controls including those for daylighting, artificial lighting systems, natural ventilation, and IAQ control. These controls must become more intuitive, informative, self calibrating, diagnosing and repairing, if we expect consumers to support development of SMART Buildings.”
Harry Sim, of Cypress Envirosystems, is also a panelist in the session. As he notes, “When we think of intelligent buildings — web enabled energy management, automated demand response — we usually think of new modern buildings with the latest building automation technologies. Unfortunately, the majority of our built environment does not fit that description.” In other words, reinvention for these buildings is essential today.
“In spite of open protocols integrating lighting control with the building automation system (BAS) has been a game of chance with very poor odds,” explains Ron Poskevich of Lumisys, a third panelist in the session. “In fact, an industry survey of large and small BAS companies revealed that less than 6% of all BAS installations control any lighting.”

A second session is “Business Opportunities within BA Reinvention.” Reinvention allows us to view everything from a new perspective. These new perspectives create incredible opportunities for innovation in our evolving new business model. This session will explore the new businesses of reinvention with panelists George Huettel (Cyrus Technologies, Inc.); Tim Potter, (Advanced Building Solutions Inc.); Terrance Reynolds, (Control Technologies); and Toby Considine (TC9) as moderator.

For more insight on this issue, read Terrence Reynolds’ article, Pain, Tipping, and Leverage.

“The Future of our Reinvention,” a third session, discusses what is fueling change in the industry. Our buildings must be green, but present a financial blue bottom line of sustainable connected real estate. The trend is to use the BA as a remote commissioning tool. This allows online web services to be connected to continually optimize and commission. Low cost camera technology allows remote viewing of critical equipment. The power of enterprise languages such as XML coupled with a movement to Open Source software solutions is fueling our reinvention. Panelists include Dave Carswell (Ziphany); Edmund Richards (Cisco); and Anno Scholten (NovusEdge Inc.) as Chair.

All programs are evolving. As we go to press the latest session announced was “BACnet IT: The next generation of BACnet.” The pervasive interconnection of formerly disparate control systems is one of the elements necessary for the realization of the today’s rapidly emerging “Smart Grid”.

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