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High-Performance Building Market Transformation

Originally published
Originally published: 7/1/2019

Throughout my career, as an editor for this publication as well as a couple of others, I’ve attended dozens of industry meetings, conferences, seminars and trade shows. Some have been informative, and many have been quite educational.

The common format for almost every one has been nearly identical: attendees sit in a room and listen to a speaker (or panel of speakers) talk on a given topic. Occasionally there are questions from the audience that are addressed hastily either during the talk or, more commonly, at the end of the talk when there isn’t really enough time left for a good discussion.

Don’t get me wrong; these sessions have value. Whether you’re looking to learn more about a particular way to run a more profitable business or educate yourself on a new product or service, these industry meetings are a great way to better yourself as a business owner.

Recently, however, I had an opportunity to participate (and I do mean “participate”) in a meaningful, in-depth discussion that has huge potential to affect positive change.

The annual Danfoss EnVisioneering Symposium is a unique roundtable discussion that brings together a cross-section of thought leaders on critical issues and trends that impact the HVACR industry.

Though the EnVisioneering Symposia Series was launched in 2006, this was the first time I’ve been able to attend one — and my first reaction was a longing to go back in time and take part in every single one since its inception.

Over the past 10 years, the Symposia Series has convened 30 roundtable discussions on topics ranging from net-zero buildings and the smart grid to the economics of energy efficiency and the future of refrigerants.

The theme for this year’s Symposium was Deep Retrofits: Resilience, Efficiency and the Path to Sustainability. More than 40 of us sat around a long, U-shaped table set-up in a conference room of the Willard Intercontinental Hotel in downtown Washington, D.C. (a mere two blocks from The White House) and discussed the implications of emerging industry trends and the impact on various stakeholders.

Split into three, two-hour blocks, each one began with a brief presentation from two or three speakers before a lively, meaningful discussion ensued from everyone around the table.

In the morning, we heard from Eric Wilson, deputy director for the New York City Mayor’s Office of Resilience; Kate Johnson, chief of Green Building and Climate Branch in Washington, D.C.; and Majestic Lane, deputy of staff for the Pittsburgh Office of the Mayor.

Each presented a fascinating case study about the status, aspiration and operational vision of their office as it pertains to transformational building energy retrofits.

We discussed the fiscally responsible and socially equitable approach New York is taking to face climate change challenges in the city’s neighborhoods.

We explored how Washington, D.C. is adapting a net-zero building code for commercial buildings by 2016 and the challenge of connecting this effort to what really matters to people. And we learned about Pittsburgh’s four Ps: People, Place, Planet and Performance.

As we dove into the nexttopic of Resilience, Efficiency and Electrical Power, Lois Arena, director of Passive House Services for Steven Winter Associates, educated us on the Passive House movement and it’s similarities to LEED.

Brad Pappal, general manager for Tustin Energy Solutions, presented a riveting case study of a small Pennsylvania farm that has found an indirect and new way to contribute to building efficiency and electrical power.

The question he posed was: Will the rate of change increase by demonstrating alternative means of success? While a dynamic discussion ensued to try and answer this question, I couldn’t help but think how this simple question can be applied beyond the discussion.

You can most certainly ask this question about anything, and in many cases the answer turns out to be “yes.” Think about ductless and variable refrigerant flow (VRF) technology. As more and more manufacturers and contractors have adapted and used this technology to demonstrate alternative means of success, has the rate of change increased?

Or, take for example the subject of this month’s cover story (pg. 8) on connected homes. I spoke with many contractors around the country to get their thoughts on this emerging trend. As the technology has become available for your customers to control their comfort (and other aspects of their homes) in an alternative means of success, the rate of change has increased exponentially.

There are more smart thermostats available today than even just a year ago, with many more ancillary products being introduced all the time.

If you’re not willing and able to adapt to change, you may be left behind. 

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