New York reveals some things looking up and others simply upside down.

Once indoors, I lose all sense of orientation regarding where things are outside. Some people can sit in a conference room with no windows and nonchalantly point while referring to something to the east. Are you kidding? My internal compass can typically point me in the general direction of the water fountain, and that’s about it. So while I got to the New York Hilton easily enough, it was no surprise that a couple of surprises awaited me inside this year’s ASHRAE winter meeting.

The first came during the “Commissioning For Large Facilities” seminar. Jeff J. Traylor started off with some good commissioning advice, much of it in alignment with ideas Rebecca Ellis has offered up in these pages.

Rick Casault trekked all the way from Washington state to offer more great insight, including an angle that doesn’t get much press: what to look out for in an owner, and/or when to consider passing on a job because the support for commissioning is lacking. I liked his suggestion for an ongoing punchlist, and I winced at some laughably bad situations he’d encountered, including the photo of a mechanical room door that was not accessible except by ladder, and then just barely.

But Carl Lawson of Hanson Professional Services delivered the most jarring evidence of what commissioning agents can find in the field after the fact. Like what? Standing water and oil in a transformer rooms. Equipment clearly labeled “Up” with an arrow, installed upside down. A school district having to spend $2.6 million to correct problems after the job was allegedly done.

Lawson’s evidence underscored the importance of a vigilant commissioning agent enlisted early in the process. It also highlighted that although much of our content here reaches for the stars, so to speak, many facilities are still getting mired in a quicksand of changeorders and bad performance.

On The Upside ...

Then, the day after the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, the Commercial Buildings Initiative presentation garnered a different mood. This young public/private initiative (please see page 64), including our own columnist, Paul Ehrlich, will have a major impact toward increased sustainability in the years to come. It recognizes the likelihood of negative events on a macro scale if we don’t modify our building design and usage, but it also recognizes the power of accentuating the positive when motivating people.

Or, as Steve Selkowitz of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories pointed out in the presentation, “MLK didn’t say, ‘I have a nightmare ….’”

The CBI is focusing on everyday owner/operator challenges while raising the industry’s bar for success. That realism can be depressing in photos of real HVAC nightmares. However, being grounded in that reality is critical; the journey toward stellar performance is impossible until we do, in fact, have our eyes wide open and a grip on which way is up.

Big Thanks

Finally, we can’t let February out the door without letting you know that this issue’s cover story represents the end of Joanna Turpin’s work as a contributing editor forES. She may return to help us here or there, but after admirably dividing her energies between the two publications, she has assumed the helm of a new full-time supplement project for our weekly, contractor-oriented sister publication,The Air Conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration News.

This issue also happens to mark ten years since the month I joined theES staff, and even at that time, Joanna was already writing one feature article every month, having escaped the perpetual cloudiness of the Detroit winter to base her operations in considerably sunnier (if no less extreme) Arizona. Covering a full spectrum of topics, including some industry-level articles that only a reporter could produce for us, Turpin became known for her professionalism, quality, and reliability. Of equal value, her work helped buildES’reputation for readability to complement its practical information.

I will miss counting on Joanna as the not-so-secret weapon in our editorial arsenal. She always persevered through occupational hazards - whether in the form of contacts who occasionally seem to disappear, or unexpected client approval problems. She also frequently went above and beyond in suggesting story ideas herself as she came across interesting projects.

While I can only suspect that Joanna may not miss being asked to tackle certain harder-to-cover topics yet again, there is no doubt that we will miss her contributions, her resourcefulness, and her friendly nature as part of our monthly routine. Like many of you, we’re grateful for her long tenure here, and we wish her every success in her new endeavor.ES