October 2012


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EMAIL INTERVIEWScot Duncan and Ken Sinclair

Scot Duncan, P.E. a founder and CEO of Enerliance

Enerliance recently launched the LOBOS building intelligence platform.

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.

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Sinclair:  Tell us about LOBOS, i.e., what does it do?

DuncanThat’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 capacity. 

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 distinction.     

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.

Sinclair:  Your company, Enerliance, created LOBOS. How did Enerliance come about?

DuncanI 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.

Sinclair:  Has LOBOS been tested in the real world? What kind of results have you seen “out in the wild?”

DuncanWe’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 objective.

Sinclair:  What’s the potential for LOBOS in the building automation industry? Are you looking to partner with other companies?

DuncanI 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 goal.  

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 great things.

Sinclair:  What have you experienced as being the biggest challenges in bringing a product like this to market? What are you doing to overcome these challenges?

DuncanThe biggest 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.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]Sinclair:  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 buildings?

DuncanIt 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.

Sinclair:  If you could only accomplish one thing with LOBOS and Enerliance, what would it be?

DuncanObviously, 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.

Sinclair:  Looking into the future, what impact do you see LOBOS making five years from now?

DuncanI 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.

Sinclair:  What are your long-term goals for Enerliance? For yourself?

DuncanMy 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 with it.  

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.

Sinclair:  What do you like about the work you do? 

DuncanOne 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.


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