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By Julia Day
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About Us

Systems, Interfaces, and Interactions

Professor O’Brien is currently the principal investigator of the Human Building Interaction Lab at Carleton University. This episode talks about the importance of interface features and how occupants and operators can change personal behaviors to improve their comfort levels.

The 2024 podcast series will revolve around new and innovative approaches to the methods, materials, and technologies used in the construction and operation of the built environment. We have an exciting lineup of experts in the industry to discuss these key components of building operations, and will have EIGHT episodes in 2024! Check them out!

Future Podcast Themes & Submissions

Is there something you would like to know more about? We can make a Podcast about it!


Season 3 – 2023


O’Brien has worked with approximately twenty industry and government partners and raised over $ 3 million in the past five years. He has authored or co-authored over two hundred peer-reviewed publications and co-edited two books on net-zero energy buildings and occupant research methods and is currently completing his third book, which is focused on occupant-centric building design.
This episode talks about the importance of interface features and how occupants and operators can change personal behaviors to improve their comfort levels.


2m50s: Introduction to the Human Building Interaction Lab.

9m00s: The complexity of building systems and those effects.

15m35s: Highlight of a favorite project at the HBI Lab.

22m45s: Interface usability factors and standardization.

27m30s: IEA Annex 66 and 79: What they are, what’s to come, and their importance.

32m45s: How do I get involved with the Annex?

34m25s: Occupant Centric Design: Key topics and why this issue is important.

39m00s: Closing comments from Liam.


Ph.D Building Engineering, Principal Investigator, Human Building Interaction Lab

Two leaders from McKinstry explain how new builds and renovations can remove waste and climate harm through engineering, design, and technical procedures. With integrated methodology in construction projects, the company seeks to understand how increasingly complex buildings work with new legislative compliance issues, and how we can come up with innovative solutions that drive the efficiency of buildings. The role of both the building operator and occupants are discussed, including passive and active strategies for both parties that can help minimize carbon impact. Customers often have big, complex problems to solve, and McKinstrey then creates partnerships to meet the needs of these problem statements.


5m20s: Overview: Merging innovation of methodologies.

10m05s: How does McKinstry integrate itself into projects to create innovative buildings?

13m34s: Consideration of building operators and management of the buildings over their lifetimes.

18m30s: What are the technologies that McKinstry is using, testing, and looking forward to?

22m50s: How are these technologies being used to meet new legislation requirements?

34m26s: Understanding energy sharing opportunities, data analytics, and the role of the occupant.

37m46s: Favorite projects or innovations, and closing comments.

Matt Allen

Matt Allen

Executive MBA

Dale Silha

Dale Silha

BS Sports Management



Senior living communities aim to give older adults a little bit more help as they age, while providing social interaction and higher qualities of care. This allows residents to continue to experience joy in a space that is comfortable for them.

Both Rendever and Eversound bring engaging experiences to these residents through digital technology, such as visiting their childhood home, travelling the world, or simply being able to hear a meeting for the first time


3m05s: What senior living is today, and how that affects others.

6m30s: Why should we be invested as individuals in the senior living industry?

17m00s: Older adults and technology: generations of change.

17m46s: Technologies and how they may integrate into programming for senior living.

27m32s: Making buildings more resilient so occupants aren’t trapped in the same cycle in their spaces.

31m39s: Growth of new technologies and where we need to go to increase quality of life.

38m15s: Closing comments and encouragement to find your passions.

Kyle Rand

B.Eng., BS Neuroscience

Matt Reiners

BS Sports Management

Season 2 – 2022


In many ways, a building’s efficiency relies heavily on the building operator. In this episode, we spend time with Melanie and Rebecca learning about the Northwest Energy Efficiency Council. They focus on improving the energy efficiency of buildings through training and resources for building operators in the PNW.


3m29s: What is NEEC and the goal of the council?

8m52s: Who is involved in NEEC and who are its stakeholders?

10m59s: Outline of services and programs NEEC offers.

18m54s: What is BOC and the Fundamentals Course?

29m29s: Building BOC relationships and Help Desks.

40m38s: BOGO Trainings: What are they and where can you find them?

Melanie Danuser

M.S. Public Administration

DIRECTOR OF EDUCATION AND TRAINING, Northwest Energy Efficiency Council and the Smart Building Center

Rebecca Sheppard

M.S. Business Administration

SR. PROJECT MANAGER, Northwest Energy Efficiency Council and the Smart Building Center


Understanding how energy is used in the residential buildings we live in allows illumination of a host of misconceptions and simplifications. An honest appraisal of our home energy picture encourages us to explore what matters and matters most. We can learn what will best help our carbon footprint, and our energy costs while improving the vitality of our living environment. Best methods vary significantly by geography, local resources, and our changing climate.


6m6s: The changing climate and designing for the future.

15m51s: Residential energy efficiency.

25m35s: What works and what doesn’t?

32m48s: Myth 01: The thermostat.

46m34s: Myth 02: Ceiling fans and cooling.

54m32s: Myth 03: Kitchens and cooking efficiency.

64m14s: Myth 04: Outside the house; Roofing and solar energy.

72m20s: Myth 05: Connection to the grid.

Danny Parker

Danny S. Parker

M.S. Environmental Science, University of Montana

PRINCIPLE RESEARCH SCIENTIST, FSEC Energy Reseasrch Center, University of Central Florida


In this episode, we talk with Gus Simonds and Perry England from MacDonald Miller. Gus Simonds has been the CEO of Macdonald Miller since 1988 using his variety of skills to ensure that even the most complex building problems can be solved. Perry England has been with MacDonald Miller since 2005 and is proud to help buildings work better while taking care of the community and the environment.


0m48s: Gus and Perry Introductions

2m18s: Key components of the industry today and the role of MacDonald Miller.

11m48s: Analysis of building data and complexities between different pieces of equipment and systems.

22m52s: Explanations and definitions of some terms used in the industry.

29m41s: The Washington State Climate Commitment Act and why we promote building efficiency.

33m50s: How building analytics and efficiency changes when studying existing buildings and the limitations on university campuses.

42m18s: The future of energy efficiency goals for buildings.

47m03s: Grid interactive buildings.

52m46s: Closing comments.


Gus Simonds

B.S. Environmental Science

CEO, MacDonald Miller


Perry England

B.S. Mechanical Engineering

VP of Building Performance, MacDonald Miller


In this podcast, we speak with Hendrik Van Hemert, the Managing Director for Edo, and his involvement in the South Landing project, and what it means for the future of grid interactivity in the built environment.


0m25s: Hendrick introduction and some of Edo’s goals.

6m41s: an introduction to the South Landing project.

12m10s: Data communication between the utility and the central plant to create a comfortable interior environment for occupants.

16m38s: Tenant engagement, plug loads, and the importance of informing occupants.

30m31s: Lessons learned and challenges faced at South Landing.

34m10s: The importance of data collection for facility operators and their relationship with the occupants.

41m08s: Closing thoughts from Hendrick about the South Landing project and the future Edo.

Hendrik Headshot

Hendrick Van Hemert



Season 1 – 2021


Richard Danks started out as a mechanic at a boatyard. He finally accepted a job at the Austin Company where his father worked for many years, but not until after he had applied and been rejected more than 60 times by other companies. He has traveled across the United States working on a multitude of project types and programs. This podcast discusses the culture of the construction industry as an employee. Mr. Danks lets the listener into his specific experiences, good and bad in the industry. He also gives future employees some advice that helped him during his time, along with some things he wished he would’ve known.


0m24s: Rick’s exploration through the trades and industry with the help of his father.

14m10s: Learn from your mistakes, everyone makes them.

17m08s: The clash between politics & industry.

19m09s: Codes & operation; are they actually improving design?

24m00s: Building automation & controls for energy savings.

26m37s: Private vs. Public projects and integrated design strategies.

35m48s: Culture of the industry, the integrated design process with difficult people.

47m22s: Words of advice from Rick Danks.

55m09s: Closing comments from Rick Danks for future Architects and Construction Managers.

Richard Alan Danks, PE

Life Member | ASHRAE

Retired, Chief of Energy and Environmental Management Office | NASA

ASME American Society of Mechanical Engineers


UMC; the University of Mechanical Contractors, has a long history of providing clients with unique, budget-sensitive systems, completed on time. They reduce energy and operational costs, help improve tenant and employee productivity, promote sustainable building environments, and remain accountable for the ongoing system performance of their clients’ facilities. Throughout this podcast, we dive into the importance of communication in a building, both horizontal and vertical. It is essential to efficient operations and productive occupants. this podcast helps paint for the potential of mindful design and long-term maintenance costs in regard to overall building efficiency.


7m10s: How energy efficiency sits at the core of UMs services and values.

11m35s: Importance of an energy lens when designing, in addition to basic codes and requirements.

15m04s: Designing with a specific intent, pride in one’s work, and the importance of teamwork.

17m46s: Tensions between building operators and occupants. Stories from the field; the good, the bad, and the ugly.

23m43s: The debate; high-tech smart buildings vs. passive strategies human control.

34m26s: Communicating to occupants in the building in order to understand the operating intent and their level of control.

34m46s: The history of co-op living (Co-Housing) and its potential for the future.

Steve Brooks

B.S. Mechanical Engineering


Martin Clinton

M.S. Management and Leadership



Barbara Erwine is an architectural consultant, educator, and writer focusing on sensory design and sustainable architecture that celebrates the integration of the built environment with the natural world. Drawing on her background in science and architecture, her work, ranging from commercial buildings to sustainable urban master plans, integrates passive design strategies with sensory aspects of architectural place-making.


4m30s: MErging of science and art to create sustainable architecture.

8m38s: Sustainablility & daylighting; experiences in the industry.

15m35s: Development process of her book, “Creating Sensory Spaces.”

21m52s: Designing for the sense; intro to Sensory Design.

29m41s: Sensory Design for thermal comfort, perceived comfort, and energy savings.

38m11s: The occupant narrative and its importance to design.

42m30s: The history of co-op living (Co-Housing) and its potential for the future.

47m06s: Closing comments from Barbra Erwine.

Barbra Erwine

M. Architecture



Ms. Heschong is a Fellow of the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES). She was a founding principal of the Heschong Mahone Group (HMG) and a licensed architect for 30 years. She has a B.Sc. from UC Berkeley, and Masters of Architecture from MIT, where she was awarded the AIASchool Medal. At HMG, Ms. Heschong led the research team that found a correlation between daylight in classrooms and improved student performance.


2m58s: Why Lisa became an architect, and the impact of her career.

4m34s: Writing process & organization of her books.

10m23s: Experiences during Lisa’s school design and research.

16m42s: Corporate decision-making & security interests can hurt the design.

19m30s: The key differences between being thermally uncomfortable and visually uncomfortable.

23m28s: Lisa’s comments on current design problems and trends.

33m09s: A human rights issue; UCSB campus proposes dormitory with no windows.

44m35s: Lisa’s plans for the future; her blog and website.

Lisa Heschong

M. Architecture