Each year new technical books come out on numerous ways to design, construct, operate and maintain, and/or manage projects in the hvac industry. You may find some books very informative and others may not meet your needs. Four excellent documents that cover the industry better than any other set of books are the ASHRAE Handbooks because they address fundamentals, applications, systems and equipment, and refrigeration.

Changing with the times

With the building industry progressing from plan-bid-build to construction management to design-build to program management, I think people in our business forget that these four handbooks progressively change too. I won't say they change quickly but sometimes that is good and other times it's not. The one thing they do provide is consistent information for an ever-changing industry. In addition, the ASHRAE standards and guidelines also supplement the handbook with more detailed information on particular subjects.

Using ASHRAE as the starting point

In the design-build and program management businesses of single-source solutions, an owner should always ask the question when interviewing firms providing these services if the basis of the hvac design is based on ASHRAE. So many contractors who solicit their services as design-builders neither own the handbooks, nor do they participate in ASHRAE locally or nationally.

For me, ASHRAE continually provides a "first source" reference guide followed by our own standards, guidelines, and rule-of-thumb experience. The technical talks at the national conferences, as well as at the local chapter sessions, provide case study experience and the latest technology in the form of forums, seminars, and symposiums. It's great information spread over a diverse range of topics.

In the business of single-source solutions, ASHRAE handbooks offer quick and easy reference, providing pertinent information for development of design intent documents. At the same time, issues such as energy analysis, operation and maintenance costs, and life cycle, etc., can also be found in these textbooks. Basic data on equipment, automatic control strategy, and distribution system sizing are all there. Even industry standard symbols can be found with no trouble.

All you wanted to know about hvac

So how do these handbooks help the fast-track process of design-build? It is one-stop shopping. The design-build firm doesn't need to routinely purchase and/or use numerous documents to improve its product. Simply refer to the four table of contents and you should find everything you need to know about hvac. So often, this document can be overlooked, and yet it is nationally recognized as the industry standard for technical information.