A little over 200 of the 1,300 delegates attending a food safety summit in 2014 in Baltimore, in the United States, fell ill after eating a chicken dish, which news reports later said was contaminated with Clostridium perfringens, a pathogenic bacterium that produces a toxin causing stomach cramps, diarrhoea and fever. The bacterium manifests in meat, poultry and in other foods that are cooked in substantial batches and maintained at a lesser-than-prescribed temperature.
The irony of the episode was that all those that fell ill were top food safety experts, including representatives from the US Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control. Baltimore city health officials, after arriving at the conclusion of food contamination, handed the catering company responsible for preparing the dish a penalty for allowing condensation to drip from an ice machine in the kitchen.
The Climate Control Conference, on October 10 in Riyadh, was an interesting experience, in that it threw up a parallel to Baltimore. No, no, there was no episode of food contamination. The episode had to do with thermal comfort, with many delegates in the conference hall complaining of frigid conditions and of being unable to focus on the proceedings. The situation required urgent intervention, and the hotel staff responded by periodically switching off the air conditioning. As organisers, the irony was not lost on us, for amongst other topics, the discussions revolved around Indoor Environmental Quality. As Khalid Mulhim, affiliated to Saudi-based consultancy firm, Suhaimi Design (Protecooling Division), and the Chairperson of the Conference, wryly noted, the situation had arisen owing to a combination of obsolete technology and the lack of FM supervision. By the way, FM was one of the topics of discussion, along with lifecycle costs.
The Riyadh episode was emblematic of the severe disconnect plaguing the HVACR and building construction and performance industries. The lack of an integrated approach to air conditioning design and the absence of proper FM protocols, in many instances, are hampering progress in terms of lowering direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions, improving thermal comfort and of reducing Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). The situation deserves serious attention. With COP28 as a context, it is one thing for the world’s policymakers to gather in a bid to contain runaway emissions, but what about the grassroots? What needs to be done to bring about a change in mindset amongst multiple stakeholders, including building owners? And what can be done to address unreasonably tight timelines and financial outlays? While fiscal budgeting is important for the business sustainability of enterprises – be they real estate companies, healthcare facilities or hospitality groups – there is a need for looking at the entire picture and adhering to a certain discipline when it comes to building design, construction, supply of equipment, MEP installation, testing and commissioning and FM. Field performance needs to match design intent to keep the globe from warming any further.