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The Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) is well on its way to establishing a Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region office, in Dubai. Surendar Balakrishnan in conversation with Stephen R Yurek, President & CEO, AHRI, on the specific objectives behind establishing a presence in the region, among other topics. Excerpts from the interview…

| | Jun 9, 2020 | 2:56 pm
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Stephen R Yurek

With what specific objectives in mind are you establishing a MENA office of AHRI?

AHRI, as a globally respected advocate for the HVACR and water heating industry, is committed to lead and serve the manufacturers in the MENA region as a source of credible information on standards, certification, testing, product efficiency, etc., that manufacturers, specifiers, the public and government officials can access and utilize, almost as an extension of their own technical staff.

AHRI has hired a seasoned local leadership team, supported by a dedicated senior technical team in the region to support the region’s regulators and HVACR industry. Being staffed locally by experienced industry professionals allows the AHRI MENA Office to better address the concerns and issues of the MENA region while having additional resources to call upon from the combined intellectual capital of AHRI’s other offices in Washington, DC and China, as well as AHRI’s members that manufacture more than 75% of the world’s HVACR and water heating equipment.

 

What additional benefits can AHRI members expect from your presence in the region?

The new MENA office will allow local and global HVACR and water heating manufacturers to take advantage of local technical and policy expertise in their work on standards and certification programs that would best meet the needs of the region. This is especially important in the MENA region because of the growing trend to institute minimum energy performance standards (MEPS). The office will also offer a platform to discuss important industry issues, such as the coming refrigerant transition, to share best practices, and to provide informational seminars and events.

 

What would be the nature of your work in the region? Would testing and certification of products in largely homogenous regional ambient conditions be an area of focus?

One of the primary goals of the MENA office is to increase the use and awareness of the AHRI standards and certification programs among manufacturers, consultants, government officials, Gulf Standard Organizations and NGOs. The office will coordinate the interests of all stakeholders to provide regionally relevant AHRI standards and certification programs that can be used as a path of compliance for minimum energy performance standards (MEPS).

AHRI will also work to ensure a level playing field for competition and accurate industry ratings by implementing AHRI certification programs using regional conditions. AHRI has been administering independent certification programs for more than 60 years to ensure that products within the certification programs perform as advertised.

 

Would you be looking to enter into strategic partnerships with existing laboratories, or to establish your own laboratory, or laboratories, in the region?

As an accredited certification body, AHRI has always used accredited third-party testing laboratories in the region, and that practice will further increase by accrediting additional labs in strategic global locations.

Laboratory accuracy, however, is an important qualification. For example, a laboratory’s accreditation to ISO Guide 13025 is just a basic management/quality check and really doesn’t guarantee that it can accurately test a given product, particularly if testing is based on less technically stringent standard. The importance of laboratory accuracy and competence cannot be overlooked, as it can greatly alter test results. AHRI has a dedicated technical team of laboratory experts that work to ensure that all contracted laboratories meet tough additional testing requirements, including mandatory correlation testing and audits.

 

Would the office take the shape of an advocacy platform, representing the interests of HVACR manufacturers? Would you look to take their specific needs – for instance, a longer time schedule for product development to meet the needs of evolving energy rating systems – to the regional standards bodies for quick and satisfactory solutions?

AHRI’s MENA Office will be an advocate and a resource for local and global HVACR and water heating manufacturers on standards and certification programs that would best meet the needs of the region. The office will also offer a platform to discuss important industry issues, such as the coming refrigerant transition, to share best practices, and to provide informational seminars and events.

 

Manufacturers in the region typically are confronted by payment delays and bad debts, among other issues – all with the potential of disrupting or even threatening their businesses. What role would AHRI play to support manufacturers? Would you foster discussions among a multitude of stakeholders, including developers, contractors and sub-contractors, to help resolve conflicts?

No – that is not our role.

 

What solutions do you foresee as offering in a largely cost-sensitive market, where design intent often falls prey to value engineering, as in cutting corners, directly affecting those manufacturers showing sufficient commitment to R&D and product quality?

AHRI has a long track record of successfully transforming price-sensitive – often non-certified – markets to those focused on long-term – often certified – economic returns. AHRI conducts trainings and works closely with contractors, specifiers and owners to demonstrate exactly why specifying certified products will be beneficial in the long run. This includes pairing the potential benefit of a consultant’s request for an AHRI-certified product to ensure performance meets a higher target against the potential cost of such a requirement. That comparison has shown that even a one per cent lower performance has a huge adverse cost impact over the lifetime of the product. So, it becomes an obvious advantage to request certified product performance. It won’t be easy, but it can be done, and AHRI has the knowledge and experience to transform a market.

 

 

As elsewhere, COVID-19 has battered the HVACR industry in the region. What may we expect from AHRI in terms of leadership and direction? For instance, would you look to contribute to efforts aimed at drafting a roadmap of recovery and financial stability in the post-lockdown phase?

AHRI is a forum and a resource for sharing best practices and information not only from the MENA region but [also from] around the world. This will, of course, include helping localities recover from this pandemic in any way we can.

 

Countries the world over are racing against time to develop an effective vaccine to quell the pandemic. According to many thinktanks, an equally formidable challenge is the safe transportation of likely temperature-sensitive vaccines till the last mile. What leadership would AHRI look to extend to the MENA region in strengthening the cold chain to ensure vaccine integrity?

AHRI is the largest global industry association, representing more than 75% of global HVACR and water heating manufacturers. Our ability to assemble, organize and lead any industry effort – utilizing direct-line communications to top industry leaders, who can make decisions and commit resources – is unmatched by any other industry organization. In addition, AHRI has the resources and ability to provide timely deliverables in the areas of standards, certification programs, training and regulatory advocacy.

 

Generally speaking, what measures would you take in support of the ongoing regional campaigns against counterfeiting, given that the easy availability of fake equipment impacts manufacturers of genuine products in terms of reputation and pricing, and severely compromises safety and the steps being taken to curb indirect emissions?

Many manufacturers already participate in AHRI certification programs. Promoting the specification of “AHRI Certified” can be an important tool to avoid counterfeit products. Through its sophisticated web-based interactive directory, AHRI can provide solutions to identify non-certified or counterfeit products and equipment.

 

In the larger interests of global efforts aimed at mitigating climate change, would the MENA office of AHRI work towards campaigning for a speedier transition to environmentally friendly refrigerants, even much ahead of the commencement of the ‘HFC freeze and phase-down steps’, in 2028 for Article 5 Group 2 countries?

AHRI has been the leader in a careful, prudent, deliberate global approach to the adoption of alternative refrigerants. Our global efforts will enable developed and developing nations alike to ensure proper training and the opportunity to take advantage of evolving technical developments in both equipment and refrigerants.


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