Although It Wasn’t Our First Rodeo, It Was Our First Virtual One!

Each year in August, we hold a knowledge-sharing event called The Innovation Rodeo. It’s a half-day event where we pick a theme and deep dive into it from the perspective of building designers, owners, and operators. The day is designed to share ideas and advance the built environment. You can find past years’ Rodeos on our YouTube Channel.


This year marked the 5th anniversary of our first Rodeo, and we had big plans. Unfortunately, COVID had other plans, so we had to shift gears and adapt to the situation. We organized a virtual Rodeo and spread the event out over three Thursdays, with specific topics each week.

This year’s theme, All It Took Was a Pandemic: Innovations That Are Changing How We Design, Build, and Inhabit Buildings, guided our discussions around current innovative technologies, designs, and policies that impact how we use and experience our environments, both inside and out.

Due to the timely topics and an amazing lineup of distinguished industry leaders who volunteered their time to participate, we had a great turnout with over 160 people joining us live. Our speakers covered everything from zero-energy buildings and decarbonization to optimization for energy performance to COVID and indoor air quality.

We also had some impromptu fun: a few of our speakers fully embraced the Rodeo theme by showing up in cowboy hats and using western fonts in their power point slides; one speaker’s son Zoom-Bombed his presentation, which resulted in our first father-son Q&A session; and we learned that Dr. Bahnfleth’s superpower is his ability to not break stride while his cat leisurely strolls across his desk mid-presentation.


Week 1: Policy and Performance

While building codes and policies slowly take steps toward reducing energy consumption, innovators occasionally take giant leaps. We kicked off the Rodeo with Greg Swiss delivering a PechaKucha presentation on Benchmarking to Decarbonization. Next, Carol Ross Barney walked us through a fascinating case study of her latest zero-energy project, McDonald’s Global Flagship Store at Walt Disney World. Doug Farr gave a thorough overview of the visionary Chicago Central Area DeCarbonization Plan, which he is championing. Katie Kaluzny and Hans Detweiler finished the session with a broader discussion on decarbonization, and various energy initiatives and programs throughout the Midwest.

Week 2: Follow The Yellow Brick Road to Energy Efficiency

There are so many paths to making meaningful and lasting reductions in your building’s energy footprint. Week 2 featured John Brophy discussing ways the City Colleges of Chicago have reduced their footprint over the years and how they have brought energy efficiency and renewable technology into the classroom, including how that is being impacted as students return to class. Next we spoke with Amy Eickhoff about how the property she manages, 340 on The Park, has benefitted from major capital retrofit projects and multiple utility-funded energy-efficiency programs. Greg Swiss and Kelly Majewski presented a case study on the Central Park of Lisle office building and spoke with Chief Engineer Adam Elmer about how a retro-commissioning project helped realize significant energy cost savings.

Week 3: Indoor Air Quality Planning and Management

We closed out the Rodeo with a session that covered the obvious topic at hand: airborne infectious disease, with an emphasis on COVID-19 and Legionella. Our lineup of industry experts included Dr. William Bahnfleth, Chair of ASHRAE’s Epidemic Task Force; Robert Rottersman, an expert in industrial hygiene; and Duncan Phillips, Ph.D., an expert in building physics. Dr. Bahnfleth spoke about a healthy, resilient, and sustainable post-COVID world. Robert Rottersman also spoke on a post-COVID world and detailed how the knowledge acquired and science developed during the pandemic will influence what is considered acceptable indoor air quality. Finally, Dr. Phillips explained how ventilation, air distribution, and building pressurization impact buildings beyond what building codes contemplate. After the presentations, the three speakers participated in a highly informative Q&A session. Emmy Riley tied the session together and closed out the Rodeo with a PechaKucha presentation on the use of computational fluid dynamic modeling (CFD) to better understand the indoor environment and risk exposure.

2020, what a time to be alive!

We’re grateful to the speakers who generously volunteered their time to lead these fascinating discussions on such a broad range of topics, to everyone who attended and supported our event, and to our team at Cyclone who always go above and beyond to make the Rodeo a success. Finally, we have to acknowledge our Rodeo moderator, Benny Skelton, who kept the entire program organized and managed all of the videos, Q&A sessions, and behind-the- scenes technical issues, all while coordinating an amazing array of virtual western backgrounds.

For anyone in need of Continuing Education (CE) hours, we have created on-demand webinars for each week, which you can access here: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3.  There’s an option when registering to request a certificate for self-reporting.

Whether it’s an in-person, virtual, or hybrid event, we plan on having our 6th Annual Innovation Rodeo on August 5, 2021. Save the date, stay safe, wear your masks, and hopefully we can see each other in person in 2021.

Happy trails to you, until we meet again!