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Q&A With DXS's Thomas McLaughlin: Cool Technology

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DXS's Thomas McLaughlin

DXS co-founding partner Thomas McLaughlin is well-positioned to take advantage of the Texas high-rise boom, eschewing conventional air conditioning solutions while championing cost-saving, energy-efficient ones.

DXS is an HVAC company specializing in delivering air conditioning systems that incorporate technology originally developed in Japan in 1982. These units exceed the domestic industry standard.  

They are better suited to high-rise buildings than conventional systems. Thomas walks us through the history of this revolutionary innovation, and how it has the potential to change the way Americans think about air conditioning.

Bisnow: Could you provide readers some background on this technology and its genesis?

Thomas: Roughly 35 years ago, the Japanese set out to improve the standard air conditioning system, following the oil embargo of the 1970s, which raised fuel prices and incentivized energy saving.

They were entirely dependent on foreign nations, importing 100% of their energy, which caused the embargo to have a huge ripple effect throughout their economy. The country passed new energy legislation to boost efficiency, but unfortunately didn’t consult the HVAC industry experts. It ultimately enacted something with standards that the existing air conditioning technology could not meet.

As a solution, the Japanese essentially redesigned the original chilled water system into the variable refrigerant volume system that most of the developed world uses today.

This technology already has a 60% share of the market in Asia, and 40% in Europe. This means that, unfortunately, the US lags way behind, with VRV systems at only 5% of our market, but has a lot of potential for improvement.

DXS worked with Daikin to bring this technology to Texas by focusing on educating and training its clients.

Bisnow: How is this approach to air conditioning better than what’s widely implemented?

Thomas: The Japanese pointed out a key source of waste with respect to air conditioning practices. They examined the American solutions and asked why, in America, we air condition buildings instead of people.

We’re all guilty of this, on a smaller scale.Someone living in a two-story house, has one, maybe two, thermostats, one for each floor. This means, at maximum, there are only two points of temperature control.

If you want it to be 70 degrees in your bedroom, and you set that temperature on the thermostat, your entire house—your laundry room, your kitchen, etc.—becomes 70 degrees, regardless of whether or not you’re in that room.

That is what the Japanese were referring to when they admonished us for air conditioning buildings instead of people, as air conditioning the unoccupied floors is unnecessary. 

Scale that concept up to something with more volume, like schools, commercial buildings or high-rises, and the cost incurred rises tremendously. Not only is the Japanese technology much more energy efficient, it also allows for finer control of a building’s temperature.

Bisnow: Are there any other reasons you see Texas high-rise construction as the impetus for this change?

Thomas: Another major advantage the VRV system has over conventional systems is the improved ability to handle tall buildings. Conventional systems can’t handle more than a couple floors of a building.  This technology from Asia, on the other hand, can handle 10 or 12 floors of a building with one system.

In high-rise residential spaces, this allows multiple occupants to share the same system. Now that we’re seeing an unprecedented uptick in high-rise construction, we’re seeing mass adoption of these systems.

Typically in Texas we build out, not up, as it’s usually cheaper to just buy more land. But that trend has started to reverse in the last few years, and there is a big push in high-rise construction in just about all the markets that DXS serves. That means that air conditioning in the US finally has to enter the 21st Century.

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