June 2007

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Denis Du Bois

EMAIL INTERVIEW  Denis Du Bois & Ken Sinclair

Denis Du Bois is the "rational evangelist" for sustainable business, Editor of Energy Priorities Magazine, and host of the ConnectivityWeek podcast series.  Denis lives and works in the Seattle area.


BuilConn 2007

(BuilConn was May 22 through 24, 2007, in Chicago. Ken Sinclair called Denis Du Bois to get this report from the conference.)

The conference was an interactive environment where attendees helped shape big ideas, such as Buildings 2.0 and GridWise.

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Sinclair:  What is your overall impression of the fifth annual BuilConn?

Du Bois:  Encouraging. The level of interactivity around the Buildings 2.0 concept is remarkable. I liken it to the early days of LEED. I'm looking forward to seeing that continue beyond the conference.

This year feels like a turning point for the sector. I'm most impressed with the level of commitment and influence of the people here. The speaker list reads like a Who's Who of building automation. These people are dedicated to shaping the future of the built environment.

Sinclair:  The central themes of this year's conference are Buildings 2.0 and Cisco Connected Real Estate. Are they blending together, or is there a clear distinction between them?

Du Bois:  These two concepts are still in their formative stages, but the distinction is clear. I asked Rick Huijbregts, one of Cisco's top people in the real estate vertical, to define Cisco Connected Real Estate. He said it's a solution framework to tie all building systems into the same network. I interpret it as an IT strategy of converging on a common platform, with the primary goal of reducing costs and increasing productivity.

Hear more from Rick Huijbregts about the Cisco Connected Roundtable

Carter Williams, the president of Gridlogix, has been very involved in Buildings 2.0. He defined it succinctly as the next stage in delivering value to building owners. It goes a step beyond Cisco Connected Real Estate, beyond the technologies. Buildings 2.0 is a shift toward bringing owners into the process and letting them define what "intelligent" means in their facility. Depending on each owner's objectives, the goal might be energy, sustainability, maintenance, or something else altogether.

Hear more from Carter Williams about the Roadmap to Buildings 2.0

Sinclair:  Is there strong support for CCRE?

Du Bois:  In the Cisco Connected Roundtable there was very much support for the idea of increasing the value of buildings, and for interoperability as a way of accomplishing that. In conversations outside the roundtable, some question the implied move to IP as the network platform.

CCRE is an exciting concept, but what attendees understand best is that it could bring big changes to this sector. Cisco acknowledges the skepticism about its motives, and is trying to overcome that. They need to refine their message to differentiate CCRE, and to communicate its benefits in such a way that the industry can understand and embrace its role.

Sinclair:  What about for Buildings 2.0?

Du Bois:  Participants generally agree with this "early release" of Buildings 2.0. Much of the discussion in the sessions and in the hallway have centered around refining the definition, and overcoming obstacles to get it implemented.

For example, energy cost savings justify investments, but the other benefits of Buildings 2.0 -- information, comfort, productivity, safety -- need to be quantified in some way. Buyer decision-making is more complex when systems converge, and the Buildings 2.0 concept needs support from a higher level than does lighting or HVAC. There's much work yet to do on these issues and others. Owners and architects need to be involved in that work.

[an error occurred while processing this directive] Sinclair:  Are these ideas being communicated to owners and architects?

Du Bois:  Cisco has put some marketing resources behind its CCRE vision, whereas Buildings 2.0 is being developed through collaboration, and is relatively new.

As a marketer, I see two main issues. First, there's a shift happening in the way intelligent buildings need to be positioned for owners and architects. I talked with Ed Richards, president of Richards-Zeta, about this. He, too, recognizes the shift from bottom-up to top-down directives -- pulling, rather than pushing, technologies into buildings.

Second, this sector is not taking nearly enough advantage of the sustainability movement. That needs to change now, and it's critical to get it right.

Hear more from from Ed Richards about New Integrated Approach to Buildings Lifecycle

Sinclair:  Why so?

Du Bois:  It actually is possible for good solutions to be left behind. The oil embargoes were a golden opportunity for the U.S. mass-transit sector, but it still hasn't caught on. In 2020, if people are still going to work in "dumb" buildings, we'll have missed yet another opportunity. The intelligent buildings sector shouldn't let this opportunity pass it by.

Sinclair:  The GridWise Expo is part of the same conference. Do the BuilConn attendees understand why GridWise is there?

Du Bois:  I had an interesting conversation with Jack McGowan, the Chair of the GridWise Architecture Council and one of those people who is very committed to driving change. He clearly defined the major common ground between GridWise and BuilConn. In short, it's "enabling demand response."

Demand response is a potential revenue stream. Most BuilConn attendees I've talked with grasp that, some very enthusiastically. Automated demand response must cross the utility meter barrier -- buildings and the grid must eventually interoperate -- to add value to building controls and to solve bigger problems facing the grid and the environment.

Hear more from Jack McGowan about the GridWise Architecture Council


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