Did you seeUnstoppable?It was the movie from a couple of years ago about the train in Pennyslvania that became an unmanned runaway train carrying a lot of dangerous chemicals. Denzel Washington, Chris Pine, Rosario Dawson, and a couple of good character actors you’d probably recognize … pretty good movie, and certainly not your typical overdone action/thriller scenario.

The film didn’t even cross my mind when we assembled last month’s feature, “HVAC Security Emergencies: No Terrorist Required” by Howard McKew, Gregory Dobbs, and Kevin M. Cogley. As I wrote for the article’s deck, potential crises for unassuming nearby buildings might include truck accidents, emissions from other buildings, maybe natural disasters.



While Unstoppable was, in fact, based on an actual runaway train, our feature article hit a little closer to home when I got an e-mail from Richard Sherren, P.E. of Kinetics Noise Control. Sherren kindly pointed me to a July 11 train derailment in Columbus, OH. As Sherren noted, “Three tank cars full of ethanol burst open, caught fire, and exploded. Fortunately, the cars carrying styrene did not derail or burn. These tracks pass under the Columbus Convention Center and close to key business and government buildings.”

The AP story on Cleveland.com (July 11) includes photographer Chris Mumma recounting “spewing flames 20 to 30 feet high” and an “odd odor” that eventually took him to the hospital.

This all clarifies the risks, doesn’t it? Is there any reason to think the next random accident will not manifest itself in the most sensitive, most inconvenient, most potentially dangerous place along the route? No, there isn’t. If you breezed on by that article just as “that won’t happen here” human nature tends to make us do, you can always reconsider and check it out online if your issue isn’t handy. In the meantime, we’ll hope you only see it in the movies.



The High-Performance Buildings conference is nearly upon us. A few highlights from the no-added-expense Tuesday content: Jorge Torres Cotto of Empirical Engineering leads a “2012 Update on LEED Energy & Atmosphere”, and the Cadmus Group presents on “Best-in-Class Facilities Management Programs.” Elsewhere, David Bell of Progressive AE talks with us about “Advanced Geothermal Heat Pump Systems” and Yujie Cui of ConEdison presents on a “Low-Cost Retrofit of a Large Class ‘A’ Office Building.” That’s only half of the half-day’s offerings.

And there’s also Wednesday morning’s keynote: “Advanced Building Systems: Guaranteed High-Performance from Design through Operation” by Craig Walker, Director, Energy Systems Program Office, United Technologies Research Center.



Still on the fence? Consider this: Over 250 companies, schools, government entities, and other organizations have already attended these events. More than a few have sent staff again in subsequent years. Nobody has wanted their money back. You’d recognize a lot of the names. Go to www.esmagconference.com, go to the Conference tab and select the Past Attendees dropdown. Have a look, come take it all in with me next month, get on the list, and help your organization get up to speed or even ahead of the curve. As I’ve often said, taking just one good, practical idea back to the office can represent a ridiculously large ROI and can make you look pretty good, too. ES