6 min read

How to Avoid "Carbon Washing" [Nexus Newsletter #95]

Hey friends,

Below, we've got great stories on Infogrid's rapid rise, the latest trends in occupancy data, the latest saga in the IT vs. OT debate, and what we can learn from McDonald's ice cream machines. Oh, and several new smart buildings jobs!

But first, let me share what's on my mind this week...

I've got a few current projects that have me digging into the latest trends in sustainable buildings.

One of the first steps in creating sustainable buildings is for companies to set carbon emissions targets and begin to measure their progress against them.

But what if those targets are ambiguous, questionable, or misleading? Turns out, confusion is rampant in this domain and many think it's holding back real progress. We can all learn to speak more clearly on this topic and avoid "carbon washing", which is the new greenwashing.

Dezeen recently published a great guide on this topic. Here are some notes I took on the two main terms. Are you using them correctly?

"Carbon Neutral":

"Net-Zero":

  • All emissions, including indirect emissions in the value chain as well as direct emissions, must be taken into consideration. That means it includes Scope 3 emissions, which include emissions generated by purchased goods and services, third-party distributors, and the "use of sold products".
  • To become net-zero, a company must eliminate these emissions on top of its Scope 1 emissions, which are emissions it is directly responsible for, and Scope 2 emissions, which are emissions generated by "purchased electricity, heat and steam".
  • In summary, a building itself can't be net-zero. Only organizations/companies/societies can.
  • Net-zero covers a building's entire lifecycle, including embodied carbon, which accounts for around half the carbon footprint.
  • Any hard-to-remove emissions that cannot be eliminated should be compensated for using certified greenhouse gas removals (GGR) that permanently remove carbon from the atmosphere. Offsets that avoid emissions cannot be used.
  • The 2015 Paris Agreement sets out a target: a net-zero world by 2050. But we still have a ways to go in terms of making that target clear. There is no internationally recognized standard for net-zero.

I'd love to hear from you on this... How are these terms (or others) showing up on your projects today?

Hit reply and let me know.

—James


✖ At the Nexus

Here’s everything we published this week:

★ PODCAST: #070: Will Cowell de Gruchy on simplifying IoT, core use cases, and founding InfogridWe talked about Infogrid's founding story, and how they've shot up out of nowhere in the last three years, and have gotten so much early traction.

Then we took a bit of a deep dive into several of the use cases Infogrid's solutions enable. I loved the specifics, so definitely check out how they're enabling time savings and helping automate human processes at the heart of facility management.

---

THE LENS: OCCUPANCY DATA (Pro members only)—For every type of building except data centers, occupancy data is the most important type of data. No other type of data can benefit so many building stakeholders. This edition of The Lens is a deep dive into my thoughts on the latest news, fundings, and trends.

"Let's look at this in terms of technology waves. The first wave was binary occupancy sensors that were integrated into the BAS or LCS. Obviously, this was very limited. But at least it allowed you to control systems based on occupancy.​The wave we're in now is the full-stack point solution wave."

---

RECORDING: Nexus Pro member gathering on Lockheed Martin's smart buildings program (Pro members only)—For September's member gathering, we discussed Lockheed Martin's facility digitization journey and how it led to a blossoming fault detection and diagnostics (FDD) program.


🔎 Signal vs. Noise

Only the best smart building resources we consumed this week…

---

CONTROLS: Dynamic VAV Optimization, machine learning and AI: Advances in building control—Siemens-written article on advanced supervisory control strategies for VAV HVAC systems. They described two control modes, virus defense and green mode, and make the case that these are best driven by an overlay, not the BAS itself.

"AI really shines when conditions are not ideal, as when a building is struggling to maintain target humidity in the winter; increasing fresh air ventilation is likely to further lower indoor relative humidity, yet higher air change rates are helpful for lowering risk.​In a scenario like this, AI logic can determine the lowest-risk point for balancing these ever-changing factors, whereas a person or BMS simply cannot."

---

IT vs. OT: BYE IT!—Article on Automated Buildings arguing for "Facility Department Managed Networks". The author defines them as "networks for building controls totally managed by the Facilities Department and not connected to the building's business IT network."

Thanks to all the education I've received over the last few years on this topic (thanks Joe, Matt, Ping, Sabine, Rob, and others), I see a few flaws with this argument:

  1. The correct formula for closing the IT/OT gap isn't the same across the entire built world—it depends on the stakeholders involved and how much responsibility they're willing to take on.
  2. For most buildings, BAS = HVAC. If the OT network is installed by the HVAC controls company, are they taking full responsibility for meeting enterprise networking standards? How about connecting all the other silos (Lighting, access control, elevator, Pelotons, EV chargers, etc)?
  3. Most facilities departments don't have the time, staffing, or skills to manage enterprise OT networks. So the next step will be outsourcing it. But most vendors don't have the staffing or skills either. So then what? Solving this issue requires a comprehensive strategy.
  4. Finally, I think bold stances like this should also come with a disclaimer on what you're selling and how you might benefit from others taking that stance. Is it just me?

All that being said, essays like these are great for exposing the disagreements in our industry and converging on the truth together. And that's what's happening over on LinkedIn. Join the conversation!

---

DECARBONIZATION: Harnessing Artificial Intelligence to Accelerate the Energy Transition—Very cool white paper produced in September by the WEF and Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Most interesting to me: They quantified the value of demand flexibility and intelligent load controls...

They list three primary buildings applications of AI to accomplish these numbers:

  1. Intelligent management of distributed renewables and devices
  2. Optimization of electricity consumption of equipment/buildings
  3. Operation of virtual power plants (VPP)

Want to go deeper on this? Check out our podcasts with Cisco DeVries, James McGinniss, Dana Guernsey, and Jean-Simon Venne.

---

SOUND FAMILIAR?: They Hacked McDonald’s Ice Cream Machines—and Started a Cold War

"It’s a huge money maker to have a customer that’s purposefully, intentionally blind and unable to make very fundamental changes to their own equipment."​(...)​"It hasn’t benefited from Moore’s law, hasn’t even benefited from Web 2.0. It's a product everyone eats, and the machine that makes it is just in the dark ages."

---

NEW-TO-ME: New startups sliding across my desk this week...

  • Nomad Go AI—Advanced supervisory control startup "uses live occupancy, IoT, and third-party data to control your existing HVAC system in real-time, replacing static schedules".


🧑‍💻 The Best Jobs at the Intersection of Tech and Buildings

Nexus Labs now curates the best open jobs in the industry.

Featured roles:

Nexus Labs: Community & Marketing Manager (📍Remote - US)

Mapped: Software Engineer, Machine Learning Infrastructure (📍Remote - US)

👉 Curious about Mapped? Check out CEO Shaun Cooley on the Nexus podcast.

---

This week's newly posted roles:

BUENO: Technical Account Manager (📍Sydney, Australia)

Talisen Technologies: Front End Developer (Angular) (📍St. Louis, MO)

Voltus: Energy Markets Analyst (📍Remote - US)

---

We've got high-impact, high-tech jobs from all over the world!

You can browse more than 30 global open roles or post your own on the Nexus Labs Job Board: