Big predictions Big Challenges

In the January 2015 issue of Architect Magazine, page 104, Roger Chang, the director of engineering for Westlake Reed Leskowsy, says, “Benchmark data in the US is non-existent.

This represents an amazing opportunity for the right architects and engineers to tackle issues with building design.  Its a big challenge to start addressing that information and even harder when no precedent exists.

Whether its true, false or partially incorrect, it doesn’t matter.  The word “Data” means information, a body of facts that has the ability to be collected.  While it is fun to build devices that store and transmit, let’s think not only how to collect it, but why.  What is important to a building’s layout that makes it better than another?  What human factors can be accounted for and which can be excluded?  People have an incredible ability to offset energy modeling predictions and so called design strategies.  Imagine that.

Now imagine a building that figures out what paths 99% of building occupants take from entrance to office.  That the building could actively predict what room you will be in at 4:50pm, on a Tuesday.  What if it knew that at 2:30pm there was a meeting with 10 attendees and could pre-heat or cool the room to an ambient temperature, calculate the energy needed for optimization and dampen the room acoustically, all from recorded data?  Sounds like science fiction right?  Its not.  We are simply taking what information we collect over time and applying it with reasonable accuracy.  The results are devastatingly high performance increases to the design.  The total design.

We are now on the verge of major technological breakthroughs. The image (taken from my basement) below demonstrates just where we are in terms of processing capabilities.  I have a fully operation computer, running an operating system, 300+ Gigaflops of computing capability (thanks nVidia!) and it could technically run off a wrist-watch battery.  What better device to collect energy related data than one that barely uses any at all?  We are looking to use these as collection hubs (at least in the meantime) to store building related data.  This could include, but not limited to, Temperature and humidity, Network signals, CO2, Motion+Position, Acoustics and Circuit-specific Energy Values.

RBC - Jetson

I can only imagine that in 10 years, once this data thing takes off, it’ll be like all the firms that said they’ve always designed green buildings, “Oh, we’ve always been collecting data on our buildings, since the beginning of our firm in the 1970’s!”

Our big prediction is that data is the key to solving the big challenges.

Soldering… Solasderinga… Zzzzz…

We’ve begun soldering the xBee radio relay terminals as well as the voltage regulators and microprocessors. It’s been a learning experience and a lot of trial and error, but we’re almost to a working prototype on the environmental sensors.

Top 5 Things I’ve Learned – Soldering

1) Solder in a well ventilated area, or after awhile everything gets “fuzzy”.

2) Solder rested. Shaky hands aren’t very productive.

3) Solder whilst sober. Again, Shaky hands aren’t very productive.

4) Less is more.

5) Straight feet = happy leads.

The lab is ready

The lab is ready for wiring, soldering, computation and data collecting.  Let’s begin!


Aaaaand We’re off!

Our first shipment of sensor hardware came this week.

Ryan received 5 “Tweet-A-Watt” kits as well as a few Belkin plug load monitors. We also have some soft monitor OWL systems that will monitor entire circuit plug loads (those Brits really know what they’re doing!)…

I reached out to Google employee and Founder of KippKits Kipp Bradford about getting my hands on some of the very exciting “Google Motes”. These small boards contain sensors for Humidity, Motion, Temperature, Air Quality, Air Pressure, Light and Sound. They can hook up to an Arduino and a radio relay to create sensor nodes through a building. (More on coding, soldering, and troubleshooting in later Blog Posts I’m sure).

We’re really excited about the different types of data we’re going to be monitoring, and what information it can tell us about how we interact with our buildings and how the environment effects both ourselves and the bottom line.

Welcome to DataStreams!

Welcome to DLR Group Data Streams Grand Program.

This is our first blog post of many along the journey to building more intelligent buildings. For those of you who are unfamiliar with what this program is perusing, let me bring you up to speed:

Data Streams is about finding how we really use our buildings on a daily, hourly, even minute by minute basis – because in the end, how we operate within our designed spaces accounts for the energy, time, and productivity we consume. Our team is partnering with tech companies, research institutes, and other designers to create a solution which utilizes metrics that can be monitored in real-time to better understand and fine tune our buildings. This idea involves both personal energy consumption as well as building environment monitoring hardware that we will integrate into a graphical display analysis.

This concept stemmed from the fact that we need to build smarter. The world we now live in is volatile in all aspects – jobs, economy, climate and energy. The key to designing better and smarter buildings is developing infrastructure. This will enable us to change our current practices and augment the future of design. The challenge is to create a monitoring system that can regular feedback on how much energy they are using and the state of their physical environments.

We hope you will follow our progress as we struggle and collaborate to develop the start of a system that as designers we can build on and make better. This is a platform to elevate both our profession as well as our products and clients products in the long run. We hope our enthusiasm is contagious and that our work can start a larger discussion on the future of environmental technology.


Mike Vander Ploeg & Ryan Cameron

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