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Camfil introduces Chief Airgonomics Officer Initiative

STOCKHOLM, Sweden, 07 September 2022: Camfil introduced the Chief Airgonomics Officer initiative (CAO), which calls on organisations across the globe to take 100% accountability over the indoor air people breathe. Making the announcement through a Press release, Camfil said the brand-new initiative prompts organisations to act by appointing Chief Airgonomics Officers (CAOs), who will be The Voice of Clean Air at their workspace. Inspired by the study of ergonomics, the newly coined term, Airgonomics refers to the burgeoning discipline that seeks to maximise the benefits of healthy air for the protection of people, processes and the planet, Camfil said.

In light of the recent adoption by the UN General Assembly of a resolution declaring “access to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment a universal human right” on July 28, 2022, the CAO initiative seeks to put into practice those actions that need to be taken to ensure that workplaces everywhere ensure access to clean, healthy and sustainable environments through the improvement of indoor air quality (IAQ).

On July 28, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution declaring “access to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment a universal human right”. In parallel, the 2021 publication of updated World Health Organization (WHO) Global Air Quality Guidelines concluded that “…the burden of disease attributable to air pollution is now estimated to be on a par with other major global health risks, such as unhealthy diet and tobacco smoking, and air pollution is now recognised as the single biggest environmental threat to human health”. The CAO initiative shares the vision of realising universal access to clean, healthy and sustainable environments and is taking its first steps to bring this to life by first tackling IAQ at workplaces, Camfil said. The initiative has a long-term vision of forging a global movement to ensure access to clean indoor air everywhere, Camfil added.

Nearly every facet of operating a company has a person in charge – from the HR director, who drives the talent strategy to the CEO, who provides the overall direction of business operations, Camfil said. Yet, despite the direct impact of air on people’s health, well-being and productivity, IAQ continues to be treated as an afterthought, Camfil said.

According to Camfil, a 2022 survey it carried out confirms this showing that six in 10 either do not know who is in charge of IAQ at their workplace, or their organisation does not have anyone accountable over this invisible issue. Camfil said it is leading the way, having appointed the world’s first global CAO to ensure all Camfil locations worldwide have clean indoor air.

Mark Simmons, CEO, Camfil, said: “With Chief Airgonomics Officers, we will create healthier and happier workplaces by ensuring accountability is taken by qualified individuals with the authority to make real change happen. That’s why I am thrilled that Camfil has its own CAO to ensure that clean indoor air gets the attention it deserves everywhere we operate and also to demonstrate leadership when it comes to creating healthy work environments.

“I strongly encourage every organisation to pay attention to the indoor air quality in their premises. By participating in the CAO initiative, your organisation can ensure that the quality of your indoor air is never overlooked again – for the health and wellbeing of your people.”

Camfil highlights the value of the World IEQ Forum 2022

STOCKHOLM, Sweden, 27 June 2022: One way to protect people from air pollution is to provide clean and healthy air inside of buildings, Camfil said through a Press release, dated June 27. This was the main conclusion at the 6th edition of the World IEQ Forum, held on March 16, in the Sweden Pavilion at the World Expo in Dubai, Camfil added.

The Expo may have concluded, but the topic of Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) still remains a mainstream concern that is discussed globally, Camfil said, adding that there were two reasons for the 2022 World IEQ Forum having had an extra focus on IAQ:

  • According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus between people is higher in poorly ventilated indoor settings.
  • In September 2021, WHO published the first new version of their global Air Quality Guidelines since 2005.

“New scientific studies place the threshold of air pollution exposure considered harmful to human health 50% lower today compared to 17 years ago, when the previous WHO Air Quality Guidelines were published”, said Tobias Zimmer, Camfil’s Vice President of Global Product Management & International Standards. Tobias was a speaker and panellist at the World IEQ Forum.

Tobias Zimmer

Further, a recent WHO study states that 99% of the world’s population lives in areas with too much air pollution, Camfil pointed out. Air pollution that is causing serious human suffering in the form of diseases and millions of premature global deaths yearly and, on top of that, substantial economic costs, Camfil added.

“In the North African and Middle Eastern regions, air pollution is responsible for 270,000 deaths every year at a cost of 141 billion US Dollars, according to the World Bank”, Zimmer said. He went on to point out that most people today spend 90% of their time indoors and that the simplest and best way to achieve protection against harmful airborne particles is to invest in efficient air filtration solutions across all buildings.

“The need for quality air filtration is reflected via the much lower PM2.5 and PM10 threshold levels stated in WHO’s new Air Quality Guidelines,” Zimmer said. “These thresholds also align with Eurovent Guideline 4/23 for the selection of EN ISO 16890-rated air filter classes for general ventilation applications.”

At the same time, Zimmer was careful to emphasise that it is not possible to have a same-solution-fits-all approach to cleaning the indoor air. “Consensus at the World IEQ Forum was that every solution has to be tailored to where the building is located,” he said. “The outside air quality must determine the solution you have inside.” For example, he added, what works in a temperate zone might not be right in regions with high humidity. “The needs can also vary within a region,” he said. “Cities are more afflicted when it comes to air pollution than the countryside. Some cities are more polluted than others.”

According to Camfil, the World IEQ Forum is an opportunity for experts on IAQ, like Zimmer and his colleagues, to engage with, for example, representatives from the Ministry of Health and other influential representatives from various countries. “It is imperative that we continue to raise awareness around the urgent need to protect people from air pollution,” Zimmer said. “When you look at the human and financial costs on a global level, it is evident that we can’t afford not to protect ourselves.”

Zimmer said participants at the World IEQ Forum did not just talk about the importance of healthy IAQ. “We also demonstrated proof of concept by measuring the outside and inside air at the location during the EXPO,” Zimmer said. “Dubai’s outdoor air was 10 times more polluted than the WHO recommendations. The air inside the air-filtrated Sweden Pavilion was well below WHO limits for particle concentration.”

Zimmer said the effect of the clean indoor air in the Sweden Pavilion was visible to the naked eye. “After several hours of listening to me and other speakers, the audience was still fresh and alert,” he said. “So, you could say that we certainly ‘walked the talk’ when it comes to proving the benefits of clean, healthy and productive indoor air.”

Berner releases Architectural Contour Air Curtain Series

NEW CASTLE, Pennsylvania, 15 June 2022: Air curtain manufacturer, Berner International said it has added the Architectural Contour Air Curtain Series to its Architectural Collection, giving specifiers a technologically advanced design for protecting commercial building main entrances when the door is open.

Making the announcement through a Press release, Berner claimed the Architectural Contour 8 and 10 models feature the HVAC industry’s quietest operation from a high-performance air curtain. The design targets healthcare, hotels, retail, restaurants and other applications, where thermal comfort, front entrance doorway aesthetics and energy savings are critical, the company said.

Air curtain by Berner International

Berner said the Series’ patented, unprecedented aesthetic is the company’s second departure from the industry’s decades-old rectangular box shapes after recently introducing the Architectural Elite.

Featuring a sleek, discreetly contoured cabinet constructed of anodized aluminum, the Architectural Contour complements 21st Century anodized aluminum doorways and metal architecture, the company said.

The Architectural Contour 8 and 10 feature low profiles of 8-1/4 H x 20-inch D (20.9 x 50.8-cm) and 12-3/4 H x 25-3/4 D (30.3 x 60.4-cm) without sacrificing performance for protecting up to eight- and 10-foot-high (2.4- and 3.0-meter) doorway heights, respectively, the company said. Both models – including heating options – are certified under AMCA-220, which qualifies them for the new construction cost-saving vestibule exception, now included in building and energy codes, ASHRAE 90.1-2019; the IECC -2015; and the IgCC, the company added.

According to the company, the Architectural Contour equals the aesthetics of the Architectural Collection’s full-featured, Golden Ratio-inspired Architectural Elite air curtain, but offers an economical alternative. Specifiers can add the Elite’s standard features as à la carte options to the Contour, such as electronically commutated (EC) motors or the Berner AIR smart controller and app, the company said. When combined with the Collection’s entry level Architectural Low Profile 8 and High Performance 10 models, the Contour and Elite offer building owners a diverse “good, better, best” selection, respectively, the company claimed.

According to Berner, all air curtains in the Architectural Collection use the company’s factory-installed Intelliswitch digital controller platform, which features pre-set programs, a time clock, time delay, built-in thermostat, 10-speed fan control, and other integrated, end-user-customizable features. The optional Berner AIR smart controller and app, the company said, can be added to the platform, allowing operation and monitoring from a smartphone. The Berner AIR, it added, includes true BACnet integration and a proactive adaptive setting based on the weather.

According to the company, the Contour and Elite models are the industry’s quietest high-performance air curtains. These patented designs combine out-of-sight top intake panels; Berner’s patented high-efficiency, low-noise, articulating Pro-V Nozzle; and quiet-running 1/5th-HP AC or EC motor choices, the company said. Depending on the selected motor and speed, the company added, typical operating noise is 49 to 55-dB, which is similar to a coffee percolator or quieter than normal conversation.

Camfil launches virtual city

STOCKHOLM, Sweden, 7 June 2022: Camfil highlighted how most people, in fact 99% of the world breathes air containing levels of pollutants that exceed WHO guideline limits, for what is considered to be healthy. The occasion was the launch of Camfil City, a virtual world with solutions for air quality challenges.

Camfil said the motivation for launching the City hinged on the need for clean air, considering that people spend 90% of their time indoors and that it is primarily indoors that they can protect themselves from air pollution.

According to Camfil, the City is a virtual world providing information and product solutions for air quality challenges. Camfil said it developed the 3D virtual world as a digital tool for its customers and potential new customers.

Martin Hellsten, Camfil City project lead, said, “Camfil City is an online 3D application inviting people to move around in a virtual urban setting and learn the basics about how Camfil’s air filter solutions can make air clean, safe and healthy.”  

Camfil City lies on a hill, surrounded by a green landscape and the blue sea. It comprises several buildings. Customers can explore buildings in industries such as beverage production, data centres, hospitals and clinics, museums, offices, schools and universities, warehouse distribution facilities, restaurants, metalworking units and life sciences, Camfil said, adding that it intends to add more building types. “We know that users would like to have Camfil City load quickly and run smoothly, regardless of where you are in the world, so we designed the application to meet these demands,” Hellsten said.  

According to Camfil, particular attention has been given to the user experience to ensure a fun, informative and useful application. On entering Camfil City, the visitor can have a look inside a specific industry environment and, subsequently, can click, drag and spin the city around to reach a range of industry buildings, Camfil said. With another pinch zoom on a mobile device or scroll on a desktop, the visitor can click a hotspot and access the inside of the building and explore air concerns and possible solutions, the company added.

Lori Heck, 3D Artist and Design Manager, Camfil USA, said: “I aimed to create all the 3D artwork for Camfil City at a high-quality, visually appealing level, yet be able to ensure fast load times and a great user experience for Camfil’s current and potential customers. The site is both, fun and educational.”

The hotspots show where the visitor can interact with the city to get more information, Camfil said. In the city overview, the hotspots are placed on buildings that represent industries. By clicking a building hotspot, the visitor travels into that building. In a building, the visitor would get another set of hotspots, situated in the different rooms, representing the application in the industry, Camfil said. By clicking the hotspots, the visitor can read about the different concerns that they might have in the application and what solutions Camfil offers to solve them, the company added.  

Hellsten said: “Not all people who purchase our products are experts in air filtration, and they shouldn’t have to be, either. The purpose of Camfil City is to give everyone a chance to learn the basics of what our clean air solutions can do for them. We believe that this is not just for future Camfil customers. We also see this application as a valuable tool for our existing customers to discover what Camfil has to offer in a new and highly accessible way.”

Condair appoints new BDM for Saudi Arabia

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, 8 May 2022: Humidity control and evaporative cooling company, Condair has appointed Shadi Abdulrahim as its new Business Development Manager for Saudi Arabia. Making the announcement through a Press release, Condair said Shadi has joined Condair as an experienced sales manager in the engineering and construction sectors. Based in Riyadh, he has taken on the responsibility for expanding sales of Condair’s humidifiers, dehumidifiers and evaporative cooling systems across the region, the company added.

Mahmoud Widyan, General Manager, Condair Middle East, said: “We are delighted to be welcoming such an experienced business development manager to our team. For many years, Condair has operated successfully across Saudi through its distributor partners and will continue to do so. This investment in the region will further support and grow sales, and it is an indication of the potential we see in the Saudi market.”

Shadi Abdulrahim

Abdulrahim said: “Condair is a global leader in humidifiers, dehumidifiers and evaporative cooling technologies. I feel very proud to have been given this opportunity to lead Condair’s operations in the region and expand the company’s sales. There has never been a more important time to be working in the building services sector and a greater need to improve our Indoor Air Quality for the benefit of society.

Condair’s products offer enhanced health to building occupants through mitigating airborne viral transmission, as well as improved productivity to manufacturers. I am sure that the comprehensive product range Condair has and the technical expertise from my previous roles will help in achieving our company’s expectations and targets.”

JCI: Investments in sustainability have rebounded to pre-pandemic levels

CORK, Ireland, 12 April 2022: Johnson Controls (JCI) announced findings from its 15th annual Energy Efficiency Indicator Survey, which revealed that 62% of organizations surveyed expect to increase investments in energy efficiency, renewable energy or smart building technology in 2022, indicating a return to pre-pandemic levels. 

JCI said the latest report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change advised that global scale transformation is urgently needed to combat climate change; however, its Energy Efficiency Indicator Survey found that organizations are still facing challenges to accelerate their sustainability efforts in key areas. Almost two-thirds of survey respondents say they struggle to scale sustainability initiatives across buildings, geographies or business units.  

“In the face of the multiple and continuous shock waves of the last two years, it is very encouraging to see that building owners and operators are driving forward the kinds of investments that deliver the resilience needed to grow their business and attract and retain the best talent,” said Katie McGinty, Vice President & Chief Sustainability and External Relations Officer, JCI.

“Whether it is the damage delivered by climate-charged destructive natural events, or the health threat of the pandemic, or now, the stark demonstration of the insecurity of world energy supplies, it is clear that taking action to cut energy demand while decarbonizing and cleaning the air are core strategies for companies, governments and institutions to not only survive but to thrive.

Our innovative technologies in heat pumps and our OpenBlue digital platform, plus our Net Zero as a Service partnership offering, are exactly the right tools at the right time for leaders determined to stay well ahead of challenges and deliver new opportunities for their business or organization.” 

JCI said the survey revealed that planned investment in energy generation or storage has grown significantly over five years, likely in response to the global focus on decarbonization, and as part of that effort, electrification.

More than a third of respondents plan to replace fossil fuel heating equipment with heat pump technology in the next year, which is seven per cent more than what was implemented in the year prior, the company said. Notably, thermal energy storage jumped from 27% to 42% in the last five years, the company said. More than half of respondents implemented electric energy storage in the past year, the company added. 

JCI said the survey also found that the United States and Europe still lead the way in every metric of green building planning. The United States had the most respondents who had already achieved green building certification and expect to have a net-zero-energy or carbon building in the next 10 years, JCI said.

Europe had the most respondents planning to attain green building certifications and the most respondents who have established public energy or carbon-reduction goals, with United Kingdom leading with 46% established goals, JCI added. 

Compared to its global counterparts, significantly more respondents in the United States plan to implement measures, such as building controls improvements, onsite renewable energy and energy management process, such as ISO 50001, JCI said. Of the countries surveyed, the United Kingdom, France and Japan have the most respondents who expect to increase investment in energy efficiency, renewable energy or smart building technology over the next year, the company said. Still, to reach global sustainability and environmental goals, the world must work collectively to plan for a more energy efficient future and make investments today for the generations to come, it added. 

Although global-scale transformation is necessary to course-correct on climate change, organisations are facing barriers to pursuing sustainability initiatives, JCI said. Almost half of the respondents surveyed say their top barrier to pursue energy and building technology improvements is either a lack of funding to pay for improvements (25%) or uncertainty in their return-on-investment (23%), the company said. 

Additionally, more than half of respondents pointed to a lack of technology as one of the hindrances to scaling sustainability efforts, JCI said. 

The pandemic has also prompted organizations to rethink their technology investment decision-making, JCI said. Protecting the health and safety of building occupants during the coronavirus pandemic was the second most significant driver of investments globally, it said. Additionally, 65% of respondents performed an indoor air quality assessment last year, it added. 

Respondents to the survey also said improving occupant health and wellness overall and improving life safety and security were important decision-making factors, JCI pointed out. Over the next 12 months, almost 60% of organizations plan to invest in fire and life safety system and security system improvements to their buildings, it said. Long term, more than two-thirds of organizations believe data analytics and cybersecurity will have an extremely or very significant impact on the implementation of smart buildings over the next five years, it added. 

The survey revealed that actionable policies are also important for progressing energy efficiency goals, JCI said, adding that 85% and 72% of respondents, respectively, reported that performance benchmarking, certifications and performance standards for energy codes are critical to improving energy efficiency efforts. 

JCI said its Energy Efficiency Indicator Survey collected responses from 1,000 participants globally between November and December 2021. 

Poppy introduces IT-based IAQ solution at EXPO 2020 seminar

DUBAI, UAE, 21 March 2022: Canada-headquartered Poppy, which calls itself the world’s first biosafety intelligence company, introduced its IT-based IAQ devices to the MENA region during a seminar at the Canada Pavilion, at the World Expo in Dubai.

Mohammed Bin Dasmal

Opening the seminar, Nader Arafat, Strategic Advisor, MENA Region, Poppy, spoke of the pandemic ushering in a mindset shift towards Indoor Air Quality (IAQ). Speaking after him, Mohammed Bin Dasmal, Managing Director, Bin Dasmal Group, called Poppy’s devices as focusing on IAQ as well as on energy savings.

Sam Molyneux, Co-Founder & Co-CEO, Poppy, elaborated on Bin Dasmal’s pithy description during his presentation. Saying that the world needs to protect itself from future pandemics, he said it is important to understand indoor safety and the cost of enhancing safety. Making clean air in a cost-effective way is a global priority, he added.

Referring to the high-profile Guangzhou restaurant, the site of the precipitous outbreak of COVID-19, in the period starting from January 26 to February 10, 2020, Molyneux highlighted how a small air conditioning system was able to propagate the virus and raised ventilation concerns. In view of that, he said, in some senses, ventilation is the last stand against COVID-19. Poppy systems, he said, help in making ventilation decisions, including demand-control ventilation, as a means to achieving IAQ goals without compromising on energy efficiency targets.

Nader Arafat and Sam Molyneux

The devices, Molyneux said, available on subscription basis, detect and identify over 1,000+ pathogens, including SARS-CoV-2 and its variants, using genomic sequencing and molecular assays. They allow the company to collect data related to human breath, which in turn, allow understanding on how human breath moves, which he said is crucial, considering everyone is constantly breathing out particles that contain viruses.

The data, and the understanding of the data, he said, enable the company to validate how air conditioning systems are performing and, broadly speaking, provide insights and a direction for action to protect indoor spaces and occupants.

Molyneux said the company has deployed Poppy systems in 50 sites across North America and Europe, including factories, financial institutions, schools and entertainment venues. He gave the example of Poppy systems at work at the largest investment bank in Manhattan, in New York City, where the company is able to monitor the air quality in the trading floor, among other zones of the building and identify if any zones have high transmission issues that need to be looked into.

He also gave the example of the Four Seasons Center for the Performing Arts, in Toronto, Canada, where Poppy systems are at work monitoring and providing recommendations, so that the Center is able to run its operas again. “We are able to recommend increasing the ventilation rates in hotspots, which is a localised approach, and reducing ventilation rates globally,” Molyneux said. “So, we are able to achieve energy savings.”

‘One for the books’: Organisers of HVACR mega show, AHR Expo, say

WESTPORT, Connecticut, 10 February 2022: The AHR Expo returned last week to Vegas after a forced hiatus in 2021, International Exposition Company (IEC), the organisers of the show, said through a news release.

After two years of uncertainty and a longing to reunite the industry, the event represented an eagerness to return to business, drawing 30,678 attendees, IEC said. What’s more, the success of the show signals a reignited energy for all things HVACR and the community’s readiness to take on the challenges and opportunities ahead with renewed optimism, IEC said. “It was impossible to miss the energy in the halls this year,” said Mark Stevens, Show Manager.

“There have been some heavy ups and downs across the industry in recent years, and we, as a community, needed to feel the inspiration that happens when we gather together under one roof. The 2022 AHR Expo surpassed any expectation – our exhibitors, attendees, associations, speakers and everyone involved made this event one of the most special we’ve ever hosted. If you were there, the camaraderie was hard to miss. This industry is strong, and we are back on track to tackle the challenges before us.”

According to IEC, attendees were eager to be back in the booths experiencing new products and methods that support their work in the field. It was evident from every corner of the show floor that this industry is bursting with prospects, IEC added. “My main reason for attending the AHR Expo is the whole experience,” said Arizona tradesman and first-time attendee, Brendan Bowie.

“You get to meet all the people who make the things that we buy and look up to and use every day. It is a lot of the vendors that we spend money with, because they make superior products. I talked to presidents and CEOs of companies that I buy products from every day, every week, every month. Instagram stories are not going to tell what AHR is, it’s the whole experience. Going to AHR matters, because you have to see what’s going on out there. I had the opportunity to see so much new. We’re trapped in vans every day on the job, you need to see what’s out there.”

According to IEC, a total of 1,573 exhibitors spread out over 443,769 square feet in the Central and North halls, packing the floor with an explosion of innovation and new products. Given the time apart, there was plenty to take in, as exhibitors launched new technology, products and ideas that came to life since we last gathered in Orlando, IEC said. “We and our [manufacturer] member companies that exhibited were very pleased with the quality of the Las Vegas Expo,” said Stephen Yurek, President & CEO, AHRI.

“We heard comment after comment about the quality and number of attendees and how grateful everyone was to get back together with their industry colleagues and customers. We are grateful to our [manufacturer] members for moving ahead with what turned out to be a really good show, and we look forward to seeing some of them in Guadalajara in September and more of them next year in Atlanta.”

According to IEC, inside the exhibitor booths, this year, company reps and attendees were busy catching up on lost time. The challenges in the supply chain and other COVID-related delays have opened the door for new ways of thinking about partnerships, IEC said. Emerson, one of the exhibitors, endorsed the organizer’s statement.

“Emerson has always valued the customer engagement opportunities provided by the AHR Expo and the forum to showcase our sustainable solutions that are helping to reduce global impact while improving comfort, efficiency, performance and food safety in the HVACR industry,” said John Schneider, President, HVACR Technologies Americas, Emerson.

“After last year’s pause, the Expo provided a much-needed, in-person touchpoint, and we were thrilled to have our valued customers join us in celebrating our Copeland brand’s 100-year milestone during our pre-show customer event. This year, we also sponsored the Podcast Pavilion, which was a great opportunity for us to align with industry influencers as their role in this industry continues to expand.

Ultimately, all our businesses and brands experienced a great turnout, and we are looking forward to even more attendance in 2023.” Added Sarah Beyerlein, Everwell Parts: “It does not matter where you come from or where in the industry you’re involved in, the AHR Expo is the most remarkable yearly event where we all share our passion and expertise in the HVAC industry. It cannot be missed out.”

Innovation sets the course

On Monday, January 31, the show celebrated the 2022 Innovation Award Winners with a private reception. Members from each winning company were invited to share food and drink and be among industry cohorts also being recognized as leaders in shaping the future of HVACR, IEC said. The 2022 AHR Expo Innovation Award Product of the Year Award, IEC said, went to Danfoss, for their Danfoss Turbocor VTCA400 Compressor, a winner in the Cooling category. Lisa Tryson, Market Communications Director, Danfoss, said: “Danfoss is honored to be recognized with the product of the year award for our VTCA400 oil-free compressor. Our industry is at the forefront of many critical trends, and innovation is vital to meet the challenges ahead. The AHR Expo is a great way to showcase these latest technologies.”

Stevens, speaking on behalf of the organizer, said: “We were honored to celebrate our 2022 winners with a more intimate celebration. The pace they each are setting for the future of HVACR is astounding, and collectively in each of the sectors they are raising the bar on how we are shaping the industry. Congratulations to all our 2022 winners, and to Danfoss for their leadership in innovation. As the industry looks ahead to changes on the horizon for HVACR, innovation from our exhibiting companies continues to push to new levels.”

Partnerships born through crucial in-person networking help to propel new ideas into the marketplace, IEC said. Jacques Beaudry-Losique, CEO, Enginuity Power Systems, said: “The AHR Expo is an environment uniquely suited to making high-level connections and business partnerships, as well as finding the latest state-of-the-art appliance product technology as well as supply chain and distribution channels. We were honored to be awarded the 2022 Sustainable Solutions Innovation Award, further validating our products to help homes and businesses save energy and achieve their sustainability goals.”

Education Program… something for everyone

In the Education Program, attendees were invited to sit in on more than 80 free sessions, covering topics from a wide range of industry experts, IEC said. Added to the roster this year was an industry panel discussion led by leaders representing all sectors of the industry, including Mick Schwedler, 2021-2022 President, ASHRAE; Yurek; Talbot Gee, CEO, Heating, Air Conditioning, Refrigeration Distributors (HARDI); Roberta MacGillivray, President, National Air Filtration Association (NAFA); and Dominick Guarino, CEO, National Comfort Institute (NCI). Bryan Orr, of HVAC School for Tech by Techs, and industry podcaster and well-known training advocate, moderated the panel, which included a discussion on the current state of HVACR as well as threats and opportunities as the industry recalibrates to a new normal post-pandemic.

Speaking during the discussion, Yurek said: “Our focus used to be on the box, on the equipment and the installation of it. Now, we need to address the entire HVAC system to provide efficiency and comfort. The change we will see over the next few years will be nothing we’ve seen before.” Schwedler said: “Our industry has never been more essential. The public became aware of what our industry does. We are fully connected as a world, with more people involved in problem-solving.” And MacGillivray said: “Before COVID-19, there was a tradeoff between energy efficiency and human health. As we solve the pandemic issue, we must continue our focus on how IAQ affects human health and productivity.”

Additional education program highlights included an overview of intellectual property in HVACR, by Wil Rao, an IP and Patent attorney in the greater Chicago area; a breakdown of warranty and callbacks from Bryan Orr; lessons learned from the supply chain, a panel discussion hosted by HARDI and moderated by the HVAC Jerks; and many more targeted discussions highlighting current opportunities, threats and methods across the industry. “It is absolutely fantastic to see the AHR Expo make such a strong comeback in Las Vegas,” said Jeff Littleton, ASHRAE Executive Vice President. “Bringing professionals from around the world back together to learn and share new technologies, with health and safety as a top priority, affords us the opportunity to continue moving the critical work of our industry forward.”

Strength in community

Perhaps one of the most inspiring sentiments shared throughout the floor this year was the sense of community that HVACR embraces, IEC said. Many of the industry’s workforce remained on the frontlines throughout the pandemic and relied on the daily connection with professionals through social media and other points of communication, it said adding there was an overwhelming sense of relief and contentment to be gathering again face to face at the industry’s largest event. “My first AHR was amazing, I really enjoyed meeting my social media community in person,” said Ashley Lynds, Texas tradeswoman Ashley Lynds. “Everyone was so welcoming, and I was able to network and make additional connections for future business. I can’t wait for Atlanta!”

The Podcast Pavilion returned for its second year as a show feature, IEC said, adding it was a clear fan favorite, as attendees packed the pavilions each day for live recordings from their favorite industry talents. Eric Aune, with Mechanical Hub, said: “We’ve been attending this show for over a decade. This year was different, there was a new connection with social media and a great podcast lineup. I like the direction they are taking things.”

Until we meet again

AHR Expo will head back to Atlanta for the 2023 show, bringing with it the positive energy established in Vegas, IEC said. Eager exhibitors have already reserved booths and discussions of travel plans among attendees are underway, IEC revealed, adding that it’s safe to say we are back to business! “Vegas is one for the books,” Stevens said. “We’ve been hosting this show for many years, and while it is always a great showing of our industry, this year felt like a new chapter for HVACR. We are a strong community, and we now have the attention this industry deserves to thrive on the global stage.

“We look forward to hosting many of our international attendees who couldn’t make it this year because of travel restrictions and supply chain issues. We have big problems to solve and hefty aspirations to meet, as our industry touches literally every part of society and our everyday lives.

The success of the 2022 AHR Expo is proof that we are poised to take on anything together. We are all excited to be a part of such a vibrant community, and we look forward to planning a stellar show for you in Atlanta. We’ll see you soon!”

According to IEC, the 2023 AHR Expo will take place at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Georgia. Registration will open in summer 2022.

ASHRAE wraps up first hybrid Winter Conference

ATLANTA, Georgia, 4 February 2022: More than 2,800 HVACR industry professionals, building systems engineers, architects, contractors and students gathered in Las Vegas and virtually from January 29 to February 2 for the 2022 ASHRAE Winter Conference, ASHRAE said through a Press release. Registered conference attendees received entry to the co-sponsored AHR Expo, held from January 31 to February 2 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, ASHRAE added.

“This year’s Conference and Expo marked the first time that the Society has been together for our Winter Conference in two years and the return to the AHR Expo after last year’s cancellation,” said Mick Schwedler, 2021-22 ASHRAE President. “While the numbers are expectedly lower than past conferences, in-person attendance still exceeded our expectations, and our virtual attendees added a welcomed dynamic to our sessions. We are grateful to everyone involved in establishing a comprehensive health and safety plan for our attendees, which included guidance provided by the ASHRAE Epidemic Task Force.”

According to ASHRAE, the Winter Conference featured over 50 technical sessions, updates from Society leaders, tours, social events and livestreamed sessions for virtual attendees. Top sessions included Introduction of Building Decarbonization, HVAC Design, Control and Operation of Hospitals After COVID-19 Fiasco and CPS 21: Refining ASHRAE COVID Guidelines and Standard 100, ASHRAE said.

According to ASHRAE, the AHR Expo offered a total of 1,573 exhibitors, with 281 international exhibitors, occupying 443,769 square feet of exhibit space in the Las Vegas Convention Center. More than 43,000 people pre-registered to attend the show, including 130 media representatives, ASHRAE said.

At the Winter Conference, Schwedler provided updates related to the Society’s current theme, “Personal Growth. Global Impact. Feed the Roots”, ASHRAE said. He focused on personal development and how the Society’s extraordinary global growth and impact to the built environment has nourished the roots of the global HVACR industry, ASHRAE added.

“When we concentrate on our mission and vision and talk about our impacts – we make the world more sustainable and resilient to future changes,” Schwedler said. “We reduce both energy utilization intensity and environmental emissions. We helped mitigate a global pandemic by keeping vaccines cold – and their efficacy high – 40% of the world’s food spoils between the field and consumption. We reduce that. And most importantly, we keep students and staff in schools, and occupants of the built environment safe and healthy.”

During the plenary session of the Conference, Jeff Littleton, Executive Vice President and Secretary, ASHRAE, reported on the Society’s current initiatives, as well as the dedication of ASHRAE volunteers during the pandemic. “A Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Board subcommittee is focused on proactively driving diversity, equity and inclusion at all levels of the Society,” Littleton said. “Task groups have been formed to drive Society strategies on decarbonization and on international standards. We’ve released 14 new and 24 revised publications and standards.

Examples of new publications include the ASHRAE Design Guide for Natural Ventilation and the ASHRAE Guide for HVAC in Hazardous Spaces. We’ve even released the children’s book, Lucy’s Engineering Adventure. The commitment of ASHRAE’s entire global membership to the Society’s work has never wavered during the pandemic. I find that truly remarkable. When so much of our professional and personal lives has been disrupted, some 7,000 ASHRAE volunteers at the society, regional and chapter levels continue to drive ASHRAE forward.”

ASHRAE said an honors and awards ceremony, tied to the Conference, was an occasion for recognizing experienced and emerging leaders in the industry. Record-breaking polar explorer, Ann Daniels, closed the plenary session with an inspiring presentation on good leadership, teamwork and self-belief.

The ASHRAE Learning Institute (ALI) offered 17 courses. According to ASHRAE, new courses were as follows: Advanced High-Performance Building Designs: Key Concepts for Lifelong Building Sustainability; V in HVAC – What, Why, Where, How, and How Much (includes Basic Requirements of Standard 62.1-2019); Best Practices for Installing DDC Systems; Save 40% by Complying with Standard 90.1-2019; Principles of Building Commissioning: ASHRAE Guideline 0 and Standard 202; Guideline 36: Best in Class HVAC Control Sequences; Changing Environments and Loads for Data Centers (High Density, Liquid Cooling, Edge Computing); and Health Impacts of Indoor Air Extraction, Ventilation, and Filtration – Same or Different.

ASHRAE said all registered attendees, both in-person and virtual, would have access to the virtual conference environment for 12 months, post-conference. Registration, the Society said, is still open for access to the virtual conference until January 2023 at ashrae.org/2022winter.

ASHRAE said the 2022 ASHRAE Annual Conference will take place from June 25 to June 29 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The 2023 Winter Conference will take place from February 4 to 8, and the AHR Expo, from February 6 to 8, in Atlanta, Georgia.  

AprilAire, Airthings announce IAQ-related strategic partnership at AHR Expo

LAS VEGAS, Nevada, 31 January 2022: AprilAire, which supplies Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) solutions for the home, announced a strategic partnership with Airthings, a global technology company that produces IAQ monitors for radon and other dangerous airborne contaminants that impact overall health and wellness.

Making the announcement through a joint Press release, the two companies said the partnership is rooted in addressing a common issue for homeowners everywhere: People spend more than 90% of their time indoors, but most are unaware of their home’s IAQ – and when they identify a problem, they typically do not have the knowledge and expertise to remedy the situation effectively.

The new AprilAire and Airthings partnership, the companies said, is a ground-breaking, full circle integration that combines detection, education and mitigation to offer contractors an intelligent air quality solution tailored specifically to their customer’s lifestyle and living environment.  

Airthings’ monitors help people learn about their IAQ and identify problems utilizing the brand’s line of smart air quality sensors to intelligently monitor conditions in the home, the two companies said. AprilAire helps solve air quality problems with the AprilAire Healthy Air System and the complete line of whole-home healthy air solutions and nationwide network of top HVAC experts trained to install them, the companies added.  

In partnership, the brands will now provide consumers with a one-stop shop, combining the best in radon and air quality monitoring with the best solutions to manage air purity, humidity, fresh air supply, radon mitigation and temperature, the two companies claimed.

“We are proud to partner with Airthings, a company whose purpose so closely aligns with our own of making homes healthy,” said Dale Philippi, President and CEO, AprilAire. “Together, we will increase awareness of the impact the air we breathe in our homes has on our health and wellbeing and the availability of effective professional solutions to deliver healthy air. Working with Airthings, our network of healthy air experts will be better able to tailor solutions to address homeowner concerns.”  

Airthings will integrate its flagship air quality monitor, View Plus, as a core component of the AprilAire partnership solution, the two companies said. View Plus, launched in 2021, is a comprehensive and advanced consumer air quality monitor on the market, tracking seven air quality components, including particulate matter, CO2 and radon, the companies claimed. AprilAire recently added Radon Mitigation Systems to its healthy air solutions portfolio to control radon, the leading cause of lung cancer for non-smokers, the companies said.

Equipped with hub functionality, View Plus will enable HVAC professionals to remotely monitor air quality in the homes they service while also providing full air quality visibility to the homeowners themselves, the companies said. When problems arise, the professional receives automatic notifications and can take immediate mitigation actions, the companies said. The newly formed alliance between AprilAire and Airthings will help consumers access information on their air quality with more clarity, and expert consultation than ever before, enabling them to make informed decisions, the companies added.  

Oyvind Birkenes, CEO, Airthings, said: “Our new partnership with AprilAire helps consumers navigate complex decisions in a convenient way. Indoor air quality can be a real threat to our health and well-being, which is why proactive monitoring is essential. However, when problems arise, the next steps can seem daunting. By teaming up with AprilAire, our hope is that when people encounter indoor air quality issues, they’ll turn to us to evaluate the situation, diagnose the problem, and develop recommendations and solutions to mitigate the situation if necessary – providing peace of mind to people everywhere.”

Airius launches new BACnet MS/TP fan controller

LAS VEGAS, Nevada, 31 January 2022: Colorado-based Airius, focused on air movement and Indoor Air Quality (IAQ), announced the release of its new BACnet MS/TP destratification fan controller during the 2022 AHR Expo. The company made the announcement through a Press release.

“With our BACnet fan control integrated into your network, you can take better control of your building’s stratification issues, save money and improve building comfort by achieving the operational excellence you desire,” said Christian Avedon, Director of Sales & Marketing, Airius. “By providing improved control and monitoring, our new fan controller empowers you to command your facilities and provide a more consistent and comfortable environment.”

According to Airius, the destratification fan controller provides individual Airius fan control and status integration over the BACnet MS/TP network. Up to 63 fans can be connected per MS/TP network, and multiple networks can be created for integration of hundreds of fans, the company said. The new controller is easy to configure and install, with no software needed, enabling building owners and facility managers to monitor their Airius fan system, reduce their energy consumption and improve the comfort of their buildings, the company added.

According to Airius, additional features of the new controller include:

On/off, fan speed control and revolutions-per-minute (RPM) monitoring

Compatibility with electronically commutated (EC) motors

UL-accepted for use in plenum, NEMA 1-enclosed housing

Easy system addressing and baud rate changes through dual inline package (DIP) switch settings

Belimo launches IAQ gas monitoring devices

DANBURY, Connecticut, 24 January 2022: Belimo launched vehicle emission and IAQ gas monitoring devices to the US market. Making the announcement through a Press release, the company said Belimo Holdings AG acquired Opera Electronics in 2021 and has worked diligently towards a harmonious and seamless integration. The gas monitors, the company said, provide accurate and reliable measurements, and detect and control toxic gases in commercial buildings.

According to Belimo…

  • An intelligent and standalone peer-to-peer communication protocol provides users unparalleled flexibility to configure and install a complete ventilation control system with only one monitor or dozens operating in multiple ventilation zones.
  • The monitors are factory-calibrated and can measure one or two gases and control ventilation directly.
  • They communicate (up to 32) via chain network – enhanced communication, enabling expanded system integration and BMS control with BACnet MSTP.
  • The modular, weather-resistant enclosure of the monitors features a lockable LCD and adjustable audio, light and strobe alarm.
  • “Plug and Play” interchangeable sensing elements allow for easy calibration and gas monitoring devices to simultaneously measure up to two different gases.
  • Combined CANbus and BACnet MS/TP networking allow standalone operation or seamless integration into the BMS.
  • Onboard analog outputs and relays allow on-demand ventilation without the need for an additional controller.

Belimo said its gas monitors are an ideal solution for fresh air control in conference rooms, meeting rooms, restaurants, public spaces, indoor parking garages, municipal maintenance facilities, bus terminals, automobile dealerships, hospital parking for ambulances and visitors.

‘Clean up indoor air, or else expect COVID to surge’

TROY, New York, 21 August 2021: An air quality engineer warned that the COVID-19 pandemic won’t end until Americans clean up the indoor air.

Jeremy McDonald

“With variants on the rise, all the talk this summer has been about vaccines,” said Jeremy McDonald, Vice President at New York-based firm, Guth DeConzo Consulting. “Now we’re hearing about masks again, which feels like a step back for most of us. But when it comes to preventing the spread of airborne viruses, like COVID-19, we also have to improve the quality of the air in our indoor spaces. As the seasons change, it seems like we’re going back to old, tired strategies that haven’t gotten us out of this mess. It’s time to listen to the engineers: It’s all about the air.”

Mc Donald on July 26 published an essay, titled ‘Moving Beyond COVID-19: It’s Time to Look at the Air We Breathe’, in which he argued that President Joe Biden’s ‘American Jobs Plan’ must include improvements to the indoor air quality (IAQ) infrastructure, if Americans are to finally beat the COVID-19 pandemic and improve defenses against future pandemics and common day-to-day air quality maladies. Toward the end of July, COVID-19 cases began to surge in parts of the United States, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised its mask guidance to once again recommend that Americans wear masks indoors, even if vaccinated.

McDonald encouraged improvements to ventilation and the use of high-performance air filters and other air purification technologies, where appropriate. Buildings that have deferred maintenance and investment in modern HVAC may require more complicated and expensive solutions, he said.

“Although some buildings may require an expensive investment, we need to weigh this against the cost of our health and well-being,” McDonald wrote in his essay. “Certainly, when considering our health, fixing ‘sick’ buildings is a much better choice than fixing ‘sick’ people.”

Yet, McDonald said, there are plenty of low-cost or no-cost solutions that can drastically improve IAQ, such as cracking a window, which reduces the intensity and quantity of virus particles and their ability to spread to more people, using air purification technologies, and simply ensuring that buildings meet the spirit of building code requirements for minimal fresh air for buildings.

Saying that there is a historical precedent for this common sense strategy, McDonald noted in his essay: “In response to the Pandemic of 1918, when more than 20,000 New Yorkers died, ventilation was seen as one of the key attributes to protect residents from the devastation of the pandemic. Back then, New York City officials dictated that building heating systems were to be designed and sized to operate with all the windows open, since it was recognized that ventilation was key to purge the virus from indoor spaces. If it worked 100 years ago, it will work today.”

One of the main challenges in getting people to pay more attention to poor indoor air quality is that the problem is invisible, an issue McDonald commented on in an original cartoon he commissioned to get his point across. In the first panel of the cartoon, two fish swim in a bowl. One fish says, “I think the poor quality of the water is making us sick.” The other fish asks, “What’s water?” In the second panel, two office workers and an HVAC engineer stand near the same fishbowl. “Glad to be done with masks, sanitizers and social distancing forever!” says one office worker. “If we don’t improve our air quality in our buildings, we will keep getting sick in the future,” the engineer chimes in. “The air looks good to me,” says the other office worker. Beside her, one of the fish in the bowl is floating upside down with Xs for eyes, indicating it has died. The caption below the cartoon reads, “We don’t know who discovered water, but we’re pretty sure it wasn’t a fish,” which is a modern proverb attributed to various sources. That saying, McDonald asserted, sums up our own troubled relationship to air quality – because air is so fundamental to our existence, most of us don’t even think about it. But HVAC engineers think about air every day, all day, and it’s time to listen to them in the fight against airborne illness, he added.

“My frustration, which motivates me to write and speak out on the issue of air quality, is that our leaders are not getting it, and they aren’t listening to engineers,” McDonald said. “But the public health officials aren’t really talking about indoor air quality either, so a lot of politicians probably don’t want to go against the narrative.”

McDonald said that some of the anti-vaccine sentiments may stem from incomplete messaging that does not address indoor air quality. “Some of the resistance to masks and vaccines might be because people know in the back of their mind there’s something missing from the common messaging that is ringing hollow 18 months into this pandemic,” McDonald said. “We are constantly hearing, ‘Wash your hands, wear a mask and socially distance, where possible. We need to add simple, yet time-tested, ventilation strategies to our messaging, which we all know implicitly makes sense to folks from all political persuasions.” Perhaps with improved messaging from our leaders and initiatives to fix our broken HVAC systems, we can truly address this pandemic without arguing about the viability of masking and vaccines, he added.

McDonald said he is clear that vaccines are a key tool in beating this pandemic. But, without addressing the fundamental issue of indoor air quality, he said, we may be putting a “BAND-AID” on the current problem, missing out on the opportunity to improve public health for the long term.

DriSteem introduces Buyer’s Guide

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minnesota, 17 August 2021: DRI-STEEM Corporation, manufacturer of humidification, evaporative cooling and water treatment products, announced the  introduction of a new buyer’s guide focused on humidification for electronics manufacturing.

DriSteem said it knows the importance of maintaining the appropriate humidity level within electronics manufacturing facilities, as proper relative humidity (RH) levels between 30% and 70% can significantly help decrease damage and stress to electronic components. When humidity levels are greater than 70%, corrosion can become an issue, the company said. In a controlled environment, manufacturers experience a reduction of electrostatic discharge, fewer brittle components, and fewer issues with soldering and de-soldering; they as well are able to create a safe environment for staff, the company added.

“This specific buyer’s guide is positioned to educate facility directors at electronics manufacturing plants about the importance of maintaining proper humidity to not only protect the products they are developing but to also keep workers safe and healthy,” said Randall Potter, Business Development Leader, DriSteem. “Many facility directors have expressed a need for educational materials and meetings. This buyers guide is an easily accessible way to help educate building management about the importance of humidity and how best to manage it throughout a facility.”

ASHRAE announces call for abstracts for 2022 Annual Conference

ATLANTA, Georgia, 16 August 2021: ASHRAE announced it is accepting abstracts for the 2022 ASHRAE Annual Conference, from June 25 to 29, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

 

According to ASHRAE, the conference will address the changes to buildings created by the pandemic and will present papers and programs that are pertinent to the future of the built-environment.

 

“As we move into 2022 and face climate extremes and natural disasters along with the pandemic, buildings continue to be critical to our everyday lives,” said Kristen Cetin, Conference Chair. “These commercial, industrial and residential buildings, in particular, face an increasingly complex set of competing priorities to balance, as well as an increasing number of technologies and solutions to use and implement. The 2022 ASHRAE Annual Conference focuses on such diverse priorities and methods to address them, while considering the dynamic nature of such priorities over time.”

 

According to ASHRAE, the conference’s technical program comprises eight tracks:

 

The “Buildings in the Aftermath of COVID-19” track highlights the significant impacts on how buildings are used, the priorities associated with building operations to ensure healthy environments for occupants, and the transition to design and operation in the aftermath of the pandemic.

 

The “Connected Buildings, Connected Communities” track focuses on advanced smart building technologies and renewable energy resources, and the coordinated efforts in accomplishing improved building performance and demand flexibility.

 

The “IAQ, Energy Use, Comfort and Health of Sustainable Buildings” track features the following topics, and how they interact and impact one another: Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ), energy use and efficiency, occupant comfort and health, sustainability goals and owner/operator priorities.

 

The “Cold Climate Building System Design, Operation and Resilience” track covers efforts and topics specifically focused on buildings, building systems and equipment in cold, arctic and sub-arctic climates. The track will also cover specific considerations for the building envelope and HVAC&R systems, and the resulting thermal and hygrothermal performance.

 

The “Professional Development” track will cover all aspects of business outside of engineering/technical applications and lends itself to interactive session types, such as workshops and forums.

 

The “HVAC&R Systems and Equipment” track will focus on the development of new systems and equipment, improvements to existing systems and equipment and the proper application and operation of systems and equipment.

 

The “Fundamentals and Applications” track will provide opportunities for papers of varying levels across a large topic base. Concepts, design elements and shared experiences for theoretical and applied concepts of HVAC&R design are included.

 

Finally, the “Research Summit” features active research, and the exchange of research findings, critical to the development of the HVAC&R industry and built environment. The track includes a partnership with ASHRAE’s archival journal, Science and Technology for the Built Environment.

 

ASHRAE said that abstracts – 400 words or less – are due on September 20, 2021. If accepted, final conference papers (8-page maximum) are due on December 1, 2021, it added.

 

In addition, it said, technical papers – complete 30-page maximum papers published in ASHRAE Transactions – are also due September 20, 2021, and considered for Science and Technology for the Built Environment.

 

ASHRAE urged those interested in submitting to visit ashrae.org/2022Annual for more information on the call for abstracts and the 2022 ASHRAE Annual Conference.

Eurovent publishes recommendation on air leakages

BRUSSELS, Belgium, 17 February 2021: The Eurovent Product Group, ‘Air Handling Units’ (PG-AHU) published the first edition of Eurovent Recommendation 6/15 – Air Leakages in Air-Handling Units, Eurovent said through a Press release. The Recommendation presents guidelines for improving Indoor Air Quality and correcting the performance of air-handling units due to internal leakages.

Eurovent Recommendation 6/15 is the first comprehensive publication that gives an in-depth overview of the issue of air leakages in Air Handling Units, including:

  • Explanation of leakage types
  • Reference to related standards and regulations
  • Clarification of leakage indicators
  • Typical leakage rates for various design options
  • Guidance on design, commissioning and maintenance for eliminating or minimising leakages
  • Correction of Air-handling unit performance due to internal leakages

Igor Sikonczyk, Secretary of the Eurovent PG-AHU, said: “The fundamental role of mechanical ventilation is to renew polluted indoor air with fresh outdoor air, in order to provide a safe and healthy indoor environment. One of the problems in achieving this objective is air leakage occurring in the duct network and in the air-handling units. Our new Recommendation sets out the principles for good practices to limit air leakages to ultimately improve Indoor Air Quality and reduce energy consumption.”

According to Eurovent, Recommendation 6/15 is addressed to all ventilation and air conditioning professionals, including system planners, installers and manufacturers. The association added that It is available for download free of charge at the Eurovent Document Web Shop.

Building for the “new normal”

As the world continues to grapple with an ever-shifting economic landscape, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, stakeholders in the building sector across the GCC region have observed how the pandemic has triggered an evaluation and reassessment of priorities. Ashok Jha, Head FM and Retrofit Projects, Universal Voltas, points out that the unprecedented disruption caused by COVID-19 has prompted many organisations to take actions they have been putting off for some time, including launching new digital services and evolving their business models, enabling greater flexibility in their working and implementing cost optimisation measures.

However, Jha says, perhaps the most notable trend would be the move towards a greater number of retrofit projects in the region. “Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the oil prices plummeted to one of the lowest levels and government revenues went down in the GCC region,” he says. “This has led to reduced spending across all sectors, including new construction, with the current market seeing greater push towards shallow retrofitting, deep retrofitting, energy conservation and reducing the building carbon footprint in the existing buildings to make them more sustainable.” Jha says that since the number of existing buildings in Oman, Kuwait and the UAE is very high compared to new buildings, there was also a need to address the physical deterioration of the buildings, due to functional and economic obsolescence, and to make them more sustainable. “Because of this, there is a surge in demand for the retrofitting of the existing buildings across the GCC region,” he says (see sidebar).

Andrea Di Gregorio, Executive Director, Reem, Ras Al Khaimah Municipality, also believes the region is poised to see a strong pipeline of retrofit projects. “More focus is being put in refurbishing existing buildings, to bring them up-to-speed with the latest best practices in sustainability,” he says. “We see an increase in interest from building owners in retrofit activities, and we expect this interest to further increase throughout 2021 and in the coming years.”

Energy efficiency and sustainability 

Another major driver for retrofits is the move towards energy efficient and sustainable practices, which has long been heralded by experts in the sector. Jha points out that because of the detrimental impact of buildings on the environment, with occupied buildings and the construction sector accounting for 36% of the global energy consumption and nearly 40% of total direct and indirect CO2 emissions according to International Energy Agency (IEA), the UAE has begun to actively transition into smart and sustainable cities, which has turned the focus on the energy efficiency of the buildings, specifically existing ones. 

In addition to its impact on overall sustainability efforts, much of the move can be attributed to growing awareness on return of investment in terms of reduced operational cost. As Jha points out, retrofitting primarily refers to the measures being taken to replace legacy energy and utility systems with new and energy-efficient technologies. “These technologies not only reduce energy consumption and decrease carbon emissions but also lower maintenance costs, improve safety, enhance productivity, boost property valuations and also prolong the useful life of the assets and the building as a whole,” he says. “In a nutshell, we can say that OPEX of the building reduces and the asset value increases. Hence, it is becoming important day by day to retrofit buildings to not only make them more sustainable for the future but also to derive economical value by reducing the operational cost and, in turn, optimise the rentals and make them more lucrative for the tenants.”

Weighing in, Di Gregorio says that sustainable buildings often result in lower life cycle cost of the building itself. “If sustainability features are carefully selected, operational savings – in terms of energy and water usage and equipment maintenance – typically exceed any incremental investments that those features require,” he says. “For this reason, in a perfect market, where developers are able to fairly monetise their investments in higher quality buildings, we would expect for tenants any rent premiums for more sustainable buildings to be exceeded by the value of operational savings.”

Jha adds that as energy prices continue to rise, the relative benefits of energy efficiency will become increasingly important, and this is leading to a huge surge in demand for equipment, such as Smart LED lights and motion sensors, air curtains and FAHUs, energy-efficient AHUs, FCUs or split units and VAV systems. This has also led to greater demand for water usage reduction through the use of low-flow fixtures, sensors, waterless urinals and low-flush WCs, and also for photovoltaic panels on rooftops to generate electricity from the solar power, among other solutions. 

A renewed focus on IAQ 

While the return on investment (ROI) from retrofitting for energy efficiency is becoming clear, stakeholders are hopeful that the new wave of retrofits would also accommodate enhancements of indoor air quality (IAQ), which has been typically overlooked over the past years. Di Gregorio says that he believes this would be the case. “There is increasing interest in IAQ, partly driven by COVID-19 concerns,” he says. “Some awareness and technical barriers are there; nonetheless we foresee development in this area in the future.”

Jha shares a similar opinion. He says: “Fear of pandemic is looming large in the minds of the people, and therefore, while carrying out the retrofitting of their buildings, owners are ensuring that retrofit projects also take into consideration IAQ of the buildings, where people are currently spending more than 90% of their time and also to reduce the chances of contamination through virus, bacteria, moulds and fungi.”

Di Gregorio says there is a lot of focus on safety and security from building owners, particularly in what concerns disinfection of common areas. “This sometimes adds to other measures, like filtration, turning into improved air quality,” he says. Jha adds that some of the measures that building owners are taking include Demand Control Ventilation through C02 sensors, fitting volume control dampers, ultraviolet lamps in AHUs, ultraviolet germicide irradiation and MERV 13/14 filters. He further adds that there has been an increase in the use of humidifiers and dehumidifiers to maintain humidity in the range of 40-60%, where the microbial and fungal growth is minimal.

Jha also says that the majority of the offices are allowing their staff to work from home and that people are spending more than 90% of their time indoors. “This further necessitates that apt measures are taken by the occupants to ensure proper lux levels, ergonomics and IAQ, as these will have a profound impact on their health and wellbeing and, in turn, impact their productivity,” he says. “Hence, there cannot be a better time than now to address the Indoor Environment Quality (IEQ) issues, if any.” Jha says these are the factors driving a lot of investment being done by the property owners in the built-environment to retrofit their buildings to ensure proper IAQ against the traditional retrofit, where emphasis was mainly towards energy efficiency.

Making a case for retrofits 

Keeping in mind the tangible and intangible benefits of retrofitting, Di Gregorio believes there is more than enough evidence to drive building owners to invest in such initiatives. “If building owners are not thinking about retrofits, they definitely should!” he says. “Retrofit projects tend to have very favourable returns. We are observing that for comprehensive retrofits of commercial buildings in Ras Al Khaimah, the payback time is 3-5 years. And the contracting standards that are being adopted often provide forms of guarantees for the investor on those returns.”

Jha, agreeing, says that in spite of the change in the occupancy profile of buildings, property owners must continue to retrofit within the built-environment. “Retrofitting of existing buildings offers tremendous opportunities for improving asset performance in terms of utilities,” he says. “Retrofitting also offers a potential upside in the overall performance of the building through improved energy efficiency, increased staff productivity, reduced maintenance costs, and better thermal comfort.” Jha believes that such key drivers should serve as a motivation and incentive for building owners, who are on the fence about investing in retrofit projects.

A complete 180

In view of the shifting political landscape, how will the new administration affect the country’s commitment to climate change mitigation?

It’s going to be a complete 180 from the [Donald] Trump administration. In [Joe] Biden’s plan, he mentions “a historic investment” in upgrading four million commercial buildings to return almost a quarter of the savings from retrofits to cash-strapped state and local governments. Specifically, it says that he will “mobilize a trained and skilled American workforce to manufacture, install, service and maintain high-efficiency LED lighting, electric appliances, and advanced heating and cooling systems that run cleaner and less costly”. 

Given our focus on energy savings, I think that this will be great for business as well as for building owners. Some suggest that large rebates may be involved to directly incentivise businesses and make it affordable to pursue these upgrades. 

That being said, although the Trump administration was not at all focused on energy conservation, I found that individual building owners and managers were still pursuing these measures during the Trump administration. Most organisations in the US are interested in conserving energy and saving money. With government focus and incentives, it will just accelerate the demand.

In view of COVID-19, do you see a greater uptake of IAQ equipment throughout the country? 

Yes, for sure. However, these things come with a cost, and with COVID destroying the economy, there is going to have to be some kind of funding or incentives given to get these types of retrofits in place. I will give you an example. Two of our clients in the US requested ultraviolet lighting proposals to be retrofitted into their air handlers and FCUs. We put together the proposals and delivered them; however, neither has been approved yet due to the difficulties these buildings are facing financially due to delinquent tenant rent payments and occupancy.

Another interesting fact is that most of these IAQ retrofits are not intended to deliver energy savings. That is another hurdle to getting these projects approved. One last point – and I don’t think this is limited to the US – customers in the UAE have also asked for ultraviolet lighting to be installed, and it is still difficult to get the approval here, for the same reasons mentioned earlier.

Has there been a heavier-than-usual concentration on the air side of things from building owners, tenants and manufacturers?

The EPA has recommended that guidance provided by the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) for managing IAQ during the current pandemic be followed. ASHRAE’s statement is as follows: “Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 through the air is sufficiently likely that airborne exposure to the virus should be controlled. Changes to building operations, including the operation of heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems, can reduce airborne exposures.”

The two solutions we have seen implemented in the buildings we service in the USA are AHU filter upgrades and increasing the intake of outside air into the building. Both of these changes are very effective and relatively easy to implement as well as low cost.

How has the change in occupancy profile thrown everything into a state of chaos in terms of commercial and residential property requirements? Will this be a driving force towards more retrofit projects? 

In terms of energy conservation measures, this has thrown everything into a state of chaos. One, the commercial buildings are hardly occupied, which has led to energy bills dropping dramatically. However, with less occupancy comes less rent, thus less money to invest in retrofit projects. In addition, building owners, who are still looking for energy savings, are hesitant to move forward, because they are not sure if and when tenants will be returning to the buildings, so to be honest, unless it’s a well-funded customer, this could actually slow the conservation efforts.

Residential buildings face the same issue. People are leaving the dense, populated cities, preferring the suburbs right now, leaving residential multi-family buildings unoccupied and no rents being paid. Until we get herd immunity with the vaccine, and people are comfortable returning to the cities to work and live, this will continue to be challenging.

How have these trends potentially influenced building owners? 

As I stated earlier, most building owners are hesitant even if they want to move forward on new projects, given the current situation. However, some forward thinkers, with ability and the confidence that things will return to normal, are taking this time to invest in conservation efforts, so that when the buildings are occupied, they can take advantage of the maximum savings.

Have there been efforts to retrofit among specialised facilities such as healthcare? 

At the moment, it is difficult to even get a meeting with a healthcare facility in the US. They are overwhelmed and have overcapacity with COVID patients and are focused on saving lives before anything else. Their priority right now is the conservation of life.

Has the pandemic finally trained the spotlight on the importance of having a balance between energy efficiency and IAQ? 

I think that yes, people will be investing in IAQ, or at least investigating their options, especially healthcare facilities and the like. However, in my experience, to be honest, it’s a tough sale, unless there’s a Return on Investment (ROI) in the project. Having said that, UV lighting does have some energy-saving benefits, so maybe a combination of IAQ and energy savings should be highlighted to the building owners in the presentation of these retrofit solutions.

Retrofitting in Kuwait, Oman and the UAE

Ashok Jha

COVID-19 has had a significant adverse impact on organisations, people’s health, their livelihoods and the economy at large in the GCC region countries, says Ashok Jha, Head, FM & Retrofit Projects, Universal Voltas LLC. However, Jha is quick to point out that while the duration and severity of COVID-19’s impact on economies and sectors will undoubtedly vary, companies and governments in the GCC region have done well to set in motion a “look ahead, anticipate, innovate and adjust” roadmap, which has led the construction sector to focus on energy optimisation and retrofitting in existing buildings, which is a key to sustainable construction.

 

Oman 

Citing figures from Global Data, a leading data and analytics company, Jha says that Oman’s construction industry contracted sharply in 2020, plummeting by nearly around -10.3%. “The industry is struggling with challenges presented by the COVID-19 outbreak, low oil prices, and the impact of sovereign credit rating downgrades,” he says. Further compounding the downside risks to the outlook for the industry, the Omani Government has had to rationalise spending.”

Jha adds that given the limited prospects for the government to boost investment in infrastructure and other investment projects, a recovery in the construction sector is expected to be very slow. “Global Data currently expects the construction industry to fall further in 2021, with output contracting by -5.8%,” he says. “The fiscal plan by the Oman Government is intended to reduce public debt, increase the state’s reserves, and diversify revenue away from the oil sector.”

Owing to these factors, Jha believes that new construction spend will be very minimal, and more impetus will be on the retrofitting, deep retrofitting, fit-outs and energy performance optimisation in the built-environment in Oman.

Kuwait

Kuwait has faced similar challenges, Jha says, adding that the construction market shrunk in the year 2020 at about -9.5% approximately, as per Global Data. “The construction industry is struggling with the challenges presented by the outbreak of COVID-19, low oil prices and the impact of sovereign credit rating downgrades,” he says. “Because of this, focus is more towards existing buildings in Kuwait.”

Jha adds that within the built-environment in Kuwait, residential buildings constitute around 81%, commercial buildings are 11%, whereas government buildings constitute four per cent; the remaining four per cent includes commercial, industrial, agricultural and services. “Also, Kuwait has one of the highest per capita electricity consumption and carbon footprint globally, which further necessitates the retrofitting of the buildings to make them more sustainable,” he says. “All the above factors, along with the economic strain, is forcing Kuwait to focus on energy conservation, deep retrofitting, retrofitting and fit-outs in the built-environment with a very minimal spending on new construction.”

UAE

Sharing observations on the UAE market, in particular, Jha says that the COVID-19 outbreak, coupled with low oil prices, has led the construction output in the UAE to contract by nearly 4.8% in 2020, but that a rebound is expected in 2021, as per Global Data. “New project opportunities are expected to be minimal in the coming quarters, as the government is consolidating its widening fiscal debt and COVID-19-related force majeure,” he said. “Over the medium- to longer-term, government investment will remain focused on upgrading physical infrastructure and reforming the financing and regulatory environment.”

Jha adds that the UAE has set high targets for building retrofit, which are reflected in the UAE Energy Strategy 2050 and the Dubai Integrated Energy Strategy. “The latter targets an overall 30% reduction in energy and water use by 2030,” he says. “To support this, Etihad ESCO aims to retrofit 30,000 buildings in the next 10 years and generate 1.68TWh energy savings and around 5.64 BIG of water savings by year 2030.”

ASHRAE Learning Institute opens registration for Spring online courses

ATLANTA, Georgia, 8 January 2021: ASHRAE Learning Institute announced that registration is open for its 2021 Spring online instructor-led course series. The 16 online offerings, including eight new courses, run from January through June, the Institute said

 A new course, ‘Reopening Commercial Buildings: Evaluating Your HVAC System’s Readiness to Mitigate the Spread of SARS-CoV-2’, taking place on January 27, will expound the online ASHRAE COVID-19 details for reopening buildings and the Building Readiness Plan for HVAC systems, the Institute said. The course will help reiterate mitigation strategies available and understand specific buildings arrangements, the Institute added.

 The course, ‘Health Impacts of Indoor Air Extraction, Ventilation, and Filtration – Same or Different’, scheduled for February 17, the Institute said, will cover the future design of forced air ventilation systems and the most cost-effective HVAC operational changes and system modifications to improve existing indoor environments in reducing the spread of viruses.

 The course, ‘Hospital HVAC – Infection Mitigation, Comfort, Performance’, scheduled for February 23, will address the role of HVAC systems in helping to reduce Hospital Associated Infections (HAI), explaining airborne versus contact transmission, the Institute said. This course will describe the why and how filtration, air patterns, air changes, dilution, temperature, humidity, UV and pressurization in hospital HVAC can either help or hinder efforts to reduce HAI, the Institute added.

 According to the Institute, the following is the full schedule of online instructor-led course offerings:

January 26: COVID-19 and Buildings: Re-occupation after Lockdown

January 27: Reopening Commercial Buildings: Evaluating Your HVAC System’s Readiness to Mitigate the Spread of SARS-CoV-2

February 17: Health Impacts of Indoor Air Extraction, Ventilation, and Filtration – Same or Different?
February 23: Hospital HVAC – Infection Mitigation, Comfort, Performance
February 24: Evaluating Your HVAC System’s Readiness to Mitigate the Spread of SARS-CoV-2
March 2: Latest in High-Performance Dedicated Outdoor Air Systems
March 4: Humidity Control I: Design Tips and Traps
March 25: Save 40% by Complying with Standard 90.1-2019
April 6: Commercial Building Energy Audits – Part I
April 13: Commercial Building Energy Audits – Part II
April 20: Air-to-Air Energy Recovery Fundamentals
April 22: V in HVAC – What, Why, Where, How, and How Much
May 4: An Introduction to ASHRAE Existing Building Commissioning
May 11: Fundamentals of Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI) for Air and Surface Disinfection
May 20: Introduction to BACnet
June 1: Principles of Building Commissioning: ASHRAE Guideline 0 and Standard 202
June 8: Powering with Renewable Resources: Thermal Energy Storage

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