Bacon and Our Future

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Today was the first day at ASHRAE's Winter Conference 2011 in Las Vegas.  A lot was happening today, not only on the committee level, but also society had a full slate of all-day learning cour ses for the attendees to take (at an additional charge).  The theme for this years conference is Zero energy design, I can't help but see the irony of holding the conference in Las Vegas, the city of excess.The day ended for me at the "Meeting of the Members" Session, where Lynn Bellenger hosted the afternoon event. Lynn is the first women president that ASHRAE has had and she is doing a great job. For Lynn's opening Lynn Bellengerremarks she pointed out how much of an international organization that ASHRAE is becoming.  Some of the newest chapters include Nigeria and Pakistan, with the possibility of opening new chapters in Australia and India.  New in the bookstore is the ASHRAE standard 90.1-2010 User's Manual and ASHRAE is also coming out with an ebook version of "The Green Guide" for the ipad.  And if you are a student and looking for scholarship money, ASHRAE is proudly giving $100,000 annually to support the education of budding young engineering talent. 

The keynote speaker for the afternoon was Jack Bacon, PhD., a self-proclaimed rocket scientist, author, and futurist.  This is the second year in a row (to my knowledge) that ASHRAE has brought a futurist to keynote for the event.  Not that I'm complaining because I love seeing others forecast what is yet to come. Jack spoke about the Green Movement and how the rest of the world have or are in the process of developing their own Green Building Councils. So this is not a fad or something that is maintaining a status quo but rather a rapidly growing trend, requiring that we live in tune with our environment.  Jack also suggested that to innovate in the are of sustainability that we turn our attention to third world countries.  This is important in the sense that in order to survive they must think smarter about the resources they use.  The reinforces my belief that we need to change they way we live and not just try to make incremental improvements to our existing technology.  We need to innovate and Dr. Bacon stated that the greatest change often happens at the fringes.  This is where people can go for broke and be as disruptive as they want, they have nothing to lose but have the passion to win. In a Net-Zero future our goal is to use as little energy as we can while still maintaining a high standard of living. This increasingly harder in a world with accelerating population growth and a finite amount of energy resources to go around.  Things could get ugly.  Jack did point out some positive things, technologies with a lot of potential, namely: Bio-Gas processes using garbage and waste, Printed electronics, energy harvesting (think hand crank flashlights), and a Star Rotor ( for high efficiency.  The moral of this story is think smarter, innovate as though your resources where extremely expensive, before they actually are.