What is your roadmap as ASHRAE’s Director of Region at Large (RAL)?
As Director of RAL, I have initiated a new vision, which we call as ‘Management by Objective’ (MBO). The RAL includes Africa, Middle East and South Asia. Turkey is also with us, having shifted from Europe. I noticed that most of the RAL members are not so involved with ASHRAE’s technical committees. My plan is to encourage people from RAL to join the technical committees. ASHRAE has 100 technical committees on different subjects, including energy efficiency, vibration and acoustics.
To start the process, I have founded several regional committees to encourage the members to be involved in the technical committees. My other task as Director is to develop a lot of chapters in the region. Oman is part of the ASHRAE Falcon Chapter. The endeavour is to have individual chapters in Oman, Jordan and also more chapters in the continent of Africa. We have a committee to undertake this task at RAL. It is called Developing and Planning for RAL. We also have a new committee for raising funds; by virtue of being a non-profit organisation, we don’t have a clear access to funds.
Do tell us about the new chapter you have opened in South Africa.
The chartering and inauguration took place on July 27, 2018. To date, we have over 120 members, and we have selected the leaders of the Board of Governors. There is good diversity in the leadership body, given the fact that South Africa is populated by African, Indian, Dutch and German ethnicities. Most of the leaders and the members are in the HVAC field; and most of them are consultants. It is the first ever chapter in South Africa, and there is tremendous excitement and enthusiasm over the inauguration.
What do you want to achieve there?
We want ASHRAE standards to be of use to policy-makers. So far, the standards are used only in design and consultancy. We want to train young engineers there. ASHRAE’s global training centre in the United Arab Emirates will train them there. The emphasis will be on adaptation of standards according to different ambient temperatures. We are also planning to conduct a big conference there. The focus will be on food cold chain.
What is the progress on the CRC (Chapter Regional Conference) front?
The next CRC will be taking place in October in Anatolia in Turkey. We will have a day dedicated to technical topics, with presidential members leading the conversations. The second day will be dedicated to business meetings and awards. We are also working to partner with UNEP to conduct an international conference in early 2019. We plan to invite high-ranking officials, including ministers from many countries. The conference will focus on how to enhance the performance of HVAC and refrigeration systems in high-ambient countries. In all, we expect around 35 countries to be involved.
Of late, ASHRAE is placing a lot of emphasis on wellness. Could you please elaborate?
ASHRAE is giving more importance to wellness and IEQ. ASHRAE is also focusing a lot on refrigeration and cold chain. Sheila J Hayter, 2018-2019 ASHRAE President, has initiated an ad hoc committee on this. We are energising all segments. We need to use all our researchers and all our technical committees to help the industry the right way. We are now working with more policy-makers. We are more globalised than ever before. Earlier, the focus was only on North America; today, we have a standing committee for developing economies. We have also developed the Building Energy Quotient programme. It was completed recently. It is specifically for buildings.
Could you please elaborate?
Okay, what is ESMA doing? It is making a tag for every air conditioning unit after checking a particular set of criteria. In the same way, we want to tag every building. It will be something like LEED, but more detailed and more efficient. We will start marketing it. It is a rating system for the building, with very sophisticated and detailed work.
For a few years now, MEP contractors have been complaining about how they are being sidelined, despite an indispensable need for specialised expertise to optimise building performance. You are an MEP contractor, as well. What are your thoughts on this from a broad perspective?
It is a fact that a critical sector like healthcare needs special care when you apply systems. I say this out of experience, as I am working on the Barjeel Hospital in Abu Dhabi. When we come to any project, price is the controlling factor. However, if you go behind price, you cannot fulfil the required technical requirements. People say, ‘Value Engineering’, but in reality, it is a reduction of quality, which will lead to disaster, sooner than later. Secondly, there is the issue of cash flow. Delay in payments is threatening the survival of contractors. It is all over the region. The way I approach the situation is that I simply don’t bid if I feel things are not secure. If the main contractor is a reputed one, I will be in the game, else I choose to stay away.
From a policy point of view, I believe that if an agreement involving clients, main contractor and MEP contractor is drafted under the umbrella of the municipalities, the situation can be saved. I am very much for a system similar to the Wage Protection System, established by the Ministry of Labour. In the case of MEP contractors, with such a system you can delay payments by a month or two months but not a year. If you do so, the system will stop your status as a company. I am discussing with ESMA on how to make a platform for this. We need the initiative to come from the government to make this possible. That is the best way to save everybody in this market and in every market. My payment will be through the system. It will be safe.
Surendar Balakrishnan is the Editor of Climate Control Middle East magazine, and Co-Founder and Editorial Director of CPI Industry. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org