Location, Location, Location
Friday, September 14, 2007 at 10:12PM
Toby Considine in Markets and Innovation

In real estate, there is a saying: the three most important factors are Location, Location, and Location. For some classes of building systems, these same three factors should be the most important factors in choosing systems. Either this requires lots of tight integration, requiring lots of time and expense, or it requires interoperability.

One of the benefits of interoperability is to support diversity. There are many reasons to have a diverse set of systems in each house. Some people will want to choose the best of the breed. Some people will have different tastes. And sometimes, especially as each site contains a mix of generation storage and systems to supplement the grid as well as its array of building systems, diversity will support the special needs of the location.

My mother told me tonight of a system her father’s friends had in the high Sierras. The remote location made fuel difficult to bring in. The alpine terrain limited the use of geothermal solutions. The extremes of heat and cold in the high desert made climate control daunting.

Despite these problems, the house was warm or cold as desired. The site specific system provided this service economically. The secret of the site-specific system was…the swimming pool.

The swimming pool served as the heat sink for the house. Tucked deep into the mountain side by the house, the pool maintained a temperature mediated by contact with the soil far below the frost line. The pool kept the house warm in winter and cool in summer.

As we build transacted energy systems interacting with agents at the level of every house, a pool-based climate control system should fit right in. The agent should see what is merely heating and cooling; in the same way, my laptop sees a thumb-drive and a disk drive as identical. All internal actions should be abstracted up to simple interface that does not know the internal details.

This will let me choose the best of breed agents to run my house with its best of breed systems. Those systems will be different from what someone else chooses as best of breed because people have different criteria. One of those criteria will be the location of the building and its site-specific needs.

Abstract interfaces create interoperability. Interoperability lets you choose the systems you want to fit the needs of the site you have. Interoperability will let systems compete based upon performance with the location, and meeting the needs of the house.

Abstraction creates interoperability. Interoperability enables markets. Markets drive diversity. Diversity offers choice. Choice drives competition. Competition drives innovation.

Each of these options should be at the system level, not at the component. Because systems offer service. And service is where competition is best.

Article originally appeared on New Daedalus (http://www.newdaedalus.com/).
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