APPLE VALLEY, Minn. — Approximately 50 consulting and specifying engineers sharpened their knowledge on plumbing, radiant, and hydronic piping applications during the 2018 Uponor Engineering Summits, held Sept. 11-12 and 20-21 at Uponor Academy in Apple Valley, Minnesota.

The events, which were hosted in honor of Uponor’s 100th anniversary, explored the versatility of PEX-a piping and provided attendees an opportunity to learn how Uponor’s products may be utilized in new construction, renovation, and maintenance projects. Attendees also enjoyed networking opportunities between Uponor employees and their peers from all over the U.S.

“The summit gatherings are intended to emphasize the value we place on stronger partnerships with engineers,” said Bill Gray, president, Uponor North America. “Our objective is to meet the engineers’ need to maximize system performance and meet project timelines while articulating Uponor’s value to them in the form of lower installation and life cycle costs.”


IEQ or Energy?

The opening session of each summit was led by Robert Bean, a registered engineering technologist (R.E.T.) in building construction (ASET) and a professional licensee (P.L. Eng.) in mechanical engineering (APEGA). Bean — a design practitioner, author, and educator with more than 35 years of experience who currently serves as president of Indoor Climate Consultants Inc. and director of — led a four-hour presentation titled “What Should Be Driving the Sustainability Message — IEQ or Energy?” that focused on integrating the human sciences of thermal comfort as well as air and lighting quality with enclosure and HVAC design.

While the government and various industry associations are always promoting energy use, they’re not focusing on the indoor environment, proclaimed Bean.

“The human factors in indoor environmental quality should lead the story over energy use,” he said. “We build buildings for people, not to employ engineers and architects, though we all appreciate our paychecks. When you look at the behavior of occupants inside spaces today, you can see where the primary costs are. It’s not the structure or operational cost of the buildings; it’s the salaries and lost time due to absenteeism.”

Bean said that everyone gets so focused on the cost of construction and managing their projects that they tend to forget about the people inside the structures.

“If we have losses in productivity and inadequate learning, the cost to the company and society in general could be very steep,” he said. “We must remember that the human sensory system is what matters most. We can sense light, the thermal environment, and sound, but there’s no utility perception in our bodies. We can’t sense what the utility costs are going to be. We judge the effectiveness of buildings with our sensory systems.”

Bean referenced a study of 56,000 people conducted by the Center for the Built Environment that cited sound as the No. 1 negative influence in the built environment.

“There’s been such a large push to improve IAQ in spaces that we’ve moved away from fabrics and synthetics to hard surfaces,” Bean said. “Hard surfaces do not absorb sound. So, we’ve solved IAQ problems, but we’ve created sound issues.”

Bean asked the audience if anyone could identify the required satisfaction rate for ASHRAE 55, “Thermal Environmental Conditions for Human Occupancy?”

“That number is 80 percent,” he responded. “We’re somewhere between 2 and 35 percent. We have a big differential between what it is the standards require and what we’re delivering. People don’t have energy problems, they have comfort problems.”


Commercial Piping Systems

Devon Abellon, P.E., business development manager for engineering services at Uponor North America, defined the effectiveness of PEX-a in a presentation titled, “Commercial Piping Systems.”

“From an engineer’s perspective, the two things I’d be most focused on are performance and reliability,” said Abellon, an ASHRAE distinguished lecturer. “Uponor has taken a product that people are largely familiar with as a radiant solution in residential, domestic applications, and we’ve expanded our offerings to a larger diameter. PEX makes a lot of sense in commercial applications.”

Abellon said there are a lot of different types of PEX available on the market.

“A lot of times, when people think of PEX, they think of the stuff they can purchase at big-box stores and fuse together with crimp connections,” he said. “PEX-a, which is what Uponor manufactures, is different. The differentiating factor between PEX-a, -b, and -c is the uniform level of crosslinking. PEX-a is very flexible, which makes it easy to work with, and it has an inherent shape memory. We utilize that when we look at how connections are made. Because of these benefits, contractors are looking at PEX-a as the professional solution when seeking alternatives to copper and other piping materials.”

Abellon referenced two independent studies conducted in Europe that subjected PEX-a to 30 years of high-pressure, high-temperature testing.

“This test was essentially done to see if they could get PEX-a to fail,” he said. “They couldn’t. After 30 years, they took it off the test. Based on their findings, they estimate a life expectancy of more than 100 years. So, here’s a system you’re going to be able to deliver to your building owner knowing that after they’ve replaced every other component in the building, the piping system will still be in good shape.”

Following Abellon’s presentation, attendees received a guided tour of the Apple Valley manufacturing facility and enjoyed a networking dinner at the adjacent Mall of America.

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