CHICAGO — With five new learning tracks and more than 100 sessions and 400 speakers, the technical program at the ASHRAE 2015 Winter Conference will focus on big projects and the big picture, which should have a big impact on attending engineers, contractors, manufacturers, and building professionals.

The conference will feature papers and programs for eight learning tracks that will address trends in the industry as well as in the design community in the area. Three returning tracks include “Systems and Equipment;” “Fundamentals and Applications;” and “Energy Efficiency.” The five new tracks will cover “Industrial Facilities;” “Large Buildings: Mission Critical Facilities and Applications;” “Life Safety;” “Design of Energy and Water Efficient Systems;” and “Hospital Design and Codes.”

The conference, along with the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration (AHR) Expo, are historically ASHRAE’s best-attended events, giving attendees from around the world the opportunity to discuss the latest topics in the building industry, said ASHRAE president, Tom Phoenix, principal and vice president, Moser Mayer Phoenix Associates, Greensboro, North Carolina. “They get ideas from others that they can put into use in their daily business practices. In turn, they share information to help advance technology that drives the building industry.”

The conference will take place January 24-28, at the Palmer House Hilton. Complete conference information and registration can be found at

Big Issues

Phoenix has been involved with ASHRAE for 30 years. Regarding the conference, he most enjoys reconnecting with old friends and making new ones. “There is definitely a buzz and excitement in the air when our members come together.”

With a presidential theme of “People, Passion, and Performance,” Phoenix plans to focus on building performance this year, which is also his real-life avocation. “Measuring and improving building performance has been a priority of ASHRAE for a number of years now, and all indications are that building performance will continue to be one of the top driving forces in our industry.”

There are a number of other big issues facing ASHRAE members this year that Phoenix will also address including changes being made to code enforcement. “This past year saw legislation and regulation in several states that either froze or rolled back energy codes, and it is anticipated there will be a number of these bills addressed by legislative and regulatory bodies across the country in 2015. ASHRAE plans to continue its organizational efforts at the local level to stress the importance of the three-year code cycles.”

In Congress, Phoenix noted legislative threats and opportunities abound, with some members of Congress seeking to alter the federal government’s role and use of building energy codes, while other members are interested in accelerating state adoption and improving building energy code compliance and enforcement rates. “Congress is also poised to pass the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act, commonly known as the Shaheen-Portman bill — the most significant energy-efficiency legislation [which includes building energy codes and standards] in more than seven years.”

Energy-efficiency financing and valuation is another issue ASHRAE members are interested in as it’s a persistent barrier to the expanded use of energy-efficiency building technologies, which are often undervalued or not considered at all in mortgages and leasing agreements, said Phoenix. “Significant progress has been made to bring together the financing, appraisal, real estate, and building technologies communities to address this issue, and language has been included in the Shaheen-Portman bill, largely as a result of these efforts.”

Another big issue in 2015 will be energy-efficiency tax provisions, which often reference ASHRAE standards. “As the U.S. Congress considers extending and/or altering these provisions, ASHRAE will continue sitting at the discussion table to ensure that when policymakers make decisions, they are educated about the often highly technical nature of standards and have a better understanding of the potential intended and unintended consequences of their actions,” said Phoenix.

Finally, benchmarking will be on many radars as a number of cities around the U.S., including New York; San Francisco; Chicago; and Austin, Texas; have passed benchmarking ordinances for both public and private buildings. In 2014, Montgomery County, Maryland, became the first in the U.S. to pass a benchmarking ordinance for the entire county, said Phoenix. “As local governments look for additional ways to increase energy efficiency, more of these ordinances will be passed around the country. ASHRAE members have provided needed technical assistance and information in work groups established by a number of these local governments to implement the new ordinances.”

Big Learning Opportunities

ASHRAE has typically focused more on commercial/industrial applications, but the 2015 conference will highlight its new goal of looking at ways to improve the performance of residential buildings, as well. “We recently released the report, ‘ASHRAE and the Residential Construction Market,’ which contains a series of recommendations to our board of directors,” said Phoenix. “Moving forward, we plan to create partnerships and collaboration with key organizations in the residential sector so that, together, we can develop technology; perform research; and educate owners, builders, and designers to improve the residential built environment.”

This focus on residential applications can be seen in many of the seminars being offered during the conference:

• “Who Needs a Residential IAQ Guide?” will ask the questions: Does the world need a residential IAQ guide, and, if so, should ASHRAE develop it?

• “Variable System Field Results and Why Load Based Testing is Needed for Residential Equipment Applications” will cover some experimental results with different types of residential HVAC equipment using a load-based testing approach and some of the implications.

• “ASHRAE and the Residential Construction Market: Status and Strategic Opportunities” will summarize the activity and findings of ASHRAE’s Residential Construction Ad Hoc Committee and its recommendations to the board of directors.

• “The Future is Now: Small, Simple, Efficient, and Comfortable Residential HVAC Systems” will provide examples of high-performance residential HVAC design and construction and ways in which ASHRAE can more fully support the efforts of residential HVAC stakeholders in the future.

Those attending the conference should also check out ASHRAE’s free AHR Expo session, “New 2015 Regional Standards and the Effects on Different Areas of the HVAC Industry,” which will take place at the AHR Expo on Monday, Jan. 26, from 3-4:30 p.m., in room S106a. The session will focus on the new regional energy-efficiency standards that go into effect in 2015, which mandate different efficiency levels for residential air conditioners, heat pumps, and furnaces, based on location. These new regulations will create unique challenges and implications for HVAC manufacturers, distributors, contractors, local officials, and others. This seminar will present a background of regional standards and recommendations from different parties within the industry and how to make the best of the situation.

As the industry strives to improve building and system performance, HVAC professionals need to work closely together to ensure buildings and residences are designed, constructed, and operated as efficiently and effectively as possible, said Phoenix. “The conference and expo provide an excellent opportunity for contractors and engineers to share ideas, discuss what each of us brings to the table, and discover how to build and improve on those efforts.”

SIDEBAR: Technical Tours

ASHRAE Conference technical tours provide attendees with a first-hand look at technology developed by members to further the industry. This year’s tours will include stops at:

• Walgreens’ net-zero store, which features 840 photovoltaic panels; two wind turbines; light-emitting diode (LED) lighting; and a geo-exchange-coupled, transcritical, carbon-dioxide refrigerant heat pump system that provides chilled water, heating hot water, service hot water pre-heat, and refrigeration. The store opened in November 2013 and is on track to achieve net-zero energy use.

• Half Acre Beer Co., which features a new refrigeration system that is being built at this rapidly expanding brewery. The tour of the new facility will showcase the latest and greatest options available for both craft brewing and refrigeration needs. Samples may be available.

• Motorola Mobility Global Corp.’s headquarters, which features an open plan concept with exposed mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems (MEP). The design included aggressive lighting power reduction benchmarks coupled with the use of daylight harvesting and high-efficiency MEP systems to achieve a substantial incentive from the local utility. In order to meet continuous cooling loads from the approximately 80,000 square feet of labs and technology spaces, dedicated MEP infrastructure includes a new electrical service with targeted metering, a modular chilled water plant with free cooling, a low-temperature ventilation system with heat recovery, and an active chilled-beam cooling system.

• The McCormick Place Campus Energy Center, which consists of a central chiller plant, boiler plant, pump houses, and other equipment. The 8.5 million-gallon thermal energy storage tank (TES) is the heart of the campus chilled water system, and it is charged with 30°F brine produced during the night to take advantage of low electric utility rates. Three 2,200-ton ammonia screw compressors, along with six 1,400-ton, three 1,300-ton, and two 2,500-ton centrifugal chillers can be used to charge the tank or self-cool specific buildings. High-pressure steam is also produced and distributed to other buildings in the campus through two 80,000 pounds per hour (PPH) gas-fired boilers.

For more information on these tours, visit

Publication date: 1/12/2015

Want more HVAC industry news and information? Join The NEWS on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn today!