The shift from client conversations about comfort to those about improved indoor air quality (IAQ) is a big one, and one that I, and SMACNA, are committed to help make happen.
It’s a great conversation to have because central parts of the air quality conversation include the whole HVAC system and energy efficiency. It's all connected and hopefully working as designed. If the system includes proper IAQ, the conversations are easy, but if an assessment is being done and some deficiencies are found or system designs don’t meet IAQ standards, the conversation gets a little more complex with the data needing to be studied by a design expert to determine the best way to get it up to IAQ standards. The systems are then corrected and retested to verify that the corrective actions worked and are meeting IAQ standards and operating as efficiently as possible.
The mechanical assessment analysis and the air quality assessments are done by professionals in those fields. But the gathering of related data, the mechanical system corrective actions, and the final verification of the mechanical operations are all part of the work and expertise of our members.
For testing, adjusting and balancing contractors like me, conversations around indoor air quality, including ventilation, air quality, thermal health, moisture and dust control are all normal topics with clients and prospects, but certain aspects of indoor environmental quality that now have a lot of attention fall within the industrial hygienist profession and include biological, chemical and hazardous pathogens. To help win new customers looking to improve indoor environmental quality, our members should be comfortable having conversations about the broader aspects of indoor environmental quality while focusing the prospects on the positive impact ventilation has on improving indoor air quality.
To this end, SMACNA and National Energy Management Institute (NEMI) and iTi are working together to increase the number of indoor air quality technicians certified as IAQ-Ventilation Verification technicians, supervisors and contractors. Through the certification process, technicians will develop a foundational understanding of the mechanics of indoor air quality. Course takers will increase their knowledge base on concepts such as filtration, ventilation rates, individual components within a ventilation system, air distribution and interior building pressure. This training will enable attendees to communicate more effectively with building owners and operators about ways to maintain maximum safety and comfort for occupants, no matter the circumstances.
The attention on indoor air quality improvements is intense, and there is so much funding available now for HVAC improvements. I encourage every SMACNA HVAC contractor to either staff or resource the ability to provide ventilation verification services as an entrée to a long-term relationship.
I am looking forward to SMACNA’s efforts in the new year to generate indoor air quality awareness among building owners and operators. In addition to an IAQ Ventilation Verification webinar I will be doing with NEMI in January, SMACNA is building an IAQ website targeting building owners and operators that provides a broader platform with a lot of information on IAQ stats and research, federal and state funding resources, information on pertinent SMACNA standards, and a directory of SMACNA members that do the ventilation and HVAC work. The website will cover all topics within the indoor environment, some of which we don’t provide direct solutions for (like identifying viruses, molds and other pathogens in the air), but are part of the indoor environmental quality conversation, and are ones where proper ventilation can provide part or all of a mitigating solution and have a positive impact. We are hopeful these efforts will increase indoor air quality project opportunities. From school buildings to office buildings, we should all be prepared to discuss healthy buildings as much as the comfort within them.
Tony Kocurek, SMACNA President