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Interview - June 2002
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Control Solutions, Inc. - Minnesota

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EMAIL INTERVIEW  Tom Hartman & Ken Sinclair 

Tom HartmanThe 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. 


Web Based Facilities Operation

Sinclair: How will a well designed Web Based Facilities Operation help to increase the effectiveness of the Hartman Company? 

Hartman: Since our projects are all over the world, we have for many years required some ability to remotely contact and interact with the automation systems at our projects. In the past this has been through dial-in modems, but this medium is rapidly changing to Web Based systems. I like Web Based remote access because it offers the opportunity for uniform access to systems of many different manufacturers. I would be hard pressed to remember how to access some of the older projects because each dial-up connection uses one-of-a-kind proprietary access procedures. Web Based access promises to develop into a much more standard and universally accessible interface. We are involved in system design, so our need for remote access is largely confined to follow up services for several years after startup. However, we see a much more significant role for Web Based remote access in operations and maintenance service providers, services I think are being significantly leveraged with Web Based access.

Distech Controls

Sinclair:  Are email generated variance alarms from simulated energy performance and rule based optimization possible? 

Hartman: This is a very successful application. Let me give you an example of how we are using this technique. At present, much of our workload is involved in implementing ultra-high efficiency all-variable speed chiller plants. The value in this technology lies in its substantial energy performance improvement compared to conventional plants. As part of our design services, we monitor the operating efficiency of many of these plants and set trigger points for automatic notification based on overall plant operating efficiency (kW/ton). If such a trigger point is exceeded and an email is sent, we can diagnose the problem and provide solutions to the operations staff even before they know they have a problem. This approach helps us meet our commitment to ensure plant performance effectively without adding significantly to our costs. These kinds of services were possible before Web based systems, but we rarely implemented them because they were much more costly to develop.

Sinclair: What are the pros and cons of offsite energy optimization?

Hartman: I do not see any real opportunities for off site energy optimization, but I certainly do see an increasing role for off site maintenance and operations.

The nature of most optimization regimens and today's controls make such optimization much better accomplished on site within the control system that operates the facility. But the nature of operations and maintenance is leading increasingly toward off site O&M. Modern controls and Web Based human interfaces that include exception reporting can leverage an operator's effectiveness and increase the amount of space he or she can operate effectively. Also, the increasing complexity of equipment and the benefits of effective maintenance makes specialized maintenance programs more cost effective. Maintenance groups that specialize in chillers for example can use Web Based exception reporting to track the operation of many more machines and keep them in better condition for less cost than traditional maintenance programs. I think this idea will catch hold in a big way over the next few years.

Reliable ControlsSinclair: What opportunities and short comings do you see in the web based approach?

Hartman: As I have stated, the real opportunities that I see are in using Web Based systems for operations and maintenance. I have believed for many years that operations will over time evolve to direct control by building occupants as we develop individual control and cost accounting systems. Web Based systems is the obvious communications link for this evolution. As Web Based systems become more popular, maintenance will increasingly be outsourced. The opportunities to blend products and services into this evolving O&M structure are enormous. I authored an article on the evolving "Comfort Industry" sometime back for the Automator and I believe very strongly that Web Based systems are an important enabler for this new method of building operations.

The potential problems of moving to a public communications link are the same that every other user faces - security, reliability and cost. To date these concerns seem not to be raising any flags. I don't foresee big issues upcoming.

Sinclair: Is interactive online web based operation in the Hartman Company's future?

Hartman: It's already here. As I said earlier, we use exception reporting via email to keep chiller plants operating as they should and we are encouraging system operators to implement these techniques to stay in touch while they roam with Web enabled PDAs. We are also working to put building occupants in direct contact with their environmental system using the Web so individuals can adjust thermal and lighting conditions from their PCs. This is only the start. More IT features will be absorbed into building controls and over time our industry is likely to merge with IT. 


Cimetrics
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