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Editor's Note: Innovating in an era of anxious optimism

Feb. 8, 2018
From our February issue... Storms over Wall Street afford a good time to take stock (calmly) of long-term strategies and the ingenuity that can see us through.

“If you can keep your wits about you while all others are losing theirs... the world will be yours and everything in it.” 

At press time, my mind turned to that famous Rudyard Kipling quote, which echoed the advice of financial analysts on the radio this morning, the day after the greatest one-day drop in the history of the Dow Jones industrial average. As Wall Street quakes and shakes, investment advisors always counsel to stay calm and avoid panic. 

Financial or otherwise, that always seems like sound advice. Indeed, many of us had feared that some sort of economic correction was lurking out there some time this year. “A market slowdown is actually overdue,” said one equipment executive at last month’s otherwise upbeat AHR Expo 2018 in Chicago. The man seemed to feel almost guilty for uttering those words at such a happy event, but everyone who had heard them knew that he was right. 

Seasoned professionals in this industry already knew that the good times would not roll forever. Heck, if they did, we’d eventually forget how to distinguish them from any other times. Granted, by the time you read this, for all I know, Wall Street will be booming again. But if it is not, keep your head. Stay calm and reassure yourself that we are in the right business. 

Indeed, there is incredible wisdom in this industry, as evidenced by much of what we saw and heard at the AHR Expo and by what you will find in the pages of this issue, which focuses at least in part on the Education market. Our cover story, for instance, finds the University of Arkansas using germicidal UV-C technology to remove biological growth from its facilities. Evidence indicates that this method is not only efficient but cost-effective, a combination that will prove even more valuable as budgets tighten while health and safety concerns like Legionella continue to re-emerge. 

In Florida, energy-efficiency and cost-effectiveness also are helping innovation to find its way into cash-poor and aging K-12 public schools. As our feature on p. 18 illustrates, retrofit technologies can improve indoor air quality without overturning the public trough. And that lesson plan certainly seems portable for the rest of the U.S., as well. 

Meanwhile, across the Pacific, four research engineers in Singapore claim to have developed a versatile cooling system that separates cooling and dehumidifying functions without using mechanical compression or chemical refrigerants. Expect to hear much more on this in 2018. 

Indeed, that sort of transferability echoes the underlying optimism of the AHR Expo. As our ensuing ‘News & Notes’ coverage highlights, we are now in the midst of an extraordinary time of collaboration and connectivity. I know many of us may sometimes dread the tech-enabled, 24/7 links that have erased the boundaries between our work and personal lives, but really, would we have it any other way? 

This truly is a golden age of ingenuity, opportunity, and crowd-sourced intelligence. Complex questions abound, true, but expert answers have never been easier to summon. If anything can help us to weather the next market downturn, that hopeful reality certainly will.

About the Author

Rob McManamy | Editor in Chief

An industry reporter and editor since 1987, McManamy joined HPAC Engineering in September 2017, after three years with, a Chicago-based media startup focused on tech innovation in the built environment. He has been covering design and construction issues for more than 30 years, having started at Engineering News-Record (ENR) in New York, before becoming its Midwest Bureau Chief in 1990. In 1998, McManamy was named Editor-in-Chief of Design-Build magazine, where he served for four years. He subsequently worked as an editor and freelance writer for Building Design + Construction and Public Works magazines.

A native of Bronx, NY, he is a graduate of both the University of Virginia, and The John Marshall Law School in Chicago.

Contact him at [email protected].