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Editor's Note: Teams, Group Wisdom, and You

April 30, 2019
CALL FOR LETTERS: An excellent orchestra, a team sports champion, a successful project collaboration of engineers, architects and contractors all remind us that the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts.

April was a surprisingly emotional month for me, but one I didn’t think I would be writing about here, to be honest. However, just enough industry-related side notes popped up along the way that I eventually convinced myself to try. (“Oh, go ahead. Why the heck not?”)

First, let me get this out of the way. I am a 1984 alum of the University of Virginia and I was lucky enough to be in U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Monday, April 8, the night UVA finally won the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship. I had only been rooting 39 years for that outcome, so to say I was elated would be, well, an understatement.

But a big part of the story for me, aside from some wonderful family details that I will skip over here, is not the team’s so-called ‘redemption’ after a historically embarrassing loss a year ago. Instead, it was the game’s symbolic value to the wounded city of Charlottesville, the place where Thomas Jefferson had founded the school 200 years ago, but where more recently white supremacists also had brought hate, violence and ugly notoriety in August 2017. That stain was not erased last month, of course, but some measure of healing was definitely administered.

What does this have to do with the HVACR industry? Good question.

That’s what I was still asking myself three weeks later when I attended the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra in the Ozinga Chapel Auditorium at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights IL. There, during a haunting performance of Mozart, I was struck by the immense individual talent and training on stage, as two dozen violin bows danced in unison, backed by a powerful battery of horns, strings and drums, all beating toward a common goal. As good as the parts may be, the overwhelming sound of the group reminds that the whole is still greater than the sum of its parts.

That’s when it hit me. An excellent orchestra, a team sports champion, a successful project team of engineers, architects and contractors all come to rely on each other instinctively. Each member must trust in the competence and diligence of the person next to them, as well as the conductor, the coach, the project manager charged with coordinating the diverse efforts.

I was reminded of this also this month when I received a hard copy letter via U.S. Mail from an engineer in Toronto commenting on last month’s feature, “How Geothermal Heating and Cooling Can Improve Building Efficiency.” The short letter raised some good points about potential pitfalls in the field, so I posted it online, labeled “Mail Box” on our website.

Within 24 hours, that post already had prompted two more responses and a very polite and professional online exchange between engineering readers. I was heartened to see that.

We Want to Hear from You

In this day and age of near-constant solitary focus on screens and devices, it is reassuring to hear from peers and colleagues about common issues that many of us may be facing or, better yet, have already conquered and learned from. Indeed, the wisdom of the whole helps to lift the individual, no matter the endeavor.

With that in mind, I concede that we have neglected your voice to some extent over the last few years here. We need more of that professional exchange between those of you with questions and those of you with answers. So, let me encourage you here to restart this forum both online and in print. If you have a comment or question about an article or industry issue, please contact me at [email protected]. I will do my best to share it with our audience and hope that it sparks the sort of conversation that makes all of us wiser.

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].