The Minnillieum Generation - How will they carry on the responsible development of our Built Environment?

Last week Market Watch, a online service of the Wallstreet Journal published another article in their "10 most" series. This time my local newsrag carried this installment so I wandered over the the WSJ site to see what others were saying about the article entitled, "10 things millennials won’t tell you". Believe you me, there was plenty being said, from both the Baby Boomer perspective as well as from others of the article's targeted audience.

Click to See Full Infographic for Millennial Leaders
While I belong to the praised and maligned Baby Boomer generation, I am also curious about what kind of legacy our successors the Millennials or Generation Y as they are often referred to,  are likely to leave behind. Being described as self-absorbed and ambitious. Their job skills and office etiquette being called into questions and even their ability to communicate outside the realms of Twitter and Facebook have given them a certain stigma which many of those in my generation who hold the strings of corporate governance, find difficult to deal with. Yet for all this generalization in the article there are always the exception to the generalizations and those exceptions shine all the brighter for the contrast of their more generalized partners.

What I'm wondering about is how will those who are coming up continue the legacy of understanding we must take a more pragmatic and responsible position on the environment which sustains us. Winnow through the morass of hype, misinformation and bias foisted on us daily by the media. A cacophony of voices from every stripe and type straining to have their voice heard. Our connected world provides the platform for these voices in a way never before possible. Our children grew up with the beginnings of this Information Revolution and are far more comfortable in it than even those of us who helped bring it about. How will this web of strings and connections effect them and their ability to deal with problems of higher complexity than we or our parents ever thought of to begin with?

 The info graphic above is taken from a recent survey done by Telefonica about the perceptions of Millennial's about themselves and the confidence they have in their generation to meet the challenges they see.  With much in the balance and critical decisions to be made, I wonder how this next generation will respond to the demands placed on them?

This reflection is a continuing conversation of the related connections of thoughts and how they link together and form a web of networked strings reflecting the complexity of our current society and its' relationship to the Built Environment.


Utility of the Future (UTOF) "Water Water where is it? There's not a drop to drink!"

A couple of months ago a report was issued entitled  “The Water Resources Utility of the Future: A Blueprint for Action.” was recently released by a coalition of organizations: The National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA), the Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF), and the Water Environment Federation (WEF).

Article linked from Water Efficiency Blog. http://www.waterefficiency.net/WE/Blogs/1619.aspx

Some of you know from reading previous posts on this blog, I have contended that diversified water treatment is as important as the diversified renewable energy movement which has been afoot for about the last decade or more. In my mind, it is unfortunate we have not paid attention to the underlying infrastructure and social connection good drinking water has on our communities. 

The EPA is warning us that in less than a decade or so, there will be significantly more cities in dire straits to provide safe drinking water in their communities. This report echoes this call to actions. Our current state rules on water production and the often arcane water rights laws which change from state to state often cause difficulties for the emerging, smaller scale treatment options available. Greywater rules are one other point of confusion where it is actually illegal to use this water at all and in most other areas it is severely regulated as a resource. Here in the desert SW we have a more open mind to the value of water, but only slightly. We may have some of the more forward-looking legislation in Arizona, but the public is not educated about the significant impacts these laws could have on our severe drought conditions.  

Using some of the recent filtration and treatment technologies which began in the NASA science labs back over 25 years ago we are beginning to see commercially viable solutions which can take briny water and turn it into higher quality water than found in our local utility pipes.

Yet setting water quality aside it is often more of a quantity problem and here is where the leaky pipe syndrome is raising it's ugly head. Some local utilities have a leakage rate over 30% in some network areas which is a huge burden for the overall system. Fixing far-flung and aging networks is expensive and so are put off until they go beyond being a nuisance to a health hazard. 

How will a diversified water treatment and production effort change the UTOF? Instead of larger, hard to manage and maintain, should we be be looking at smaller, more diversified and dispersed treatment and production solutions? 

UTOF report indicates we need a significant change in thinking and implementation of both the treatment and production sides of water. With more and more communities facing difficult water supply and treatment issues, these questions aren't for the future, but for us to grapple with now. To be sure they are difficult, complex, wicked problems and take the efforts of entire regions and the stakeholders of multiple communities to arrive at possible strategies and solution paths. No one process or solution will be a "silver bullet" in any community. 

This is another part to the connections of thoughts about the Built Environment and the elements surrounding the efforts we take as humans to change and shape the environment we work in. A string of ideas, in this instance relating to clean water, the environment and sustaniability of our communities and a possible picture of the water utility of the future UTOF.


Lean Startups and the Flow of Value-A lesson for the AECO Sector

Dave West recently wrote an article in ProjectsAtWork.com's June issue  that I immediately identified with. In fact he almost writes a parallel post to one of my original posts which is also one of the all-time favorite posts here on this blog. BIM & XPM-A Made Marriage.

Dave is currently the Chief Product Officer at Tasktop and one of the foremost industry experts on software development and deployment. He has helped advance many modern software development processes, including the Unified process and Agile methods. As such, he knows of what he talks and it is a strong validation of the work I discovered somewhat by accident and happy circumstances over ten years ago.
Please read Dave's article here

Dave's mention of the Lean Startup movement, that is going through companies right now lead him to some interesting conclusions. As a mentor at our local Gangplank chapter in Tucson and having been through several Lean Launchpad  Startup workshops, I can attest to the parallels which Dave highlights. For the real focus on the Lean Launchpad is creating value and validation of a new idea using the minimum of effort to seek the greatest return. In a Lean Launchpad we don't go into big elaborate tests, but use simple tests to determine if an idea has merit in the marketplace. For me that was natural. I have been doing that in design practice for quite a while. Tweaking the context was easy for me to see how focusing on creating the greatest value using the least expensive means possible gave way to determine where the maximum effort should be spent as an idea matured and became validated.

How did all this resonate with me? I started using a variation of XPM and Agile back about 10 years ago in the design profession of architecture. The close parallels of SW development and working in the built environment design are quite scary. For that reason, and that it focuses on the value stream of information, the above rationale delivers very good results.

On my early journeys in this endeavor to find a better way to practice design I looked for ideas which would bring the design process together more efficiently. Since I'm not a purist on either the lean or agile side I just looked for what worked well and could be repeated over and over with consistent results. Creating a flow of information which delivered the value needed for timely decisions became our mantra. It reduced rework, it focused on the issue(s) at hand and set all others aside and above all was guided by the principle of keeping the end goal in mind.

Often, the project's end goal was modified along the way due to inconsistencies in assigning value in the beginning. But that is to be expected, since not all the value is known before a project starts. Discovering that new areas of value harvesting made more sense than staying with original ideas we were able to keep the project expectations in line and the Owner happy. More times than not, the final results were better than anyone would have imagined going into the project.

Who was responsible for delivery, everyone. If someone working on the project did not see it was their project to deliver value, they often were removed or isolated out to minimize their damage to the rest of the producing team.

As you can see, adaptability, collaboration, transparency, autonomy and focus on value were key components in our success.

Always remember "Collaboration is the Glue of Success"

Collaborative Construction Blog

This article is a continuation of conversations about how delivery of professional services in the Built Environment can change the way business is done. This article focuses on the change in focus from functional activity to delivery of value in every action and the need for all participants to own their part of the project delivery. It is a continuing String of thought with connections to project management, project delivery methods, change management and the continuing evolution of business delivery in our marketplace. 


Bullitt Center Accepts Living Building Challenge 2.0

Some of you may know of the Living Building Challenge it seeks to leverage existing technologies in a way which combine to make a building completely self-sufficient water and energy centers and at the same time increase livability in it's adjacent area. While the Challenge is a rating system for buildings, it is much more. Embarking on a Living Building Challenge is also becoming an active advocate for the process and how it changes the environment around the building.

The first Commercial building to begin to achieve this audacious challenge is the Bullitt Center, home of the International Living Future Institute, creator of the Living Building Challenge. So they are not only encouraging others, but demonstrating that their challenge is attainable and viable in a commercial setting.

Unlike other rating systems for a building to be granted and maintain their status as a Living Building Challenge building they must demonstrate with measurable and verifiable results that they do perform as they are designed to. These are exciting projects for those of us who contend that buildings do not have to be "appliances" plugged into infrastructure as consumers, but could and should be at least neutral to the supporting infrastructure for power and water and hopefully positive contributors for power and treated water. Truly, a community of buildings meeting the Living Building Challenge, could survive and sustain livability without huge central water treatment and power generation systems or even large surface storm water management systems. Buildings and their attendant support systems would be cross linked together to create local eco-systems of the Built Environment which were neutral to the surrounding environment or even positive in terms of water management and air quality.

Take some time looking at the Living Building Challenge website and the resources below and I think you will begin to see some of the possibilities for our future.

Wikipedia Article on Bullitt Center
Seattle’s Bullitt Center: Ready To Debut As World’s Greenest Office Building

Ashoka Fellow Jason McLennan on the Future of Green Building [video]

This article is one of a continuing series about the Built Environment and the sustainable design results which can be achieved when integrated design delivers buildings which are self sufficient in the energy and water they need to operate. It is a connection of strings of interest and links of connection which lead to a greater understanding and the possibilities  available to us today. NoSilos.com


Top 10 Renewable Energy Utilities in the US

Electric Power and Light just published the National Renewal Energy Labs (NREL) Top Ten list for Utilities selling renewable energy. Some familiar names continue to be on the list and some new names appear. One surprising ranking was the change in ranking of the top utility with renewable energy sales (megawatt hours /year), Portland General Electric (Oregon) overtook Austin Energy in Austin, Texas, in 2012, selling the largest amount of renewable energy in the nation through its voluntary green power program.

What I found interesting in this article is the wide geographical representation of utilities all over the US. While these utilities sell only a small fraction of the entire renewable energy sold in the US it is noteworthy that these programs are representative of volunteer programs where customers specifically elect to purchase renewable energy.

Here's the entire article


Texas Revises Legislation to allow more CoGeneration - Designers Awaken

If you don't know much about the power system in Texas they are about the only state in the 48 which has their own power grid isolated from their neighbors and it's been more blessing than curse to them. They don't worry about neighboring regional power glitches creating problems for them. Their energy policy is obviously driven by the oil and gas reserves they have which generates nearly all the power in Texas. But the folks in Texas aren't blind to the issues petrol-powered energy has and has a pretty aggressive policy to see a diversified energy production profile for the state.

Recently the legislators did something pretty bold for them, they lessened regulation on CoGeneration facilities. You see the Utility Commission has previously looked at these facilities as small utilities and as such it hampered the development of significant CoGen power where it could really help the grids in TX.

The Texas Legislature recently passed House Bill 2049, which removes regulatory barriers and improves the business climate for cogeneration facilities by clarifying language in the Texas Utility Code. "…this policy change will help the entire Texas grid by relieving grid congestion, increasing grid capacity and reducing the amount of water used in the generation of electricity," said Paul Cauduro, executive director of the Texas Combined Heat and Power Initiative.

See an article on this new legislation here from Fierce Energy

So how does this tie into the issues surrounding the Built Environment and my interests expressed here? Well it's pretty simple. While PV power is nice, it is designed as an add-on system to normal operations and is by it's nature diurnal. CoGen isn't. GoGen systems are designed to recover waste energy and increase overall efficiency by using that waste heat to create more power. Too many times we don't look at our buildings in terms of their waste energy profile. How much energy are our buildings throwing away with single-pass heating and cooling and even the recapture of excess heat in the summer being exhaled from our buildings by cooling systems.

The important thing to realize here these systems have been around a long, long time and even today there are emerging technologies which can absorb more and more excess energy to be either stored and used later or recovered and used immediately to generate power. We do have the technology now, we can use commercially available systems which are designed from residential scale to large industrial complexes. The problem is we are so in love with the PV solar story we have likely forgot some basics of systems design along the way.

My challenge to building design and execution teams is get educated about CoGeneration and it's advantages and educate your client base to it's advantages and quick paybacks and long-term benefits. Our neighbors in Texas have decided CoGen makes sense for their power needs, maybe the rest of us should start looking at CoGen harder and push for easier regulation and implementation in our own back yards.