ASHRAE President at IMechE, September 17th 2002


Don Colliver provided a personal insight into the role of the building services engineer in today's society. He was keen to ensure that the message was "Air Conditioning and Refrigeration are essentila to today's way of life .... where the use is appropriate". Attended by senior members of CIBSE, IMechE, IoR , FETA and the Association of Building Engineers as well as attracting co-sponsorship from many organsiations inluding BSRIA and the Institute of Energy, this provided another excellent opportunity for inter-institutional communication.

Building a Better World

Donald Colliver, Ph.D., P.E., Fellow ASHRAE 2002-03, President ASHRAE

As a child, I frequently went with my father to cemeteries around Kentucky. We spent many hours searching for tombstones bearing the family name. Our ancestors emigrated from England to the Kentucky area in the mid-1700s.
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to travel extensively in England. In the Oxfordshire archives, I discovered the 250-year old parish register for the parish where my forefathers had lived.
On the first page of that book, I found the recording of the christening of the first Colliver to come to America more than two centuries ago.
Using my gloved hands I continued to turn the fragile pages of that old leather-skin covered book. After turning several pages, I noticed that the handwriting suddenly changed. I saw an entry that stated “Died and buried this day, William Colliver, clerk of this parish.” An eerie feeling came over me as I realized that I had been reading and could touch the handwriting of my father of nine generations ago who had passionately recorded the actions of that parish.
People sometimes ask me why I look back; why I study genealogy? My answer is simple. So we can know where we came from. So we can recognize the importance of building a world where nine generations from now they can look back and say “This person built for me a better world in which to live.” This is true for ASHRAE as well. Generations of members from our “ASHRAE family” have worked to create a better world for us. For more than 100 years, ASHRAE and its predecessor societies have been successful. We have a great history with many accomplishments. It has been successful because it has provided the structure for people like you and me to be passionate about what is important to us: harnessing the power of nature and machinery to make the world a better place.
To be successful at anything, you must be passionate and have a strong foundation. ASHRAE has a strong foundation. A foundation consisting of our Handbooks, Journal and other publications, standards, research, technical committees, global outreach, chapters and people. But what drives the construction of ASHRAE’s structure is passion. Passion is our fuel. People being passionate about learning new information and better methods and then sharing them with others. People being passionate about development of their skills and talents, passionate about mentoring and nurturing, and passionate about making the world a better place to live through the application of technology.
This year we will be building on the past as we build for the future. One of my goals this year is to look at the infrastructure of ASHRAE to ensure that we are stirring the passions of our membership about our technology so we may leave the world better than we found it. This is how we will enable ASHRAE – and how we will give each member the opportunity to make a difference in the world.
People around the world were shocked and saddened by the events of Sept. 11, 2001. ASHRAE President Bill Coad indicated in his message after those events, “As a society of engineers, it is in our nature to build. To witness purposeful destruction of lives, machines and structures is repulsive to us not only as human beings but doubly so as mankind’s builders.” I would like to add that our focus as a people is now on rebuilding. Not only rebuilding at Ground Zero, but in our society, in our way of life, and for many, in their personal lives.
We feel a greater need to connect on a human level with one another. Statistics have revealed that since the September tragedy an unprecedented number of people have volunteered for community service.
Let this, then, be our opportunity to also rebuild. To strengthen the ways that ASHRAE lets people connect. To let them channel their passions through ASHRAE. Our world is changing very quickly – so must we.
We must build on our successes. We must use our passion to set goals that have a higher purpose. We must focus on raising performance and raising our contribution. We must challenge ourselves. We must have a new way to dream – we must lift our goals 15 degrees higher.
Raising our goals by 15 degrees means we cannot just look straight ahead and attempt to forecast just what’s around the bend. We need to look up; use our imagination and dream about what we can build and what we can become.
Paraphrasing Thoreau, we must build our castles in the air and put foundations under them.
Join with me to help ASHRAE set the foundation for realizing the dream of Building A Better World. To support our foundation, I propose for us four cornerstones: energy, environment, education and empowerment.
I’d like to review each of these cornerstones in more detail.
However, I won’t give you specific challenges or ways to accomplish these goals – we have committees, councils and individuals with many great minds to do this. Instead, I’d like to present a vision of some challenges and/or opportunities for us to use to build the foundation. Let us begin with energy.
ASHRAE gained recognition as an energy expert in the 1970s when we were asked to develop a national standard on energy conservation. We met that challenge, and our Standard 90 continues to influence building designs worldwide. It has become the basis for building codes, and the standard for building design and construction throughout the United States.
Through our efforts, buildings built to our current standards use significantly less energy than used by buildings built just 30 years ago.
We have long been recognized as a leader in the efficient use of energy. However, we now face new and different challenges.
For too long we have emphasized setting minimum requirements. While these are extremely important, we need to get back to what brought us excellence and look toward energyefficient design.
We are being challenged to expand our involvement, and the potential for complexity is very real. We have found that a single document cannot effectively be used for multiple objectives. To maintain our status, I propose simplification and increased usability by creating within the next three to five years a suite of four types of documents related to energy efficiency.
The first type would be a set of three documents that would provide the bare minimums needed for residences, small buildings and large buildings. Some might call this set of documents suitable for use in building codes.
The second set of documents would be designed to give guidance to someone wanting to design and build a good, energy-efficient building - a set of documents that tell what’s good practice. These could be used if owners specify they are going to occupy the building for many years. I see these documents as giving guidance on ways to increase the energy conservation of new buildings so that they use only 70 percent of the energy used by buildings that are built to the 2001 version of Standard 90.1.
The third set would be documents that identify excellent practice. Documents that would tell me what I should consider using if my design goal is 50 percent of the energy used by buildings built to the 2001 version of Standard 90.
Lastly, I envision us publishing documents that include futuristic practices for innovators - something for designers who want off-site energy usage of 25 percent of buildings built 30 years ago. These documents would contain the latest research on innovative building practices and renewable energy sources.
They would be the focal point for advanced practices – not only for developed countries but for developing countries as well.
This brings us to our second cornerstone - the environment. We have a beautiful world. A world that is extremely complex yet very, very fragile. We must always remember that our resources are not infinite.
Taking care of this world and protecting the environment is something ASHRAE has focused heavily on in recent years.
Whether in energy, indoor air quality or refrigeration, ASHRAE has realized these areas are not separate. They are intertwined. If we are to protect our resources, we no longer can consider just one without considering the others. We must look at what’s optimal for the entire system rather than each individual part.
A good example of this is ASHRAE’s Technology Awards.
Since they were created 21 years ago, the awards have recognized hundreds of members who have successfully applied innovative building design in the areas of occupant comfort, indoor air quality and energy conservation. These awards recognize those designers who have cultivated far-thinking attitudes of honoring and respecting the world and its inhabitants.
The protection of the environment is more than an economic issue – it is an ethical issue. As professionals, each of us is called to conform to technical and ethical standards. Energy and the environment typically have not been considered any more than a design parameter. However, energy and the environment must be elevated from design parameters to moral standards.
The protection of our environment has two prongs. We must consider both the outdoor and the indoor environments.
For the outdoors, we need to inspire the imaginative, thoughtful engineers and designers to take a long-range view of the implications of their actions and designs. There’s much attention being given to the term “green buildings.” We need to increase our emphasis toward developing tools to make it easier to design buildings with these attributes.
Also of great importance to the present day and to our industry is the indoor environment. Today’s buildings are modern man’s exoskeleton. We spend at least 95 percent of our time encapsulated indoors. And just like insects and other arthropods, we depend on our exoskeleton, whether it be buildings or vehicles, to protect us, to keep us safe from the environment and pollutants and to provide comfortable, productive living conditions.
The exoskeletons that encapsulate us are viable organisms that change over time. With modern-day controls, they react to climate and automatically respond to changing conditions and occupancy. The occupancy and uses are flexible, and several years after construction the building rarely is operated as designed. Buildings may not be organic bodies but they certainly are dynamic, changing bodies that need physicals, checkups, maintenance and care just as our bodies do.
The third cornerstone is one that is near to my heart - education.
This cornerstone is also multidimensional.
A) We must transfer knowledge to ourselves and to others, and B) we must develop new information.
In transferring our wisdom to others, we should focus on our future – students in kindergarten through 12th grade. We need to show them the value and the importance of engineering.
One way ASHRAE reaches out to young people is by participating in National Engineers Week. This year, ASHRAE is the lead society for the celebration. You will hear more about this later in the year. This is a great opportunity for ASHRAE to raise the profile of engineers and specifically draw attention to what ASHRAE members do.
We also offer strong programs for the college age group. The excitement and enthusiasm shown in the Student Design Competition gives me faith that our young people are ready and eager to meet the complex challenges in our field.
We can dream of creating several new ways for educating our youth. I recently saw a virtual biology laboratory in which a frog could be dissected on the computer. I envision a similar development of a virtual building laboratory where someone could sit down in front of a device and design, construct and operate a building. The person could go through all the components to make sure it meets the minimum design criteria and then determine what could be changed to optimize the building, make it more efficient and more livable. They could listen to pumps, compressors, air handlers and diffusers for potential problems, see the lighting levels change and determine the comfort levels of the spaces. This technology is already being used in the medical and education fields. Why can’t we use it for design, diagnostic and training tools for HVAC&R? Finally, education is more than simply providing tables of data.
We must develop new information and methods and show our members how to transform the data given in tables into knowledge – and then use that knowledge with wisdom.
Our goal here will be to help people understand the new data and better methods obtained from research, published in Handbooks, presented at meetings and printed in our publications. Unless what ASHRAE makes available can be put to use, by either practitioners or by researchers, it is of little value. We’ve started down a path of evaluating our publications.
And we are in the process of initiating a major rewrite of our Handbooks to make them more valuable to our membership.
This brings us to our fourth and final cornerstone – empowerment.
ASHRAE has two major assets. They are illustrated on the research promotion coin. On one side we have a representation of the knowledge base that defines us – our information – “Technology for a Better Environment.” On the other side, we have an individual representing a person in our industry. Just as the two sides of this coin are formed together to produce one body, ASHRAE’s power is linked by joining both sides of its coin - our people and our information. What will define us in the future are the methods we use to empower our people to gain this knowledge base.
One of our Society’s strongest resources is our volunteer base.
Our power is our people. The power of our people will come from a passion for technology and striving for excellence.
We must expand our base from the traditional areas of membership. HVAC&R is no longer a matter relegated strictly to those in our industry. With concerns growing about energy, IAQ, bioterrorism and building safety, HVAC&R is becoming more of a team effort. Let us encourage participation by those in the construction and maintenance industries, building owners and non-building related groups such as health care providers, food/fiber producers, pharmaceutical industries, and the legal establishment just to name a few. We also must reach out even further to attract young people, particularly those in the 22-30 age group.
We must make our membership more valuable in terms of both money and time. My vision of looking 15 degrees higher is to see a 20 percent growth in membership in the next five years.
The opportunities are there. Whether it be in transferring technical information, leadership development or management skills – we just need to capitalize upon them.
Energy, environment, education and empowerment – together, these four cornerstones give us E to the 4th power. This represents excellence in all we do.
I recall as a child seeing the little signs advertising that it was cool inside – come on in. It was cool to be in an air-conditioned theater or in a domed stadium. While our goal this year is to recapture the enthusiasm of when air conditioning was stylish, more importantly, we want to demonstrate that air conditioning and refrigeration are essential to our way of life.
As we build on our cornerstones, we must remember Albert Einstein’s words “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” My friends, we are not lacking the materials or the money to build the foundation for a better world. We need to revitalize ourselves and our world with one more thing - the imagination to find them and to put them together.
Our programs, Handbooks, short courses, research, standards and our Web site are only paths that we follow as we pursue our engineering passion. Where these paths lead us is to a reconstructed and a stronger ASHRAE. An ASHRAE that helps each and every one of us make a difference in the world for our children and our children’s children.
An ASHRAE that helps us in building a better world.

The meeting was organised by IMechE Construction and Building Services Division in collaboration with the CIBSE ASHRAE Group, Association of Building Engineers, Building Research Establishment, the Institute of Refrigeration and the Institute of Energy.

Group Chairman, Tim Dwyer can be contacted at

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