New Council Encourages Green World

March 19, 2007
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HVACR contractors can save the world from global warming. So believes the new Green Mechanical Council (GreenMech), which intends to be the advocates for the HVACR industry to meet with government, educational, industry, and labor interests to find green solutions.

It is counting on contractors to join its ranks in order to bring “bold, decisive, and innovative action to the critical question of global warming,” said GreenMech chairman Dan Chiles. “GreenMech members believe that no less than the planet’s future is at stake,” is how he put it.

It’s why GreenMech is in the process of creating a scoring system designed to help engineers, contractors, and consumers know the green value of each mechanical installation in terms of its energy efficiency, pollution output, and sustainability. It’s why GreenMech is looking for input and help from the contractor world.

“This score will supplement the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) score and give guidance to realtors, builders, building inspectors, and planning and zoning officials,” said Chiles.

“With a scorecard, we will know the players and how they are performing.

“This service will be unique to our industry: a cross discipline performance rating that falls into categories by building type so that hospitals and hot dog stands can be rated and given a value based on long-term performance. You won’t have to be an engineer to know that my GreenMech rating of 89 is a lot better than your GreenMech rating of 47.

“You can’t play the game if you don’t know the score. When customers know the score, they will want to compete - and the key to that success will be a qualified contractor.”

Ken Meyer

GLOBAL WARMING

GreenMech executive director Ken Meyer is blunt when discussing global warming.

“Contractors, installers, and service technicians are critical to solving the mechanical system problems contributing to global warming,” he said. “Most immediately, these professionals can make sure each system they work on is fine-tuned as much as possible. Existing systems working correctly and efficiently would significantly reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gases.”

The new, international, not-for-profit organization is certainly trying to get the attention of contractors - and, in truth, the entire HVACR industry - regarding the issue of global warming. GreenMech firmly believes it exists - and, in their eyes, proof is all around.

“The United Nations just completed their updated Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This is a document from over 150 countries that took three years to complete, from scientists with competing and conflicting points of view. Yet, their conclusions are a consensus. Global warming is happening and humans are causing it,” said Chiles. “Science has spoken, but some people want further confirmation from politicians, pundits, entertain­ers, preachers, or comedians.

“Some people are waiting for a chorus of angels blowing golden trumpets. Some people wouldn’t jump out of a burning car if you opened the door for them.”

Instead of being a silent partner, GreenMech wants to lead the industry’s charge in slowing the growth rate of greenhouse gas emissions - and, the sooner, the better.

“We believe that green buildings need green mechanical systems and that central truth has been overlooked in the rush to build new green buildings,” said Chiles, who is also vice president of marketing at Watts Radiant. “The leader of that effort, the United States Green Building Council [USGBC], gives the same LEED points for a bike stand and a green mechanical system. The problem is expertise: mechanical systems can be quite complex and there are so many things you can do with one that selecting the reason­able options is daunting.”

GreenMech made its initial splash at the 2007 International Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigerating Exposition in Dallas. At a press conference, it introduced its founding members, which includes the Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA), Mechanical Service Contractors of America (MSCA), Mechanical Contractors Education and Research Foundation (MCERF), United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters (UA), Ferris State University, and HVAC Excellence. Manufacturers in the fold include Watts Radiant, Legend Valve, and FloorHeat Co.

“At this moment, the pressure to install green mechanical equipment is coming from en­lightened owners and developers,” explained Chiles. “There aren’t that many of them right now, but there are more every day. The success of LEED shows that Americans love to compete and they love to win. If there is a contest, we want to play; even if the contest is to see who is the most green.

“There are enough interested owners today, both commercial and residential, to drive stupendous growth in green installations if the equipment and exper­tise were available, which it is not. This is the chicken and egg problem: Experience and success in green mechanical systems will drive down costs and improve installation quality, but until we get more experience and lower costs, owners are reluctant to be the first on their block to buy.”

Dan Chiles

TAKING UP THE 2030 CHALLENGE

It’s one reason why GreenMech has zeroed in on “cleaning up” the current mechanical systems in the 5 million commercial buildings and 125 million homes in the United States. It has joined the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the American Institute of Architects (AIA), USGBC, and many others in the 2030° Challenge, issued by Architecture 2030. It is asking the global architecture and building community to meet specific building performance targets, including a reduction in fossil fuel consumption by 60 percent before 2010 to a goal of totally carbon-neutral buildings by 2030.

“The mechanical system industry can significantly contribute to meeting the carbon reduction challenge sooner and more effectively than any other industry,” said Chiles. “We have the designers, installers, and service technicians in position now - today - to affect real and significant reduction of carbon fuels and greenhouse gases. The members of GreenMech will provide a clearinghouse of information, education, and networking to enable these professionals to meet the challenge.

“It is not glamorous and, typically, it is not architectural. It involves plumbing and HVAC and drains,” he added. “It’s a dirty job, but if we are to meet the coming mandates for smaller carbon emissions and reduced impact on air and water quality, somebody will have to do it.”

GreenMech doesn’t want to replace or compete with existing nonprofit professional organizations. “Newsweek magazine recently called for two strategies to deal with global warming caused by human activities: mitigation of carbon pollution and adaptation to a warmer and harsher world. Our industry is in the position to do both and on the kind of scale to make an enormous difference if we get started right away,” said Chiles.

“At this moment, Paul Revere just rode through town yelling about global warming and we want to be the people who grab our tool bags and do something about it,” he added. “Others want to go back to sleep. In either case, global warming is real and getting worse and anyone who wants to do something about it right now should take this simple and relatively painless step: join GreenMech.”

Annual membership fee for contractors is $300. “We want to provide a unique service for anyone who cares about the sustainable performance of mechanical equipment,” said Chiles. “Contractors are the key to a successful installation and GreenMech won’t forget that.”

Over the next few months, Chiles said the association would be approaching other contractor groups and associations in hopes of signing each up to the cause. It plans to state its case in Washington, too.

“We’re going to Washington. We’re going to make a compelling case for our scoring system, for our green trade school curriculum, for our manufacturer members, and for the contractors who will be doing the work,” he said. “Then, we’re going to all the state capitols. Then, we’re going to all the major cities, and then the small towns. GreenMech can bring positive change to 120 million mechanical rooms and that’s a number that nobody can ignore.”

“We don’t have the resources to buy the best lobbyists in Washington, but we have a unique mix of manufacturers, labor, contractors, and educators,” he added. “This is a great place to start and we intend to grow.

“Global warming is a catastrophe in progress, but we’re not suggesting that contractors work for free. Bringing every mechanical system up to snuff will cost a fortune and our industry will get our share.”

For more information, visit www.greenmech.org.

Publication date: 03/19/2007

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