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HVAC Design/Construction Process

Twenty Years and Counting

Hard to believe, but next month I will be starting the 21styear of writing this column. The initial column back in January 1991 was called “Energy Engineering” and over time we changed the title to “Today’s Engineer” and then to “Tomorrow’s Engineer,” and now it is called “Tomorrow’s Environment.” If you Google will find some interesting world events back then that would make you think “Gee, that is still a problem today.”

In fact, I believe we still have some of the same chronic HVAC building industry problems today as we had back then when there was an emphasis on quality control, vs. today’s emphasis on integrated project delivery (IPD) as the 21st-century version of quality control. Somehow, we still can’t seem to get it right after all these years.

That first column was titled, “A Look at 1960s Chilled Water Plants.” Since then, I’ve revisited this topic as well as other topics including, but not limited to, HVAC design, construction and construction administration, O&M, CMMS, bar-coding, professional development, teamwork, quality control, and issues associated with the environment. The total number of columns published is 240, with more to follow. With each editorial, I’ve tried to add some humor, sarcasm, and words of wisdom to make it fun but also interesting and, most importantly, educational.

I have described my column to others as “my Andy Rooney commentary on the building industry,” if you watched Andy, and I must say it was a dark day October 2nd when he signed off of 60 Minutesand an even darker day with his recent death. He covered a lot of topics and never really needed to provide an answer to his discussion. My approach has been similar to just get you thinking. I’m going to take a wild guess that Andy made more money doing what he did for 2 minutes a week vs. my 800 words a month. I could be wrong, but I digress.

Over the past 20 years, I’ve had plenty of compliments, some really good advice as a follow-up to the specific columns, a few disagreements, and only one reader who was somewhat rude when he asked me what the P.E. after my name stood for. I was at a loss to respond with something humorous, so I didn’t respond at all and I was pretty sure I must have ruined his day. I felt good about my column for that month.

I have always responded to e-mails and, back then, responding via fax messages. Certainly, e-mail makes communication easier and more convenient, but back when people would take the time to write something out and then fax me, it said a lot about their own commitment in sharing their experience. I can’t say I ever responded to any editorial I read knowing I would have had to write it out and then fax my response to the author.

When I first started the column, the magazine used a sketch of a sad-looking me instead of a photo. Over time, they went to the use of photos but I really didn’t pay much attention until a co-worker suggested I get a new photo. I think she was trying to be polite by implying that my fortyish photo really didn’t do me justice because I was then in my fifties. My response at the time was, “Heck I don’t look at my photograph.” Today’s picture probably isn’t current enough either, so maybe I’ll put getting a new photograph on my to-do list in 2012.

I often say that others think you must be “wicked smart” because you got published, but I really attribute my ability to creative genes provided to me from my parents and then reinforced by several mentors who took a personal interest in my professional development over the past 45+ years. I’d list them but they are numerous, and I’m sure I’d leave a few off. I did give credit to the first few mentors in a book I wrote, and alluded to a couple more in one of my columns, and several readers e-mailed me names of the people they thought I was referring to (“Tomorrow’s Engineer,” April 2007). Unfortunately, there are far more mentors to list, and I’m limited to those 800 words in my column.

Going forward, I will continue to draw upon past and present experience, while also looking ahead to hopefully keep readers opening to the back page before they start to read the magazine front-to-back. If I keep pace with Andy Rooney, who retired at 92 from writing and editorializing, I figure I can be writing my column for a lot more years to come. By then, maybe that reader will learn what P.E. stands for at the end of my name. ES

Recent Articles by Howard McKew, P.E., C.P.E.

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