The outside temperatures that week hovered near 88 degrees F and the trade winds were blowing at a steady 15 to 20 mph - perfect, if you like that sort of thing. Indoors at the 2002 ASHRAE Annual Meeting held in Honolulu, IAQ topics heated up the meeting agenda still more.

From discussion of how to avoid being sued for IAQ negligence, to a soul-searching look at whether energy Standard 90 and IAQ Standard 62 are together responsible for today's air quality mess, the meeting got some engineers uncomfortably hot under the collar.

Air quality measurements at New York City's Ground Zero were also discussed. Standard 62 decisions were made in committee.

Negligence Defined

IAQ problems most often stem from some sort of negligence - negligence of design, installation, maintenance, or perhaps all three. But a plaintiff can only successfully call an act negligent if they can measure it against relative competence, and prove that this competence is the norm.

The message from the seminar "How to Avoid Being Sued for Negligence: What Every ASHRAE Member Should Know About the Standard of Care in Systems Design, Comfort, and IAQ," defined what the standard of care is, and explained that it may vary for hvac engineers in different parts of the country.

Attorney William G. Frey, Esq. (Wolf, Block, Schorr and Solis-Cohen LLP, Philadelphia), defined negligence as the failure to exercise "ordinary skill and knowledge." It is a departure from the reasonable standard of care. Negligence could be a dangerous act or omission.

That standard of care can described as a "reasonable person standard," Frey explained. "Each person is required to do what a reasonable, fictitious person would do."

If you are being sued for damages resulting from illness related to an hvac system you designed, know that the plaintiff must prove:

  • Your duty (you earn your livelihood as an hvac professional);
  • That there was a breach in the way you performed your duty (failure to exercise ordinary skill and knowledge); and
  • That the breach caused damage (illness and/or property damage due to toxic molds) to the plaintiff.

According to Frey, here is the formal definition of the standard of care: "Unless he/she represents that he/she has greater skill or knowledge, one who undertakes or renders services in the practice of a profession or trade is required to exercise the skill and knowledge normally possessed by members of that profession or trade in good standing, in similar communities."

Neglect can be proven by showing violation of a building code, which is negligence per se, Frey said. He added that "15 recent cases cited ASHRAE standards in evidence as standard of care." Some also cited the most recent ASHRAE handbook.

Raymond Patenaud, CIAQP, P.E. (The Holmes Agency Inc., St. Petersburg, FL), discussed "Standards of Care in System Design."

He asked the audience if they are still relying on the 1993 edition of ASHRAE Fundamentals. If so, "Throw that out," he said. "The newer version has better information for part-load design in hot, humid climates."

Patenaud recommended the following reading:

  • Standard 62-2000 - "Read it all the way through," he said. "Study it." Stay current with its addenda.
  • Standard 52.2 on air-cleaning devices.

Ignorance is not a valid legal defense for professionals, Patenaud said. "It's very difficult to say in court, 'I just didn't know that.'"

Standards 90 and 62

The seminar, "The Impact of Standards 62 and 90 on Moisture-Related Problems in Facilities," gave the impression of pretrial preparations. Everyone present was asked to keep the discussion civil.

The first speaker was Rodney H. Lewis, P.E. "These two standards have made an existing problem a lot worse, in my opinion," he stated in his presentation, "ASHRAE Has Created This Mess."

The standards themselves have worthy goals, said Lewis. Standard 90.1 was written to save energy and extend fossil fuels, while 62 and its revisions/addenda were meant to improve IAQ.

How does this make ASHRAE culpable? By not loudly proclaiming the goals of its standards, so that they cannot be misinterpreted. "Less than 10% of the employers of contractors and engineers participate in ASHRAE in any meaningful way," Lewis pointed out. This makes it more difficult for them to counter the unreasonable demands of building owners. "First cost governs everything."

One of the main flaws with 90.1, he pointed out, is its limited use of reheat to reduce humidity during the cooling season. In hot, humid climates, "You can't meet both standards without reheat at full load to maintain space humidity."

Steven Taylor, P.E., mounted an able defense in his presentation, "Standard 90.1 Is Not the Culprit" (to which title he added, "Lousy Engineers Are").

Today's mold problems are a result of moisture problems, he pointed out. Resolving them requires control of moisture entry through ventilation, infiltration, and rainwater through the building envelope.

"Ventilation is by far the largest of these sources," he said. However, "90.1 doesn't cover ventilation rates." It does address ventilation control using CO2 sensors. The rest of the standard should have no impact. "There's nothing in 90.1 that says you have to design a lousy envelope."

As for system oversizing, 90.1 can help with this, Taylor said: "It says you have to run load calculations."

And as for active moisture-removal reheat, Standard 90.1 has little to no impact, Taylor said. "Many exceptions [within the standard] do allow reheat."

According to Dennis Stanke of Trane, the greatest problem affecting IAQ is the misapplication of equipment; for instance:

  • "If you have to use a package unit due to budget, and do nothing else, and increase from 5 to 15 cfm, you will have rh problems."
  • Don't use a constant-volume system with total energy recovery. It reduces tons, raises cfm/ton, and maintains IAQ - at full load. It has little impact on space rh at part load.
  • Don't blindly use mixed-air bypass.

    Dust At Ground Zero

    After the collapse of the World Trade Center Towers, people in the vicinity faced a new threat: the sudden release of tons of dust and debris into the air. Early reports warned of asbestos risks, then stated that the levels in the air were much lower than anticipated.

    Many people didn't believe it.

    In order to clear the confusion, ASHRAE presented a forum titled "Particles: How Bad Was Ground Zero?" The study that results from this could also be applied to ash from volcanic eruptions and smoke and ash from fires.

    The collapsed Twin Towers released asbestos, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and particulates into the air. People were still evacuating the area - "just people, with no dust masks or respirators," commented the moderator. Six days afterward, there was still a dust cloud.

    The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) website,, offers a history of data levels. Sites were monitored for asbestos, PCBs, and lead. The EPA and other federal, state, and local agencies collected environmental monitoring data from the WTC site and nearby areas in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and New Jersey.

    The forum reported results from Wall Street, Battery Park, Park Row, and Albany Street. Some of the monitoring didn't start until November, so immediate levels are not known.

    Most sites showed microgram per cubic meter levels that were generally lower than levels that would be problematic for sensitive population segments. The downwind site at Park Row, however, had particle levels that could have been problematic.

    Filter manufacturers attending the forum noted that building owners were the most responsive, quickly taking action to filter out the incoming air, and clean and test air within their buildings.

    At the rescue site itself, however, most rescuers and other emergency personnel, pushed by adrenaline, did not wear appropriate respiratory protection. "Early pictures show them with protection - right at the Adam's apple," commented a presenter. There is speculation that permanent disability from the rescue now exceeds lives lost due to the event.

    "We have to insist that despite the adrenaline of the rush to save lives, people are putting themselves at risk," stated an engineer.

    Work From The 62 Committee

    Neither odors nor health effects associated with environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) will be addressed in the future version of the ventilation standard from ASHRAE.

    The announcement was made one week after ASHRAE announced an addendum (62o) to current Standard 62-2001, to provide design guidance for controlling odors alone in indoor spaces where smoking occurs. The addendum only relates to ETS odors in nonsmoking areas.

    The proposed standard, ASHRAE Standard 62.1P ("Ventilation and Acceptable Indoor Air Quality in Commercial, Institutional and High-Rise Residential Buildings"), takes one more step away, dealing with neither odors nor health. It would apply only to nonsmoking spaces in buildings.

    The action, came after what the society describes as "months of debate on what requirements the society should place on the ventilation of smoking areas. Furthermore, the proposed standard will not comment on the health effects of ETS."

    While adherence or nonadherence to the standard has definite health ramifications, the society pointed out that the proposed standard is intended to discuss engineering and hvac system design - not health, and not even odors.

    "This standard is an engineering design document for ventilating indoor spaces and is not intended to be a source of information on health," said Richard Hayter, a member of ASHRAE's Board Policy Committee on Standards, which made the recommendations. "References to the health effects of environmental tobacco smoke are outside the purpose of the standard."

    In addition, the committee recommended that a separate publication be written to provide design guidance for spaces where ETS is present, such as bars and casinos. The publication would be neither a standard nor a guideline.

    "We should provide technical information on this issue to designers and engineers," Hayter conceded.

    The standard may initially contain some guidance (not requirements) on ventilation of smoking spaces through addenda approved for ASHRAE's existing ventilation standard, Standard 62-2001, Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality. This includes the aforementioned Addendum 62o, which only addresses the control of odors from ETS, not the health effects, and is not required for compliance.

    This addendum will remain in Standard 62 until a separate publication is written, according to the society. Guidance in this area then would be addressed in a separate publication, and the addendum modified or deleted, Hayter said.

    Finally, the ability of various hvac technologies to maintain proper space humidity while meeting the ventilation requirements of Standard 62 has been approved for research.

    "In some applications, conventional unitary systems are reportedly unable to adequately meet these moisture loads and maintain acceptable space humidity levels," stated the society. "Various new technologies, systems, and approaches are being proposed or used to meet these increased loads."

    The project will compare humidity-control options, as well as climate, application, and operating conditions where such options should be considered, in order to develop general humidity-control guidelines.

    The research project is 1254-TRP, Evaluating the Ability of Unitary Equipment to Maintain Adequate Space Humidity Levels; Phase II: Simulations, Summary and Development of Guidelines. The principal investigator is Michael Witte, Ph.D., with GARD Analytics in Park Ridge, IL. The project is expected to take 18 months to complete, at a cost of $109,000. Phase I of the project was previously approved. ES