BY ROBERT MADER
OF CONTRACTOR'S STAFF
DALLAS — Tired of seeing green building points being awarded for items such as bike racks, a group of mechanical industry manufacturers, educators and the United Association has formed the Green Mechanical Council, with the slogan, “Saving the world, one mechanical system at a time.”
The group hopes to complement the work of other green groups, such as the U.S. Green Building Council, the home builders’ Green Building Initiative Green Globes program, and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating & Air-Conditioning Engineers. Tom Meyer, executive director of GreenMech, as the group calls itself, is a consulting engineer who will sit on ASHRAE’s TC 189, the committee that will ultimately issue Standard 189, "Standard for the Design of High-Performance Green Buildings, Except for Low-Rise Residential Buildings."
The group hopes to develop a 100-point rating system for mechanical systems and to educate contractors and technicians on how to work on green mechanical systems. GreenMech made its debut Jan. 30 during the AHR Expo here.
"As an industry, we burn a lot of fuel, use a lot of electricity, consume a lot of fresh water and produce a lot of waste," GreenMech Chairman Dan Chiles, vice president/marketing of Watts Radiant, told a press conference. "We do these things with mechanical systems and the cost of operating these systems will, over the lifetime of a house or building, dwarf the original cost to design and build that structure.
"These costs are our current concerns, but there are externalities involved and that is twice the reason to pay attention. The operating costs might be for ourselves, but the external costs are most fully borne by our children. And that's a pretty good reason to form a Green Mechanical Council."
GreenMech's founding members are Watts Radiant, HVAC Excellence, Legend Valve, Mechanical Contractors Association of America, Mechanical Contractors Education and Research Foundation, FloorHeat Co., United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry and Ferris State University.
Besides Chiles, other officers are: Jerry Weiss, executive director of HVAC Excellence, vice chairman; Walter Jann, executive vice president of Legend Valve, treasurer/secretary; Steven H. Allen, administrator of education and recruitment for the United Association, director; Tom Crandell, director of corporate and professional development at Ferris State, director; and Scott L. Berger, Arista Air Conditioning, Long Island City, N.Y., director.
"The CEOs of 10 major corporations came out offering the president advice on a cap and trade system for carbon greenhouse gas emissions," Chiles said. "Even a year ago, nobody wanted to talk about it. Now the largest corporations are, there's new movement in Congress and, eventually, the people will look at mechanical rooms and say, 'Who's offering leadership in mechanical systems?'"
He noted that 130 million U.S. homes and buildings contain mechanical equipment, creating a big carbon footprint.
GreenMech wants to create a 100-point standard for mechanical equipment because 100 points is intuitive and easy for the public to grasp. A perfect mechanical system using zero net energy and producing no CO2 or pollutants would score 100; everything else would be less.
Chiles said he hopes that someday the GreenMech Website will contain information about ranked systems so a customer could search, for example, mechanical systems scoring between 75 and 80, and 20 potential systems would pop up.
"With Congress setting up new rules, with the president thinking about with corporations wanting it and with Europe threatening trade sanctions of carbon emissions, it's time get this all out of the speculative arena with Exxon on one side and Al Gore the other," Chiles said.
A major part of GreenMech's mission will be nuts-and-bolts education, Meyer said. While it's a good thing that the USGBC's LEED program requires building commissioning on startup, Meyer noted that there's no requirement for follow-up service. He likened it to buying a car with great gas mileage and never maintaining it.
Green Globes and LEED award many points for certification that are directed at the building envelope, the source and types of materials, transportation or landscaping, he said. Mechanical practitioners who attend a green conference may find themselves sitting through seminars on daylighting.
"We'll be mainlining information to the important trades — the plumbers and HVAC guys — for design, installation, and maintenance and service of mechanical systems," Meyer said.
That was the reason for getting HVAC Excellence, MCAA's Educational Foundation, Ferris State and the UA training department on board as founding members. The organization will focus on getting the existing 130 million mechanical rooms in place working properly.
"Let's tune up all the cars on the road instead of waiting for new hybrids," Meyer said.
Technicians will be able to enter the members-only section of the GreenMech Website (greenmech.org) and select any training module they choose. GreenMech has no shortage of people offering educational material from universities, manufacturers, members of ASHRAE and members of USGBC, Meyer said. The challenge will be to present it all with a consistent and coherent look, at a comfortable educational level and in amounts that can be absorbed in sessions that last no longer than 30 minutes.
"We're addressing the guy who's getting into the truck every morning who can't go to the trade shows," he said.
"Our basic strategy is this," Chiles said. "We will substitute cheap oil, wasteful practices and pollution with better technology and smarter people. That's the happy part; more equipment for us to make and sell and much better and higher paying jobs for people in our industry. This critical work cannot be done in China or Bangladesh. It cannot be done in Mexico or Vietnam. It will be street by street, house by house and building by building by trained North American contractors."
Chiles ended with the comic-section philosopher Pogo: "We are confronted by insurmountable opportunities."