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EMAIL INTERVIEW – Aaron Lapsley and Ken Sinclair
Aaron Lapsley, VP of Engineering Services, Switch Automation
Lapsley is an experienced engineer, consultant and manager with an
extensive background in building systems, real estate operations,
energy and technology. He has an MBA from Harvard Business School, a
B.Sc. in mechanical engineering from the University of Oklahoma, and is
a licensed Professional Engineer in two U.S. states. As Switch
Automation VP of Engineering Services, Aaron is at the forefront of
building a world-class professional services organization to help
implement and effectively utilize the Switch Platform, manage customer
support and user training.
Sinclair: What’s the latest trend that you’re seeing in the marketplace, as a global solution provider?
around the world are learning that if they truly want to become a
‘smart city,’ then they cannot depend on the builders or architects to
make swift, tangible progress. Instead, they’re starting to realize
that they need to create scalable technology-driven initiatives
themselves. The City of Adelaide, Australia and Seattle [Washington] 2030
are great examples of this. These are city-driven,
legislation-supported, properly incentivized projects with all
stakeholders involved from the outset. These cities aren’t waiting to
create ‘smart’ new construction. They’re utilizing technology partners
to make their current assets perform better. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s (NYSERDA) $30M Real Time Energy Management (RTEM) Program is perhaps one of the most accurately incentivized programs in a world full of smart-city hopefuls.
Sinclair: Why do you think New York is poised to lead the globe in smart cities adoption?
Lapsley: NYSERDA’s RTEM program has tangible benefits for both the city and
building owners. Smart city programs fail because the incentives are
misplaced—building owners aren’t motivated to get involved unless
there’s a clear line of cause and effect on their bottom line. New
York’s comprehensive program helps building owners actuate more
efficient buildings, with massive program subsidies. As a result, New
York will become a leader in energy efficiency. They’ve reverse
engineered the approach to create a sense of urgency and motivation
among the right people, in the right order.
Sinclair: What does ROI look like for companies who partake in a Real Time Energy Management program?
isolation, information has no inherent value. It’s only valuable to the
extent it helps enterprises add and capture value in the real economy.
And in the context of a 21st century economy—where organizations are
aggressively competing for customers (tenants) and resources, and are
struggling to manage large, complex groups of employees, supplier
networks and customer relationships—information becomes essential and
invaluable. Increasingly, businesses succeed and fail on the quality
and timeliness of their information.
In essence, real time building management programs unlock data; data in the right hands becomes information; information will lead to targeted decisions and actions; and those decisions and actions drive the ROI.
Depending on the project goals, tangible
ROI comes in many forms— reduced energy usage, operational cost
savings, happier / more comfortable tenants or an overall better bottom
line, to name a few. It depends on the businesses’ goals and the nature
of the portfolios. Energy is highly visible and generally pretty
measurable. So it gets a lot of the attention, as it should. But there
are other elements of ROI that the industry needs to start advancing.
Preventing truck rolls to address hot calls just because someone phoned
in a complaint uses less energy too…and time, and opportunity cost for
that technician. Energy is only part of the story. The ROI is in
data-driven operations. That’s a bit harder to measure, but it’s a much
Sinclair: How do your clients realize the tangible ROI though?
Lapsley: To find and activate the ROI, we must have a clear way to utilize the data. This is where fault detection diagnostics (FDD) and alerts are so essential. Your team of busy people don’t have time to sift through data or even millions of alerts to decipher which problem to triage. Instead, you need sophisticated if / then / or / and-based FDD to explicitly indicate how to utilize the data you collected— which are the most expensive, urgent problems and which ones to look at first. Then you need access to real-time data, typically remotely, by people with the right skills to make decisions and execute on business processes. Analytics leads to insights, leads to ROI. “This valve is not closing at night. Looks like it stopped on Tuesday. I’ll have someone fix it tomorrow instead of finding out three months from now when something really breaks or 6 months from now when I’ve already spent $15,000 on additional energy and water consumption.” We see that story all the time.
Sinclair: What type of companies are doing this well?
Lapsley: Typically, corporate and commercial real estate portfolios have the most incentive to run effective real-time real estate management programs. Commercial real estate run their buildings as a business, so they want their buildings to be comfortable, efficient and satisfactory for the tenants. Those factors are their bottom line. Corporate real estate, on the other hand, pays for all the costs associated with their assets. For example, large banks that have thousands of buildings in their portfolio have a vested interest in reducing their operations costs. Their portfolios can be large; and measuring and verifying program results is often challenging at that scale. With the right data, they can manage utility spend and vendors more effectively.
We've seen multiple sectors adopt these
programs, but the types of companies that succeed are the ones that
empower their team to think about innovation and the broader impact
that technology can have on a traditional business. That is, they allow
their people to think about changing things that don’t make sense or
can just plain be better. These are the companies that will ultimately
create leading portfolios of connected smart buildings.
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