ASHRAE Standards addressing thermal comfort and air quality define acceptability as 80% or more occupant satisfaction. Is this sufficiently high enough? Should it be higher? I don’t have the answer to that dilemma but consider this from the mechanical engineers perspective and the key elements that influence occupant satisfaction that are out of his or her control…
1. Is it reasonable to hold the engineer responsible for 80% occupant satisfaction for indoor environments in buildings located in densely populated metropolitan areas where the outdoor air for ventilation air is sometimes contaminated more than the indoor air and where;
2. the building is defined by architects, interior designers and decorators many with little building science skills but lot’s of interest in the aesthetics and art of architecture and where;
3. the building is constructed by trades who are judged not on the final IEQ and energy use but on assembly of components to bare bones minimum codes and where;
4. the building uses domestic and foreign materials some manufactured in unregulated systems using questionable methods and compounds and where even good materials manufactured in regulated systems break down due to moisture, heat, UV and ozone and where;
5. the buildings mechanical systems are likely complicated by necessity because of architectural designs and where;
6. the building and building systems are ultimately controlled by building maintenance personal many lacking the necessary mechanical management skills or by occupants who have little desire to maintain mechanical systems?
Put yourself in the HVAC engineers shoes when they have no control over the outdoor air and they’re rarely asked for opinions on architectural elements that become IEQ and energy landmines; they have to constantly deal with people who confuse standards (voluntary) with codes (mandatory) and codes with being the highest benchmark when they are the lowest benchmark; and they are observers of buildings fabricated by trades judged on meeting the minimum requirements of assembly or what I call the “how” without having to understand the “why”; throw in architectural materials supplied without passing quality control like the current Chinese drywall fiasco; and mechanical system that end up being fabricated as one of kind works of art using complicated electromechanical systems that occupants and janitors most definitely don’t want to have a relationship with…
It’s not an easy task for engineering professionals when you consider the prime expectation is to protect the health and welfare of the public tossed together with industry standards that are increasing being adopted into building programs and enforced by codes…if industry wants the engineer to take responsibility for the energy and indoor environments based on ASHRAE Standards he or she can no longer be invited to the table after the building has been designed.
If - Then
Our message is...IF industry and the public want engineers to take responsibility for meeting energy and indoor environmental standards, THEN buildings must be designed from the inside out based on human factor needs served by engineering and health science principles.
The process of the architects and their clients saying to the engineer, “here’s our building now you make it energy efficient, healthy and comfortable” must be replaced with the building and mechanical engineer with clients saying to the architect and interior designers and decorators, “here’s the environment and energy allowance, now you folks take that criteria and design and fabricate a building that works around our enclosure, HVAC and Lighting systems”, oh and have a nice day.
That reframe to me …is the only way you’ll get buildings to be energy efficient, healthy and comfortable.
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