– Scot Duncan
Scot Duncan, P.E. a founder and CEO of Enerliance
Enerliance recently launched the LOBOS building
Scot quite literally grew up in the mechanical engineering and building
controls industries. At the age of fifteen, he was on the payroll of an
international controls firm. After successful individual careers, Scot
and his longtime collaborator Bob Johnson founded Enerliance in 2005
with the goal of bringing the LOBOS platform to market.
Scot is a frequent speaker at energy industry events, an educator and
contributor to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) ECBCS Annex 46
“Energy and Process Assessment Protocol.” He is a subject matter expert
for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on 14 energy efficiency and
mechanical engineering topics, including central plant optimization and
zero net energy buildings. He has led or contributed to hundreds
of individual energy-efficiency projects at high profile government,
military, educational and commercial facilities, and holds patents
related to the LOBOS technology and a high efficiency dehumidification
system that will soon be commercialized.
LOBOS Building Intelligence Platform
Basically, LOBOS is a software platform that provides intelligent HVAC
control, and the name is an acronym for Load Based Optimization System.
us about LOBOS, i.e., what does it do?
That’s a big
question. Basically, LOBOS is a software platform
that provides intelligent HVAC control, and the name is an acronym for
Load Based Optimization System. What it does is make building
occupants more comfortable while converting the waste inherent in large
scale HVAC systems into energy savings and automated demand response
You hear a lot of talk in the market about Retro-Commissioning, RCx,
MBCx and chiller plant optimization, so when I talk about LOBOS,
industry people immediately say “…oh, you’re doing optimization” or
“…you’re doing RCx”, but this is only superficially
accurate. Most chiller plant optimization techniques
have relatively static logic that is hard coded into the existing BAS,
or a black box solution that addresses only the chiller plant side of
the equation. Something unique about LOBOS is that it addresses
both the chiller plant and the air handling side, creating energy
savings and DR capacity by maintaining a dynamic, sophisticated balance
between system resources and occupant loads.
The typical definition of RCx includes “…low or no cost measures that
re-establish the original design performance of the system” and LOBOS
is anything but that. A LOBOS project requires capital for the
software, hardware, commissioning, and system prerequisites like VSD’s
and instrumentation. LOBOS will also create system efficiency and
performance far beyond the original system design, so the RCx label
doesn’t fit. I prefer to think of a LOBOS deployment as DCx
(Dynamic retro-Commissioning) to make the
So, as a platform LOBOS has three legs; Energy Efficiency, Automated
Demand Response, and Fault Detection & Diagnostics. Without
LOBOS you would have to address each of these strategies separately,
and then accept the challenge of getting them to work together.
When we set out to create LOBOS, it was based on the premise that these
three disciplines could not only be executed in concert, but that they
would amplify each other when executed together.
We also firmly believe that occupant comfort and energy efficiency are
not mutually exclusive, in fact, the balance that drives occupant
comfort is synonymous with energy efficiency. This flies in the
face of conventional thinking.
Your company, Enerliance, created LOBOS. How did Enerliance come about?
I grew up in
machine rooms. My father was a Honeywell engineer and I
was on Honeywell’s payroll by the time I was 15 years old. I
spent the next 30 years designing central plants, thermal energy
storage systems, and optimizing central plant performance.
In the 1980’s and 90’s, we started developing automated optimization
and reset logic that was manually coded into existing building
automation systems. During this time I met Bob Johnson, a Siemens
engineer who programmed the original logic on numerous projects.
As DDC computers got more powerful, it allowed us to leverage my real
world experience with longer and more sophisticated sequences of
operation. Eventually, we wound up sequences of operation that
were 150 pages long, really too cumbersome for anyone other than us to
efficiently program, and as a result, not scalable. We could only
deliver a few projects a year. By 2005, Bob and I were convinced that we
had an approach that could proliferate, so we founded Enerliance with
the idea that rather than doing manual coding one building at a time,
we would create a scalable software platform that could work with any
existing building automation system. After seven years of product
development and testing, the product is now ready and on the market.
Has LOBOS been tested in the real world? What kind of results have you
seen “out in the wild?”
We’ve been very
fortunate when it comes to testing. Our first
real world test environment was a prominent Southern California real
estate owner, one of the largest private portfolios in the country. The
company allowed us to incubate the technology in their facilities and
then other clients followed. Between 2008 and 2010, LOBOS was
installed in about seven million square feet, 30 Class A high rise
buildings. This portfolio has been our proving grounds and our lab,
we’ve learned what works and what doesn’t, and gotten fantastic
results. In this initial portfolio, we aggregated five megawatts
of automated demand response capacity and created more than $1.2
million in annual energy savings.
By the end of 2012, as we finish our initial commercial installations,
we’ll have 150 buildings installed with an aggregated demand response
capacity of more than 12 megawatts, plus, more than $2.5 million in
annual energy savings.
The number one thing we learned from the owners at our beta sites is
that none of this technology matters, energy savings and demand
response, unless the occupants are comfortable, so we’ve designed all
of our solutions with occupant comfort as the very first
What’s the potential for LOBOS in the building automation industry? Are
you looking to partner with other companies?
I consider LOBOS
to be a lot like smart phones. 10 years ago,
nobody had one and today everybody’s got one in their pocket. I
think a LOBOS type system should soon be in every big commercial
building in the U.S. That may sound audacious, but when you think
about how other energy efficient technologies have transformed
commercial facilities during my career then it seems like a logical
In terms of partnerships, we can’t scale LOBOS alone, we have to have
partners. Our strategy is to address the market as a product that
can be deployed by the entire community of energy solutions providers;
technology integrators, control systems manufacturers, controls
contractors, mechanical contractors, demand response aggregators, and
utilities. If we support these players, then together we can do
What have you experienced as being the
biggest challenges in bringing a
product like this to market? What are you doing to overcome these
challenge was in communicating with the wide variety of
building automation systems that are out there; everything from Alerton
to Andover, to JCI, Siemens, and everything in between. For LOBOS
to proliferate, we needed to be able to talk to all of these
systems. To solve this problem, several years ago we committed to
a combination of the NiagaraAX operating system and Lynxspring
controllers, then reconfigured and migrated the software onto
them. The industry adoption of Tridium and Lynxspring products as
communication standards helped make LOBOS into a truly scalable product
that’s available to everyone.
LOBOS works in large facilities and public spaces, 150,000 sq. ft. and
above. Is it a challenge that LOBOS doesn’t exist for mid-size
It is, but it
won’t be for long. The original LOBOS systems were
aimed at bigger buildings with central chiller plants and distributed
air handling units, generally facilities that are 150,000 to 200,000
square feet and up. With that said, the LOBOS fundamentals work
equally well on small to mid-size commercial buildings, but it requires
a slightly different approach to the smaller scale. So we’re
developing a new product, LOBOS DX, that’s designed to work on
buildings from 50,000 to 150,000 sq. feet, basically buildings with
direct expansion package units. With multiple beta sites in
operation as we speak, we already know it works, and it will be
commercially available in the first quarter of 2013.
If you could only accomplish one thing with LOBOS and Enerliance, what
would it be?
Obviously, I want
to have commercial success, but the number one thing
that drives me is my personal objective to make a difference in how our
country consumes energy. The energy savings and energy
independence we can create will leave a better planet for our kids, and
that’s a huge deal for me.
Looking into the future, what impact do you see LOBOS making five years
I would like to
see LOBOS recognized as a new paradigm for the
operation of commercial comfort systems. Even with more efficient
motors, pumps, drives and the addition of digital controls, the basic
operation of large scale commercial HVAC systems has not fundamentally
changed in decades. A 2012 system operates pretty much the same
way it did in 1972 and that shouldn’t be the case.
Technology makes new levels of efficiency possible, in this case an
intelligent real time balance between chiller, air handler, and
occupant loads that just wasn’t practical using the microprocessors
available a decade ago. Five years from now, I’d like LOBOS to
have changed the way people think of central plant efficiency. I
know there is a better way to operate these systems, and I want to make
that a reality for facility owners and operators.
What are your long-term goals for
Enerliance? For yourself?
My goal right now
is to get some sleep. I’ve been burning the
candle at both ends ever since we started Enerliance so I hope to start
taking some weekends off. My kids are small now, and getting some
balance between professional and family life is really important.
My professional goal is to get LOBOS adopted in the marketplace so that
the army of energy solutions providers out there can take it and run
I do want to be successful commercially, but I don’t wake up and think
“…I want to sell my company for zillions of dollars”, I wake up and
think “….how do I get this technology to realize its potential.”
With that said, we’ve been self-funded to this point, but I realize
that exploring a strategic business combination, exchanging equity for
growth capital, or even large scale licensing agreements are all things
that can help us reach our goals.
What do you like about the work you do?
One of the best
things about doing what I do is working with all the
different types of facilities and facility owners. It’s really
fun to go into different buildings and see the cool things people are
doing in them, and meet all the very wonderful people in the facilities
industry who make buildings run. It’s an honor to be
trusted with the heart of their building, and to have the chance to
make it better.
[Click Banner To Learn More]
[Home Page] [The
Automator] [About] [Subscribe