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Editor's Note: Silver Linings and a PSA

June 1, 2023
Now that Congress' debt-defying dance has finally ended, let's embrace this hopeful moment for IAQ and re-commit ourselves to being "serious people."

At press time, Congress still had not raised the federal debt ceiling. This, despite the most dire warnings of global economic calamity that I have ever heard, coming from the most sober and usually measured group of experts out there: economists.

Yet here we are, again.

Still, I have faith that our dysfunctional government will avoid the cliff at the last moment and return us all to “normal” very soon. (UPDATE: "Whew!")

Of course, one would think that after three years of a nerve-wracking and truly tragic international pandemic, that we might go easy on ourselves, at least for a while. But politics is politics.

Still, the pandemic has also yielded significant opportunity for positive change, which truly is cause for hope within both the engineering and public health fields. Indeed, as noted on our May/June cover, some believe we are now on the cusp of an “indoor air quality revolution” that will lead to healthier buildings and occupants worldwide.

Just released in May, new ventilation guidelines for buildings from both the Centers for Disease Control and ASHRAE are now recommending significant increases in the number of daily system air changes, as well as raising the minimum filter goal to MERV-13.

  • For much more on the CDC and ASHRAE recommendations, click here.

If and when such changes are implemented, they would also go a long way toward coaxing wary, post-pandemic, remote workers back into shared downtown office spaces. That is, if anxious building owners first agree to make such investments. So, it remains to be seen if both the will and the capital will be there in the marketplace to make this transformation a practical reality.    

But hope springs eternal, as they say, especially this spring for me.

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On that note, as a public service announcement, let me take a detour here to recommend to all our male readers over the age of 50 that they get their prostates checked for cancer. The Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) test detects cancer cells and it can be easily added to your annual physical exams.

My own latest PSA in January yielded an alarming score, which started me down an unexpected and accelerated medical path this year that resulted in a successful prostatectomy in April. I am now still on the mend, of course, but enormously relieved and thankful to have the cancer (hopefully) behind me and additional years now before me.

So, please be proactive. Your loved ones, friends and colleagues will thank you.

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Not surprisingly, my most recent detour also has had me pondering some bigger questions about life, family, work and priorities. Questions that had already been stirred by the pandemic, of course, but now with an even greater sense of personal urgency. 

During my medical leave, I re-watched the 1995 film The American President with Michael Douglas. At one point, during a press conference, the POTUS character says, “We have serious problems to solve and we need serious people to solve them.”

I was struck by that line, in a way that did not hit me 28 years ago when I first saw the movie in an actual theater.

Today, our planet… our nation… our industry… ALL have truly serious problems to solve. Climate change. Public health. Public safety. Sustainability, et al. If anyone tells you that these problems don’t need solving or that they can be kicked down the road for the next generation to address, well, then they are not serious people.

As we all know, however, engineers are serious people. They are problem solvers. So when they see something that needs fixing, they want to get right to it. And frankly, that is an essential ingredient of human progress.

So, as we enter another anxious American summer, I urge all of you to be proactive in your jobs and communities, to defy the cynics and to remind us all that solutions are still possible.

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