56 min read

🎧 #099: Duke University's Decarbonization and Digitization Journey

“When I ask my team to put together an energy efficiency project, it's their job to get off the energy island and go get integrated into the other conversations that are happening when we plan a project."

—Casey Collins

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Episode 99 is a conversation with Casey Collins, Assistant Director of Energy Management and Data Systems at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.


We talked about Duke’s campus decarbonization and digitization journeys, how intertwined those two journeys are, the important technologies they’re implementing, and the challenges unique to the higher education space.

I enjoyed meeting Casey, who’s a longtime listener of the show, and thought this was a great addition to our higher education series that’s included Stanford and Monash.

So without further ado, please enjoy this episode of The Nexus Podcast with Casey Collins.

  1. NC State University
  2. Theta Chi Fraternity
  3. Duke University (0:28)
  4. 99% Invisible Podcast (1:07:33)
  5. The Energy Transition Show Podcast (1:07:44)
  6. The Prize - Daniel Yergin (1:08:17)
  7. The Quest - Daniel Yergin (1:08:17)
  8. On Grand Strategy - John Lewis Gaddis (1:09:05)
  9. John le Carré (1:09:38)
  10. Now We Are Six - A. A. Milne (1:10:23)
  11. Colorado 14er Disasters (1:11:23)

You can find Casey on LinkedIn.



  • Casey's background (2:43)
  • Duke's campus (5:40)
  • Duke's decarbonization plan (9:20)
  • The role of retrofits (18:32)
  • The building operations world is drowning in disorganised data (22:19)
  • Price on carbon and the business case for technology (36:54)
  • Technology from a workforce standpoint (53:55)
  • Carveouts (1:07:17)

Music credit: Dream Big by Audiobinger—licensed under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License.

Full transcript

Note: transcript was created using an imperfect machine learning tool and lightly edited by a human (so you can get the gist). Please forgive errors!

[00:00:03] James Dice: hello friends, welcome to the nexus podcast. I'm your host James dice each week. I fire questions that the leaders of the smart buildings industry to try to figure out where we're headed and how we can get there faster without all the marketing fluff. I'm pushing my learning to the limit. And I'm so glad to have you here following along.

[00:00:31] James Dice: This episode is a conversation with Casey Collins, assistant director of energy management and data systems at duke university in Durham, North Carolina. We talked about Duke's campus de-carbonization and digitization journeys. How intertwined those two journeys are the important technologies they're implementing and the challenges unique to the higher education space. I enjoyed meeting Casey, who was a longtime listener of the show and felt this is a great addition to our higher ed series. That's included Stanford and Monash.

So [00:01:00] without further ado, please enjoy this episode of the nexus podcast with Casey Collins.

Casey, welcome to the show. I'm so excited to have you on, can you start by introducing yourself?

[00:01:09] Casey Collins: Sure, James, thanks a lot for having me. My name is Casey Collins. I do a lot of things. Right now I get paid for by duke university. I'm the assistant director for energy management and data systems.

And then I also have an interim role as the director of utility operations for our campus. Got it.

[00:01:25] James Dice: Okay. I want to go back in your career a little bit, but first I wanted to ask you about your LinkedIn profile pic. It's a, it's a picture of you on a backpacking trip, I think. Are you, are you avid backpacker?

[00:01:37] Casey Collins: I am. Yep. Thanks for asking. And that you're right. If anybody looks up my LinkedIn profile, you'll probably squint and figure out what the heck that is. I tried to click on it and yeah, I am. I enjoy the outdoors in all sorts of ways. But definitely. Getting outside being outside without being off grid.

Right. For as much as I am professionally in the grid, I enjoy the opposite of that in my [00:02:00] recreation.

[00:02:01] James Dice: Nice. Any particular places you'd like to

[00:02:03] Casey Collins: go? Yeah, so, I mean, I live in North Carolina. Three hours in the mountains and three hours from the beach. So a whole bunch of places in the blue Ridge that are great.

Have been lucky enough to go down to Peru a couple of times hiking, the Andes, which was amazingly different landscape. And then haven't been out west to the Rockies and a while now, but look forward to getting back out there in the, not too distant future.

[00:02:30] James Dice: Nice. I'll have a book recommendation for you, but I'm going to save it for the carve-out section at the end.

So tell me about your career before duke. I'd love to know like what your, what your educational background is and sort of your, your career progression to get to

[00:02:42] Casey Collins: where you're at today. Yeah, sure. Let's see. So, I'm a mechanical engineer by education. I went to NC state and I did a handful of things late in my college career.

Engineering wise, before I sort of figured out where I wanted to be. At one point I interned for Philip Morris tobacco. Which is, you know, big industry in [00:03:00] the Southeast and did a couple of other machine design type roles and then realized that wasn't for me. But so I got into sort of the energy world initially as a young engineer doing mechanical electrical plumbing design for production firm and did a whole lot of commercial issue AC type design realized that it was a little too cookie cutter for me.

Went back to work as a, an operator owner operator in the higher ed space. And that was my first exposure to larger district energy systems. You know, the, the, the bigger toys, chillers and boilers and empower systems that are, that are part of that then went out to work for an energy services company largely doing industrial energy stuff.

I, I got, I got really into some pretty old technology. I got to be an expert steam system guy which was which was great and fun. Right. As you know, an earlier industrial revolution, but Cathy be very good at that. And then actually ended up coming to duke university because of that steam system expertise initially.

I've been at [00:04:00] duke now for 11, little over 11 years. Okay. We've probably four or five different roles. I it's been some time since I would have described myself as an engineer. I would probably in a professional setting tell people that I'm an energy professional. I'm not doing as much.

It's been a while since I've done design work, but I've done. I've had a variety of energy management roles here specifically, and, you know, in some progressing leadership opportunities too. So, and this this current one has me leading the, again, this energy management data team, there's about 10 folks executing a handful of supply and demand side management and again, data management projects.

And then now as the interim leader of our. District energy services. So that for us, that's chilled water, hot water in a normal power distribution and emergency power water, sewer. We are a utility company effectively inside of the university and health system. But we just don't have any public customers.

It's it's all, it's all duke entities. Got it.

[00:04:55] James Dice: Yeah, it's been a while since I was practicing engineer as well. And it's, it's difficult to know [00:05:00] what to call your.

[00:05:01] Casey Collins: Right, right. If you're, if you're at a family reunion, I'm an engineer. If I'm at a conference, you know, I'm an energy, right?

[00:05:08] James Dice: Yeah. Yeah. Mine's even more difficult.

This is like, is this, am I a podcaster? And so, so tell me a little bit about, more about Duke's campus. Obviously I've been there before played soccer there. You might not know that. Not, I did not play soccer there. I played soccer against duke at duke. I went to St. Louis U and well, my generation of bill kids, didn't beat duke the league last season.

They beat they'd beat duke, which so I'm always tracking NCAA soccer still. But yeah. Tell me about the campus. How, how big is it? Is there a medical campus or is it just like an epidemic? Academic? Yeah, a little bit more detail. It'd be fun context for the rest of this conference.

[00:05:47] Casey Collins: So duke university's main campuses in, in Durham, North Carolina is about 20 close to 21 million square feet.

And that's the university proper. That's the stuff that you see with the ESPN over is if you're [00:06:00] watching sporting events. But the majority of our campuses is actually health system and research facilities. So university proper is about 7 million square feet that leaves, you know, 13 to 14 million square feet of healthcare.

And that the, the, the, the role that I's fulfill has obligations to both sides of the house. We are officially part of the university. Our, our energy systems are utilities serve the entire campus. And so from a supply side management perspective, I'm responsible for that full 21 million square feet kind of demand side management perspective, you know, actually executing like ECM projects and buildings.

It's about that 7 million square feet of a university campus. And what I tell people generally is that we are, you know, we've got this huge real estate portfolio. If I truly, and we have built one of anything that you could possibly put in a building, like is basically what we have on this campus.

[00:06:55] James Dice: Got it.

That's that's hilarious. So can we, can we do a little translation for people that [00:07:00] aren't energy people. So if you're coming at this from a technology standpoint, we're going to talk about technology for sure. But if you might not understand the, some of the stuff that, that Casey just said, so ECM energy conservation measure supply side is power or natural gas supply to the building from the utility.

And then demand side is, you know, all the different things in buildings that you. Energy. So talking about managing those and re probably reducing them.

[00:07:26] Casey Collins: That's right. That's right. Yes. We do not aim to increase. And I'll add one more quirk to that. Sometimes when I talk about supply side, I mean, exactly what you said, which is public taking custody of natural gas or electricity, or the public utility entities.

But sometimes, and I'll try to, I'll try to be clear in this as we go along. But I mean the district energy services that provide everything to our campus. So, we don't just have boilers and chillers at individual buildings. We operate these large district heating, cooling power distribution systems that are, that are delivering that energy around campus.

Right? So we're [00:08:00] piping 50,000 tons of cooling around campus and 300. And so a thousand pounds per hour of steam and hot water to, to heat and cool all our bills. Got it. I'm like a middleman supply and demand editor.

[00:08:17] James Dice: Well, cool. So, and I also, we should add a disclaimer. So, you talking about duke, is there anything you want to say there?

[00:08:25] Casey Collins: Fair point. Yeah. So duke university is so big and so diverse that, that I certainly can't speak on behalf of the university. My opinions are my own. They are entirely related to my role here and my profession. And, and, and how operate in that ecosystem, right. Only the trustees officially speak for the university.

So I'll throw that caveat out there and it will, but, but we'll also try to be professionally responsible and courteous to my employer. Totally.

[00:08:53] James Dice: All right. Let's, I'd love to start with de-carbonization. So can you, can you start by kicking us off and just explaining. [00:09:00] What's duke a university's climate target and kind of where you're at on that journey to get

[00:09:06] Casey Collins: there.

Yeah. Pretty question. Do you university has committed to climate neutrality by 2024, which is not too far off, we're recording this of April, April 22. So, starting in 2008 and eight to nine to develop its initial climate action plan. And, and that was when the target date was set that coincides with the hundredth anniversary of the duke endowment which is when Trinity college became duke university.

And so we've been at least in my time here on on decarbonisation March. Okay. That's been a handful of easy pickins and some more difficult to achieve things. We still have on the neighborhood of 170,000 metric tons to offset or reduce or eliminate right. In some fashion. And our carbon footprint is about two thirds related to stationary energy.

Right? So the energy that it takes to to [00:10:00] power our buildings, uh that's, that's mostly scope one scope, two emissions and then that other third. And I'll go in and say, COVID has kind of thrown a wrench in some of this metrics that other third comes from transportation related activities.

So both faculty and staff commuting to and from campus and then air travel on behalf of duke, which is, which is substantial and not just for analytics substantial for all the researchers that go around the world and talk about whatever duke is doing. Okay.

[00:10:29] James Dice: So that would be included in scope three, and you're trying to do climate neutral carbon neutral.

On one, two and

[00:10:36] Casey Collins: three. That is correct. That's correct. Yep. The largest single contributor to our emissions profile, our scope two emissions associated with electrical energy delivery. Okay. Got it. And then,

[00:10:50] James Dice: is there a target that's past that because as you know, the industry is kind of moving past CLA carbon neutrality a little bit.

Is there another, another goal after that?

[00:10:58] Casey Collins: Not yet. I [00:11:00] absolutely see that coming. Once we have the fully put in place that initial carbon neutrality success and that'll be that's a combination of, you know, again, supply side strategies decarbonizing our energy supplies, a fair amount of energy reductions and demand side management.

And then carbon offsets are absolutely included in that the scope three stuff is really hard to fundamentally all set. I'm sure I'm not the first person that mentioned this, but you know, for example, there's not a lot of alternative low carbon commuting options for folks in Durham, North Carolina.

So the majority of the workforce drives the campus until everyone has a fully renewably charged Evie with offset supply chain, you know, emissions in the, in the lithium island space. Then, then that's, that's a tough one. Yeah.

[00:11:48] James Dice: Same with flying to conferences in Barcelona to talk about your research paper or whatever.

Yeah. Correct. Yeah. So, okay. So let's like sort of confined this conversation to [00:12:00] just the buildings and campuses. So the scope one and two that are related to the building. So how do you think about offsets when it comes to those? Or are you trying to get all of the buildings down to some zero carbon state

[00:12:13] Casey Collins: at some point?

Yeah. Great question. So, it's more supply side decarbonisation right now than it is demand side. We have facilities that are. Demand a ton of energy. The hospitals optics labs, you know, we have a clean room, we have a data center, you know, like all of those things need energy to do their primary use, right?

They need, well, they need, they need access to modern energy and that's electricity and heat. And so, for example, we've got a commitment coming online, actually at the end of this year, you know, we'll have effectively a, a VPA virtual power purchase agreements sleeve through a green tariff to get about 50% of our annual electrical needs through through new brand new PV development just for us.

Right. So. That's a supply side strategy. We've been heavily involved in the renewable natural [00:13:00] gas development space. That has been that was a research extension project that, that then led to us. Let's a duke university as both a commercial entity and a research entity, really leading a lot of that conversation in with Carolina and in some ways the Southeast.

So we we publicly announced well during COVID that we've got a substantial, renewable, natural gas by that's going to be part of the um, it's not quite an offset, right? It's, it's an actual de-carbonization of the fuel supply, although it has an associated environmental attribute. But that's coming from a source source in South Carolina with a developer that we worked with really hard on the, some on the technology side, but also on the regulatory and policy side to make that happen.

And so, we're looking at those two major, you know, supply side plays. And then everything else looks like energy efficiency gains plus some hope hoping to fill in the margins with offsets. Right. We don't, we do not want offsets to be our primary decarbonization strategy. Right.


[00:13:54] James Dice: So most of the time when people talk about heating and decarbonization, de-carbonizing heating, they're talking about [00:14:00] electrification. I imagine with you guys with this massive steam infrastructure. That would be challenging. So can you talk about, like, I'm assuming the renewable natural gas is feeding the steam boilers, which would then heat the campus.

Is that why you went that route is because you had that existing infrastructure?

[00:14:20] Casey Collins: Yeah, that's correct. And we are, we are pursuing heating decarbonisation through electrification. And for us that really means like getting buildings off of a steam supply and onto a hot water supply, and then moving that hot water production over to some some heat recovery chillers, right?

So combined heating, cooling systems again, that plays into our PPA and VPP conversations, which are somewhat limited because of our regulatory environment in the Southeast. We're not part of an RTO or an ISO where we can just have full freedom of economic. Activity. But like, yeah, about two thirds of our campus needs a higher grade of heat than just what heat pumps can [00:15:00] provide.

Right. And that's, that's the hardest part, techno, not just technology wise, but one of the harder parts technology was to actually electrify. And so, yeah, we're, we're, we're, we're in on natural gas. Renewable natural gas for that. We hope to be out of it at sometime in the future. Right. I hope for heat pump technology to continue to get better.

In fact, that seems to me like be the mechanical engineering problem to solve in the 21st century. Right. Is how do we get, how do we get heat pumps to make a live just a little bit hotter heat? And then, you know, run those off of some renewable power, but got it on an annual basis. They're like, like the, the source energy coming in about half of our annual energy is in the form of natural gas because of that eating footprint, which on the surface makes no sense for a campus in North Carolina, because we're a cooling, dominated client climate.

[00:15:51] James Dice: Cool. So let's talk about performance of individual buildings then. How do you think about. You have [00:16:00] this bigger target and then now each building needs its own target

to sort of

fit in with that larger target. What do they need to get to? And then how do you envision getting, you know, each building to their individual targets?

[00:16:13] Casey Collins: How does that work? Yeah, it's a great question. So I'll say we don't, we, I don't set an explicit UI or even just, you know, annual BTU target for individual buildings. I do care about the aggregate because I own and operate this massive district energy system. Right. So, you know, unlike a unlike a, I don't know, a REIT like a commercial real estate portfolio owner, I don't need to plan for every building to be PV ready.

You know, I don't need to plan for every building to, because. Our buildings don't operate as islands. They operate as part of this campus. That being said in aggregate the initial goal and the set forth in the climate action plan was to reduce on an EUI basis. Energy consumption by 15%, we will need [00:17:00] to accelerate that to some much greater level to reduce the offset purchase requirement to get to climate neutrality.

Okay. And then you know, the, the economic flip that incur or the, the economics that encourage that is that, you know, when we, when we reduce our energy consumption, we both reduce the, that that's raw expenditure. And we reduced the amount of money that we would, that the university as a whole it's been on carbon offsets.

Right. So we can put a price on carbon and include that in the life cycle cost calculations.

[00:17:31] James Dice: Got it. Okay. I do want to circle back to that price on carbon. The minutes, the I'd love to ask you though. So each building has its, you know, EUI target, or if you don't have any, I target in the UI reduction, like you said I'd love to ask you about just like the role of retrofits.

So you guys have been on this road since, you know, 12, 14 years ago, something like that. Right? So I'm assuming that most of the easy stuff, you know, when we talk about energy, [00:18:00] conservation measures has been done. You know, you install controls, you optimize buildings or your optimized control, sequences, schedules, all that stuff.

That stuff is kind of like the low hanging fruit, as I think. Th if in order to get to the next jump and a reduction, you need to do some sort of retrofit. Like this entire system needs to be converted over to this new system type, right? Like a heat pump, heat, recovery, chiller, like you talked about. So those are bigger projects, bigger capital costs.

How do you think about across 7 million or even 21 million square feet for your counterparts over on the medical campus? How do you think about like all of these retrofits that need to happen and managing them and that mess that, that takes

[00:18:41] Casey Collins: yeah. Right. It's not easy. And it is a lot of money.

I mean, um, Let me kind of walk up to that. Well, let me, let me first reconfirm that. Yes. Like all of this sort of, I'll say easy stuff. All the low hanging fruit to use energy management industry language is mostly picked over and that's not been that easy for us. We [00:19:00] operate in a market where energy is extremely cheap.

I have not yet crossed the 6 cents a kilowatt hour barrier. And you know, you've got I'm assuming there are listeners that are double, triple, maybe quadruple that. And and so what that means is we've we have done, you know, big lighting retrofits. We've done big water retrofits. We've got TDC controls throughout, right.

We'll circle back to your comment about scheduling. And maybe like occupancy awareness and a little bit, cause that's a, that's a thing that is very different for college campuses. Then the sort of thing I would practice in a commercial or industrial setting. So Abby and said like, we've got, we've got the like late 20th century, early 20th, first century technology and stuff covered.

That's that's gotten us a, a long way from where we were 10 years ago in terms of de-carbonization. I think we go a couple of different places from here. And, and, and this is really more about program management [00:20:00] than it is technology. I care a lot about the all I'll say like inside of my own organizations selling the co-benefits that come with energy efficiency.

So when I do an energy efficiency project, where I ask my team to put together an energy efficiency project, it's their job to get off the energy island and go get integrated into the other conversations that are happening when we plan a project. And so, as an example, we rolled out a automated fault protection diagnostics platform close to two years ago.

My, my team lead on that fantastic engineer, but his highest value is in being a connector to the other parts and pieces. So he's working on he's working on confirming the actual workflow from the fault detection platform output to a mechanical resolution which means that he's got to go talk to the maintenance supervisor, the HPAC shop, and he's got to talk to the planner scheduler, right?

He's got to like make a bunch of [00:21:00] these things happen and so much more of my. Strategy around decarbonization and even just energy management as a cost reduction measure is more about team and organizational building than it is technology that might be hiring staff inside. But that also means managing well managed vendor relationships.

You know, the AFTD is one example, but there's, there's lots of co-benefits to this, you know, that are it's it's maintenance cost reductions it's it's like material warehouse consolidation, you know, trying to, trying to align your repairs and your, your. For shelf stock with stuff that's of consistent.

when we move up to sorta like the energies district energy supply level, right? There's a, there's a conversation to be had that energy conservation in a building, whether it's a retrofit or new project, also defers massive capital investment in that big chiller boiler system.

Right. And so. Appropriately and conservatively [00:22:00] rep all of those decisions into our products. And that means more people that means more information, and it really means better organized information. We are most man, we could get like a thousand directions with this one comment. I don't think, but you know, we are the, the, the, the building world, not just the engineering world, but the building operations world, whether people are aware or not, it's just drowning in data.

And I, I think I've heard, you know, you I know you've had a couple of guests talk about this, but we're drowning in disorganized data. So we're not like we're, we're not appropriately using the information coming out of our systems to make better decisions. Some of that is technology, right?

Not every piece of hardware. Has a machine-readable connection to this other thing. And so, my technology approaches are much more about the integration of these other things that I have in the building teams to use that information and actually go do something.

[00:22:56] James Dice: Got it. Yeah. And I'm just picturing, like all of these [00:23:00] projects you talked about with all this information, all this data, that's not very well organized.

And then all these different stakeholders that need to use the data. It just, to me, it just like, like begs for something more sophisticated than a spreadsheet. And I keep talking to people and they're like, yeah, well, I have this big ass ECM spreadsheet that has all the projects. And I'm like, how are you able to manage this complexity with a couple tabs and an Excel workbook?

How does that work?

[00:23:29] Casey Collins: That's a great question. Okay. So I have one of those spreadsheets and will absolutely confess to that. That's I've not seen a commercial product that does that better yet. And there there's an opportunity, right. For somebody to make something that is, I'll say semi customizable.

Right. The thing that I think we're, we are industry misses is that we have folks that offer like fully customized solutions and folks that offer like out of the box stuff. You know, like train we'll sell you the same error handler [00:24:00] they're here, like a 50,000 square foot office building that's being built as like shell and core, or if you're a world-class research institution, right.

It's the same stuff with like basically the same controller. So we've got all these little modular things that are just begging to be have like just enough time put into the integration or just enough time put into the economics of, I don't know, cost management database for project development so that you don't have to reinvent the wheel every time.

Right? Yeah.

[00:24:28] James Dice: Yeah. Fascinating. Yeah. I agree that there's like there's there's tools out there. And if the jury is still out on whether the better than the current tool, that's, that's doing the job to that.

[00:24:43] Casey Collins: The, like the sort of horizontality to make up a word isn't totally there. I think in our, in our industry get a lot of legacy vendors, software providers, our providers, you know, whatever technology they're in that want to sort of give you everything they [00:25:00] think you need. And that's not that doesn't work for the next century of facility management, engineering, you know, the energy sphere.


[00:25:11] James Dice: Yeah, a good example there, I feel like is projects happen? Maybe it's not an example, but more color to that projects happen in so many different ways throughout a organization like yours, it could be a simple preventative maintenance tasks. It could be a work order that goes to an external contractor.

It could be the energy team doing some sort of upgrade. It could be the capital projects team. It could be like you could probably go on and on and on thinking about all the different organizations. It could be a renovation or it could be like we have to decarb carbonize this building really quickly.

And therefore we need to heat recovery chiller, right? It could be outside of the normal. Replacement timeline. It could be on the decarbonization timeline. There's just so much, if you think about [00:26:00] horizontally so much across the organization, that and complexity that goes into project planning these days.

Right? Right. Fascinating. I'd love to talk about, more about the campus. So why, how higher ed is unique. So you mentioned scheduling and occupancy. Can you talk more

[00:26:15] Casey Collins: about that? Yup. Yup. So for, for those that have worked in the energy management field I think this, there, there are, there are efforts there they're like the easy baseline efforts that you might do in other commercial settings that I just can't can't or won't do.

And that's been that's been you know, that's been something to work around in this, in this fear more than others. So for example, I remember early in my career doing a. I think an energy audit for a fortune 500 client with a large presence in the research triangle region. And you know, part of the energy audit was just basic equipment utilization and space utilization evaluation.

Right. We walked into a place and said, you know what? [00:27:00] You've got like four buildings that are 10% occupied. Why don't you take all of those people and put one building in the show, three buildings down, right? And then they went and did that. You know, that doesn't happen here. And it doesn't happen on a lot of higher ed campuses because the default.

On how people use these spaces is that they are open at any time for anyone, for any reason. You know, COVID, COVID change that a little bit, but we're already seeing record maybe refresher. It's not, not quite the right word, but all you go and use regression to that that really open operation and open campus, the richer your campus is the more you've experienced that.

And I, I mean, like in terms of just material and space wealth, and so, the, the sort of occupancy awareness me and, and sometimes the lack thereof, which includes a huge value judgment about privacy and the value of privacy, you know, in the, in the modern, in the modern world, that is very different than the conversation being had at say, retail environments or [00:28:00] even um, commercial real estate environments.

That lack of occupy a full occupancy awareness means that I'm, I'm spending a whole lot of time working on like, you know, scheduling HPAC equipment and the BAS, or I'm talking about lighting control in a very different way. And so, what, what what that means is that there are times for which I have to make a technology decision and I'll use a lighting control as an example.

I actually don't want, because no one, no one in my team can manage like a lighting control. You know, regardless of how, how, how the data is acquired and how we can manipulate schedules and things like that. Like, we don't want to manage that because there's too many people trying to use the lights in too many different ways.

And so that means that we're inclined to say, okay, you know, what you really need is like just a single room lighting scene controller and, you know, with maybe some vacancy or occupancy sensors. Right. You know, I, I may not, I may not, that may not be giving me a whole lot of information feedback, but it is entirely optimized for the use case [00:29:00] of that space.

The same could be said for, you know, some HPAC operational control and a little bit of water management, but not, but not too much there. And so, that's a, that's a major cultural difference, I think. And in the higher ed space is that your. You were absolutely not, not necessarily reacting, but absolutely working around this expectation that the campus is open and free.

And that's an amazing thing by the way, like that is an amazing luxury to be able to experience but challenge for the instrument profession. Yeah, definitely.

[00:29:30] James Dice: Do you see that changing? So if I think about, Hey, this campuses as a whole across the U S across the world are setting decarbonisation targets and.

Where my mind has gone. When I think about that, I think about like carbon emissions per enrolled student per year or something like that. And maybe it could go in that direction where it's like, okay, well the campuses that have this abundance in terms of space will now start to view that differently in [00:30:00] terms of, it's not just about the student experience, it's also about getting that carbon per person down.

Do you see that

[00:30:05] Casey Collins: changing? Yes I do. And it will change, I think for the reasons you mentioned as well as the need for what one of my colleagues would just term growth in place. So there's plenty of campuses that exist in, I'll say pastoral, semi or you know, semi-rural environments and maybe that's a little bit different for them.

We're in a semi urban environment. We have a huge green space, you know, in a, in a beautiful tree canopy, but we are just adjacent to it. Quickly growing city. And a lot of campuses are like that, right? So real estate gets more expensive. The, the, the, the way in which operators utilize their buildings and how efficient they are at scheduling the personal activities inside of them becomes very important to the long-term financial health of the entity.

And so for the, for, and those that's driving it as well as of course the decarbonization you mentioned we're not publishing you know, sort of like a per, per [00:31:00] capita carbon intensity score for the campus. Right. We actually probably could do that, you know, on, on average. But but that, that becomes a really important part of, of how we talk about it and really.

That's resource, that's just resource utilization, right? That's asset management, you know, how do I best utilize my assets to do the thing that I need to do? Again, tricky on a college campus, because what do we, what do you, what do you say you do at like, you know, people say like, well, what do you, what does, like, what does duke do?

Like duke is like, want to everything, you know? Duke's not, Duke's only trying to be the best duke. It's not trying to make tires more efficiently or less costly. It's not making paper, it's not running it. It's not, I mean, we're running a sports arena, but among other things, right. But not as a commercial venture.

So there's not that that's like my other main, you know, challenge around you know, defining the case for energy management is that if I, again, hearkening back to our earlier points in my career, as a point of comparison, if I did an energy [00:32:00] efficiency project for. I can tell them that it saved them X cents per stick of deodorant that they made.

There's not an equivalent here. There's not an equivalent here. Well, I

[00:32:10] James Dice: think so these are certainly unique to your situation and they're probably very similar across other, you know, elite institutions these same patterns though, they show up in other industries and other building types. Right? So I think just as duke is trying to create the experience for the duke student, that is the best, you know, the best four years, the best, you know,

on campus day

in the life.

Right. That they're trying, that they're able to do, you know, office buildings are trying to create the best experience in the office retail, same thing. Like I think that the. Each industry, and it's not, we can't act like these obstacles aren't there as far as, you know, decarbonizing each industry is there so that the building can [00:33:00] perform some overall job to be done for the user or for the owner in some way.

And yeah, I love that. I love that you pointed out that these are the things that I have to deal with in my organization. And then everyone has to figure out what, what their obstacles are or their unique circumstances

[00:33:15] Casey Collins: are absolutely true.

[00:33:19] James Dice: How about, so you were talking about earlier, like sort of like what the next goal might be after carbon neutrality in 2024.

How do you think about like 24, 7 clean energy targets or what do you think your target might be and then like, how are you going to make that decision?

[00:33:38] Casey Collins: Yeah, so I don't, I don't think a 24 7. Clean energy target is the next thing for us. Just, I think, I think folks know what we're talking about here, but that's the idea that every hour of every day for an entire year, right.

Clean energy is what's serving you as a source. That is, I'll say specific to us that is difficult [00:34:00] because of the regulatory environment we're in. If I'm beholden to a large and influential public utility that is that means that I can't go do all the PBAs. I want to for resources, even if I could.

One thing that I'll say, I'll say I'm a little bit conflicted about whether the regards to that point is, is that you know, entities like duke university and plenty of other commercial entities that have made these big dark harmonization. I think there will become a point where and I don't think it's that far off where their own self-interests may or may not be really aligned with the other public energy systems that are out there.

Right. So at the end of the day, it doesn't really matter if Google and I'll pick on Google, just because I know they've come close to making this claim. It doesn't matter if Google is getting 87 60 clean energy. If the other 95% of the public utility grid is still dependent on other higher carbon resources.

Right. It's and so that's, I think [00:35:00] that's what's happening right now and that's what will happen with duke university. Duke university seeks to use its dollars to do something good. And it just has to, our next conversation has to be about the alignment between. Yeah, our good and everybody else's good because we don't operate as an island.

We are highly integrated into our community, highly integrated to our state. Everybody that lives or works or studies or researches at duke is also, you know, a person with other things that they do. And so, I look forward to being part of that planning process and, and having, I mean, that's a, that's a great and fantastic thing to be able to, to have a professional opportunity to do.

I hope that we can continue to influence some of the public policy that that does limit us from the regulatory basis and what that means for us. For every way that I can, I can get a regulatory change that lets me buy more clean energy. It's the less money I'm going to spend on carbon offsets.

And there's a local economic benefit there, right? We would intend to buy and [00:36:00] have built in our own backyard as much clean energy resources as possible. I do not wish for my carbon offsets office who are colleagues of mine to have to search the world over, to go find offsets that they can, they can they can find, you know, some reasonable benefits.

So. Totally.

[00:36:18] James Dice: Hey guys, just another quick note from our sponsor Nexus labs. And then we'll get back to the show. This episode is brought to you by nexus foundations, our introductory course on the smart buildings industry. If you're new to the industry, this course is for you. If you're an industry vet, but want to understand how technology is changing things.

This course is also for you. The alumni are raving about the content, which they say pulls it all together, and they also love getting to meet the other students on the weekly zoom calls and in the private chat room, you can find out more about the course@courses.nexus lab. Start online. All right, back to the interview All right, let's talk a little bit more. You mentioned price on carbon earlier. I'd love to hear, as we're talking about higher ed [00:37:00] specifically. How you make the business case for maybe, maybe let's zoom out a little bit, instead of just talking about energy, talk about building technologies as a whole, what business cases exist and how do you sort of make the business case for technologies that you implement?

[00:37:18] Casey Collins: Yeah, sure. So, the, the most immediate business case for a price on carbon for our campus is that it defers an offset purchase, right? Just to scale it for listeners, you know, you can get really cheap, I'll say low quality carbon offsets for less than $5, a metric ton, the stuff we're targeting, which has more co-benefits typically is north of $20 a metric ton.

Those are, those are all sets that would also align with the. Values and goals of duke university. And so that portfolio and that portfolio has a price range. It's not one single dollar amount. So when we run a lifecycle cost analysis, we include the cost of that offset. That means that a more efficient [00:38:00] solution that uses less energy.

And those has less carbon footprint also benefits from not needing a carbon offset to be purchased for it. Right. So, and that's, that's a, that's a reasonably strong case when you actually run an analysis. You know, if you put a price of $20 a ton or even $15 a ton on something. Of course, you have to get to run that math versus the capital or retrofit, you know, cost to implement it.

But we have we have maintenance reduction goals and maintenance costs, management and renewal cost management goals that go into our last cycle cost analyses. So they're absolutely a part of it too. The, how that,

that the maintenance piece of that works, how does that work? Right. If you're looking at like a payback or.

No lifecycle cost analysis of a different project. Yeah.

I'll, I'll give you a real example that I worked on last week. I'm in the last phase, the final planning stages of a last major led retrofit phase for our campus. I've done two, two big ones retrofitted over 500 square feet. [00:39:00] This last one is maybe about a million square feet of retrofit.

If I just run the energy cost savings calculation, the simple payback on that project. And these are like, these are less utilized buildings that also need, in some cases, not just lamp replacement, but they're, they've got old fixtures. You gotta replace fixtures, simple payback on this project. Looks like it's like north of weighted average for the entire portfolio north of.

12 years, simple payback. Yeah. But if I consider them maintenance cost reduction, you know, because LEDs lasts a whole lot longer. Um, And our maintenance staff doesn't get dedicated to that. That payback goes down to like four and a half years. Now if you're in a market with more expensive electricity, that that shift isn't quite as dramatic, but that's what it looks like for me.

Right. So, people can't forget that. And to. You know, but, but my Ellie, my turnkey led contractor did forget it and they didn't put it in their proposal. [00:40:00] And I even told them exactly what number to use and the reason I know, what number do you use is that I actually have a billable rate for general maintenance, mechanics and electricians and plumbers and HPAC techs.

And when they go out to a department to do service, right, they actually have to build that department for their labor time. And so, you know, that that costs, of course, that there's a lot of baseline infrastructure that supports the ability to do that cost accounting for, for an enterprise like us, it's it's necessary.

But that's what it looks like in real life. Right. And so that means like 12 year payback. That's not a super attractive thing for for a product. That's got a five-year warranty 12 years. It doesn't look good when you think it's only gonna last five years. If it lasts five, if it pays for itself in less than five years.

And if I can get at least five years out of it. Cool, fine. That's it. Okay. Ready to return?

[00:40:45] James Dice: Yeah. And how do you manage? You mentioned the department not having to pay the cost for the maintenance tech to come out to their building. How do you manage that split incentive where you guys centrally are, you know, making the investment [00:41:00] in the LEDs and then the department that you're not billing for the energy and then not billing for the maintenance they're actually seeing the benefit.

How do you guys manage that, that split incentive across

[00:41:11] Casey Collins: the that's a great question. So in some cases, so big, big picture story. I'm managing an energy project fund, right? That is aggregated money from the operation of the entire unit university. With the intent that I go and spend it on energy reduction and cost reduction measures.

And so, I don't have a hard line, but in a lot of cases, I spend that money as if I were like a utility providing an incentive. Right? So as you noted, because we, we build maintenance time and cost to buildings, we also meet her and bill every single one of our energy services, right. Because we're essentially utility.

I have 1200 meter accounts across campus, and we have a cost rate per kilowatt hour, per ton, hour of cooling per million BTU of of heating that [00:42:00] goes into that calculation. I would typically work with the department and, and like every department on, on Duke's campus is one of my clients. And I treat that project development role very seriously.

Like it's my, it's my job to go, not convince them to spend money, but necessarily, but convince them. By doing this, they're aligned with all the goals of the university and they actually can help them save themselves money in the future. It's an, it's an negotiation sometimes where where I, they say like, well, we can only put up this much.

And and then I kick in the wrist, right. To get it to an economically attractive project. There are some that we just spend the money outright and go and do, because it's just easy slam dunk, kind of, not a project. And so I approach it, like there's a very personal touch to that. And and that's something I've found to be necessary here.

And that's, that's just because it's a very decentralized. And while we are all duke and everything on Duke's campus, there are, there are at any institution like this, I'll say a fair amount of relative wealth and poverty, right? Some schools have a lot of [00:43:00] money and a whole lot of donors, and they'll like, just spend money on whatever.

Some folks, maybe not so much. All of those folks are my team's clients. And we work really hard to try to transparently show them and, and help encourage them to do, do stuff that will, that will benefit them.

[00:43:17] James Dice: Makes perfect sense. So I cut you off. Were there any other pieces of the business case that you think are unique to this situation?

[00:43:24] Casey Collins: Let's see, we talked about carbon maintenance cost, of course, energy recovery. We talked a little bit about deferred, I think, deferred capital, right? So this may come into play where we have a project that you know, we, we, we run this math when we have a project that may or may not. May or may not get a connection to our district cooling system, for example, right.

It's a building that could get its own onsite chiller because the pipeline to get it connected is maybe kinda long and, you know, digging a trench and laying pipe is really expensive. It's a thousand dollars a foot. We would consider we, we consider, you know, [00:44:00] an architectural cost of that, right?

If you don't have to put a cooling tower onsite, then you either don't have to prepare that. And, and, and there's a, there's a bit of a softer conversation to be had that, you know, not having a cooler cooling tower on site is more aesthetically, pleasing, hard to put a number on that. But but you can also say, well, like, look, this pipes can be in the ground for 50 years.

You're going to have to replace this condensing unit in 10, you know, or you're going to have to replace this cooling tower in 10. Right? You, you can, you can pick the timeline of the lifecycle cost analysis that aligns with that that renewal cycle. And we get the luxury of doing that, I guess, you know, to university builds buildings with the intent that they will last at least a hundred years.

Not everybody in the commercial sector does that. I totally understand that, but you should still consider it. Yep.

[00:44:46] James Dice: Okay. So I want to circle back on, you know, energy software, you mentioned FDD, right? Those types of software applications. Can you talk about. Making the business case for [00:45:00] those, but also, can you talk about just generally your experiences with them and it kind of how you approach, how you approach that you, you, you did mention earlier just having someone map out what I call the path to action for FTD, which getting from analytics insight to who's turning what wrench, when is it?

Can we check on and afterwards all that. So you, you, you covered that piece already, but I'd love to hear just kind of how you guys approached that deployment and what the business case is

[00:45:26] Casey Collins: for that. Yeah, so I mean, the business case is entirely learned with decarbonisation right. We hope we actually, we hope that we hoped initially that FTD rollout, which.

A couple of years on from the planning cycle, this FTD rollout doesn't really mean, like you're not done when you get software stood up. Like you're done when the thing gets fixed. Of course. So many people forget that by the way, like, especially FTD, BizDev people. Yes. So, a customer of them will be listening to this, get it for them.

They shut it. Right. You know, I think the thing that we, we looked at,[00:46:00] we initially started looking, I I've, I've been working on FTD for like eight years. Okay. Early on, like to the point that like we were writing, I had a couple of people do, you know, just proof of concepts of writing algorithmic comparisons in our BAS programming, just to see.

Could we compare a, to B plus C minus D, what does that tell us? Right. That's not sustainable. They won't do that. Right. And it was and I have some very good engineers. We're, we're pretty, self-sufficient in terms of our automation system operation, but the vendor that we ended, that the vendor that we're using now and this is a.

We're still on the road, I'll say was willing to be flexible enough with us in terms of their, their product and their integration. Which means that it doesn't look as polished as other, some other systems like the UI, the user interface doesn't look as polished as some folks out there. And I'll let me acknowledge it's, it's a little hard to talk about this space without talking about specific vendors, but I'll try to, I'll try to be anonymous [00:47:00] or generic as much as I can here.

You know, their their rules engines were pretty simple. They were quick to say, yeah, we, we think we can do an energy calculation on this, but we don't want to put a cost metric on that. Right. And so, what, where I'm going with this is. My FTD rollout so far is one that is meant to be semi-custom.

There's only so many ways that a VAV box can fail. There's only so many ways that a hydronic area in linked systems with supply and return fan can fail. And there's only so many pieces of instrumentation. Like that's sorta like the out of the box stuff, a simultaneous heating and cooling fault detection algorithm.

It looks about the same, no matter where you apply it, the customization is really, and the time-consuming part is entirely in the integration. Even for, we have like a, I'll say we had like a pretty good tagging protocol. Wasn't, wasn't super tight. We've got a long legacy of automation systems, not everything is, you know, super new, not everything is back net.

But even with that, you know, there was so much of that. So much of my [00:48:00] engineer, engineer and contracts or time was spent in that integration map. This, this tag actually means this thing out, physically in the system. And from here on out, once that integration was done it's been a whole bunch of.

Yeah, like let's customize the sort of reporting and visualization into things, right? What's what are the ways that we can work with a vendor to build exactly that I'll use the word dashboard, even though I don't like the kind of like the connotation, but I'll say taskforce w w make that plot be the thing that, you know, my guy can use to quickly say, yep, that's the problem.

And I'm going to put an a, you know, put a work order in our CMMS system. I can give this very exact guidance to the technician. That's got to go out and fix that. One of the things I've learned in this whole process is that you know, the more you, you can go faster than this, you mean customer in a facility at facility manager, energy men in a professional, you can go faster.

The more, the more typical your equipment is, right. If you got a bunch of rooftop units, you'll [00:49:00] go five times as fast as I am. If you are, you know, a hundred percent Niagara or like all backnet or all pick a protocol, you'll go faster than I than I have. And hopefully it means you've got less problems or you just have more of the same problems, but that's been, that's been kind of a journey there where I'm headed next, though.

Is a little bit trickier in that. What I, what I don't currently have, and this, this is, this is entirely related to the size of the portfolio of stuff that I manage. I need our FDD system. To also help me describe how a single building's impact affects the larger energy supply system on campus.

Right. And I don't have that yet. And so that's that's a gap there, there are folks that do FTD stuff for like plant optimization. Right. Get my chiller stuff. Right. And there folks that do it on the, on the air side for someone like us, I don't have the right quite solution. For both for the holistic system of system.

That's exactly. You're [00:50:00] saying. Yeah, yeah, yeah. That's interesting. Yeah, we have, we're rolling out a different historian platform right now and you're just time series data historian, and that's great. We'll build some graphics and some informational templates there. But it's just, you know, it's expensive to work with a systems integrator to customize.

You know, these, these type products and solutions, and they're great when you get them tuned. But it just, it takes a lot of time and a lot of money. And so when I'm building the business case for this, it has to be at that larger campus impact decarbonisation scale. The reason I, the reason I can talk about decarbonisation is that because it's core as our campus is rather rather decentralized in all sorts of ways, in which it manages itself, decarbonization is absolutely a central goal.

It's one of the few places where you can even, if not, even if nobody really knows what a metric ton means, it's one of the few places that we can find some alignment [00:51:00] across the.

[00:51:02] James Dice: I'd love to follow up on the customization thing. When I, when I think about F customizing FTD software, I think about it.

And I'm just thinking out loud here. So I might add on, but I think about it in two categories again, TBD, depending on what comes out of my mouth here. But I think about in terms of making sure the software can be applied to all the different types of equipment on campus, right? So you mentioned you have one of everything earlier, which yeah.

So if you have this like cookie cutter FTD software that expects every air handler to operate in the exact same way, that would need to be customized to fit all these different air handlers. Right. And then I also think about it in terms of the data modeling and rule development type of customization in that I want to be able to, like you said, I want to be able to write a custom rule that tells me what are custom rule or.

Results. I want to be able to tell me what percentage of the central [00:52:00] loops load this building is contributing on the peak day of the year or something like that, right. Like customize analytics. Right. So when you say customization, which of those are you talking about? You're talking about both or we're talking about something else.


[00:52:15] Casey Collins: Yeah. Both for sure. So you're right about the like the application specific end of that, right? It's this air handlers a little bit different than it needs to be. And then, and then the report, the analytics end of it too. We have probably a more, a larger need for the more sophisticated analytics just because of what we're doing.

Yeah. But But again, like it's not, I don't want, I don't want it to be fancy and complicated for the sake of being a science experiment. I want to be fancy and complicated so that a machine can really help me do what machines do best, which is run the data applications and give me an action.

Right. And it doesn't have to be go do this. It can be like the, the, the what, the way I think about customization in terms of data analytics, is that whether it's a report meaning raw data or or some sort [00:53:00] of graphical representation, like I'm perpetually after visualization particularly visualizations that help things pop out or help bring things to the forefront or help prioritize things.

Right. My job will like literally never end there. There will, there will never stop being problems in buildings in terms of mechanical or electrical systems. Right. They are, these are things that the modern, we, we, we have chosen to build because we wanted to do something else with them or something else in that facility.

So, prioritization, you know, is, is all, is really what I'm, what I'm after. And like, we've talked about this whole podcast, like there's a, there's a lot of ways to prioritize what you should work on. And so that's, that's in many ways, my job is trying to figure out what, what gets the first crack

[00:53:47] James Dice: yeah.

Triage into different categories and different priorities.

[00:53:52] Casey Collins: That's correct.

[00:53:53] James Dice: Kind of a segue, but also kind of related is, so you mentioned MSIs, you've mentioned [00:54:00] your team, who's involved in FTD, you've mentioned your controls teams, right? The people that, you know, get the controls upgraded and up and running and programmed and all that.

Can you talk about technology from a workforce standpoint and kind of how you think about all of these different teams working together? I know that's a really broad question, but that's kind of what I'm thinking about.

[00:54:24] Casey Collins: Okay. Okay. Yeah. Let's see where this goes. So you're right. I've inherited and hired soaks, and I mean, like, I, I cannot praise my folks enough.

I am successful because they are successful professionally. Like these are great people and I love working with them all. The things that we, well, let me say this. We are, I would say we are highly self-sufficient in our automation systems, meaning I have folks that can actually go troubleshoot instrumentation.

I have folks that can troubleshoot the network connectivity and the communication between IO and patrollers and controllers to software. And I have [00:55:00] great it support, you know, and just sort of the software management and the we're just get, like, there's just not enough of those people. Um,

[00:55:09] James Dice: I was going to say the fact that you're talking about having great people at both of those levels of the organization is pretty great.

[00:55:16] Casey Collins: Yeah, it is rare. And I'm, I've recognized that that is great fortune. And I hope to build a. You know, so my, you know, my leadership role here is to continue to be an organization builder. And that means like in many, many ways a trainer. So for example, like on the controls technician and, and. I'm not directly managing or control stakes.

I got a couple of staff members that are, that are absolutely doing that and doing the supervisory and dispatch stuff. You know, we're talking about at this point, because there's just not enough people trying to find people that are like, can know their way around a multi meter and it can be an okay electronics, troubleshooter, and then just teaching them what they need to know about building automation.

We're going to have to do that to be successful at that. Alternatively, like, and this is [00:56:00] in some cases, my story, and several most team member stories, we all came from other professional settings and I'll say burnout by other rat racy type stuff. And and, and like kind of being in the same place, but still doing amazingly interesting professional work.

So that's not like it's an attractive or. Piece that I, that I like to talk about in terms of managing all the relationships I'll, I'll say we, in the, in the last year, some due to COVID some due to other influencing factors, we have tried to be much better and have much more rigorous and defined processes about what we do internally and what we reach out to, or external service providers on.

Right. And that's been a little harder to implement than I thought it would be only because I'm basically going out there and saying, I will give you money to help me solve problems. And I want to do that as efficiently as possible. And, you know, and, but what that has meant is that I'm going to several vendors, you know, traditional [00:57:00] controls companies, Emma's eyes and telling them like the way their businesses are set up, just don't work moving forward.

Okay. So, the thing is some examples. Yeah, right. if I call the, one of the large four legacy building automation providers that I've relied on for many years and sell them look, there's something going on with my, you know, with, with backnet network health, right. The first thing they do, or the first thing they want to do is dispatch a service technician to my site which is not the first thing they should do.

The first thing they should do is if they assign it to the service technician, confirm that he's the right guy that can remotely log into my system because we give our vendors appropriate, remote access and secure remote access and, and look and see what the, like, where's, where's the breakdown, right?

Is the, is a controller or a PLC getting that signal or not okay if it's getting a signal and there's something else upstream of that. Right. And so I think the industry is really struggling right now in the sort of like, I [00:58:00] guess we'll call it the it OT crossover. That is a major hole. And those are where I hoped.

Recruit train, you know, find other find other vendor partners that are really good at that. And being really efficient at that level of troubleshooting more cost efficient, you know, a better use of resources hopefully leads to less frustration, more uptime, more data consistency, and all the other things that I need to do with that.

And I actually probably think that the you know, I haven't, I didn't skin this cat all the way, but I think it's, you can either, you can basically say I can take a controls guy and teach him enough it stuff to be functional there. Or I can take an it guy and teach him enough a sorta like the engineering and mechanics side of those things.

I think both of those things are viable. I don't know you know, I don't, I don't have a, like a right way to do that.

[00:58:47] James Dice: Yeah, it is. But we just know that they have to, we have to cross the boundaries in some way. That's exactly right. Left to rider.

[00:58:54] Casey Collins: I told one of the ways. Yeah. And that's what I mean.

That's what everybody, that's what every. [00:59:00] Everybody in this space. And I'm assuming a lot of the conversations you had with listeners and just what you work on with nexus. Like that's the, that's the problem to solve? Because you know, by and large, like Siemens or Honeywell, like their, their controllers work, right.

You can put them out in the field and they, they last for 25 years. Right. That's not the problem. You know, if you, if you land the water, right. That's not a problem. You know, when something's not talking to a server or one server, can't talk to another server. That's where the problems are. Got it.

I don't

[00:59:29] James Dice: know why I want to ask you this, but what do you think the future of those companies then is from premiere standpoint?

[00:59:36] Casey Collins: Oh I think they will hang on to their, I want to say monopoly structure for as long as they can. Which is a shame. I think that is a disservice to the customer is a disservice to the industry.

The reason, I mean, because, because I think ultimately they'll fail in kind of a bad way from a service perspective, you know? I'll say that. Well, conversely, hoping that they improve you know, if everybody [01:00:00] were on sort of like open platform, independent independent, you know, distribution and sales channels and service, that's great for some folks, if you have a really good person in your backyard.

But, but that's, I mean, that's hard too, right? So, what I hope doesn't happen is that I'll say the big four fail to change their businesses, blow up. That'll be a several year evolution for like the right collections of people to get integrated into some third party support vendor and then provide customers what they need.

Right. That's that would be, that'd be highly disruptive. And for somebody like me, right? Like I've got, there's like 40,000 people on this campus that depend on my stuff working. Right. And you know, I've got a great in-house team, but we still depend on those outside folks for a lot of our assistance. I don't want that to happen.

[01:00:48] James Dice: Totally. All right. Last question I have for you related to professional

[01:00:52] Casey Collins: stuff is,

[01:00:53] James Dice: Your role. So when we teach our foundation scores, we talk about this role of what we call the smart buildings champion, but it could [01:01:00] be decarbonisation champion. It could be sport, you know, energy champion. The word champion is like, okay, I recognize all these different organizational silos in my organization.

And I need to be the one that, you know, jumps over those gaps and gets people kind of moving in the same direction, right? Same sheet of music, whatever you want to, whatever metaphor you want to use there. Can you talk about like how you do that and the skills required in a succinct way? There's that another, another

[01:01:29] Casey Collins: another podcast.

Oh man. I'm sure it's another progress, right? I'm sure. I mean, that's a great, so, you know, some of what you're asking there is how. There's a little bit of leadership in there. There's a little bit of salesmanship. There's a smattering of a couple of other things, but let me, let me try to answer this in as best way I can.

The further I get into my engineering career the more important I recognize like that just team building is period. That is so true in the energy space. And I don't think it will ever stop being true [01:02:00] because energy is like everything and everywhere. Right? The reason that we talk about it as a utility is because it's this great societal enabler.

And I don't think stops. Um, So, I, I put a lot of time. I mean, not like a whole lot of time into being just a relationship manager which is interesting to me for a couple reasons. One, I I really enjoy my position professionally. Like I really enjoyed my job.

I could have never told my 21 year old self, like how to get from like ending college to where I am not like, I just wouldn't, I couldn't describe that path. You know, I am where I am either. But the stuff that we do. Aren't these little kind of projects that lasts for six months. Like we don't build an app for six months and then boom, and we deliver it and it's done, right.

I don't even design, you know, an HPAC system and hand it off to somebody to go build it. And boom, it's done. Right. The decisions I make have [01:03:00] really long lasting impacts and they are worth a lot of money. And I try to recognize that and instead of that being a grave weight, I try to put a whole lot of optimism to that.

The conversations that have popped up in, I'll say like popular media, like the laypersons media about whether or not the world will actually limit climate change to two degrees C right there feeling like people would say like, nah, we're just like, we're not going to do it.

Right. I don't, I don't have a direct response to that in the like, oh yes, we can. You know, but, but I am like perpetually optimistic at what we might be able to do for the good, for as long as we are here. Right. So, that's, that's something I, and I, and I try to beat with my team, like infectious about that.

Right. That's that's something that matters a lot to me. And, and that doesn't mean I want to convince everybody to like, love their job. And nor do I want to convince everyone that they should be an extroverted, quite happy person. You don't have to be that. But but one of the things that is absolutely true in our profession is [01:04:00] that what we do matters and it matters to people, even if they don't know it.

When you, when you run facilities and you run energy systems that you run the world, and that's a, that's a really unique and neat opportunity that I'm proud to be a part of. And that's th the, the thing that I hope the, the U S can, can get better at is like trying to recruit more, trying to encourage particularly technical education, to get more people involved in this field.

It's, you don't need a four year college degree to do a lot of the stuff that a lot of the trades and a lot of the skills that, that, that need to happen in the building and automation and energy world. And so, I look forward to like just a reinvigoration of that. And it's hard, like it's hard work and some cases it's physical work, you know, but it's a lot better than.

So this is going to sound snarky and mean it's a lot better than having an art degree and working in a co in a data center or in a call center. Right. You know, you're doing something that matters. Yeah.

[01:04:57] James Dice: And I'll say, just looking at your career, you've gone [01:05:00] from engineer to Really more of a generalist.

That's bringing all these people together. That champion role is the one that's kind of bridging all these gaps, knowing who can go deep on what topic and where do I go for this and where do I go for that? And how do I get this person on board? And I would also encourage like people that are in that technical space to brush up on those types of storytelling, marketing, sales, leadership skills.

That's something that I've always been interested in. Like I don't really, I've never really wanted to go deeper technically than I did when I was, you know, the first five years of my career, basically. Like that was pretty much it from a technical standpoint, but, you know, I found myself reading Seth Goden non-marketing at night.

Like things like that, that I just needed to understand. Okay. Yeah, we have these technical problems, but how are they then showing up in the world? And then how can we change the world based on, you know, selling this new technical idea. You know, that kind of thing. And it seems like that's been really important

[01:05:56] Casey Collins: for you as well, for sure.

You know, I would yes, [01:06:00] fully agree with that. For example, there's, I'm involved in stakeholder conversations about regulatory and policy changes. Right. And I do a disservice to our entire sphere if I show up and be an overly technical engineer in that room. Right, right.

That's terrible. You know, I need to be able to succinctly and concisely and relatedly convey why distributed generation matters or why, you know, energy deregulation matters to the economy or to like pick a thing so that I. You know, a staff lawyer at a public utility commission can, can say like, oh yeah, okay.

I get that, you know, up the, up the chain, I'm a subject matter expert down the chain. I'm a, I'm a champion and a cheerleader and it can like, I am absolutely a connector and I love that. I get to work with a lot of people that are smarter than me. Like I always tell people I'm a pretty good engineer.

Like I'm on, like, I'm just a pretty good engineer, but I'm a way better connector. And at this point, knowing I have a hope, a [01:07:00] long career and a long life, you know, like, I'm like a pretty good team builder. And I take a lot of pride in that. I don't want to keep getting better at that. That's great.

[01:07:09] James Dice: All right, Casey.

Well, thanks for taking me through all those, all those detailed questions and I've made the most questions I've asked them to show so far, so appreciate you going deep. Let's do let's end this with carve-outs. So what book, a movie TV show podcast, or other link would you recommend the audience checks out?

[01:07:25] Casey Collins: All right. You had a lot of quick, I've got a lot of answers on this one to your single question. So we'll flip that. Um, Let's see a couple podcasts. I'm a big 99% of visible listener. I just absolutely loved that one. That was maybe like early podcast intro to me, you know? And I think the show has continued to get pretty good.

There's a podcast called energy transition which is pretty wonky. But it's one of the few podcasts that I pay for. So I'll guess I'll say I'll endorse it that way. Not not a short form, right. You're going to set aside an hour plus, you know, but it's, it's thorough and well done. Let's see.

[01:08:00] I'm a big, big reader. I really love a lot of history and I love a lot of, especially history of technology. I just think it's neat how that that's in many ways. That's what makes us human. Right. We, we figured out how to use. Some things I can throw out there. Uh, Is there a little bit dated now, but there are two books by an author named Daniel Yergin and in the eighties he wrote a book named the prize, which is all about how really the oil industry.

And then he followed up in the early two thousands, mid two thousands with a book called the quest, which is a lot about energy transition. Those for me were like hugely important to just how I think about our energy industry and transition. The quest in particular, the prize is interesting because, you know, once you read it, you're like, well, shoot billion tire, like 1900 to, to 1999 was like, literally.

All right. That was world history was whatever they will industry was doing fantastically enlightening, and also frustrating if you, if you, [01:09:00] if you want the world to look differently uh, let's see. I love let's see if there's a, there's a good book. I like called on grand strategy by a guy named John John Lewis Gaddis.

Who's a, I think a professor at Yale or Harvard which is, which is great because it, it, it's just a way it frames in a very interesting way how to solve problems and how to how to think about like, just strategic planning and not in a business school kind of sense. Or in a, like a look back at history, right?

How did, how did this empire do it? Like, let's look at that as almost a illustrative case study, not super long. Fantastic. Let's see novel wise. I really like John Le Carre, who's a spy writer writing from the sixties all the way to the present. Mo if you, if you know of his let's see a tinker tailor soldier spy, it was one of his novels.

I got turned to him. Maybe some people do that, but those are great because those are it's, it's, it's like the anti James Bond. It's all about spies and all [01:10:00] those sort of like bureaucratic inside nonsense and inefficiency and silliness. I like those because there's never, there's not a clear, good guy, bad guy.

And that's how the world works. And it's a, it's just a great officer. It's a great observation. In in a lot of it's set again, sort of cold war conflict. Really cool. Just great folks. Last one I want to mention actually is AA, Milan. Who's the author of the Winnie, the Pooh books. One of the one of his books is called now.

We are six, which is a book of children's poetry, but you can't not read that book and find something relatable. You can't, you can't not read the poems and not find something relatable to like literally everyday situations. It's just, it's just great. Which might mean that I have. Maybe I have a six year old's mind when it comes to reading poetry.

I'm just not that sophisticated. But I love it. Read it with my daughter all the time and read it myself too. So nice.

[01:10:55] James Dice: That's beautiful. Check that out. It sounds like a great gift for like [01:11:00] child and

[01:11:00] Casey Collins: parent. Indeed. Yeah, absolutely. Great. Got it. Okay.

[01:11:04] James Dice: Yeah, I like that. That's a great collection. Thank you.

I only share one a week cause I do this every week. So the one that I'll share this week is relevant for you. And I just picked it up over the weekend and started reading it last night. It's called Colorado 14 or disasters. So I like, I like climbing fourteeners I haven't done that many. It's not impressive what I've done at all, but I enjoy it.

And I just, this book caught my eye in the bookstore and I was, I'm probably I'm one story into it and I can recommend it just from that one story so far. It talks about exactly what happened, kind of like case report rescue report, and then obviously goes into detail on who the person is.

And then it dissects all the ways in which the person messed up that led to their untimely death. So, as someone that I like to do solo fourteeners as well. So, it has enlightened me on all the ways in which I've done stupid things and got away with it so far. [01:12:00] And I won't do those things again. So anyone that likes climbing should check that out.

[01:12:04] Casey Collins: Nice. I, I w yeah, I'll look for them for sure. Appreciate the recommendation. Sounds

[01:12:09] James Dice: good, Casey. Well, thanks for, thanks for doing this. Thanks for sharing everything that's going on and duke.

[01:12:13] Casey Collins: Well, I had to, it was a lot of fun. I appreciate the invitation and the. So again, thanks. I mean, thanks for doing this podcast.

It's a great, been a great resource for me to think about cell phones. Look forward to continue development.

[01:12:29] James Dice: All right friends, thanks for listening to this episode of the Nexus Podcast. For more episodes like this and to get the weekly Nexus Newsletter, which by the way, readers have said is the best way to stay up to date on the future of the smart building industry, please subscribe at nexuslabs.online. You can find the show notes for this conversation there as well. Have a great day.