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issue: January 2006 APPLIANCE Magazine

The Open Door
A Sustainable Future

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by Terry E. Townsend, ASHRAE president-elect

Sustainability is currently a "hot topic," having a very broad scope in its definition.

Terry E. Townsend, P.E., is president-elect of ASHRAE, where he chairs the President-Elect Advisory Committee, the Advocacy Committee and Members Council. He is also president of Townsend Engineering Inc., Chattanooga, Tennessee and Panama City, Florida, U.S. If you would like to reach Townsend, please e-mail editor@appliance.com.

The ASHRAE GreenGuide's definition of sustainability is "providing for the needs of the present without detracting from the ability to fulfill the needs of the future." A possible CliffsNotes(r)-type definition that I prefer is "maximizing the effectiveness of resource use while minimizing the impact of that use on the environment."

Regardless of how you define it, the real challenge is how to economically integrate sustainability into the design, construction and operation phases of facilities. Sustainability serves as an umbrella covering a variety of disciplines. Within the building industry, there is a growing recognition of the impacts of its activities, and this realization is changing the entire ecosystem of the industry. Everything, including the design, construction, operation, maintenance, reuse, and demolition of buildings, is under reexamination. What is the goal? To better address the environmental and long-term economic consequences of the built environment.

Never have our efforts been more important. The pressures on the world economy are significant as oil prices skyrocket and dependence on imported oil grows. As an example, when the ASHRAE committees were developing the 2004 versions of its residential and commercial building energy standards, the average price of a barrel of oil was around U.S. $20. Now that same barrel sells for more than $60. The 2007 versions of these standards must reflect this new reality.

What can we do to meet our goal? We can pool our global talent to do the following:

  • Take the net-zero energy use facility challenge to existing buildings in the residential, commercial and industrial market sectors.

  • Develop a total building performance and operations evaluation methodology for buildings (new and existing) relative to efficient operation (energy and water resources), indoor air quality and comfort.

  • Broaden the sustainability training arena to include all disciplines and professions that are involved with buildings and the built environment.

  • Make sustainable design, construction and operation the "norm" instead of the "exception."

Of course, sustainability isn't limited to buildings. Energy efficiency and sustainable buildings go hand-in-hand with sustainable appliances. We must work to increase efficiencies of equipment to levels that approach a doubling of current levels. Other ways we can achieve more sustainability: refrigerants used in equipment and appliances must be made more environmentally acceptable per development of a "green rating standard" that has global acceptance; components of all appliances and HVAC/R equipment could be totally recyclable (cradle-to-cradle concept) and property of the manufacturers who lease it to the end users; operation of equipment and appliances could be controlled by systems for the overall facility that are capable of minimizing any energy consumption based upon a constant monitoring of environmental conditions in conjunction with the projected use and occupancies; and HVAC/R equipment and appliances would have infinite-modulation capabilities to match service loads.

ASHRAE is already working to meet the challenge. Together with other groups associated with the built environment, we recently published the first in a series of Advanced Energy Design Guides. These prescriptive design guides are being developed for different types of facilities that will show how to achieve advanced savings toward a net-zero energy use facility (using the year 2000 as the baseline for comparison). These guides are a collaborative effort between ASHRAE, American Institute of Architects, Illuminating Engineering Society of North American and the U.S. Green Building Council.

ASHRAE's new strategic research plan has a goal of developing economically viable applications of renewable energy that produce 25 percent reductions in conventional energy use by 2015. We, along with others in the industry, must build on those efforts. Possibilities include developing tools that designers, contractors and building operators can use to achieve the certification program requirements.

How will meeting the goal impact our future? What will be different compared to today? Here are some scenarios that I believe will eventually become a reality:
  • What has been done for "developed countries" will be adapted for "developing countries" (i.e., standards, guidelines, design guides and building codes).

  • Training of new technological developments and applications will be immediately available for anyone (in their language).

  • Technology transfer will take place virtually.

  • There will be a shift from a carbon-based to a hydrogen-based society. Renewable energy sources will be considered the conventional energy sources.

Only by working together can we achieve our goals and meet the challenges to not only maintain our environment, but to make it more sustainable.


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