There was definitely a vibe of excitement and camaraderie mixed with anxiety in Atlanta last month for the annual AHR Expo, which drew more than 45,000 attendees and 1,800 exhibitors to the sprawling Georgia World Congress Center.
Held in conjunction with the 2019 ASHRAE Winter Conference, the unofficial start of the new HVACR year also was bathed in local anticipation, as the city made final parallel preparations to host Super Bowl LIII at the adjacent Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the first LEED Platinum stadium in North America.
But as Day 2 of the three-day Expo drew to a close, there were also rampant rumors on the show floor of potential TSA slowdowns at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport due to the prolonged federal government shutdown, and approaching winter storms in the Midwest. As a result, many exhibitors and attendees seemed to leave Atlanta a bit early on Wednesday, even though their fears never really came to pass.
Still, it was a solid show of product launches, awards presentations, educational sessions, and floor demonstrations that filled two halls and choked a narrow connecting corridor between them. (At times, it was so crowded in one of the main halls that I took a break to sit and rest on the show floor against one of the outer walls. When I got up 10 minutes later, I was amused to have another, standing attendee thank me for freeing up the wall space for him to sit!)
In fact, that appreciative attendee was also from another country, an increasing likelihood at what is now truly a global show. In fact, according to AHR Expo, this year’s event boasted 496 international exhibitors from 35 countries.
Among the news announced at the show, Milwaukee-based Johnson Controls (JCI) announced that it had entered into an agreement with CBRE, World Resources Institute (WRI) and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) to test and deploy an open-source, web-based energy analysis tool to identify energy-efficient retrofit opportunities in commercial buildings. The initiative is part of the Johnson Controls and CBRE Innovation Lab, which was established three years ago to evaluate, connect and leverage products, services and energy data to create value for occupiers and investors of real estate.
JCI developed the LEAN energy analysis technology over the past eight years and has used the tool to analyze retrofit opportunities in over 700 buildings. Berkeley Lab is working to automate and improve the LEAN energy analysis tool and create an open-source version of it for public use. CBRE will be an initial deployment partner, using the tool to help its enterprise customers target cost-effective energy efficiency retrofit opportunities across their real estate portfolios. WRI will use the open-source tool to help local governments around the world target the best opportunities for retrofitting public and private buildings within their jurisdictions.
Aquarium Reality Check
Energy-efficiency and sustainability, of course, remained a common theme throughout the show. Danfoss North America added the term “resilience” at its own Press Breakfast Event at the Georgia Aquarium. As Beluga whales and manta rays circled the room, cynical journalists could not help but wonder if a predator or two were lurking in the foggy far reaches of the liquid habitat. Coincidentally, the cheery talk of the HVACR market’s current strength also came with a similar undercurrent of potential danger.
“The market seems pretty good right now, but things definitely look fuzzy toward the end of 2019,” said a very frank John Galyen, president of Danfoss NA. “The market is at a cyclical high now, as well. So, given rising materials costs and ongoing tariffs, we just don’t see that (high) continuing indefinitely.”
At the same time, however, “we don’t want to talk ourselves into a recession,” Galyen cautioned.
Resiliency toward market conditions also paralleled the event’s focus on resilience as an increasingly important factor in the HVACR industry.
Amid a regulatory update and short presentations of case studies on such subjects as “Achieving Low GWP in Supermarkets” and “High Lift Solutions for Air-Cooled Chillers”, Danfoss also distributed its new research document released just last month by Penn State University’s Dept. of Architectural Engineering. Entitled “Building Resilience:
Securing Advances in the Built Environment,” the report represents a continuing collaboration between Danfoss and Penn State, which also produced a 2017 study, “High Performance: Making the Building-Energy Equation Sustainable,” for the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.
Among other notable events, IAQ specialty firm enVerid Systems Inc., was named winner of AHR Expo’s 2019 Product of the Year for its indoor air scrubber, the (B1061) HVAC Load Reduction® (HLR) module 1000E-M. Speaking at Day 2’s Innovation Awards ceremony, enVerid founder and CEO Dr. Udi Meirav was both humbled and thrilled by the honor. “We are trying to bring something very new that is different, and acquiring the confidence and the support of the industry is the Number 1 issue for us,” he explained. “That’s really the most important thing to happen for us to really get this innovation out there to the world.”
TOP ROW, LEFT TO RIGHT: Bill Steel, AHRI Chairman; Sheila Hayter, ASHRAE President; Mark Stevens, AHR Expo Show Manager; pose with Innovation Awards winners John Hazen White, Jr., Executive Chairman & CEO, Taco Comfort Solutions; Harold Arrowsmith, VP of Mechanical Industrial Sales, Anvil International; Jeff Shaffer, Gruvlok Product Manager, Anvil International; Mark Fisher, President, Dwyer Instruments, Inc.; Paul Selking, Business Leader, Regal®; Robert Moss, Director of Engineering, Dwyer Instruments, Inc.; Mead Rusert, President, Automated Logic Corporation; Dustin Eplee, Energy Wall, LLC; Ed McKiernan, President, Cold Chain, Electronics & Solutions, Emerson.
BOTTOM, LEFT TO RIGHT: Laura Wand, VP & GM, Global Applied Equipment, Johnson Controls, Inc.; Daniela Bilmanis, Johnson Controls; Brian Humes, President, CPS Products, Inc.; Scott Madden, VP of Smart Tools Development, CPS Products, Inc.; Deep Dey, Marketing Manager, Regal®; Udi Meirav, President, enVerid Systems; Steve Appling, Next Gen Software Development Manager, Automated Logic Corporation; David Bersaglini, Vice President & General Manager, Refrigeration, Emerson.
According to the award citation, enVerid’s indoor air scrubber module is designed to lower energy wastage from HVAC systems. It reduces the amount of outdoor air needed for ventilation by 60% to 80%, resulting in increased energy efficiency and annual energy savings of 20% to 30% with peak capacity reductions of 10 to 20 tons per HLR® 1000E-M module.
Aside from enVerid, representatives of nine other winning firms gathered in Atlanta to culminate a process that started last fall, when their products were selected by a panel of third-party ASHRAE member judges who had deemed them most innovative. Each were named Innovation Awards Winners and then competed to be named the Product of the Year.
Winners were named in the following categories: building automation, cooling, green building, heating, indoor air quality, plumbing, refrigeration, software, tools and instruments and ventilation.
This year’s companies with winning products were:
• Automated Logic Corporation (Building Automation);
• Johnson Controls, Inc. (Cooling);
• enVerid Systems (Green Building);
• Regal (Heating);
• CPS Products, Inc. (Indoor Air Quality);
• Anvil International (Plumbing);
• Emerson (Refrigeration);
• Taco Comfort Solutions (Software);
• Dwyer Instruments, Inc. (Tools & Instruments); and
• Energy Wall, LLC (Ventilation).