BREAKING: Commercial Building Engineers Live in Residential Buildings
I've just returned home from Long Beach, California, where I've spent the past five days attending the ASHRAE conference, which focuses on heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration. One of the things I heard there was this statement: 95% of ASHRAE members work on commercial buildings. 100% of them live in residential buildings. Seems like there's a disconnect in the system.
ASHRAE actually does quite a bit of work in the residential sphere. Two standards that I'm aware of apply specifically to residential buildings. Of course, the residential ventilation standard, 62.2, is well known to readers of this blog since I've written about it so much. It's got some traction in the marketplace, as it's been adopted for use in the US Department of Energy's weatherization program, the EPA's ENERGY STAR new homes program, and the California energy code (Title 24).
The other residential standard is 90.2, Energy Efficient Design of Low-Rise Residential Buildings. It's got no traction. No one is using it yet, partly because of confusion about its purpose. Unlike it's commercial building sibling, 90.1, this standard is not a minimum standard. According to what I heard from members of the committee this week, it's meant to provide a path to building homes that are significantly more efficient than code-minimum houses.
Or is it? If you look at the home page for this standard, you'll find this:
1.1 Purpose: To establish the minimum design and construction requirements for energy efficient residential buildings.
1.2 Scope This standard provides the minimum design and construction requirements for new residential buildings and their systems and new portions of existing residential buildings and their systems that use electricity and/or fossil fuel.
I'm not on that standards committee and haven't been to any of its meetings, but it seems clear to me that they need to clear things up.
Beyond those two specifically residential standards, ASHRAE does a lot of other work that applies to residential building. Some of it goes into standards, like the aforementioned 62.2 and 90.2. Some goes into one of the four handbooks that ASHRAE publishes. Here's a sampling:
- Standard 55: Thermal Environmental Conditions for Human Occupancy. Discomfort is an issue in all buildings.
- Standard 160: Criteria for Moisture-Control Design Analysis in Buildings. If a building has an enclosure, this standard applies.
- Technical Committee 5.2: Duct Design. This committee writes some of the chapters in the Handbook of Fundamentals and the Handbook of HVAC Systems and Equipment. (I've been writing a series on duct design based mostly on ACCA's standard, Manual D, which is based on ASHRAE's work.)
- Technical Committee 4.4: Building Materials and Building Envelope Performance. Insulation, drainage planes, air barriers... all the control layers are covered here.
And much more!
The good news is that some of those engineers who go home to residential buildings realize the need for ASHRAE to step up and do more in the residential market. A couple of years ago, they created the Residential Building Committee (RBC). This group has some momentum now and I think you'll be hearing more from them in the coming years. If you, like those ASHRAE engineers, live in a residential building, you may be the beneficiary of their work.
But here's something you may not know. ASHRAE isn't just for engineers. They seek involvement from stakeholders across the board. The residential ventilation standard committee has home performance contractors and home energy raters involved. And the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) has just started sending two members to represent their interests. So come on. Get involved.
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