What is a Registered Engineering Technologist?
In December of 1985 the Alberta government approved regulations pursuant to the Engineering, Geological and Geophysical Professions Act of Alberta (which governs the practice of engineering in Alberta) to establish a new category of ASET membership - the Registered Engineering Technologist
(R.E.T.). This legislation provides an entitlement for the R.E.T. to practice engineering by signing and stamping their work (and also work which they have supervised) but will be restricted to those drawings, specifications or other documents prepared within an engineering team and for
which an engineer has agreed to accept professional responsibility. In practice, this is recognized by the joint stamping of drawings, specification, etc. by the R.E.T. and P. Eng., thereby legally identifying and associating both parties with the integrity of the engineering work
performed by the R.E.T.. Learn more.
How long have you been involved in radiant heating and cooling?
First studied it in school back in 1981. In 1989, my business partner at the time did our first radiant cooling project for an equipment distributor in
How did you get into the HVAC sector?
Graduated from Construction Engineering Technology in 1983, back when the NEP essentially shut down the Alberta construction industry. Found one of the few government funded projects at the time and
worked as a junior project manager. After the job was over I took on a position first working (then a shareholder) in a solar / radiant company.
What is the most significant advance/change that you have experienced during your career in this industry?
The role of the computer in facilitating design, communication and education.
What is the biggest challenge facing this industry?
Getting over the need to defend the status quo. After 30 or more years the only thing that has expanded in the North American industry is the number of manufacturers, products, shows and
associations. The market share has essentially remained stagnant at 6% and the number of skilled contractors is declining. I’ve estimated that in the past ten years well over 120 million dollars has been spent on public relations, marketing and sales without convincing the mass consumers
or building markets to change how they do things. At this rate we’re going we’ll spend another 160 million+ over the next ten years and have the same results.
What can be done to address this challenge?
The CEO’s and their PR/Marketing/Sales Teams need to study the past words of Peter Drucker and the role collaboration plays in this new era. The first “right steps” were taken when members of the CHC agreed to fire itself and hire an outside firm to help with
solutions and the second happened when the HVAC and Hydronics associations merged in B.C. under the collaborative banner of Thermal Environmental Comfort Association. Other powerhouse organization like ASHRAE, BOMA and AIA are collaborating on key industry initiatives and demonstrating
success. There are more other right steps to take; many are detailed at the business solution pages at www.healthyheating.com.
How can this sector grow its market share?
If you study the paradoxes within this industry, you’ll see how complex and compounded the challenge of market share. To put it into perspective, calculate the hydronics market share as a percentage of annual consumers spending instead of a percentage of HVAC systems. When you do this,
you’ll find consumers spend more money on their outdoor living environments and pets than on indoor environments. We have identified at least eight elegant and simple solutions on reversing the degradation and growing the segment and present them at our one day workshop.
What are some of the emerging trends or technologies that contractors should be investigating?
I’m rather cynical about emerging trends or technologies which do not have an direct and immediate impact on consumer and building contractor adoption. In fact, I’m a firm believer that addition should come from subtraction, in other words any useful trend or
technology must eliminate, simplify or reduce the current number of trends and technologies. That’s why I’m a big fan of boiler rooms in a box. A single SKU replaces hundreds of others, simplifies everything from inventory management to service calls and the box as an appliance,
is a familiar form to builders and consumers.
Where do you see this industry in 10 years?
The pessimistic side of me says unless it can get its act together the industry doesn’t have a bright future. Nipping at its heels is a strengthening push for net zero energy buildings which redefines the word ‘heating’ and places more emphasis on ventilation and cooling. Industry is
working hard to create codes, standards containing ‘legislated hydronics certifications’ however the air side remains immune to these requirements. The decline of skilled labour over the inventory of customized complex hydronic systems owned by an aging population with reduced cognitive,
physical and visual capabilities greatly concerns me as well. People who can’t understand, see or operate their systems tend not to have a positive view of it and don’t have a problem sharing their frustrations with others. Lots of other challenging areas that left unchecked create further
clouds. The only optimistic view I have at this time, is the opportunity to make amends for our past sins by applying combustion and electrical efficiencies to the index of existing systems.
What is the most expensive residential system you’ve ever seen? How much did it cost?
I get to visit a lot of great architecture all over North America so that’s a difficult question to answer. I’d say it’s a toss up between two estates one in the Virginia area and the other In Montana. These mechanical systems were both over $850,000. But the
nicest I have ever seen is featured at our website.
What is the single most common mistake in hydronics system installations?Treating hydronics like fine art where each job is a new painting instead of treating it
like the performing arts where the song remains the same. People come to concerts because they like the music they recognize; they don’t want to pay to hear a new and improved rendition.
What is the biggest mistake you’ve seen on a system?
Condensing non condensing boilers.
What is the single most influential product you’ve seen introduced in the industry in the last 20 years?
Without a doubt prefabricated boiler rooms as an appliance.
What’s your favourite leisure time activity?
Reading. ..but playing my guitar comes in a close second.
your thoughs on:
Back in the early 80’s we were
designing radiant based HVAC systems known as a hybrid long
before their benefits became apparent to mainstream
industry. We knew how effective air systems were at
introducing and filtering outdoor air, recovering energy
from exhaust air and controlling humidity - all necessary
for indoor air quality, human health and maintaining the
integrity of the building. However one of the most
influential forces affecting indoor environmental quality is
human thermal comfort and its driver is not air temperature
but radiant energy. In the case of the sun, radiant is so
powerful, people will move towards it when they feel cold or
move away from it when they feel hot. In the reverse
example, people will move downstairs to a cool basement if
they feel hot or back upstairs if they feel cold – again not
because of air temperature but because of the radiant
effect. To this day it amazes me how people in North
America have been trained to intellectually believe wrongly
that air temperature alone is what makes them comfortable
even though their bodies tell them differently.
A simple hybrid example of a radiant
based HVAC system would be the use of a heat recovery
ventilator or energy recovery ventilator (HRV/ERV) in
conjunction with a radiant floor heating. More advanced
methods would incorporate radiant cooling with a robust
means for conditioning the air such as a ‘dedicated outdoor
air system’ known as a DOAS. Both of these examples treat
indoor thermal comfort quality separately and independently
of indoor air quality for improved indoor environmental
HVAC. Where the market is headed.
I’m one of those guys which looks at
the building as part of the radiant based HVAC solution and
looks at radiant based HVAC systems as an integrated
appliance - so my vision sees a trend towards simplification
in HVAC systems aided by the evolution of high performance
homes like those built to and rated by Energy Star™ or HERS™
and those fabricated to the LEED™ for Homes standard. These
buildings use low temperature heating and high temperature
cooling and allow the occupant to feel more comfortable with
much smaller and simpler systems and shift the HVAC focus
onto indoor air quality. Integrated equipment where the
boiler, chiller, HRV/ERV and domestic water are one
appliance in a well built environment plays a role in
improving efficiencies and reducing the carbon footprint
from onsite stick frame construction processes. Further down
the road (hopefully sooner than later) I see North America
adopting as the Europeans have, community based district
energy systems using thermal and electrical solar, micro
turbines, and possibly fuel cells. However, no matter how
eco friendly, I do not see the latter solutions being
adopted enmasse on individual homes nor do I think it wise.
The reason is the inverse relationship in available skilled
labor and the growth in technology. In other words the more
technology advances the less skilled people we have around
to make it run – it’s a recipe for disaster and one which
can be avoided. With community based systems the operation
of the technology is done outside the development by a
handful of competent engineers or technicians. A simple
example is buying wind generated power. The owner needs the
electricity, but doesn’t want a wind turbine on his home to
repair and maintain.
towards higher efficiencies.
In consumer language – if radiant based
HVAC systems were used in high performance homes, then only
3 units of energy out of a 100 would be unrecovered instead
of the 20 to 40 now being sacrificed. For heat pumps it
means getting five units of energy for the price of one
instead of three or four.
A word of caution though – never equate
higher efficiency with eco friendliness and lower operating
costs. Here’s why: utilities like power and gas are
commodities whose price is based on supply and demand and
prices are not equal in all parts of the country. A consumer
could buy a high efficiency gas boiler thinking they were
going to lower their operating costs only to be hit by a
surge in gas prices and maybe would have been better off
using a heat pump run on hydropower. Conversely if the heat
pump is powered with electricity generated with coal or gas
then there will be greater environmental damage from
emission and possible no operating savings.
Higher efficiencies equals more bang
for the buck – but not necessarily less bucks and certainly
not necessarily less environmental damage.
I love the expression on people’s faces
when asked have they ever considered that of the three
necessities for life; food, water and air, indoor air is the
only one not regulated by government. It’s no wonder the air
inside our homes can be far more polluted than the outside
air – it is a result of the minimum building codes and
standards, poor methods and materials of construction and
the inappropriate ways homes are operated and maintained.
Since breathing is not an option, the
best solution to prevent IAQ problems is use materials of
construction like concrete, stone, slate, tile, wood,
plaster, cork, glass, steel, etc., acceptable radon
prevention methods, plus geography appropriate construction
systems emphasizing moisture, temperature and air pressure
control. Then design and install HVAC appliances simple
enough for the average person to operate and maintain. These
would incorporate a combination of HEPA filtration for
particulate matter, activated carbon for odors and in
some cases possibly UV for airborne bacterial
contaminants like mold.
If the system needs a professional then
use as much off the shelf equipment as possible, then locate
and install it in such a way to facilitate the maintenance
process without having to disturb the occupant’s sense of
privacy and security.