6 min read

#33: What's missing from ASHRAE's controls standards and guidelines?

Announcing a new ASHRAE controls standard, Microsoft's campus reboot, and more
"Automating everything is not the answer; automating what is needed to drive the balance between physical wellbeing and productivity is what we’re after."

—Emmanuel Daniel, Microsoft

Good morning!

Welcome to Nexus, a newsletter, podcast, and membership community for smart people applying smart building technology—written by James Dice. If you’re new to Nexus, you might want to start here.

Here’s an outline of this week’s newsletter:

  1. 🤔 On my mind this week

  2. 📚 What I’m reading

  3. 💡New from Nexus

  4. 🧐New to me

    • Bractlet’s new three-tiered approach

    • CLUES platform

  5. 🧱Foundations


☝️ Disclaimer: James is a researcher at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). All opinions expressed via Nexus emails, podcasts, or on the website belong solely to James. No resources from NREL are used to support Nexus. NREL does not endorse or support any aspect of Nexus.

1. 🤔 On my mind this week

I celebrated a birthday over the weekend and had a great time with friends in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

One idea on my mind came from a question at the BIG-CHI event a few weeks ago. A man named Dennis asked whether the upcoming Nexus Foundations course will be good for industry veterans to learn about technology and new ways of thinking. This made me realize that the course could serve to bridge that gap, not just educate new entrants to the industry.

If you haven’t learned by now, I like Venn diagrams.

👉 If you enjoy reading NEXUS, feel free to share it with colleagues!

2. 📚 What I’m reading (and listening to)


Ripple20 vulnerabilities will haunt the IoT landscape for years to come: Security researchers disclose 19 vulnerabilities impacting a TCP/IP library found at the base of many IoT products, including those in commercial buildings. Specifically, Schneider Electric and Eaton have been identified as manufacturers with vulnerable devices. (ZDNet)

Researchers say they only scratched the surface when it comes to discovering all the devices that have implemented Treck's TCP/IP library, and that many equipment vendors will need to verify their own code going forward.

Oberman said that while not all of the Ripple20 vulnerabilities are severe, there are a few that are extremely dangerous, allowing attackers to take over vulnerable systems from a "remote" scenario.


Microsoft's Campus Reboot into a Smart Campus: This podcast interview, while very long, is highly recommended. Microsoft is building and renovating several buildings on their HQ campus and this interview covers their approach. This represents a rare opportunity to learn how a building owner, operator, employer, and technology provider thinks about smart building technology.

“Automating everything is not the answer; automating what is needed to drive the balance between physical wellbeing and productivity is what we’re after.”

One concept that stuck out to me was the concept of a “digital twin of digital twins”, a challenge that will surely bring together all the different interoperability efforts. But their perspective is that the interconnected data models don’t need to open up everything, only the minimum viable openness needed for the use case.


ASHRAE approves standard 231P: ASHRAE recently approved a new project I’m excited about and want to encourage participation in. The traditional process for designing and delivering control sequences is error-prone and the project aims to patch it up in several ways and fill the gap between other ongoing efforts like 223P, Guideline 36, and BACnet.

Here’s a description I received from the leader of the project, Paul Ehrlich:

One of the elements of this project is the use of a new open solution for describing a control sequence called the Control Description Language (CDL).  

CDL can be used to test a control sequence during the design phase, as well as to simulate the energy impact of selected sequences.  It also can be used to document the sequence in an unambiguous format. In turn, it can either be translated into JAVA and then into a proprietary controls programming language, then applied in a controller, or ideally be used directly in a controller designed to directly use CDL.  

Work to define CDL has been completed as part of the Open Building Control project and we have developed a library of sequences built largely off of ASHRAE guideline 36.

If you’re looking to get involved, contact Paul Ehrlich.

While I’m excited about the project, I’d be remiss not to share one reaction (that I’m sure Paul and the team will try to address):

Why do we continue to allow and accommodate proprietary controls programming languages? The proposed solution feels a little bit like treating the symptom instead of the cause.


Other pertinent news from just (a bit) outside the smart buildings industry:

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3. 💡 New from NEXUS

4. 🧐New to me

Even though the Nexus Vendor Landscape has over 100 vendors on it, I still learn about new companies to track every week.

Here are this week’s discoveries:

  1. Bractlet—While already on my radar, I didn’t realize everything they were up to until catching up with their CEO. They just announced a new tiered approach to their product. The first two are more traditional energy management and analytics tiers, while the third tier is a unique offering.
  2. CLUES—A reader told me Carbon Lighthouse’s CLUES platform is an advanced supervisory control product comparable to the others in the landscape. I disagreed, as it seems like it’s a tool used as part of CL’s services. Perhaps our CL readers can fill us in!

5. 🧱 Foundations

As we inch closer to launching an introductory course, this section of the newsletter will provide links to introductory-ish content that might help someone new to the industry understand this week’s newsletter, podcast, or deep dive. As you can see, the water we swim in is quite deep.

  • I think this is a place beginners get lost. Just google “analytics for buildings” and you’ll see what I mean.
  • I usually use the Nexus Framework to explain analytics software based on what capabilities it provides, but we’ll need to create some new intro content here.
  • The smart energy analytics campaign has some great content on different capabilities, but it’s getting a little out of date as the market evolves. (Better Buildings)

More details on the course are coming soon, but if you know someone (a client or a new employee) that might be interested, email me: james@nexuslabs.online.

If your company would like to contribute content to the course (without getting salesy), feel free to email me about that too. Contributors will get full attribution.

OK, that’s all for this week—thanks for reading Nexus!

If you have thoughts on this week’s edition, let us know in the comments!