ASHRAE President Sheila Hayter toured Air Solutions’ new multi-million dollar Nortek Oklahoma Coil Plant on Feb. 5. The visit is part of Hayter’s campaign to prepare building professionals for tomorrow’s electric grid and energy efficiency challenges.

The U.S. electric grid infrastructure is more than 100 years old and its strained capacity will fall short of tomorrow’s anticipated energy needs, according to Hayter. Therefore, ASHRAE is petitioning manufacturers, engineers, and other HVAC industry members to design more sustainable equipment and buildings that will put less load on the nation’s electric infrastructure. This will help transform the current one-way passive electric grid into a more active infrastructure that integrates Internet of Things (IoT), alternative energy, and other technologies resulting in a goal of net zero and grid-interactive buildings.

Hayter provided a synopsis of the campaign's progress to more than 500 ASHRAE members attending the annual president’s luncheon held at the 2019 ASHRAE Winter Conference and AHR Expo last January. The association’s campaign is titled, “Building Our New Energy Future; What Buildings Professionals Need to Know About Changes Coming to our Energy Sector.”

Hayter, Nortek CEO Bruno Biasiotta, and local engineering students and professors toured the 80,000-square-foot plant that opened last summer. ASHRAE hopes to educate building professionals and their clients on distributed energy resources because they represent critical technologies and strategies through which buildings evolve from passive consumers to active partners with the grid, according to Hayter. 

“I was impressed Nortek recognizes the industry’s coming changes and is offering itself as a resource, while also providing knowledge and leadership to the building industry as it looks forward to discover new solutions for energy use,” said Hayter.

Connecting with ASHRAE Chapters, such as inviting the ASHRAE’s Central Oklahoma Chapter — Region VIII on the plant tour, is another facet of bringing the association’s campaign to the grassroots level, according to Hayter who visited five international and 13 North American chapters during her first year as president last year.

Jeff Forman, president of the Central Oklahoma Chapter and partner of manufacturer’s representative, Mechanical Sales Midwest Inc., Oklahoma City, helped organize the tour. The tour was also attended by chapter members and a dozen engineering students and three professors.

“Buildings, vehicles, IoT, and alternative energy sources are converging to define a new energy future,” said Biasiotta. “Working with ASHRAE, Nortek is invested in being a part of the solution in creating well buildings with net zero impact.”