February 2014


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Chad Vander VeenEMAIL INTERVIEW - Chad Vander Veen and Ken Sinclair

Chad Vander Veen, Editor, FutureStructure

Graduated University of Redlands in 2001 with a degree in Government
Was Associate Editor of Government Technology magazine from 2005-2012
Served as Public Information Officer at the California High-Speed Rail Authority in 2013
Currently Editor of FutureStucture.com
Was a candidate for the California State Assembly in 2010 (I lost)


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SinclairWhat is FutureStructure?

Vander Veen:  FutureStructure is a new framework for thinking through and solving the challenges faced in building economically and socially robust communities. FutureStructure is about what we build, how we build and how the things we build connect with everything else.

SinclairWhat is the mission or vision for FutureStructure?

Vander Veen:  FutureStructure is e.Republic’s effort to help city and regional leaders understand that cities are not a collection of independent silos. Cities in reality are large-scale, interconnected systems. Everything in a city/region is connected. By exposing how things are – or can be – connected, more intelligent decisions can be made that will create communities that are better for the people who live in them.

Think of the human body. You have an energy system, a water system, a waste removal system, a transportation system and an existing infrastructure (or built environment). Depending on who we are, our infrastructure might be in great condition or it might need some help. All those other systems support the infrastructure of you. If you only concern yourself with one, say, energy, then the rest will suffer. But when you understand how you function as a system, you can make better decisions. Now, add a layer of technology to that and a whole host of new possibilities arise.

It’s the same with a city. We want government to think like a systems engineer. To do that we believe there are three concepts to understand:

SinclairWhat are the technologies in FutureStructure?

Vander Veen:  There are a number of key technologies that will drive FutureStructure. Some of these include: Big Data, Business Intelligence, Mobile Tech, Next-Gen Networks, Location Data/Intelligence, Remote and Embedded Sensors, the Internet of Things, Data Analytics, GIS, Wearable Tech, Cloud Computing, 3D Printing and any technology solution that either helps what we build connect or helps leaders understand those connections.

SinclairWhere do smart buildings fit into the FutureStructure framework?

Vander Veen:  Smart buildings, along with intelligent transportation systems, are the real tangible outcomes of thinking of cities as systems. These are the things people can see, feel, use and understand just by looking at them. Many of us spend much of our time indoors but we often don’t realize that the building we inhabit is part of a larger system. In most cases, that building only takes from the system in terms of energy and produces a lot of waste. But if we make or build smarter buildings, those places we inhabit can generate energy. Even the waste a building generates can be managed more intelligently so it actually becomes an energy resource. Smart buildings become nodes on a network of distributed energy generators that contribute to making the communities they exist in better and cleaner.

Control Solutions, Inc SinclairCan you give an example of FutureStructure in action?

Vander Veen:  Sure. In this story I wrote about Sacramento, Calif.’s efforts around “Farm-to-Fork-to-Fuel.” What’s happening there is that commercial food companies and city restaurants have partnered with a local waste management company to use organic food waste to produce renewable natural gas using a machine called an anaerobic digester. The natural gas is purchased by fleets, including the city of Sacramento, to fuel heavy vehicles like buses, trash trucks and street sweepers. The leftover solids from the process are then sold to area farmers as a high-grade compost, resulting in a closed-loop system that impacts energy, transportation, and waste while also improving regional sustainability and resiliency.

SinclairWhat’s in store for FutureStructure this year?

Vander Veen:  It’s an exciting time for us. This is our first full year of production and we’re looking forward to telling the stories that define our vision. In addition to growing our website we have two published editions of FutureStructure slated to come out later this year. Those will coincide will two national FutureStructure summits we’re putting on, one of the East Coast and one on the West Coast. We’ll also be hosting webinars to get people better acquainted with what we hope to accomplish.

And as editor I’m always on the lookout for smart, passionate people for whom the vision of FutureStructure resonates. So if this is something you the reader would be interested writing about or if you have a story you think would be a good fit, my email inbox is always open at cvanderveen@erepublic.com.

Thank you, Ken, for this opportunity to share a little about what we’re doing. 


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