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HVAC 360 - Episode 002 - ASHRAE AHRExpo 2010

This episode has now been posted and you can download it below. As before, it is also available on iTunes if you are so inclined.

In this episode, I talk about the ASHRAE keynote speaker and products from my first day on the AHRExpo floor.   Please give me any feedback that you may have by e-mailing me at matt (at) .

Or if you would like to save this directly to your computer you can Download the Episode Here!

As I promised here are the links as promised.

Until next time know what you build, and share what you know.


AHR Expo 2010 - Day 1

Today was my first day at the AHR Expo and in fact, was the first time at any expo.  If you can imagine a huge exposition floor with engineers, contractors, and others waiting like it was a rock concert to be let through the gates when the clock struck 10am.  For the first couple of hours the expo isles seamed packed and then it subsided a bit as attendees spread out over the entire exposition floor.  In case you don't know this is the worlds largest air-conditioning, heating, and refrigeration expo.  Find out more at If you couldn't make it for this expo, next years is already scheduled so mark your calendars for January 31 - February 2, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

So let me tell you that the expo is a great place to learn, ask dumb questions, ask smart questions, and complain/brag about how things went wrong/right with their products on your last job.

From me to you here is a brief nugget on a subject you may or may not know:

Occupancy Sensors come in two different technologies Infra-red and Ultra-sonic.  Sensors may be selected using a combination of those technologies.  Infra-red detects heat and ultra-sonic detects movement.  A good rule of thumb I was told is to keep your sensor at least 3 feet away from a diffuser.  Sensors not part of a system will come with a number of dip switches so that the different mode settings can be obtained.  Be careful were you direct to ultra-sonic sensors away from the doors as they may pick-up someone just walking by.  As the height of the room is important, ceiling mounted sensors on high ceilings may not pick up any movement and therefore never turn the lights on.

Well tomorrow's another day.  I can't wait to find out what I'm going to learn about.


ASHRAE Winter Meeting 2010 - Day 2

Today was spent attending educational sessions are here some of the nuggets of knowledge that I will pass on to you:

  • ASHRAE 90.1 - 2010 is being reviewed and is slated to exceed the 2004 version in energy savings by 30 percent.  However, preliminary data is coming in that in its current form the standard is saving only 11.4%.  The standards committee is confident that the goal will be reached and that they have a couple of large addenda that may make that possible.
  • On the commissioning front, common places to look for improper operation include economizer operation, hot and chilled water resets, static pressure control, equipment scheduling, and lighting scheduling.  Despite how basic these may sound they are often not set and end up just falling through the cracks.
  • Also on commissioning, when you start your project, and hopefully that's during the design, you might first read through the sequence of operations, then draw a system schematic, and finally graph equipment function interaction.  If you didn't follow me just then let me explain.  First the sequence should make sense, be completely testable, and have the proper set points identified. Next draw the system to help make sure that you understand the system, this will also help with the documentation for your LEED System Manual. Lastly create a graph with the Y-axis labeled 0-100% and the X-axis labeled with operating temperature range.  Now if you graph the sequence of the, say, HW Valve, CW Valve, and OA damper for air-handling units all in different colors you have just made a graphical representation of the sequence that may show scenarios that the written sequences just don't.
  • Here was the thought question of the day: If you are restricted by the architect for mechanical room space because extra square footage is expensive, do you not run the risk of forever increasing the energy inefficiency of the system because of the severe duct and piping transitions?

Now its time to get some sleep and rest my puppies before I go to the AHR Expo tomorrow.


ASHRAE Winter Meeting - Day 1

The first day of the meeting on Saturday was very laid back.  Most of my agenda was taken up with dropping in on my technical sub-committee.  These are often smaller groups and offer a great chance to network.  It is often said that the sub-committees are where the action is and I would tend to agree because there is less emphasis on formality and more on productivity.  For those who don't know ASHRAE has a set of technical committees that produce the programs, handbook chapters, research, and standards on a wide range of ASHRAE topics.  You can find a complete listing at the bottom of:

ASHRAE Technical Committees

My tip to you to further your career is to become involved in a technical committee that is relevant to what you do and to get involved involved as a corresponding member.  To do this fill out the appropriate forms and update your ASHRAE bio.  Oh yeah, and if you're not a member, join.  Now you have access to the best that the industry has to offer.  Just remember that experience is not a pre qualification, one basic thing that ASHRAE needs is a set of fresh eyes and ears to look at issues and question the status quo.

To wrap up the first day I caught the tail end of the awards ceremony and the keynote speaker.  I think I'm going talk about the keynote speaker on the podcast but the awards ceremony was very well done.  Great engineers were recognized and made fellows as well as two late members (William Collins and Donald Kroeker) were inducted into the ASHRAE Hall of Fame.


Your ductwork is in my peanut butter!

You may always have conflicts in your building projects but I had a chance to sit down today with a construction manager and we got talking about building information modeling or BIM, for short.  Even though I have heard about BIM for along time it still is a construction technique that is not gaining much traction.  These construction managers went on to say that they have used BIM on multiple other projects and regardless of the initial first cost they had reaped a ton of benefit from using it on those projects.  The site superintendent described it as a great tool that he could take out in the field and resolve disputes with.  With nothing more than the BIM data and a laser measuring device he could sort out which contractor was in the right and which one had some reconfiguring to do. Okay, hold on, let me take a step back and give some background, in case you don't know.  BIM is a three dimesional computer modeling (drawing) platform that does an amazing job (assuming the inputs are correct) at identifying colisions between the trades (as well as many other things).  What was once religated to 2-D coordination drawings are now a virtual construct of the project. 

For more information go to Wikipedia.

So if it is such a great tool why isn't everyone using it?  Aside from the cost and learning curve (two hurdles that, in their own right, are significant), such a platform it doesn't work unless everyone buys in.  First there is Architect and the Construction Manager or General Contractor, if either of these people are not on board with it, BIM won't happen.  Then you need the engineers to pony up their portions of the modeling, but if you don't have really great input the models that they build may have to be scraped rather than spending the time correcting their designs.  And lastly you have the contractor.  Now contractors, outside of the larger outfits with the right kind of overhead, do not typically have the resources to have expertise in BIM, it's only on projects where the client has mandated that BIM be performed that these contractors would even have the money to include it.   And that means that the clients would pay a premium for their construction project.

So the short answer is, only if a client knows they will save you on the back end of a project would they ever be willing to risk the up front costs. But as most companies (engineers and contractors) are still having a heck of time gaining the experience they need to make the most out of this powerful tool and so I can definately see why owners would be a little shy about BIM.

Enough of the chatter!  Bring on the tips for some of the great things that you can do with BIM:

1. Create a more accurate resource loaded schedule. 

2. Compare progress of actual construction to schedule coordinated model.

3. Resolve disputes with contractors quickly.

4. Identify colision conflicts between the trades before materials are ordered or installed.

5. Improve maintenance access because you can identify 'no fly zones' around the equipment.

Clearly BIM is the way construction is going to be designed, drawn, and coordianted in the future, but how close are we to that future?  Is there anything we can do to push the envelope?  Will BIM only exist for only the highest profile cases?

Until next time Know what you build, and share what you know.


HVAC 360 - Episode 001 - Communication

The second episode has now been posted and you can download it below. It is also available on iTunes if you are so inclined.

In this episode, I talk about communication, the different types and why I feel its so important. Please give me any feedback that you may have by e-mailing me at matt (at)



Or if you would like to save this directly to your computer you can Download the Episode Here!

Until next time know what you build, and share what you know.


Update from original episode:

Below are the books that I mentioned in this podcast episode.  The first one is out of print by you can pick it up cheap used, as I did, the basics are still timeless.  Remember that attire is not about fashion it is about fitting in, so unless you're a billionaire or an artist this book still applies quite a bit.

New Dress For Success by John T. Malloy

This next book is newer so I actually listened to in on audible.  As with most good business books I will have to listen to it again. But I cannot stress the importance that relationships will have in your professional life.

Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi

Finally the last book I mentioned has a lot of meat to it.  Although if you pick up on one or two things, it can be a game changer.

The Power of Body Language by Tonya Reiman


Building Chatter Episode 000 - Prologue

The first episode is ready and you can download it below. It is also available on iTunes if you are so inclined.

In this episode, I talk a little bit about myself, what I am going to be doing with Building Chatter, and explain the "Why" behind what I'm doing. Please give me any feedback that you may have by e-mailing me at

Or if you would like to save this directly to your computer you can Download the Episode Here!

Until next time know what you build, and share what you know.


Measurement and Verification 101: Meters

I have recently been scouring thought the Pacific Northwest National Labs and EERE websites regarding metering and I am impressed with these resources.  Specifically, there are three free webinars that you can play on-demand along with other more detailed design guides that you can read that will give you a good background in the types of meters that are out there and what can/should be used.  Even though these webinars are geared toward EPACT compliance they still apply to other buildings as well.  The following link will get you to the page for the webinars so you can see for yourself.

Metering Webcasts

If you have other resources that you use go ahead and share them.


Net-Zero Ready?

I have been looking at the HVAC industry online recently and have come to the conclusion that companies in our industry are lagging behind that rest of the world when it comes to the technology train.  When I graduated from college I was excited to get involved in the engineering world with all the lastest technology, only to find out that most firms were still drawing on paper (and thats if they wanted designs done fast). 

Things haven't changed much from then, it seems only the largest firms are adopting the BIM way of designing today.  One could pin that blame on the learning curve involved or the cost of the product, but even when designing green buildings today I see many engineers struggling to achieve the basic LEED points.  All I know is that the future is coming at us fast and it won't be long now before net-zero buildings become the design standard. So my question to you is, "Will the world's engineers be ready to design them?"


What's all this chatter about?

How did you get to know the things you know? Did you learn them in college? Probably not. Most of us learn from on the job experience and that scares me. When I think about how the built environment is getting more and more complicated and how we are being rushed to build things faster and cheaper, it makes me want to stay outdoors. So I’ve decided to take a stand and share my knowledge and the knowledge others with the world.

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