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Two Years of Trial and Resilience

March 22, 2022
EDITOR'S NOTE: The hurdles keep coming, but our industry continues to pick itself up, dust itself off and push ahead, with hope and grit. Let's keep encouraging each other.

Hurdle, after hurdle, after hurdle...

As I write this essay, the U.S. has just passed two years since the Coronavirus pandemic first reached our shores and started shutting down cities and jobsites, disrupting work, school and home, forever altering and ending far too many lives. 

All told, on March 21, the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center reported that nearly 80 million Americans so far have had confirmed cases of COVID-19, and 972,603 have died. Globally, the astounding and sobering totals are some 472 million confirmed cases, and more than 6 million deaths. And all of that has happened in just 24 months...

Numbers do tell a story, as our engineering readers can attest. In February, AHR Expo reported that 30,678 attendees and exhibitors had traveled to this year's big show in Las Vegas. The event was billed as a welcome reunion for our industry after the pandemic had caused cancellation of the 2021 expo. Still, we also note that the crowd at AHR Expo 2020 in Orlando exceeded 50,000. 

So, our industry did return to Las Vegas, but not yet in full force. Still, compared to a year ago, the progress is undeniable, and even remarkable. We have all been through so much in such a short period of time that we all deserve, well, at least a hug, if not a drink.

Think about it...

The ongoing pandemic. Global economic collapse. Political upheaval in the U.S. Supply chain distress. Runaway inflation. And now, on all our media screens, a horrifying war in Ukraine that has unsettled not just Europe, but the world. 

Indeed, the last two years have pummeled us all both mentally and physically with challenge after challenge. And cruel twists have emerged just as other obstacles have appeared to fade. For instance, this spring, new Coronavirus cases have already fallen enough nationally to warrant the lifting of mask mandates in all 50 states. In fact, Johns Hopkins notes that 66% of Americans, roughly 217 million of us, are now fully vaccinated. All of that is good. 

But at the same time, a war that may seem so distant is already disrupting our increasingly international and interconnected industry. In mid-March, German HVAC manufacturer Viessmann Group announced that its evacuated offices and logistics center in Kyiv had been destroyed by Russian shelling. CEO Max Viessmann said online that his firm would be donating 1 million EUR ($1.1 milion USD) to Ukrainian relief efforts. At about the same time, manufacturers Mitsubishi Electric and Caterpillar also announced donations of the same amount. Johnson Controls, which also has offices in Kyiv, pledged $350,000 to such efforts, as well. It said in a statement that all of its people in Ukraine are safe, but that it is suspending its operations in Russia. 

Similarly, on March 7, Dallas-based engineering giant AECOM said it was "immediately exiting its business operations in Russia." Explained AECOM CEO Troy Rudd, “Russia’s actions are inconsistent with AECOM’s values and have compromised the business environment for AECOM, our clients and our joint activities in Russia."

A small world, after all.

Meanwhile, back on the pandemic front, the White House in March released its new National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan, "a roadmap to move the country forward safely." As part of that plan, on March 17, the Biden Administration launched the Clean Air in Buildings Challenge, which "calls on all building owners and operators, schools, colleges and universities, and organizations of all kinds to adopt key strategies to improve indoor air quality in their buildings and reduce the spread of COVID-19." 

Specifically, the challenge is "a call to action to assess IAQ and make ventilation and air filtration improvements to help keep occupants safe," the White House said. Concurrent with the launch, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a best practices guide for improving IAQ and reducing the risk of spreading dangerous airborne particles. This guide – developed along with the CDC and U.S. Dept. of Energy – contains four areas of recommendations:

  1. Create a clean indoor air action plan that assesses IAQ, plans for upgrades and improvements, and includes HVAC inspections and maintenance;
  2. Optimize fresh air ventilation by bringing in and circulating clean outdoor air indoors;
  3. Enhance air filtration and cleaning using the central HVAC system and in-room air cleaning devices;
  4. Engage the building community by communicating with building occupants to increase awareness, commitment, and participation.

Watch this space to see how our industry responds to these new recommendations.

In the meantime, stay safe out there.

And give yourself a hug.

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].