Isn't it funny how there is always a new catchphrase to describe changes in a marketplace, in fads, in the "cool factor," and so on? It wasn't so long ago that oil embargos changed the way we built buildings and controlled indoor environments. From those days came terms not used before: indoor air-quality, quality-improvement process, sick building syndrome, you get the idea. Those led to evolutionary changes in how the HVACR industry approached business—from a technical, management, and service standpoint.

In March, I attended Carrier's Global Engineering Conference (www.2012GEC.com) in Las Vegas, and the theme of that meeting was about changing the world by rethinking, restoring, and regenerating our resources. This conference, which HPAC Engineering co-sponsored, is a platform for the industry to gather and discuss design trends, the future of environmental technologies, and the role that manufacturers, engineers, and building owners play in improving the building environment.

Geraud Darnis, president and CEO, UTC Climate, Controls & Security, and president of Carrier said in his opening plenary keynote, the HVAC industry plays a pivotal role in the quality and productivity of the built environment as well as in people’s lives. He cited a very interesting fact to more than 900 facility and consulting engineers in the audience: The human impact on global climate can be illustrated by the fact that by 2030, Saudi Arabia will consume more oil than it exports.

Imagine that!

The idea here is that whether you think the environmental movement is a fad or not, it is changing the way society looks at the use of energy, the impact of buildings on our environment, and how we can work toward smarter use of both in an effort to replenish the earth’s resources.

Darnis said our industry must learn to "leapfrog efficiency. Buildings need to become ecosystems themselves that will no longer drain resources, but replenish them."

John Mandyck, chief sustainability officer, UTC Climate, Controls, & Security, told the audience that right now, more people live in cities than in the country, and there is a growing migration of people, especially in China, to cities.

"This is a natural force, like the ocean's tides," he said. "It means there is a growing need for more buildings."

Plus 40 percent of all the energy used in the world today is in buildings and 40 percent of each building's energy use is for the HVAC systems. When you think about it this way, the opportunities for this industry are amazing.

According to Mandyck, despite the economic recession, the green-building market continues to grow. This growth has a documented value to building owners in terms of higher rent premiums (3 percent), better cash flow (7 percent), and an increased sales-transaction premium (13 percent).

Is this pie-in-the-sky stuff? I don't think so. Many of the technologies exist right now that can help us design and build tomorrow's eco-buildings.

From topics covering technologies that disrupt the building industry by pushing performance and productivity, to developing near-zero-energy systems, to biophilia (the bond between humans and nature), to future refrigerants, this program was really spot on in terms of challenging traditional thinking.

Look for more coverage over the next few months as we try to share the excitement and ideas generated in Las Vegas.

It really won't be long before terms like biophilia, building performance, smart grid, and the like will be the words that change the world. In fact, they already are. Isn't it time you began to rethink your approach to HVAC system design and commissioning?

Send comments and suggestions to mike.weil@penton.com.