ACHRNEWS

Changing of the guard: Ventilation standard gets new chair

September 12, 2000
The history of ASHRAE’s Standard 62-89, “Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality” reads almost like a soap opera. There’s intrigue, controversy, jealousy, and more.

The story goes back to 1989 when the first standard, 62-1989, made its debut. Almost immediately upon publication, work began on its revision, 62-89R. Until 1997, committee chairman Steve Taylor, P.E., worked on revising the standard in such a way that all parties were happy — to no avail.

Stunned by the vast number of public comments received, ASHRAE’s board of directors decided at its 1997 Summer Meeting to basically scrap the revised version (62-89R) and place the original standard (62-89) into continuous maintenance. They did this without input from the committee. Some committee members were shocked; others were glad that the board stepped in to redirect the committee’s efforts.

Ultimately, the move by the board meant all the work done on 62-89R for the previous six years was virtually lost, and the committee had to start all over again on the original standard. But this time it had to be done in piecemeal fashion.

For the last two years, the committee has sorted through 62-89, coming up with addenda to the standard. Each addendum must pass various ASHRAE committees before it is approved for publication.

After the public review, the committee decides whether or not to incorporate the comments. If they are incorporated, the addendum must be sent out for public review again. After that, the addendum may become part of the standard, provided no one successfully appeals them.

So far, only four addenda have been approved. However, all are being appealed (primarily from tobacco interests).

While it is almost impossible to say for certain how many addenda are being worked on, which ones are circulating through ASHRAE, and which ones are out for public review, at last count, about 19 were somewhere in the system.

Through this whole process, Taylor has persevered. He has continued to lead the committee, keep track of addenda (although he, too, needs notes), and not collapse under the continuous pressure of being chairman of such a highly visible, contentious standard.

But his tenure is up this month. And he said he will gladly turn over the reins of the committee to his vice-chair at this summer’s ASHRAE meeting in Seattle. Taylor seems tired, and he admits that the politics of being chairman are starting to wear him down.

In addition, he says, “Going through all these addenda and keeping them all straight is very time consuming and not very satisfying. It’s a bureaucratic-type job.”

Introducting ...

So who is this new chairman, willing to sacrifice personal and professional time in order to serve on this highly controversial standard?

He’s Andy Persily, a mechanical engineer with a lot of education and experience. He’s spent the last 20 years or so conducting research on indoor air quality and airflow in buildings.

For the last 17 years, he’s been employed at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, Md. Persily has a Ph.D. in mechanical and aerospace engineering and has been an active member of ASHRAE since the mid-1980s. He’s been chairman of several ASHRAE committees, which have primarily dealt with ventilation, infiltration, and air change effectiveness. Suffice it to say, he knows his stuff.

And for the moment, Persily seems to have a pretty good sense of humor about taking over as chairman of 62-89. When asked what he plans to do first in his role as chairman, he deadpans, “I don’t know. Maybe tell a joke.”

He quickly adds that what he plans to do first is reassure people that he doesn’t have a personal agenda and that he’s there to help the committee do the work with which they’ve been charged.

Persily is clearly in awe of how much time Taylor devoted to revising the standard. “He’s contributed an absolutely tremendous amount of time and energy to the committee, as well as a broad and practical knowledge of hvac systems. It’s just incredible how much of his own time he’s put in.”

Persily is a little wary about how much of his time this standard is going to consume. One reason he agreed to be Taylor’s vice chair in the first place was because it didn’t require much work on his part (though he’s quick to note that his role as a subcommittee chair involved plenty).

Now he’s going to be the one in the spotlight, juggling the addenda, explaining the committee’s decisions, and generally keeping everyone happy. “I realize it’ll be a lot of time. I’m not that concerned today. Maybe I’ll feel differently six months from now.”

Fortunately, NIST supports Persily’s ASHRAE activities and will be somewhat sympathetic about the time he must take to revise the standard. As for his family, “We don’t talk about ASHRAE much at home. I realize I’ll be doing some of this evenings and weekends. I hope I don’t do as much of that, but it remains to be seen.”

Even with all its drawbacks, Persily is looking forward to leading the committee. “I’m willing to do it,” he says, “because I hope I can help produce a revision of 62-89 that’s practical, effective, and technically sound.”

Smooth transition

The transition from one chairman to the other should be fairly smooth, predicts Persily, because he and Taylor have worked together closely for the last few years.

Having a technical background in ventilation and indoor air quality will also help, as he’s done a lot of field work and feels confident he has an understanding of how real buildings operate.

Persily also categorizes himself as being patient and willing to listen to people, which he hopes will make it easier to get the work done. “I’m fairly optimistic that we can work through all the tough issues. It might not be easy, but I believe that no matter what disagreements exist there will always be an answer — maybe two.”

No major overhauls will take place in how the committee is run, although Persily notes that, “Of course, I’ll do it in my personal style. I’m an engineer, not a psychologist. I don’t think I’d be good at describing Steve’s and my styles and how they’re different. But I’m sure other people will.”

Persily says the prime objective is to develop 62-89 as a code language document. “Right now there are a lot of ‘shoulds’ and suggestions and considerations in the standard. The problem is that if you’re very conscientious, you’ll put more time into meeting the standard, which can put you at a disadvantage relative to somebody else.

“By putting it into code language, everyone will know what they have to do and how to determine they’ve done it, thereby leveling the playing field.”

He admits that he does feel pressure to make progress on the revised standard. Even though several addenda have been approved by the board, some wish the process would go more quickly.

“We’re all learning this continuous maintenance process, and it’s not that surprising that the beginning has been gradual. Hopefully we’ll be able to get the addenda through that need to be approved and the progress will continue. Some people have found it frustrating. We’re officially making progress though.”

Simplified procedure?

Given the confusion surrounding 62-89 and continuous maintenance, ASHRAE is looking into simplifying the standards procedure. President George Jackins recently appointed a subcommittee of the board to revisit how ASHRAE develops its standards.

“I think we’re looking for a totally new path for standards development that may not be as difficult and still maintain ANSI certification,” says Jackins. “I think we’re anxious to do a better job of understanding the political, economic, and technical considerations of our standards — how they impact the public in all three of those areas.”

Persily isn’t too concerned about that yet, although he believes that simplifying the standards process could potentially make everyone’s life easier.

Right now, though, he’s content to see how things work out for him as chairman of 62-89. His two-year term will officially start after this summer’s ASHRAE meeting in Seattle.