"We gave it to the facilities guys, and they couldn't figure it out. We gave it to the IT guys, and they automated the bathrooms."

That sounds like a worst-case scenario that Ken Sinclair might've written a few years ago in his column, doesn't it? For a good while, Sinclair's cautionary mantra was that the HVAC engineer's prominence in the next wave of controls industry change will depend on who is better prepared to embrace a new perspective on building's systems: the engineer or the IT professional. Mechanical professionals ignored the shift away from separated, vertical building systems toward integrated systems at their peril.

Jim Young, founder of Realcomm and owner of the above quotation, made the above remarks almost as an aside while taking us on a "tour" of several facilities in his keynote at the ES Building Automation Conference in San Diego last month. Still, the comment can only be considered an expert report from the front lines, anecdotally confirming that in the race to fill the leadership gap created by the evolution toward intelligent buildings, the IT staff has proven the swiftest. As Young pointed out, working with (if not for) your IT colleagues is often a new way of life for those trying to make improvements or just maintain the status quo. (How is that relationship where you are? E-mail me.)

However, as the discussions at our conference demonstrated, plenty remains for owners and their HVAC facility engineers to do and worry about. Commissioning, the process of integrating equipment or entire systems, and getting the most out of rising technologies like wireless sensors ... these problems (or opportunities, as the old proverb goes) aren't going anywhere, in addition to all the old-school responsibilities.

As happened in Baltimore last spring, last month's presentations were valuable, but the unique take-home value for those in attendance was participating in the Q&A after the formal presentations. One of the seminars I moderated was on wireless, with a 90-min time slot and only two people on the panel, Terry Hoffman of Johnson Controls and Trane's Jim Kohl. But alas, no opportunity for thumb-twiddling arose - their presentations lasted 45 minutes, and the next 45 minutes were filled with good questions from around the room and dialogue about the benefits, caveats, and tactics of using wireless in a variety of applications. Solid panelists, a chance to interact, everyone gets a little smarter, and then it's time for lunch: What more could you want from a seminar?

Thanks to all of the sponsors, panelists, and readers who came out to make the event a success. We'll see you in San Diego and even at the Horton Plaza Westin, just about the same time next year.

MEMBERSHIP HAS ITS ADVANTAGES

Regarding ES and the Internet, 2006 has easily been the most eventful year in our history. The HVACcess e-newsletter cranked into full gear, we christened the blog, and we revamped the website. The benefit for you, gentle reader, is more information and more opportunities to tailor how you receive that information. On the downside, such conveniences sometimes require brief one-time inconveniences, such as taking thirty seconds to register at our website.

We want to try to build a vital community of users at the new website, and so we've started requiring a brief registration in order to get to older materials there. The current month's issue will remain accessible for everyone, but if you like being able to identify which features mention chillers or to look up all Rebecca Ellis' commissioning columns, for instance, you'll need to sign up for a user name and password.

In addition to having continued access to all our online archives, members will also be set to enjoy future Web offerings, such as video webinars on specific topics. So take a minute to register the next time you stop by. The archive access is worth it alone; I know I give that search engine a workout sometimes, and it beats flipping through back issues.

And the 2007 tech agenda? I keep wondering out loud about sending the "Editor's Note" to people directly on their cell phones, but for some reason nobody's returning my e-mails ...