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EMAIL INTERVIEW – Jack McGowan and Ken Sinclair
Jack Mc Gowan, CEM, Principal,
The Mc Gowan Group
Sinclair: Jack McGowan, your induction to the ControlTrends Awards Hall of Fame this year before the AHR Expo, gives us the chance to revisit a career of work on numerous industry developments. What are you most proud of?
McGowan: Big question
As I said in my acceptance, our relationship of over three decades tops
off that list. It was also incredible that I had the chance to be
right at the heart of two industries, energy, and controls, early in my
career. I was very fortunate to enter the business at a very exciting
time for both industries, particularly because high energy costs then
were really driving control industry growth. Using technology and
systems for energy efficiency and management was the first “killer AP”
for Smart Buildings. It was more, though because energy
also became a catalyst for creativity and innovation in both controls
and buildings. I developed a passion at the beginning, to learn
everything possible about innovation, emerging technology and new
business developments that would impact my work.
At ControlTrends I referred to you and I, as industry explorers trying to understand “what is next” for our industry, and whether it is any good. It was exciting for us to be part of a cadre of thought leaders, who were at the forefront of the most exciting and transformative industry changes to occur in decades. Among those leaders were Jim Lee, Anto Budiarjo and Leighton Wolffe, shown in this Wanted poster, I put together for a Strategy Session held at our Colorado family cabin in 2009. All of this work complimented my desire to write and speak about industry developments. My goal was to use my articles as a platform to put a spotlight on industry professionals who were pushing the envelope, to pursue excellence in Smart Buildings. It is truly amazing to be recognized by ControlTrends for that work because it was the most fun I had in my career. Running a successful business and building great projects was exciting, but the real fun was that I had a small role in driving the industry forward.
Sinclair: What industry developments really stand out in your memory?
are almost too many to mention because technology has a way of changing
the industry’s course. First such developments solve a problem, but
then they often take you places you could never have guessed.
Consider BACnet for example. I was an early champion of open
systems and communication standards, while a Corporate Energy Manager
for a retailer with 20 million square feet of buildings across the
US. While there I implemented hundreds of energy management
systems (what we called automation then), which created huge benefits
for the company. This work also formed the basis for 200 articles
and the first three of six books I wrote on systems and
technology. Implementing systems seemed to lead naturally to
writing articles, speaking at conferences and teaching seminars.
The goal was always to share what I was learning about how to do it
right, and to educate the industry on changes that were needed to
Back to your question, I
refer to my open systems work as addressing one of the “Four Horsemen of the Automated Buildings
Legacy Systems and the need for BACnet drove my initial activity, but
that was followed closely by Middleware, the Internet and Web services
developments and Apps like Dashboards and Analytics. With my end
user experience, I was at the beginning of what we now call
Analytics. Data is key for energy managers, and facing challenges
with proprietary datasets was critical. That’s why it is exciting
to see the work being done by Project Haystack and BACnet. I
mentioned energy prices were drivers for controls, but looking beyond
energy cost to energy reliability, what we now call resiliency, was an
epiphany. My understanding of buildings, energy, DDC, controls,
and system communications caused the U.S. DOE to invite me to join the
Gridwise Architecture Council as a founding member. Gridwise is
another example of technology developments taking us to unexpected
places. Finally, as an entrepreneur my goal was to build great
projects, incorporating emerging technology and innovation. This
led me to expand my company from System Integration to full-scale
Energy Service, Design / Build contracting. Using that model we
built multi-million dollar projects, which could easily accommodate
leading edge ideas and technology.
Sinclair: Given that diversity of work, are there some particularly memorable experiences you can share?
about this reminds me of an interview I once heard with Joe Walsh,
legendary guitarist with the Eagles. He said that while his
career unfolded, it seemed like series of disconnected moves jumping
from one job, or opportunity, to the next. Yet when he gained
perspective and looked back at it, it looked like a finely crafted
novel. I agree with the sentiment; my career’s been a great
ride. One last point, though, don’t take it too seriously, always
find ways to inject humor and have some fun. I had that in mind
while creating the DR Expo 2007 keynote in Chicago. There were
many topics to discuss; automation, the Grid, standards, emerging
technology, business models; but instead I settled on a simple
idea. There was a popular Cable TV Show at the time about
automobiles that inspired the title of my talk. I told the
audience I just wanted someone to… Pimp
Sinclair: Thanks Jack for taking the time to visit with us about your lifetime of achievement. I the last question is, what are you doing now?
Ken, after selling the business, I settled into comfortable
semi-retired consulting, offering market and business development work
for a few clients. But mostly, after 39 years of marriage and
raising two great children, Judy and I are just enjoying life. In
2012 we moved back to Santa Fe and built a Zero Net Energy home.
Since then we travel, dance and take life as it comes. I
also picked up some things that never seemed to fit into my work life,
like oil painting landscapes. It is fun to paint places that we
travel, like the one below from a trip we took to Tuscany earlier this
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