Interview - June 2001
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Ken SInclair and
Tom Hartman

The Hartman Company was founded in 1972 as a high technology engineering firm, specializing in applying computer technology to commercial and industrial building control and energy management. Hartman has played an important role in pioneering the use of advanced computer based energy management control strategies. He continues to place a strong emphasis on the use of modeling for evaluating potential improvements, and has developed a number of in-house programs to model a variety of energy and financial improvement scenarios. Today THC is utilizing dynamic control concepts with networks, TRAV and advanced chiller design. 

July's issue theme is Industry Migration towards Information

[an error occurred while processing this directive]Sinclair - Browser based presentation of all industry information appears to be the now trend. Do you have any concerns?

Hartman: Yes, there are concerns but I think the advantages make a compelling case to move forward with this trend. Concerns include a potential lack of flexibility to include desirable features and a lack of single point responsibility. Advantages include access to a much broader and experienced spectrum of service providers to develop and upgrade human interface systems for building automation systems as well as the ability to link many more people (including building occupants) to the system controlling comfort in the building.

Sinclair - As our industry rapidly migrates towards Information Technology type presentation and procedures are there concerns that we may lose our industry identity?

Hartman: Technology by its very nature reshapes every industry from time to time, and participants in the affected industry are best advised to go with that flow. My analogy for the HVAC industry is the old hardware store. A few years ago you could go into a hardware store and buy anything you wanted in any quantity. Similarly, building design teams can put together an HVAC system in virtually any configuration they want. This is unlikely to be the case for many more years, but I think this will probably be a positive development. Equipment with more integrated (and much more effective) controls and network connectivity will probably be the trends that end the "hardware store" nature of our industry. Along with this will come a loss of identity as equipment solutions become much more prescriptive. This may dismay a lot of designers, but buildings will be a lot more comfortable for the occupants and profitable for their owners as our industry becomes dominated by or perhaps even assimilated by the IT/communications industry.

Sinclair - Online eDucation and eLearning are growing. Are they enough to keep our industry in touch?

Hartman: I have a pessimistic view of our industry's capacity for internal change. I believe that change will primarily come from outside our industry. Over the next few years, the most likely use of education will probably be to help outsiders interested in penetrating this industry better understand what it is the HVAC industry does so that new products and services can be developed in order to enter this market effectively.

Sinclair - Is our industry positioned to accept daily convergence opportunities?  By convergence I was thinking about the convergence of technologies and procedures used by other industries.

Hartman: Yes, very much so. As pointed out in survey after survey, building owners and occupants are not very pleased with the mix of products and services this industry is providing to do our primary function which is to make building environments comfortable and productive. Most of us know technologies are now available that could do an enormously better job. Our industry's "one-at-a-time" approach to designing, manufacturing, and constructing HVAC solutions results in high costs and low function. Our industry will be enormously benefited by the "mass customization" approach developed for and employed in other technology focused industries that are beginning to merge with ours. Designers may resist the results of such convergence, but their clients will embrace it.

Sinclair - Our September Issue will deal with Industry Restructuring.  Is it happening?

Hartman: It is. The first steps have already been taken as large multi-national firms have penetrated segments of the HVAC industry and looking to move forward with product and service offerings that have been successful in other industries in which they participate. This will be a slow process as these firms will deal thoughtfully and conservatively with this industry. But such firms are spending significant resources developing approaches to improve their penetration or market share in this industry. This first step is quite invisible to those working daily in the industry. But once this step is completed, the second step will begin which will configure new and existing product and service technologies that fit the marketing approaches they are now developing. This stage will begin the public view of the restructuring that is already under way.

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