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ASHRAE considers adding residential buildings

It's impressive! The annual ASHRAE Conference and AHR Expo held in New York City, January 18-23 was huge in scale, busy and buzzing with excitement.


The Freedom Tower nearing completion at the World Trade Center site in New York City in January. A tour of the site and adjacent 9/11 Memorial was one of the general tours at the ASHRAE 2014 Winter Conference on January 20. Photo: BP/CCE
The Freedom Tower nearing completion at the World Trade Center site in New York City in January. A tour of the site and adjacent 9/11 Memorial was one of the general tours at the ASHRAE 2014 Winter Conference on January 20. Photo: BP/CCE

It’s impressive! The annual ASHRAE Conference and AHR Expo held in New York City, January 18-23 was huge in scale, busy and buzzing with excitement.

On Tuesday, January 20, the opening day of the trade show in the sprawling glass and concrete Javits Centre on Manhattan’s west side, peopled thronged the aisles of booths, undeterred by the heavy snow that was falling all day outside. But by late evening almost all flights in and out of the city airports had been stopped and the streets were deserted.

ASHRAE’s 2013-2014 president, William P. Bahnfleth, P.E., told the media that the organization has three main initiatives currently. First a committee has been formed to focus on developing initiatives on improving indoor air quality. Bahnfleth said that over the last 30 years we have made huge progress in energy efficiency, but we also need to increase progress in creating healthy indoor environments. He noted, for example, that there needs to be more communication between the scientists who do testing, and engineers who understand building physics. A second committee is looking into expanding ASHRAE’s work in places with developing economies such as China, India and in South America. A third new committee is considering ASHRAE becoming more involved in the residential market. Historically the society has concentrated on the commercial and institutional sectors, so this represents a big change. The venerable association of 54,000 engineers and others involved in building systems and technologies is clearly expanding its horizons beyond its traditional base and 1894 origins. Perhaps most telling is the decision to drop the former descriptive title “American Society for Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers” in favour of using the more abstract  (and international in scope) acronym.

The ASHRAE conference itself had begun uptown four days earlier at the uptown Hilton and Sheraton hotels. It included an array of learned and technical committee meetings, all-day and half-day educational programs, shorter seminars and paper presentations. Topics ranged from arcane subjects like “RP-1353 Stability and Accuracy of VAV Box Control at Low Flows Rendezvous Trianon,” to the broader “Data Center Control and Fire Safety in Tall Buildings,” or “Engineering Ethics: A Case Study Analysis.”

Once you had enough learning in the classroom, you could take a technical tour into the bowels of New York iconic buildings such as the Rockefeller Centre to see its district cooling plant, or One Penn Plaza to consider its cogeneration plant. Or you could join a general tour, such as the large group that went by New York subway to Ground Zero and saw the somber monument to the event that changed the world.

By Tuesday, 2,000 manufacturers and suppliers were waiting in the Javits Centre trade show floor to explain the marvels of their latest equipment or technology. Most manufacturers seem to have spent their time during the economic downturn to refine and tweak their products, particularly in the building controls section, but also in the industrial-type equipment of pumps, tanks, condensors, etc. A few manufacturers were promoting relatively new technologies such as variable refrigerant flow systems, tankless water heating, and energy harvesting wireless devices.

For any practising HVAC and refrigeration engineer, the ASHRAE/AHR winter event provides an unparalleled range of information for deepening their industry knowledge. Approximately 38,000 people attended the AHR expo, earning it the title “The World’s Largest HVACR Marketplace.”