“We obtained information about your company at the convention last week.” That’s how the e-mail started. It sure read like a mass-generated form letter. (“Running low on printer cartridges?”)

Most letters we receive at The News are either attached to a press release for some new wonder-product, or they were written to argue against the point a previous letter-writer made on our “Reader Mail” page. And then there’s the occasional off-the-wall equipment request from someone who does not seem to understand that The News is a publishing company, not a manufacturer: “Dear Sir/Madam; I am unable to find parts for the pump motor I bought from your company for my decorative outdoor fish pond three years ago.”

So when we read that someone “obtained information about your company at the convention last week,” it sounded like a letter from a person who didn’t know who we are.

It continued: “I wish for a moment of your time to read the brief backgrounder and petition attached surrounding the situation of the challenges that the ASHRAE Standard 62 Committee poses for both the hospitality industry as well as industry suppliers in your area of coverage.” Oh yeah. That.

“That” is the ongoing debate within ASHRAE and with the hospitality industry over ventilation for smoking zones. “That” is proof that when you try to please everyone, you usually don’t please anyone — especially in such an emotionally charged, financially sensitive topic as smoking vs. nonsmoking.

It Just Keeps Going

The letter was from representatives of the Hotel Association of Canada in Vancouver, British Columbia. The association was outspoken at ASHRAE’s two-hour forum on IAQ in the hospitality industry last year, in Atlantic City, N.J.

At that forum, titled “Should ASHRAE Develop a Separate IAQ Standard for the Hospitality Industry,” the hospitality industry said it would welcome such a standard, because it could allow patrons to smoke in communities that now have or are considering 100 percent smoking bans in public places. Advocates for nonsmokers’ rights would prefer that these establishments stick to the current ASHRAE IAQ standard, because it recognizes tobacco smoke and environmental tobacco smoke (ETS, second-hand smoke) as carcinogens; 62.1 is, as one consulting engineer called it, “a nonsmoking standard.”

On the other hand, if appropriate ventilation and filtration strategies were required in areas that currently allow smoking, hospitality industry employees, as well as patrons, could benefit from the improved air quality.

Since that time, ASHRAE has incorporated addenda to ANSI/ ASHRAE Standard 62-2001, Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality, to address the hospitality industry’s concerns.

Addendum 62o would seem to be of most interest to that industry. It addresses the use of ventilation to control odors from tobacco smoke, but does not address health effects. It will even call upon the expertise of one Ole Fanger, Fellow ASHRAE, to quantify the elusive, seemingly subjective qualities of odors.

Addendum 62o requires smoking areas to have more ventilation and air-cleaning capabilities than comparable nonsmoking areas. It also provides a method to allow designers to determine the additional ventilation over what would be provided in a similar nonsmoking area for the purpose of odor control only, according to committee chair Andrew Persily.

Typically, the increase in ventilation is about 10 to 40 cfm per person over the nonsmoking rate in spaces without heavy smoking, he said. The actual increase will depend on the smoking rate and occupancy density of the specific space.

So what’s not to like? There are design recommendations for smoking and nonsmoking areas. The problem is that the tabular information is “guidance … provided as information only in an appendix that accompanies the standard and is not required for compliance.” It also may not provide in-depth information on ventilation/filtration products and system designs that could best improve the air quality in hospitality environments.

Addendum 62o was approved for publication at the 2002 Annual Meeting; six appeals were filed. Those appeals were denied at the society’s 2003 Winter Meeting in Chicago. And you would think that would be that — no more time outs, game over.

The End Run

After the appeals were denied, the Hotel Association of Canada decided to follow ASHRAE’s bylaws and establish a new “Standard Project Committee for Facilities in the Hospitality Industry.”

They couldn’t get the 62.1 committee to write an air quality standard specifically for their industry, so they’re going to try to set up a committee and write their own. They are going for an end run, and they are playing by ASHRAE’s rules. Their arguments are well supported by an article written for the Canadian HVAC Jenal by Elia Sterling, Member ASHRAE and president of Theodor Sterling Associates Ltd. in Vancouver.

Among other things, Sterling claims a lack of hospitality industry representation on the 62.1 committee, and “significant advances in laminar flow ventilation, high-efficiency and electronically enhanced filtration, heat recovery ventilation, IAQ sensor technology, and techniques for humidity and moisture control that have been ignored by the committee for application to address the unique IAQ challenges faced by hospitality facilities.”

The Hotel Association also claims that environmental tobacco smoke isn’t its only concern. “Moisture, mold, and mildew are indoor air quality problems that are of particular concern to hospitality businesses, but the 62.1 committee has not been able to spend much time on these issues. Indeed, because of the need to develop standards that apply widely across all types of buildings, some of the committee’s proposed changes to current standards could actually exacerbate moisture problems in hospitality industry venues.” In fact, there is a book that deals with moisture control in nonresidential spaces: Design Guide for Humidity Control in Commercial Buildings, by Lew Harriman, published in late 2001.

The petition winds up with this: “SSPC 62.1 is overwhelmed with its standard-development workload. There are so many variations of indoor spaces for which the committee must create ventilation standards that it is difficult to reach consensus or to address all the issues of concern for affected industries. To cite one example, the committee has been considering changes to the ventilation standard for smoking spaces for almost a decade, but has been unable to reach consensus. The result is that 62-2001 currently offers no guidance to the industry on this subject.”

Sure there’s guidance. The tabular information from addendum 62o is guidance — it’s just not a standard, so it’s not written in code-enforceable language. And it may need additional information on newer IAQ technologies.

It would seem to us that if newer, better IAQ technology is available, that information should be disseminated and used in the hospitality industry, for the benefit of its employees as well as patrons. Should that use be mandated in a standard? It would seem to us that it should — but not to overturn existing nonsmoking laws.

Barb Checket-Hanks is service/maintenance and troubleshooting editor. She can be reached at 248-244-6467; 248-362-0317 (fax); barbarachecket-hanks@achrnews.com.

Publication date: 03/03/2003