5 min read

Nexus #21 (5/5/2020)

What makes a building healthy, how property valuations are changing, bright ideas from readers
“In a typical year you will take two million breaths in your office. This, however, is not a typical year.

As much as buildings can spread disease, if operated smartly, they can also help us fight against it. Amidst the chaos, one thing is clear: We will all go back to work with new expectations about the buildings where we live, learn, work, and play.”

What makes an office building “healthy”

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: COVID-19 signal in the noise
  2. 🎧 Podcast Episode 4 with Alex Grace
  3. 📅 Nexus Pro updates & announcements
  4. 💡New to me: bright ideas and conversations from the last few months


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

Like all of you, I’m continuing to track the impact of COVID-19 on our industry. As usual… there’s been a lot of noise! Multiple webinars daily and a thousand guides for re-opening facilities.

Just like I did in the first Nexus Deep Dive, I’ll continue to share my thoughts here as I have them. If you’re looking for the signal in the noise, here’s the best content I’ve seen this week:

  1. What makes an office building “healthy” (Harvard Business Review)—a framework for how to re-populate buildings with context for where smart building tech and services like MBCx fit into the mix. Also, a good KPI framework:

  2. Redrawing the property valuation map (Propmodo)—Antony Slumbers on technology, climate change, and the move from products to services in real estate. Speaking of KPIs, he unpacks 7 critical KPIs for valuing property in our new world:

    • Connectivity

    • Density

    • Flexibility

    • Optimal usability

    • Wellness

    • Sustainability

    • Data, privacy, and ethics

    Antony’s explanations of each of them are fascinating and really get the wheels turning on how technology can be positioned.

  3. An interview with Density CEO Andrew Farah (Memoori)—I really enjoyed this interview and his perspective that technology is not a panacea. It assists with an overall strategy.

    Going forward, I think that technology has this really interesting supporting role, a view shared by several of my senior leadership contacts in “household-name” fortune 10 companies. They’re there, in their executive meetings, asking the question, how do we bring our employees back to work safely? And there’s no ready answer.

    The one that we have been pulled into with Density is, how do you keep the headcount under a certain threshold to give all employees the opportunity to maintain social distancing. These are all questions that nobody has answers to and it’s fascinating. I mean, maybe morbidly fascinating but it’s fascinating.

    (…) There’s no way that I can tell how you avoid pandemics. I just think it would have been really nice, at the beginning of all this, to know how humans were using different spaces.

    If you’re new to Density’s tech, their hardware uses “infrared lasers to actively scan the area underneath the door where it’s installed, capturing hundreds of thousands of depth readings every second. Machine learning algorithms process this data in real-time, precisely measuring human movement and ignoring non-human activity. The algorithms’ output—an accurate count of entrances and exits—is securely sent to Density’s cloud service and also made available via RESTful APIs.” It’s people counting without the privacy concerns of a camera.

  4. Switch Automation hosted a webinar on how to budget for smart building technology during this crisis. I liked how they switched between three perspectives: A leading building owner (Oxford Properties), software provider (Switch CEO Deb Noller), and a market researcher (Verdantix).

2. 🎧 Episode 4 with Alex Grace

This week on the podcast: Alex Grace, VP of Business Development at KGS Buildings, on a range of topics, including:

  • The carrot or the stick… How the leading mechanical, controls, and commissioning service providers are digitizing their offerings and business models;
  • Where buzzwords like IoT, machine learning, and AI fit in with more traditional analytics like FDD;
  • And much more

Show notes | Apple Podcasts | Spotify | YouTube | Add to other podcast apps

3. 📅 Member updates

  • After the interview with Alex, I did a deep dive on my reaction, my top highlights of the episode, and a full transcript (Pro members only)
  • As I plan to do each month, I’ve made several updates to the Nexus Vendor Landscape as shown in the changelog (Pro members only)
  • On May 27th, we’ll host the May webinar and happy hour over Zoom. I’ll send out a calendar invite to members once I confirm our guest speaker.

4. 💡New to me: bright ideas and conversations from the last few months

I’ve had quite a few enlightening introductory emails and meetings in the last few months, many of which I haven’t had time to fully write about. So today I thought I’d share the highlights:

Northern Metrics is a new company out of North Vancouver that has created a software package that corrects the inherent flaws in HVAC controls by combining a comprehensive HVAC modeling tool, an optimization engine, and machine learning. I’ll be detailing these types of technologies is this week’s deep dive on Advanced Supervisory Controls.

Graham, the extremely passionate founder, is looking for business partners to bring this to market. More info here.

Another new friend, Joe, of Montgomery Technologies gave me an intro on a platform called the Intelligent Riser:

And he gave me an awesome primer on finance for commercial real estate. We’ll be doing a podcast on this soon.

  • I recorded a podcast on the Facilio platform with their CEO Prabhu. Coming soon. And today, I’ll be interviewed as part of their REBUILD series of on-demand webinars.  They’re interviewing leaders on how we can transition to our new normal.
  • Leif of Retrolux took me through how their platform is helping automate the lighting audit and retrofit process. If you’ve ever seen a massive lighting audit spreadsheet… you know what I’m talking about. They go way beyond audits, too.

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


P.S. Nexus is a 100 percent reader-funded publication and podcast. It only exists because people like you support it. If you liked today’s edition, please consider joining Nexus Pro! Members get access to weekly deep dives, the Nexus Vendor Landscape, and monthly events.

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