Last month, the HVAC industry packed its collective bags, boarded planes, cars, and buses; and headed to Orange County, Fla. For those of us from up north, it was quite a nice climate change — from the ravages of a short, but savage winter, to the mildly warm climes of Orlando, host city of the 2010 International Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigerating Exposition (AHR Expo).
There, I said it. “Climate change.” It's the rage of the world and certainly having an impact on how the HVACR industry operates and will operate in the future. Much of that impact is on the “green” side of the tracks.
Let's face it — the world is struggling to escape from the woes of the deepest economic recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s, while simultaneously trying to embrace environmental responsibility and sustainability.
And yet, for all the hoopla surrounding the economics, the industry took a breather and shared three optimistic and educational days on the show floor of the Orange County Convention Center and in the rooms of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers technical sessions.
Though smaller in terms of number of exhibitors and attendees, there was a concentrated feel about the event. When the show doors opened early on the first day, a river of contractors, engineers, students, and guests streamed in and, like a school of walleye, darted as one toward the area of the floor that housed building-automation and controls exhibitors.
It was uncanny. The talk didn't revolve around economic problems or even the less-than-normal attendance. There seemed to be a pent-up need to see the latest technology for controlling indoor environments. The talk was of turnaround and growth. The feeling in the air was one of optimism.
In the BACnet booth, for example, connectivity and economic turnaround were hot topics. Other discussions centered on the impact of wireless in the health-care market and how that marketplace is growing. There were many conversations on demand-controlled ventilation.
There was buzz about something called the Internet “cloud.” For those not in the know (like me) this term is a metaphor for computing via the Internet. Typical cloud computing providers deliver common business applications online which are accessed from a Web browser, while software and data are stored on servers. This is an exciting development in the intelligent-building market.
Another key word I kept hearing was “optimization.” In fact, Johnson Controls' Terry Hoffman summed it up when he said: “At the end of the day, the industry focus is on optimization. Automation is a means to that end.”
Sure, all these topics lead back to green and sustainability. And that is good. But more importantly, they were spoken of with eagerness, maybe even joy.
So why so positive? Certainly the dollars pumping into the economy from the federal stimulus program is key. Perhaps it was because of rumors that President Obama's push for a cap and trade bill was stalling. Or even early news that the climate-change bill will refocus on green-job creation. Any way you cut it, it seemed that people were very optimistic about upcoming opportunities.
I think optimism needs to be the word of the month. Let's work toward converting that into success and profits.
We'll cover more about the AHR Expo, the products on display, and the events that took place there next month. So stay tuned.
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