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Q&A: Wellness check with Rick Fedrizzi

Jan. 17, 2018
After a quarter century at UTC Carrier Corp., Rick Fedrizzi left to lead the U.S. Green Building Council, and now the International WELL Building Institute. But the HVAC industry never quite left him.

A force of nature unto himself, Rick Fedrizzi spent more than 25 years as an environmental marketing officer with UTC Carrier Corp. He spent the last seven of those years as part-time co-founder of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), which would go on to become a force of its own in this industry. There, he helped to develop USGBC’s “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design” (LEED) rating system, which since 1993 has now been used on more than 92,000 projects in over 165 countries worldwide.

In 2016, Fedrizzi left USGBC to become chairman and CEO of the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), focused on health and wellness of buildings and their occupants. IWBI administers its own WELL Building Standard, a new certification for indoor air quality supported by USGBC. The group refers to itself as sustainability’s “second wave.” As of last summer, in fact, the WELL Building Standard already had been used on over 100 million sq. ft. of registered and certified projects in more than 30 countries. That’s a lot of progress in not a lot of time.

Below, Fedrizzi and his successor last fall as they traveled to the first Greenbuild-China.

With that in mind, we caught up with Fedrizzi over the holidays and asked him for some brief reflections on his unique journey through our industry…

HPAC: Rick, thank you for your time. What do you see as the HVACR industry’s role in the green building movement? Is it fitting that one of ours emerged as such a catalytic early figure? 

RF: Actually, the idea of LEED grew out of an early experience I had as the environmental marketing director at Carrier. We were participating in ASHRAE’s Winter Conference and we wanted to draw attention to environmental improvements in some of our units. I created icons that represented achievement against various key metrics – lower sound or greater energy efficiency, for instance -- and attached them to the units, and it got a tremendous response – from competitors, from the media, even from Carrier's product managers whose units DIDN’T get one on their particular unit. The idea that you could take something that was intangible and make it visibly understandable was a huge step forward.   

The HVAC business was the best possible catalyst for green buildings because there was a lot of interest in energy efficiency and how the HVAC industry could contribute. It wasn’t a big step from there to think about how this strategy could be applied to other elements -- water efficiency, waste reduction, improved indoor air quality – and we could create an entire “nutrition label” of icons for a building, with input from every industry involved in buildings. It was tremendous display of leadership.

The other thing the HVAC industry offered was global reach and global advocacy for the idea. They’ve been a powerful force for change in building practice around the world, which has been fundamental to the success of the movement.

HPAC: Is the HVACR industry’s role even more central to the International WELL Building Movement that you are now leading? If so, how?

RF: The thermal environment not only impacts our buildings energy consumption but also plays a large role in the way we experience the places where we live and work. From the earliest days of Willis Carrier’s invention, the removal of moisture from the air was known to be a human comfort and health-related invention.  Air conditioning was invested in for business reasons to be sure - yes it kept ink dry and candy cold…but if it hadn’t positively affected people it would have never had the impact that it has.

Thermal comfort is linked to our health, well-being and productivity, and is ranked as one of the highest contributing factors to overall human satisfaction in buildings. Due to its linkages to integumentary, endocrine, and respiratory body systems, thermal comfort can impact multiple health outcomes. For example, exposure to cold air and sudden temperature change can trigger asthma in adults. Leading research also indicates we perform 6% poorer when our office is over-heated or 4% poorer if the office is cold.

Air filtration and purification have also become a huge component of global health, something that is a core competency of the HVAC industry. Especially in emerging economies, being able to make sure indoor air has had contaminants removed is an important aspect of public health.

HPAC: Thanks again, sir. I trust we’ll see you again in 2018.

RF: You are welcome. Stay tuned. We have a lot more in the pipeline.

For more about IWBI, go to

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].