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Building a new vision

William P “Bill” Bahnfleth, the new ASHRAE President, in an exclusive interview with Climate Control Middle East, touched on a wide range of topics.

| | Dec 4, 2013 | 1:15 am
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William P “Bill” Bahnfleth, the new ASHRAE President, in an exclusive interview with Climate Control Middle East, touched on a wide range of topics. While he emphasised the need to make buildings healthy, productive, safe and comfortable places, his gaze is trained towards energy conservation and protection of the environment.

What is your mission and vision as the new President of ASHRAE?

nov2013-interv01My Presidential Theme, “Shaping the Next,” focuses on embracing our responsibility to “Our World” – fellow humans and the Earth – to make buildings safe, healthy, productive, comfortable environments in harmony with Nature. To do this, we must develop “Ourselves” – the human resource of the professional community, and transform “Our Work” – what we do, how we do it, and who we do it with, by becoming more global in outlook, broader in scope and more collaborative in approach. This vision is being implemented through efforts to form an alliance of organisations focused on indoor environmental quality, exploration of ASHRAE’s role in serving developing economies and the residential construction market, and formation of an industry partnership to collaborate on building performance.

ASHRAE has been constantly publishing new standards or updating/modifying existing ones. What, in your opinion, would be the impact of these new standards and of the updates towards raising the bar on energy efficiency, IAQ and other socio-economic and environmental ideals?

The most important ASHRAE standards define minimum criteria for acceptable performance within the built environment industry that are frequently adopted into building regulations. As they are updated, ASHRAE standards generally raise these minimum levels, particularly with respect to energy efficiency, and incorporate new technical developments.

For example, excluding plug and process loads, a typical building complying with energy efficiency standard, Standard 90.1-2007, which is widely referenced in codes, should consume 35% less energy than one built in compliance with the earliest version, Standard 90-75. ASHRAE Standard 62.1 for ventilation to achieve acceptable Indoor Air Quality has been updated in recent years to include separate ventilation requirements for controlling occupant- and building-generated pollutants and to include improved criteria for natural ventilation.

ASHRAE is currently developing a guide on Sustainable Refrigerated Facilities and Systems. The Guide will address the entire range of facility and equipment design and efficiency alternatives for refrigerated processing

During the 3rd Regional Conference on Alternative Refrigerants for the Air-conditioning Industry in High-ambient Temperature Countries (ARACIHAT), in September 2013 in Dubai, co-conducted by the ASHRAE Falcon Chapter, UNEP and AHRI, one key issue that emerged was the observed lack of consensus among industry stakeholders in terms of interim refrigerants. What direction is ASHRAE taking in terms of steering and encouraging efforts towards finding suitable alternative refrigerants for high-ambient temperature countries?

As a technical society, ASHRAE seeks to obtain and publish the most accurate information on available technologies and to promote the development of new technology to meet the needs of the industry through its research programme. The latest knowledge is incorporated in standards through ASHRAE’s consensus process. The committees that write our two major refrigerant standards (Standard 34, Designation and Safety Classification of Refrigerants, Standard 15, Safety Standard for Refrigeration System) are moving to address new refrigerants on a timely basis.

ASHRAE is currently not conducting research on refrigerants for high-ambient conditions, but this would certainly be a worthy topic. ASHRAE’s First International Conference on Energy and Indoor Environment, to be held in Doha, Qatar in April 2014, will, no doubt, provide a lively forum for discussion of this issue.

During your term, what stewardship role does ASHRAE see itself playing in food safety and food security, in the context of refrigeration? There’s a real need for reliable, energy-efficient and environmentally friendly cold chain management solutions in the region, in view of population growth and better awareness related to food hygiene.

ASHRAE is strongly committed to supporting the development of the cold chain. ASHRAE is currently developing a guide on Sustainable Refrigerated Facilities and Systems. The Guide will address the entire range of facility and equipment design and efficiency alternatives for refrigerated processing, storage and distribution (the cold chain), in both developed and developing countries. As global urbanisation continues, refrigerated storage and transport from farm to store is critical. Food spoilage is a significant sustainability problem, particularly in least developed countries. Medicine storage and transportation is likewise critical.

The project has two parts. The first is a comprehensive guide being funded by ASHRAE and other partners, which is slated for publication in 2015. The second is the development, with United Nations Environment Programme funding, of a supporting document specifically targeted to developing nations and published in all six official languages of the United Nations.

ASHRAE has recently conducted IAQ 2013, the Environmental Health in Low-Energy Buildings Conference, in October. In your opinion, is there a better awareness towards better IAQ in global society?

In the realm of indoor environmental control systems for buildings and transportation systems where we work, we provide for basic needs and quality of life by making those who use those systems safe, healthy, productive and comfortable. ASHRAE has contributed significantly to this mission in the past and continues to do so today; however, our focus, and that of the industry, for some time has shifted strongly towards energy conservation and protection of the atmosphere.

We must restore a proper emphasis on the indoor environment. We must connect science to practice. We can take the results of research and use them to create real change applications. We can educate and equip the industry in the principles and practice of indoor environmental quality as we have done in others.

The conference in Vancouver, Canada, at which I presented a plenary speech, was one of the frankest self-examinations of the status of IAQ that I have experienced. I believe the consensus of the assembled international community of experts was that, while much valuable research on the relationship between indoor air and health has accumulated over the past 30 years, we could be doing a much better job of implementing it in practice.

The reasons for this gap are many, including less awareness of the importance of IAQ and its impacts than is needed among the public, the professional community, and regulatory bodies. The free distribution of the ASHRAE “Indoor Air Quality Guide: Best Practices for Design, Construction and Commissioning”, by downloading from the ASHRAE website, and the formation of an alliance of international IAQ organisations are significant steps we are taking to address this issue.

Still on the topic of IEQ, ASHRAE has recently announced that its next High Performance Buildings Conference will be in April 2014. What are you looking to achieve in this conference?

The High Performance Buildings Conference seeks to advance the industry’s efforts to achieve a true high-performance built environment, providing a unique opportunity for dialogue among attendees to facilitate understanding of current indoor environmental quality and energy-saving efforts and to share best practices for achieving high-performance buildings.

The conference topics provide a comprehensive overview of high- performance building design with a focus on strategies in several areas. New subject areas include water efficiency, building occupant behaviour, new building technologies and Indoor Environmental Quality. In addition, there is increased emphasis on lighting/daylighting and the building envelope.

What is ASHRAE doing in terms of encouraging the funding of well-structured research activities to further the cause of the HVACR industry?

ASHRAE’s research programme is guided by a research strategic plan that is updated every five years by an expert advisory panel. The current plan, which can be downloaded from the ASHRAE web site, has 11 priorities addressing key issues from environmental impacts of refrigerants to understanding the impact of HVAC and building design on the transmission of disease to energy efficiency. Whether projects are developed through solicited proposals in response to work statements prepared by ASHRAE’s technical committees, task groups, or multidisciplinary task groups, or through unsolicited proposals, they should address these priorities. Technical committees develop their own research plans focused within their scopes of operation, so the process is well-structured and connected directly to the needs of the industry.

A new effort that may be of particular interest to your readers is the formation of a multidisciplinary task group (MTG) to develop a hot climate design guide. The scope of the MTG is as follows:

MTG.HCDG – Hot Climate Design Guide

Scope: MTG.HCDG will coordinate technical committee/task group/technical resource group activities and participating outside groups to help support the technical basis, development, and publication of a new “Hot Climate Design Guide.” Responsibilities include the development of supporting research, presentations and content for the “Hot Climate Design Guide” special publication.

This is an excellent example of an effective response to a regional industry need through the established mechanisms of the ASHRAE technical organisation.

What communication strategies is ASHRAE employing in the Middle East to highlight the clear and present need for research related to high-ambient conditions? For instance, is ASHRAE urging governments to allocate a percentage of their GDP to scientific research by showing a correlation between such research assignments and the desired ideals of a better society?

As mentioned in response to an earlier question, one way we are sharing guidance related to high-ambient conditions is through our upcoming First International Conference on Energy and Indoor Environment for Hot Climates taking place from February 24 to 26, 2014, in Doha, Qatar. Organised by ASHRAE, the Qatar Oryx Chapter and the Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute, it is endorsed by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE), the Federation of European Heating and Air-Conditioning Associations (REHVA) and the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO).

This conference will be the first to tackle energy and indoor environmental quality issues in humid and arid hot climates, providing a forum for discussion of the latest research and developments. Consulting engineers, building owners, industry manufacturers, environmental organisations, researchers, scientists and all interested professionals are invited to present and participate.

Another way is through publications, such as the recently published “District Cooling Guide,” which provides design guidance for all major aspects of district cooling systems. Special emphasis was placed on ensuring that the guide addressed issues particular to systems operating in the Arabian Gulf region where district cooling is seeing rapid growth.

ASHRAE has long had a significant effort in advocacy and government activities in the United States. This year, we have formed a “Grassroots Government Activities Committee” to provide support for chapter and regional level interactions with government. For chapters located outside the US, this may include providing advice at the national level. ASHRAE does not have a specific position on how much of their GDP developed or developing nations should devote to research, but ASHRAE advocates for funding in high-priority areas through direct contacts with government and also through its Position Documents, which can be obtained from the ASHRAE website.

Are there any further initiatives to the district cooling design manual brought out by ASHRAE with the support of Empower in the UAE?

There are no specific follow-on plans at this time, but ASHRAE would be very interested in working with Empower or others to develop further guidance or conduct research on district energy projects of mutual interest. The sponsoring technical committee for the district cooling design manual, TC 6.2 (District Energy), is working on potential new research project topics now. The committee also is considering unsolicited research proposals, such as URP-1713, Evaluating the Thermal Storage Potential of District Chilled Water Piping Systems to Reduce Peak Electrical Demand, submitted by the University of Georgia.

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