Online educational resource on achieving indoor environmental quality with radiant based HVAC systems
Not for profit educational resource on indoor environmental quality.
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Radiant Floor Heating


Making a Business Case for LEED...FAST Company's Anya Kamenetz talks Gr$$n about green.


"New York architect Chris Benedict--whose residential buildings use only 15% as much energy for heat and hot water as the typical New York apartment building--says, "I've spent hours explaining my systems-based approach to a newspaper reporter, and at the end, the photographer asked me, 'Do you have a solar panel or something I could photograph?'" With her design partner, Henry Gifford, a former boiler mechanic, Benedict delves into the infrastructure of buildings, incorporating basic factors such as heavy-duty insulation, radiant heating and cooling, room-by-room temperature controls, and thicker glass." Visit Fast Company - Green

Suggested Reading:
The Power of Paradox
H.E. Woodhead

What is a Paradox?

One example: In HVAC, we say the more the industry tries to improve the efficiency of 'the system' the more damage is done to the environment.

How is that possible you ask?

Well, by the time raw metals and hydrocarbons are harvested from the earth and converted into useable products and subsequently assembled on site, the accumulated use of power and fuel in mining, manufacturing, distribution and installation negates the operating savings from the equipment. 

One of the biggest parasites taking away the benefits, is the inefficient way systems are assembled. 

So the paradox is, "the harder we try to be good stewards of the earth, the more damage we cause."

To correct this situation we have to change the status quo - we have to change how we do things...unfortunately it's this aversion to change which ultimately causes the most damage.

Pretty much sums it up...

"if I'd asked customers what they wanted, they would have said 'a faster horse'" Henry Ford

If the industry wants to really make a quantum leap it has to stop asking others what they want and deliver what they need.

What do they need? Standardized, simple and affordable systems without the complication and expense of customized products.

It's time for the radiant industry to stop treating every new home as a blank canvas to experiment and express creativity...this is not rocket science. This is consumer goods 101.

"Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works."
Steve Jobs



Robert's Industry Observations, Part III:
Copyright (c) 2007 Robert Bean, All Rights Reserved
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People who read this page also visited:
Robert's Industry Observations, Part I
Robert's Industry Observations, Part II
Robert's Industry Observations, Part III
Robert's Industry Observations, Part IV
Tower of Babble, Human Factor Design
How Much Does it Cost?
Making Radiant Systems Simple and Affordable
Skill Sets Required for Navigating the Future of Hydronics


Shakespeare's ode to customized and complex hydronic systems…
"Eye of newt, and toe of frog, Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting, Lizard's leg, and howlet's wing,--
For a charm of powerful trouble, Like a hell-broth boil and bubble."
Macbeth, A.IV/S.1

The Perfect Paradox...

The more support from industry for industry the worse it gets for consumers: What Happens When Supply, Innovation, and Technology Outpaces Skills and Product Demands.

A Business Case for Making it Simple...10 Rules for HVAC Control Manufacturers, Distributors and Contractors


A Business Case for Making it Simple...10 Rules for HVAC Control Manufacturers, Distributors and Contractors

As a follow up to CBS's, "Get Me the Geeks", readers should study the words of Andreas Pfeiffer, founder of The Pfeiffer Report on Emerging Trends and Technologies. His article, Why Features Don't Matter Any More, 10 fundamental rules for technology based on user experience is our favorite guidance list and we share below our thoughts on controls based on his  words of wisdom.

  1. More features isn't better, it's worse.
    Studies show consumers rarely use all the features provided in most sophisticated residential HVAC controls. In fact the more features the less satisfied the user experience.

  2. You can't make things easier by adding to them.
    I am a firm believer in addition through subtraction. What does this mean? It says "anytime you get the urge to add one more thing" you have to delete two or more others. Keep this in mind as North America bears witnesses to the plethora of product introductions by more and more manufactures/distributors represented by more and more associations.

  3. Confusion is the ultimate deal-breaker.
    If your client has to go back to school to learn how to operate your products - you're done.  It is a rare individual who will charge through a set of complicated instructions to operate an electromechanical device. It's one of the reasons why I and many others strongly believe the thermostatic radiator valve is close to perfection as any product. In fact it should be the room control of choice for boomers looking for robust simplification.

  4. Style matters.
    We've been harping on industry for well over a decade on this one.  If it looks like dung - it is dung in the eyes of the consumer regardless of how many brain cells and pints of sweat went into the product. Good looking products and systems sell more than bad looking stuff and if you don't believe this - just look at all the beautiful people in Hollywood employed in harvesting billions of consumer dollars on an annual basis for a non essential life item. Remember this when your brain says consumers won't pay more for boutique indoor environments.

  5. Only features that provide a good user experience will be used.
    How many times have you heard, "we paid for it but don't use it"?  Just tally up all the things in your life that fall into that category and then you'll get an appreciation for features which matter.  Suggested reading: The Evolution of Useful Things By Henry Petroski

  6. Features requiring learning will only be adopted by a small fraction of users.
    I challenge any residential control manufacturer to survey the consumer (or the installing contractor for that matter) on the depth of their knowledge in the controls operating homes and then survey what features are actually being used.  My thoughts on this: Under marketing pressures from distribution to compete through differentiation, manufactures have continually added sophisticated features to satisfy the competitive forces as opposed to satisfying the basic needs of the consumer....just a hunch.

  7. Unused features are not only useless, they can slow you down and diminish ease of use.
    Like Steve Croft from 60 Minutes, if the end users can't quickly find the on/off - up/down buttons - the product sucks.

  8. Users do not want to think about technology.
    I don't know how many times we've had to debate this with techno weenies -  the control zealots hooked on the latest and greatest - the very same people referred to as "users" by the manufacturers...well it's time for a reality check - it is the consumer who ultimately own and have to operate the zippy stuff and most of them are not technical people. I had one consumer say to me recently, "its like the control installers got a fix on my job and my wife and I paid for their drugs." 

  9. Forget about the killer feature.
    You know we're in trouble when industry tries to solve building issues with killer features in electromechanical or combustion solutions. Lets take a page out of the landscaping handbook - When people want to reduce the amount of water used around the yard they get rid of the grass.  Want to reduce utility bills and improve comfort...Insulation, caulking and better windows are one time cost which don't need to be fed power and fuel to work. No killer features - just killer common sense.

  10. Less is difficult, that's why less is more.
    One of the key philosophies behind prefabricated control panels is improvement through reduction. How to reduce installation times, commissioning, wiring challenges, troubleshooting, number of job site trips, size and complexity of systems, number of system iterations, and reduce carbon monoxide emissions and waste associated with onsite stick built mechanical rooms. Studies show consumers exchange similar dollars for either onsite or prefabricated systems but large scale adoption by industry is choked by how consumer dollars are distributed through the chain.  For example: The business person operating a pro green distributor or contracting company will use prefabricated brand name control panels because he/she understands the 'flow through value' and long term impact on profitability. Less is difficult that's' why less is more - but to those which "get it", more is not born by the consumer or environment. It is a net zero process with holistic outcomes.  However strong the business case is for prefabricated systems, the distributor and assembler of parts only see a threat and so continue to follow the status quo regardless of how inefficient and damaging it is. "Less is difficult, that's why less is more", has a immediate impact on profitability but to understand its strength in consumer products one must acquire the power and knowledge of paradoxes.

Suggested watching for the HVAC industry...empathy for the consumer...observe human behaviour when they look at hydronic systems..."grimace".
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