Opinions


Optimal Building Efficiency is More of a Marathon than a Sprint

June 23, 2014

I’m not much of a runner. In fact, my lung capacity and skinny chicken legs struggle to carry me much more than a few hundred feet before I feel a forest fire erupting within my chest cavity.

So, for those of you boasting about your recently completed marathons on social media, I commend you, just know my jealous, competitive spirit offers such praise completely coated in envy.

Unless you’re Forrest Gump, running great lengths is not something you jump off the couch and accomplish. It takes attentive effort and careful planning. Your fitness level must be proficient; you must have the proper shoes, socks, and gear; your diet should accommodate the massive carbohydrate/caloric depletion that accompanies distance running; a training plan must be drafted and executed; etc. And, while these steps seem very basic in nature, all marathon runners apply their own principles when aiming to reach 26.2 on the odometer because, as runners know, what works for Steve may not work for Eve.

Custom Solutions

I recently attended Danfoss’s 21st annual EnVisioneering Symposium in Washington, District of Columbia, where the topic was “The Decade Ahead: Trigger Points to Efficiency.” While the brilliance of those in attendance left my mind racing, I couldn’t help but notice the parallels between finishing a marathon and achieving optimum building efficiency.

Much like completing a marathon, improving building efficiency, on a grand scale, is going to take immense work. A building, much like a runner’s body, must be prepared, trained, tested, and pushed to the limit of exhaustion before advancing to the next step.

And, much like human beings, no two buildings are built alike. Many intricacies will cause one runner’s (building’s) strength to be another’s weakness. Each training and testing cycle must be customized to the individual runner (structure). And, once sufficient data is collected, the training runs (building commissioning) are tweaked and repeated in hopes of greater accomplishments.

At the Danfoss forum, most everyone in attendance vocally supported the idea of developing a more efficient building model; however, many disagreed on a best-practices approach to achieving that goal.

The ideas that were presented, including smart grid integration, greater rooftop efficiency gains, further use of energy recovery ventilators, the growth of energy storage, load-shifting capabilities, utilizing renewable energy sources in conjunction with peak utility performance, etc., were bordering on genius. The problem, though, is while each solution offered a piece of the puzzle, you can’t finish a 500-piece puzzle with one or two pieces. While assembling and assimilating the necessary remaining puzzle pieces may seem like mission impossible, I commend Danfoss for hosting such an event and applaud the company’s quest for optimum efficiency.

Proprietary Problems

Proprietary profits remain a large roadblock in the race to building efficiency. Everyone believes his or her innovations are most worthy of implementation. And, in the wonderful world of capitalism, sales define success. If the solution or product isn’t selling, your competitor is likely only a few paces behind in the race for market share. It’s this competition that often keeps the greatest industry minds from collaborating.

Every runner lining up at the starting line believes they have the tools to finish the race, but, if they’re missing a piece of the puzzle, it’s highly unlikely they’re going to win the race.

While this me-first attitude may seem suitable in a CEO board room, it essentially mirrors the “my-way-or-the-highway” demeanor currently dooming Washington. We, as an industry, must find a way to work together instead of quacking around like a bunch of lame-duck partisan (proprietary) politicians.

Publication date: 6/23/2014 

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