September 2017

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Don KasperEMAIL INTERVIEWDon Kasper and Ken Sinclair

Don Kasper is VP of Operations for Ecorithm, a Santa Barbara-based startup software company.   He is responsible for company operations and overseeing client relationships.  Don is a mechanical engineer and has an extensive background in consulting engineering.  He has managed teams at several nationally-recognized engineering firms while managing many projects across the US and abroad.  While not working, Don enjoys traveling, learning programming, concerts, and disc golf. 

You can follow Don and Ecorithm at:


Automated Fault Detection and Diagnostics (AFDD)

Our industry is becoming much more virtual, meaning that in addition to buying pumps, motors, etc. and other physical equipment that can easily be specified, more and more software is coming into the marketplace that helps manage different aspects of the operations of a building.

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SinclairHi Don - It's been awhile since we caught up.  To the benefit of our new readers, can you explain who Ecorithm is and what it is that you do?
Kasper:  Hi Ken - sure, it's always a pleasure to speak with you.  Ecorithm is a software company based in Santa Barbara and New York with a particular focus on developing analytical tools for the buildings industry as well as IoT.  Right now, our primary offering is the True AnalyticsTM platform that provides Automated Fault Detection and Diagnostics (AFDD) to building owners and operators.
SinclairAnalytics is sure creating a buzz in the industry now.  What is your current take on the industry?
Kasper:  Everyone in the industry right now seems to be focused on making buildings smarter and more connected which is creating a sea change of thought leadership in the facility management, construction, and real estate industry.  Traditionally, buildings have been treated simply as physical assets that require large budgets to maintain and take away from an owner's bottom line.  I feel that we are now at a point in the industry where buildings are starting to be viewed differently and the people that operate them understand how big of a role that data and analytics play in operating buildings better and smarter.
SinclairVery interesting. Can you elaborate more on how building operations are different now, as opposed to say, 10 years ago?
Kasper:  Ultimately, more thought and effort is being put into how buildings can improve an occupants experience and actually add to a company's bottom line.  Buildings are becoming much more interactive environments as we digitize different building systems and afford much more precise control.  Our industry is becoming much more virtual, meaning that in addition to buying pumps, motors, etc. and other physical equipment that can easily be specified, more and more software is coming into the marketplace that helps manage different aspects of the operations of a building.  Building operators can now have more control over their systems and equipment and therefore squeeze out more benefits to someone such as the owner, operator and even occupant.
SinclairHow do you think this impacts facility managers and the people that are running a building on a day-to-day basis?
Kasper:  To be a bit cliché, facility management is being raised out of the boiler room and into the board room.  As more building systems are being digitized, the operational side of a building becomes much more visible to a larger audience such as property managers, portfolio managers, sustainability officers, etc.  Facility managers seem to be taking a more present role in the operation of the building and working closer with the property management and sustainability teams.  This means that their work is more visible and and has the opportunity to be more appreciated by others.   When we get involved with a client, we find it fascinating to be involved with a multi-disciplinary team that all have an interest in the engineering side of a building.
SinclairFor a facility manager, that seems both exciting and scary at the same time.
Kasper:  To be honest, it can be both.  Ultimately, I believe it is a great thing for facility managers and can help bring credit to people running a building that often go underappreciated.  In most commercial buildings, the engineering teams are out of sight, typically in a basement or sub-basement, and are only summoned when there is a problem.  For us, we help provide better feedback to facility managers about their systems through AFDD and work with clients to achieve goals that they want to achieve but didn't quite have the ability to before.
SinclairCan you tell our readers more about Ecorithm and how exactly your analytics benefit a building?
Kasper:  Sure.  Ecorithm is the culmination of the effort of a group of really smart mechanical and software engineers with a very keen interest in buildings and IoT.  Early on, around 2012, we recognized that the facility management industry lacked tools that digitized and made data available from HVAC systems that could help inform how to better run a building.  We commercialized research from University of California Santa Barbara that focused on a unique analytical approach that abstracts useful information from time series data that enables us to do two things; 1. handle large sets of data that are collected from a building's systems and 2. make that data useful to a building operator so that they can focus on implementing improvements instead of wasting time troubleshooting issues.  Our cloud-based software provides a platform that enables our analytics engine to deliver detailed, specific recommendations for improving operations while providing a tracking system for user feedback. We effectively help building operations go from reactively repairing problems to proactively and predictively preventing problems and optimizing operations.
SinclairThat's fascinating.  If a building owner is interested in making their buildings smarter but has no idea where to start, what would you recommend to them?  What are some of the challenges that they may face?
Kasper:  Thanks, Ken, and that's a great question.  We have customers of all shapes and sizes, but they most certainly have one thing in common; they became interested in smarter buildings because of one or two internal champions at their organizations that really persisted and pushed the idea of bringing more technologies into their buildings.  We typically find that an internal champion will pilot a couple of solutions in hopes that they have great results and then face the challenge of trying to convince their peers that there is a great value to be gained.  In all honesty, each building and portfolio is different; there is often a lack of understanding over what the needs of an organization are and whether a given solution can deliver the right value.  We strongly recommend to anyone interested in analytics and smarter buildings in general, to follow a simple process before engaging with a solution. 

  1. Take stock of how your buildings are currently operated and what technology (Building Management Systems, Computerized Maintenance Management Systems, HVAC equipment, etc.) already exists at each building.
  2. Assess what the needs of your operations are and identify key objectives that you'd like to accomplish.
  3. Identify everyone in your organization that should be involved in decision making such as the IT team, facility managers, property managers, sustainability officers, etc. to understand how they may be impacted.
  4. Evaluate what solutions exist that can help you achieve your objectives and begin a conversation with those solution providers.
  5. Decide on which products or services will work for your buildings now and in the future.  I strongly advise  choosing solutions that are open and compatible with as many other solutions as possible in addition to having the ability to expand to any other buildings or facilities that you may also manage.
  6. Plan for success with defined timelines and measurable goals.

For me personally, I strongly encourage anyone thinking about analytics or smarter buildings to reach out to different solution providers and simply start asking questions.  At Ecorithm, we have a technical team that is more than happy to have an open conversation about an organization's needs for analytics and can provide consultation and honest advice for how to accomplish your goals.
SinclairThat sounds like a great approach and will be beneficial to many people in the industry.  Before we part, is there anything else that you'd like to tell us?
Kasper:  We're at a very exciting time in our industry now, and it's exciting to be part of it.  Our goal at Ecorithm is to show the industry how efficient and interactively buildings can be operated.  Through technology, I believe we can solve many different issues and ultimately have a great impact on our industry at the policy level.  For a recent example of the sea change that's happening in our industry, please check out an article recently published by Distributed Energy magazine in which Ecorithm among other industry leaders are quoted on the challenges and successes of intelligent infrastructure in buildings.


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