#71: Smarter motors, the climate tech boom, and HVAC<>climate feedback loops

Plus clean disruption and the strategy behind the new

“It's this once-in-a-lifetime moment where this flight to quality (office buildings) will happen and there's going to be a huge disparity between winners and losers, and we have a strong opinion on what building owners need to do to be in the winning group.”

—Arie Barendrecht, CEO of WiredScore, on today’s launch of SmartScore

Good morning!

Welcome to Nexus, a newsletter, podcast, membership community, and online school 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: Will dumb buildings be obsolete?

  2. 💡 Insights: Smarter motors, Climate Tech boom, and HVAC design<>climate feedback loops

  3. Brand new stuff: WiredScore podcast and a new edition of The Lens

  4. 🧱 Foundations: How do you cut through the weird?

  5. 🌎 Diversions: Asking the right questions

If you missed last week’s edition, you can find it here.

Enjoy!


1. 🤔 On my mind this week

In his 2014 book Clean Disruption, Tony Seba famously predicted that the internal combustion engine would be obsolete technology by 2030. Tony really was one of the very first experts to forecast the EV boom that’s now in full force.

His thesis was simple. Electric vehicles are obviously better. So once they reach price parity, there will be no reason for a consumer to buy an internal combustion engine (ICE).

Buildings are obviously not consumer products, but what’s on my mind today is this question:

Will dumb, fossil-fuel-burning buildings be like ICE technology today?

What do you think?


2. 💡 Insights

Only the best smart building resources we consumed this week…

---

More efficient motors could radically alter building emissions & cut costs—Nice interview with the CEO of Turntide Technologies (formerly Software Motor Company). I haven’t yet met Ryan, but I would guess he is a fan of the Farnam Street blog like me. Anybody else?

---

Inside the Venture Climate Tech Boom—VC investment in climate tech is growing rapidly. Investor enthusiasm soars amid improved infrastructure, new federal leadership, and business models that better align with venture economics.

“I tell people to look for stuff that sounds boring, because that’s usually what drives the biggest impact. It can be something simple like retrofitting gas heaters in buildings. Solving most climate issues is really about fixing the current way we do stuff.”

---

How U.N. Sustainable Development Goals Apply to HVAC Engineers—A fascinating look at how HVAC design decisions fuel feedback loops that cause global warming. Of course, the opposite is also true.

“One of the cruel ironies of working for climate action from within the HVAC industry is that global warming and air-conditioner use are locked in a positive feedback loop at an acute local scale: as outdoor air temperature goes up, so does air-conditioning use, which then causes heat rejection, which in turn raises outdoor air temperature.”

A “+” sign on the arrow means that when the state at the arrow’s source node (e.g., heat island, AC use) goes up, the action at the end of the arrow also goes up.


This installment of NEXUS is free for everyone. If you would like to get full access to all content, join the NEXUS Pro community. Members get exclusive access to the Nexus Vendor Landscape, monthly events, weekly-ish deep dives, a private chatroom, and all past deep dives.

Join NEXUS Pro


3. Brand new stuff

Everything Nexus created this week…

---

PODCAST—🎧 #046: The WiredScore team on what makes a building smart and connected

  • Last week I was joined by WiredScore CEO Arie Barendrecht and Technical Director Sanj Ranasinghe.

  • We talked about the role certification programs can play in smart building technology adoption, and the founding of WiredScore the company.

  • Then we took a deep dive into the WiredScore certification program and their new SmartScore certification program, which is launching today to much anticipation in the commercial real estate world.

---

DEEP DIVE—The Lens: 24/7 Carbon Free, Grid Interoperability, Blocpower (Pro members only)

The Lens is a monthly recurring series where I unpack the strategy and context behind the news in as few bullet points as possible. Volume 3 is a special edition focused on climate change. We’re celebrating Earth Day by putting the latest [smart buildings] + [climate] news under the microscope.

---

VENDOR UPDATE—Even though the Nexus Vendor Landscape has 150+ vendors on it, I still learn about new companies/products to track every week. Here is this week’s discovery:

Microshare—New-to-me company with a range of ready-to-deploy IoT solutions connected to their cloud software. Use cases range from Universal Contact Tracing to Predictive Cleaning, to Environment Monitoring, and more.


4. 🧱 Foundations

Bite-sized learnings for newcomers to the smart buildings industry courtesy of the Nexus Foundations course. To be notified when we launch Cohort 3, join the waitlist here.

---

I often say our Foundations course offers a “shortcut” for newcomers. What do we mean by that?

Well, it starts with an acknowledgment that this industry is thick with history, norms, and procedures that aren’t obvious at first. It’s quite weird… which makes it tough to get oriented.

That means you need to get strategic with how you approach learning about it. And since the industry is growing at a rapid pace, I’d love to hear how you’re providing a shortcut to your new hires. Hit reply and let me know.


5. 🌎 Diversions

Technology resources from outside of the built environment. What might we apply in our industry?

---

Are You Solving the Right Problems?—Insightful HBR article about reframing problems that even comes with an office building example.

The point of reframing is not to find the “real” problem but, rather, to see if there is a better one to solve. In fact, the very idea that a single root problem exists may be misleading; problems are typically multicausal and can be addressed in many ways.


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!

Leave a comment

—James