While working on ASHRAE's Green Guide, I was struck by the lack of discourse in the mainstream journals regarding green design. Oh sure, I can pick up a copy of the Natural Times at the local juice bar and read about furniture made from hemp and the importance of "maximizing a room's energy" through Feng Shui. But relevant discussion regarding innovative green hvac design is almost nonexistent.

There are plenty of individual articles, white papers, and on-going technical committee work taking place out there, but nowhere has it been discussed on a regular basis until now.

Unfortunately, to many practitioners of the hvac arts, green design is perceived as a fad. Sustainable, high performance, integrated ... these are just fancy ways of saying expensive, unworkable, and unrealistic. I have been pulled aside and told in so many words, "Listen son, we developed vav in the '70s. What more do you want? What more could you need?"

Throw the term "green" out at a typical design kick-off meeting, and the blankness of the owners' stares may only be exceeded by the anger in the architects' glare. "Listen you tree-hugging tin jockey, no fancy hvac design is going to deprive me of achieving my masterpiece. I've waited all my life to use marble in a foyer, so keep your a/c thingy simple, keep it cheap, and for goodness sake, make it fit in this coat closet!"

And how about that tree-hugger label? By and large, engineers are a conservative lot. Encourage some of them to go green, and you may as well have asked them to join the Communist Party. Throw green into the design mix and paranoid visions of the Kyoto Protocol, Greenpeace, and President Al Gore, Jr. dance through their heads.

But regardless of our paradigms, our conflicts, or our politics, the fact of the matter is that the earth's resources are in finite supply, and the bar has been set regarding health and comfort. So if the green moniker is an albatross, forget green. Green is DOA. Instead, simply think of green design as good design.

Bill Coad, the former president of ASHRAE, said, "Engineering evolution without innovation will assure obsolescence." Where is innovative evolution needed most? Inventive development is required in areas that fit nicely beneath the green umbrella: Resource and energy conservation, indoor and outdoor environmental quality, increased personal control, and individual comfort.

Innovative Design = Good Design = Green Design

This month, ES has highlighted building automation. We all know the benefits of controls, but let's think of them in the context of good/green design. Of the 26 points needed for LEED Certification (www.usgbc.org/programs/leed.htm), 20% of those can be earned using a bas. That is a positive testimony to the role of controls in a thoughtful design. One of those points is earned by providing individual controls for airflow, temperature, and lighting.

How many times have you thoughtfully designed a building's system only to find fans brought from home, or cardboard taped over a vent or two? You can't beat yourself up, though. You just can't predict some things in design. The supervisor with the thermostat in her office is hot blooded; the accountant in cubicle 542 is sensitive to drafts; and the accountant in cubicle 543 thinks it is stuffy without a breeze in his face.

The fact is that it is highly unlikely that you will ever satisfy everyone with a macro approach to the indoor environment and controls. That is why innovative integrated designs with individual controls make so much sense and are a natural, especially in the modern workplace.

For insight into some integrated control strategies and systems that you might consider, take a look at Johnson Controls' Personal Environments System at www.johnsoncontrols.com or York's Underfloor Air System at www.york.com. To see some innovative personal control technology in action, visit the Robert L. Preger Intelligent Workplace(tm) at Carnegie Mellon University at www.arc.cmu.edu/cbpd/html/iw/.

I encourage you to think a little greener as you approach your next design. Perhaps you will empower the enduser with individual control, or maybe you can just provide more zones on that tried-and-true vav. Underfloor distribution or integrated furniture too much trouble? Then think about locating adjustable supply diffusers in the wall at the work level, in the floor fed from the floor below, or burying some FRP duct.

In the end, what part will you play in the innovative evolution of our industry? ES