July 2013
Interview

AutomatedBuildings.com

Award winning manufacturer of IT-based building automation.
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EMAIL INTERVIEW Tom Shircliff, Rob Murchison and Ken Sinclair

Tom Shircliff & Rob MurchisonTom Shircliff and Rob Murchison are the principals of Intelligent Buildings, LLC, a smart real estate professional services company that they co-founded in 2004. Intelligent Buildings provides planning and implementation management of next generation strategy for new buildings, existing portfolio optimization and smart community projects. Intelligent Buildings has worked extensively throughout North America in over 50 different cities. 


Tom and Rob have been recognized for numerous industry firsts including lead consulting on "The Smartest Building in America", conception and development of a Clinton Global Initiative public private partnership, development and program management for the largest building energy analytics project in the North America and creation of federal smart building standards. Additionally, they have been name one of “35 to watch” in the industry.

They also help shape the industry through collaboration, advisory and lecturing at national laboratories and universities including Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories, Pacific Northwest National Laboratories, Harvard University Graduate School of Design, Wake Forest University School of Business, UNC Charlotte and Georgia Tech University College of Architecture.



Organizing the Energy Analytics Marketplace

Customers say they were indeed getting dizzy from all the vendor
messaging and pitches and this helps frame the marketplace.


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Sinclair: The energy analytics industry has been growing rapidly which has spawned a number of different types of companies and solutions. Does your company track the ongoing developments in this industry segment?

IntelligentBuildingsŪ:  We do have to track the industry for our customers in order to provide the best guidance for them. However, our research is not just an exercise or theoretical opining. While we are engaged to provide a “state of the industry” report, more often we are helping a portfolio owner to get to an actual solution implementation with quantifiable results.

Sinclair: OK, but to provide an actual solution, isn’t that a matter of referring to your latest research to see who is best at the time of your recommendation?

IntelligentBuildingsŪ:  We used to think so but things have changed quite a bit recently. Just a few years ago it was in fact a matter of “who is best” since there were relatively few options and you could make real progress by just picking the best of the lot. Now there are many more options and still more legacy companies evolving or rebranding themselves as “energy analytics”. This has created noise in the marketplace and some confusion among buildings owners/managers because they were frequently comparing apples to oranges.  We determined that it was necessary to categorize the different types of offerings.

Sinclair: That makes sense, but did you find logical categories and to what end? 

IntelligentBuildingsŪ:  We did indeed find logical categories. Although it is important to note that this was born from a customer perspective, not a solution provider perspective. In other words, when working with the end in mind, we have to consider the building owner/manager knowledge, resources, property management processes and aims for analytics. Thus, when we grouped the service providers we then began a process for matching the customer profile to the solution provider profile. That is the goal of this… to match the customer profile with service provider profiles and then only evaluate those solution companies that are a categorical match.

Sinclair: So, what are the segments or groups and how does it work?

IntelligentBuildingsŪ:  We found four main solution types in the marketplace that were influenced by two characteristic spectrums.  The characteristics were simply

So, on the y-axis we created the range of software vs people centric solutions. On the x-axis we created the range for defined vs. customizable solutions. We then labeled the quadrants with the four solution types we discovered:

  1. Dashboards – – Energy dashboards that track real time usage and trends and then derive analytical insights from that information. This approach is faster to implement and less involved with operational change.
  2. Platforms – More traditional software purchases that require licensing, hosting and some capability to manage the data gathering, interpretation and action plan. A third party integrator may often accompany these solutions. This is more of a strategy ownership approach and seeks to change operational processes.
  3. Services – People centered services that have a high touch approach that often includes at least monthly calls do discuss data interpretation; action plans and follow up on previous calls. This is more of an outsourcing method when internal resource constraints may be present.
  4. Operational – These solutions access and optimize the actual building systems operational configuration, sequences of operations and routines and seek to optimize them strategically and automatically.

Four solution types

Sinclair: What has the reaction been from building owners/managers and the solution providers?

IntelligentBuildingsŪ:  Its been fantastic. We have talked to dozens of each and the customers say they were indeed getting dizzy from all the vendor messaging and pitches and this helps frame the marketplace - but more importantly helps them think about themselves and what type of solution they should be looking for. As to the solution providers, we did not approach this as merely as our educated opinion. Rather we sent out an extensive survey to dozens of providers and then talked with them on the phone or in person to get agreement on the rationale for their position in the quadrants. They realized that this is not a rating system (which can come later during a proper evaluation for individual customers), that no quadrant was necessarily better than another and that it actually serves them well not to spend a lot of sales time on a mismatched opportunity.

Reliable Controls Sinclair: Where have you put the word out about this?

IntelligentBuildingsŪ:  We announced this at Realcomm / IBcon in Orlando and had a full three days with the industry to discuss it and get feedback. We were very grateful to do it there and to get such an enthusiastic reaction from all corners. We talked a lot about analytics during our “Conference Live” interview at IBcon but also in an interview with “Control Talk Now Live”.

We are using the quadrants and our step by step measured, methodology on a daily basis with our customers but we feel good that this will also help the industry and the adoption rate of energy analytics overall. This is a powerful low-cost, high-value solution that is right for the times.

Sinclair: What else is Intelligent Buildings up to in the marketplace? 

IntelligentBuildingsŪ:  We are spending a lot of time on analytics in the commercial, corporate, healthcare and government spaces but we are also working on some iconic, new development projects that are leveraging our convergence experience during the design-development process and we continue to be active in the smart community segment, building on the success of Envision Charlotte which is a Clinton Global Initiative that connected 22 million square feet and 65 buildings in urban Charlotte, NC.


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