BY ROBERT P. MADER
Of CONTRACTOR’s staff
RENO, NEV. — When the Radiant Panel Association holds its Building Radiant conference and exposition here in May, everything will be different, from the seminars to the prizes.
“We’ve got three or four pretty action packed days,” said Executive Director Ted Lowe of the event, which bears the new name of Building Radiant.
The conference will take place May 5-8 at the Peppermill Resort Casino here.
“There is a different energy this year and a lot of the educational tracks will be first time ever, so we’ve really changed it up from things we’ve done in the past,” Lowe said. “It’s not the same old show. There are a lot of new things going on. We changed the name of the show to Building Radiant because we want to concentrate on what members need to know for the next five years rather than what they should have known for the last five years. This has got to be about vision and where the industry is going. We want the RPA to be the organization that people look to for what do I need to know for my business, and to be the go-to place for the technology connection.”
All of the Building Radiant seminars are now approved by North American Technician Excellence and qualify for CEUs from the American Institute of Architects.
The first day begins with all-day classes, including Radiant 1, Radiant Precision, and a new Radiant Electric class taught by former RPA board member Ada Cryer from Delta Therm. The day is capped that evening with the opening reception and some manufacturers may be hosting hospitality suites after that.
On Thursday May 6 attendees will get into the meat of the conference with a combination of full days classes and one hour 45-minute breakout sessions.
Bill Shady, Pacific Solar Radiant Systems, Santa Cruz, Calif., will teach an all-day class on Radiant Architecture.
“We have some really interesting ones this year,” Lowe said. “We’re trying to mix it up so we don’t have things from previous years and we’re focusing on things that are germane to the times, such as low energy buildings, understanding green speak and building rating systems — there’s a lot of misunderstanding about that — the state of controls today and where they are going. We’ve got a business course about thriving in tough times and making adjustments on your margins, a geothermal panel discussion moderated by [Taco’s] John Barba, and combining air conditioning with radiant.”
Mark Matteson, Pinnacle Service Group, will be the luncheon keynoter, and the trade show opens in the afternoon. Lowe said there are 60-65 vendors signed up and only a couple of booth spaces left; he expects the show floor to be sold out. Additionally, manufacturers will present vendor sessions in the afternoon in classrooms adjacent to the show floor, covering topics too detailed for a booth visit. Uponor, for example, will put on a session on its BACnet-based communicating control system, manufacturers representative JTG/Muir from Oakland, Calif., will talk about the latest on air source heat pumps, and Avenir Software Inc. will do a session on its LoopCAD software for radiant design.
Thursday evening is the System Showcase Awards dinner and live auction. Last year auction donations included everything from tools to novelties, gift baskets, wine and food. The Peppermill will donate a stay at the resort. Last year RPA had an auction team of RPA board member Steve Weiland and John Barba; Lowe is hoping they would agree to repeat.
RPA will present System Showcase Awards in nine categories, said Jeff Brennecke, RPA program manager, who is coordinating the contest. Entries can get a maximum of 10 points in each category for presentation, application, and impression. First, second and third place awards will be given in each category, such as electric radiant, residential, commercial, large jobs, snow melting, or cooling applications. The overall winner that racks up the highest point total from all the entries wins the Judges Choice Award.
In a break from the past, Brennecke plans to select crystal trophies rather than the gold stars given out previously.
Another eight seminars are scheduled for Friday morning. Engineer Raf Moors from a Belgian company called Jaga will put on a session on ultra low mass radiant.
A presenter from Uponor will lead a session on radiant floor cooling. “We’ll see more and more of it worldwide,” Lowe said. “It’s gaining in popularity and, from an energy point of view, you can present more savings from radiant cooling than from radiant heating, so from an energy efficiency point of view, it’s timely.”
An electric radiant course a bit different from the earlier all-day electric seminar is scheduled, as well as a business track covering both insurance and legal questions. A firm called Graftech will present a technical session on use of graphite cloth in thermal applications. David Knight, Monterey Energy Group, will cover California’s zero energy building initiative. A session on new pressure-sensing ECM circulators will cover what’s available on the market now that’s different from what contractors are accustomed to using and what’s going to be happening with circulators in the future.
“We’re doing a panel discussion on solar as well, which is timely and has proved to be of real interest to our membership; when we do a Webinar we get a great crowd,” Lowe said. “Last month I was at a solar show in Colorado and it was remarkable how much overlap there is between what they’re interested in doing on the solar thermal side and what our membership is doing on the radiant side. They held a solar thermal panel discussion and four of the five panelists were from the RPA. That really highlighted how much overlap there is and how our membership is at the crossroads of a lot of these technologies.”
The conference will finish on Saturday with the golf tournament and educational fundraiser for the RPA Educational Fund that provides scholarships for students who wish to pursue a career in hydronics, HVAC or engineering. The tournament is a best-ball tournament at the D’Andrea Golf Club, about seven to 10 miles from the Peppermill. Registration begins at 8:00 AM, tee off at 9:00 AM. The $140 package includes breakfast and lunch, and there are opportunities for sponsorships and promotions.
“This was brand new last year, so this is the second annual golf event and first time that we’ll award a scholarship because we just started, but it’s something we need to do to give back to the industry,” Lowe said.