Some people are dreamers, pioneers and visionaries. Others are more analytical and process oriented. I like to think of it like a classic comedy team, featuring a straight man and the guy who gets all the laughs. Think Abbott and Costello, Martin and Lewis, or any of the great comedic acts from television’s early days. Neither individual would’ve been successful without the other. After all, who would pay to go see a “straight man?”
In the “17 Laws of Indisputable Leadership,” author John Maxwell notes, “Great vision precedes great achievement. Every team needs a compelling vision to give it direction. A team without a vision is, at worst, purposeless.”
And author Ezra Earl Jones said, “Leaders do not have to be the greatest visionaries themselves. The vision may come from anyone. Leaders have to state the vision, keep it before the people, and remind them of the progress that is being made to achieve the vision.” In the absence of information, people make their own assumptions, which tend to the negative.
All of this is to say that it looks like I struck a chord, or at least pushed a button, with some of you regarding February’s topic on Combined Heat and Power (P) strategies. Last month we featured some thoughtful insights from Ben Kincaid of Indianapolis, who reminded us that there are seldom very many new ideas, just refinements of old ones. Mr. Kincaid’s thoughts engendered an equally thoughtful response from Ms. Eileen Duignan-Woods, a professional engineer with E.D.W. Associates, Inc., Rockville, Md.
Ms. Duignan-Woods points out that many worthy visions suffer untimely deaths because they were implemented prematurely, or perhaps with not enough attention to decency and order. With Ms. Duignan-Wood’s permission, she writes:
“You are absolutely right. Nothing is new. Even the ‘new’ technology that surfaced during the 1970s can trace its roots back to pre-World War II Europe, where energy has always been expensive. Wheel air-to-air heat exchangers, are an example. Dr. Maria Telkes, a native of Hungary, was experimenting with solar energy in Colorado in 1947.
We need to recognize that not all the total energy projects of 30 years ago were as successful as Mr. Kincaid’s. One of the first career ‘tragedies’ I can recall from that time was a friend and excellent engineer, a Vice President for a high profile developer, who pushed solar collectors on a multi-housing development in northern Illinois. Everything used had been used before—but obviously not tested as stringently as it should have been. He didn’t account for, or properly explain, that homeowners often do ‘foolish’ things, like exercise control over their heating equipment. The result was shutdown of water systems and freezing of collectors. It was a disaster. So was my friend’s career.
In the 1970s, the General Services Administration constructed a new federal building in Saginaw, Mich. Using solar collectors and other ‘green’ systems, such as gray water and green roofs, proper orientation, etc., the building was closely monitored for more than a year by the University of Michigan. It was found to be almost totally energy independent. Unfortunately, as soon as the monitoring and stringent maintenance was taken off after one year, deterioration set in. About four years ago the building was torn down. It would be vital information to find out why this occurred. Was it mold? Was it the constant replacement of glass tube solar collectors?
There is a lesson learned here. We need constant vigilance over equipment and systems that we push to be super-efficient. Nature has a need for balance and the fact that energy cannot be destroyed or created brings us back to understanding the fundamentals that allow us to think outside the box.
As Mr. Kincaid exclaimed, the HVAC industry, like all other industries, is driven by economics. As important as it is to our way of life, total monetary consideration has its own dark side. We often make little progress, if we are not careful. We need to think in terms of moving energy around—not wasting it. We need to think in terms of heating and cooling spaces—not huge amounts of air. We need to think in terms of cleansing the air and not worry about dragging in huge quantities of filthy outside air. We need to think of buildings as dynamic systems that need to breathe—and not shut ourselves up in thermos bottles. We need to think modular and less central for optimum flexibility and energy usage. The savings figures will bear themselves out. Keep up the good work!”
I truly respect the thoughts and opinions of Eileen and those of you who take the time to read this column, and write. You wouldn’t do it unless you had something of value to share, and unless you were truly passionate about high performance, sustainable, green buildings. If you’d like to contact from Ms. Eileen Duignan-Woods, with E.D.W. Associates, Inc., Rockville, Md, you can do so at email@example.com
Next month we’ll start a discussion on how to obtain adequate maintenance funding to assure “green” assets. I look forward to it!