Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Visiting California

I spent a couple weeks in Northern California, San Diego and Los Angeles, calling on Mechanical Engineers with our sales reps. And after hitting 20 different engineering firms, and over 140 practicing mechanical engineers in S California, Sacramento and the S.F. Bay area, while I expected to get a lot of feedback on the new technologies being advanced across the US, with some expectation that California would be leading the way in innovation, that wasn’t the case.

What I found was a healthy respect for jumping into new technology without knowing all the ramifications of that jump. Many engineers either had or knew of bad experiences with new technologies and had already faced the issue of complex building systems’ inability to be properly installed or maintained.

On the whole, the concerns were less about the technology than about the ability of the technology being installed properly in the buildings they were designing. The more complex the system, it seems that there is a higher likelihood that something critical would be overlooked.

California, much like the rest of the country, has experienced a high flux in opportunities for mechanical engineers, and lots of shuffling of personnel is apparent. Everyone seems to have worked somewhere else recently. The result is a lot of cross pollination of ideas and experiences. And there is a bit of conservatism in designs. Having heard horror stories on every type of system imaginable, it is no surprise.

Apparently tried and trued HVAC designs (VAV, overhead well mixed air delivery) either has a greater safety factor or is simply the most familiar system, but seems to be less troublesome in commissioning and operation. It is certainly the more familiar installation.

While other system approaches have the potential, at least, to be more energy efficient, and can be less expensive to install, often it is not the case. I suspect what we are seeing is a lack of coordination between the Owner, General Contractor, and installing trades. All need to be on the same page, especially with complex technologies.

There was also a surprising (at least to me, in California of all places) push back on the advantages and general endorsement of LEED. Many see LEED as a time consuming endeavor for which they don’t get paid. Worse, I discovered that the LEED required (per ASHRAE 62.1, which is a prerequisite) Charcoal Ozone mitigation filters are never specified in LA County, which is clearly an Ozone “non-attainment” area under the EPA rules. Nonetheless, a number of buildings in LA are LEED certified without these items. One has to wonder what else that is LEED mandatory is overlooked.

Authored by: Dan Int-Hout, Chief Engineer Krueger

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Dan Int-Hout's Top 10 Predictions for 2011

1. LEED 2012 will be approved, pretty much as it is in its first public review (http://www.usgbc.org/LEED/LEEDDrafts/RatingSystemVersions.aspx?CMSPageID=1458)

2. The ASA Classroom acoustics recommendation (essentially NC=26, ANSI 12.60 ) will become a requirement in many local codes and may be a part of the next IBC. It will also be a requirement of the ADA governing bodies, forcing a redesign of many school HVAC systems.

3. Over my objections, the ASHRAE Thermal Comfort Standard (55-2010) will be rewritten into code language. I predict this will result in gross misuse and misinterpretation of the requirements and will make lots of money for trial lawyers. (I hope I’m wrong on this one.)

4. With any luck, we will get a rewritten ASHRAE UFAD Design Guide out of committee at the summer meeting. The current manual has been pulled from the ASHRAE bookstore following complaints, most noticeably from the GSA, over lack of discussion of the potential negative issues with this design concept.

5. Displacement Ventilation will see significant use in classrooms (it’s quiet, see item #2 above).

6. Chilled Beams will continue to be the “darling” of innovative engineers. We will not see validation of the calculated energy savings from this relatively new technology. That will not, however, prevent estimates of significant energy savings, resulting in LEED points.

7. For the umpteenth year in a row, BOMA will state that the number 1 reason for not renewing the lease in high rise buildings is “occupant dissatisfaction with the building environment” (ie: comfort). See item #3 above.

8. The market for HVAC components will continue to be relatively flat with local ups and downs.

9. VAV overhead air distribution will continue to be (by far) the most used system in new buildings.

10. The Cowboys will continue to disappoint their fans.

Authored by: Dan Int-Hout, Chief Engineer Krueger