We finally got to quit talking about our Green Intelligent Buildings Conference last week and actually attend it. I'm happy to report that honestly, it was worth the wait.

I haven't seen the evaluations yet, but I overheard more unsolicited positive comments on the content than ever. The current economy and the stimulus legislation both seemed to add a sense of urgency and relevance to several of the presentations and to the Q&A.

Since the attendees are already there and don't need reporting on the meat of the program in person (and already receive the slides), I like to often take a running list of informal notes about little anecdotes that come up along the way in the sessions I'm in.

Like what? I'm glad you asked ...

"You can beat code by 20% and still be in either the top or bottom percentile." Keynote speaker Kathleen Hogan, director of the EPA's Climate Protection Partnership division. She made a very interesting point that Energy Star affiliation is no predictor of real energy efficiency. You have to have the other factors in place.
    Hogan also offered a definition for a green building: one that has performance targets, transparency, and verified performance.

Speaking of transparency, Don McLauchlan, P.E. of Elara presented on the Loyola Chicago digital library that was our cover article earlier this year. The designers were constrained by the donor's requirement for literal transparency in this building, which led to the double facade on one side. He passed along how a colleague described double facades as "a good solution to a bad choice." But when the guy with the $10 million check wants transparency, what're you going to do? Hello, glass walls!
    During the Q&A, McLauchlan also reported that the only trouble encountered with the automatic blinds happened when a worker on the night shift got bored and started playing around with them via the BAS.

Which leads right into the presentation by AirAdvice's Tim Kensok on the conference's second day. He shared another anecdote from an engineer at a previous job, who said the ideal cockpit is staffed by "a pilot and a dog. The pilot's job is to feed the dog, and the dog's job to make sure the pilot doesn't touch anything."

Did you know what MUSH is? I didn't. According to a couple of attendees, it refers to Municipalities, Universities, Schools & Hospitals. Probably worth a time-saving acronym given the possible increase in retrofits in those sectors.

I always wind up moderating something opposite the track where Rebecca Ellis and/or Ron Wilkinson speak, so I was excited to finally attend their session this year. Wilkinson referred to an increasingly common practice in lighting controls, citing a major Manhattan commercial office as an example. At 7 p.m., all the lights go off, except for emergency and desk task lighting. And when he says off, he means off. No overrides by the occupant. Now that is What You See Is What You Get.

And finally, our commissioning columnist Rebecca Ellis showed the crowd an entertaining if tragic graph of how a heating/cooling system was working to maintain a somewhat steady temperature. Sure, it was steady, but it was the result of what amounted to a constant game of tag by the heating and cooling systems, kicked into overdrive by a faulty controls sequence. Sequence adjusted, thousands saved each month. It's just one example of how you can maintain desired temperature in a scenario while also experiencing extremely flawed system performance.
    Her other bit of wisdom was in reference to overreliance on the BAS interface during troubleshooting: "Just because you tell the BAS to open the valve, doesn't mean the valve is open." So true. Fortunately for the people in the business, there is no silver bullet despite the high level of automation available.

But a warning to facilities readers: if your system is highly automated and working well enough to make you or your staff bored on the job, remind your people to resist the impulse to explore the inner workings of the BAS to pass the time. Bring a book instead. The job you save could be your own.