Innovation Rodeo Recap

Innovation Rodeo Recap

by David Lippe

October 14, 2016

On August 24, Cyclone Energy Group hosted its first Annual Innovation Rodeo – an event that focuses on our latest insights in commercial building operations – in Chicago.  This year, we spent the afternoon engaging the commercial real estate world in conversation about the new wave of building operation centered on “Employee Wellness.”

I personally found the most interesting discussion to be around the question, “How do employers retain employees and buildings retain tenants soon to be dominated by “Millennials” – a generation that tends to work odd hours, wants the state-of-the-art amenities, and demands the flexibility to work wherever they choose.


We kicked off the day with a panel of three experts who provided context and their own feedback to this question and more. Their varying relationships within the commercial real estate industry made for an interesting discussion with Property Management, Consulting, and Development all represented.  Bob Best, Executive Vice President at JLL, gave his presentation that provided an overview on why employee wellness matters. He made the important connection between an increase in improved thermal comfort and ventilation – or “green” spaces – and higher employee productivity.

Our second panelist, Frank Kohout, Senior Technical Advisor with Cyclone Energy Group, spoke about the latest initiative called the Well Building Standard. This introductory look into the standard highlighted the factors required for reporting and the weight that they carry in certifying a building. Certifications like Well are important to many people who are looking to lease or occupy a space, whether for personal or business use. In playing Devil’s Advocate, I wonder: do building certifications truly matter? Some camps believe these certs are expected by the high-end building tenant, while others are satisfied with their energy efficient practices sans the high cost of certifications.

The last panelist, Prasan Kale, works on the commercial development at CMK Companies, and he spoke about how today’s workforce has taken the “amenities arms-race” to new heights. Young people are really looking for a place where they can “live, work, play”, and his team at CMK aims to provide that very thing. I found that the current trends show that people are accepting of smaller dwellings with the gain of common amenities. For example, in recent years, amenities space has increased from approximately 20,000 sqft to nearly 60,000 sqft!

img_3813After the panelists, Cyclone held break-out groups for a rapid-fire forum geared towards understanding individual perceptions on topics ranging from work space availability to breaking barriers to higher employee productivity. One of our Building Engineer attendees captured my thoughts/concerns almost perfectly: he said that his building is becoming increasingly more difficult to control in a fashion that truly saves energy. Tenants are working late into the night and with his fan system, is unable to isolate the use to just that affected area. Buildings of certain vintages will need to make some potentially drastic mechanical changes to accommodate the needs of their tenants. To me, this part of the day held the most value as it offered everyone a chance to participate in the conversation. The main challenge was that we ran out of time!

Interestingly, the panel discussion led to a conversation about how millennials can pick up and work anywhere – that they don’t desire designated personal space but more creative/open space to collaborate and work in groups. Through this conversation, I came to realize my preferences about my own workplace needs – that I need an HQ. I need my own desk where I can keep a photo of my folks and an old magnet for a food spot I ordered from once, but I also enjoy the flexibility to work remotely to hunker down to get work done. Despite falling into the age group of a “Millennial,” I found that I don’t seem to have all of the millennial values as the trends would suggest.

In the latter half of the event, Cyclone’s energyLAB analysts presented Pecha Kucha-style presentations (20 slides / 20 seconds each) on innovative topics and trends that they have worked on in the past year. The topics ranged from Net Zero energy buildings to benefits of Combined Power and Heat (CHP). Cyclone has uploaded these presentations online for everyone to learn more about these topics!

Overall, the event was a great success. Owners, Property Managers, Engineers, and other industry members came together in great fashion to participate in Cyclone Energy’s first annual Innovation Rodeo. And the event was punctuated by networking and cocktails with attendees. What could be better?!