When was the last time you sat down and actually read the most recent National Building Code, the most recent edition of the NFPA code or, even more importantly, ASHRAE 90.1?

To be honest, I had to look myself in the mirror after the editor asked me to write this article. I share the daily grind issues of the modern-day HVACR plan & spec representative. A multitude of issues consumes our time; business issues such as where the next order is coming from, what the outside salesman is really doing today, and most importantly, if the sales goal for the month is going to be obtained. These combined with personal issues like “did I remember to lock the door this morning?” all seem to cause the topic of codes to fall to the bottom of the pile.

However, changes occur regularly in National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) code, ASHRAE 90.1 and the National Building Code that affect our industry. And more importantly, federal, state and local governments are making changes and driving more stringent equipment efficiency standards to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels. It is this “green initiative” and the codes associated with it that require immediate attention. Federal, state and local government officials are holding meetings, consortiums and seminars on the issue of reduced energy consumption. The plan & spec representative who stays in tune with these activities is going to not only have a competitive advantage but will be one who is highly sought-after.

Equipment manufacturers will now have to rely more on local representatives to stay informed on local codes and standards. It would be virtually impossible for a manufacturer to stay up on all local codes. Certain energy-efficiency programs that include tax incentives for end-users that install energy-efficient HVACR equipment require the approval and sign-off of a local professional engineer. Only a local plan & spec representative can have this type of relationship within the local engineering community.

Customers who are “green” conscious will drive contractors and engineers to seek out well-informed plan & spec representatives who understand these new initiatives. Customers are interested in knowing about the funding that may be available in the form of rebates from the local utility or tax-reduction incentives for building construction or improvements that are “green”-certified.

Most end-users are honestly interested in learning more about how energy consumption can help save our planet. If public monies or reduced tax benefits are available from “going green,” they are obviously interested in that side of the initiative.

However, one aspect that few people speak about publicly is that corporate profits are driving a large majority of this “green initiative.” Wall Street has been driving manufacturing facilities in the United States during the past 15 to 20 years to reduce costs to be more competitive in the world market and increase profits. As we all know, if executed, not only does this activity lead to a stronger, healthier economy, but it also increases shareholder value. U.S. manufacturers have made significant improvements during those 15 to 20 years in terms of this initiative. Whether it is through lean initiatives, global sourcing of raw material or just plain working smarter (in terms of direct labor and/or raw material sourcing), manufacturers have squeezed all the blood out of the rock that they can.

Where do they go from here to keep reducing costs and increasing value? Indirect cost. With the increase in energy over the last five to 10 years, the biggest cherry to pick is on the indirect cost lines of the income statement. Items titled “electricity” and “gas” are significant numbers and are getting quite a bit of attention these days. Significantly reduce these numbers and obviously it all falls to the bottom line. “Going green” may also be driven by just plain old $Green$, but it doesn't really matter if the world benefits. The plan & spec representative can too.

The plan & spec representative is in an ideal position to capitalize on the situation that exists in the current HVACR marketplace. Most plan & spec representatives differentiate on products that either save money on your heating bills, reduce cooling costs, minimize lighting bills or reduce energy used in the manufacturing process.

The only way to truly take advantage of this situation is to get involved and seek information on the most recent National Building Code, NFPA code and ASHRAE 90.1. More importantly, you can do this by tuning into reduced energy consumption initiatives taking place on federal, state and local levels. It is these activities that are associated with reduced tax opportunities, available funding and rebate programs offered in your marketplace right now. Your customers are interested in these programs.

You may ask how can I get “tuned in”? Join HARDI. HARDI is truly tuned into national activities. Join your local ASHRAE chapter and/or contractor groups. They should be very tuned into the local activities, and if not, they will be. Contact your local utility also. To get a feel for what is going on, surf the Internet. Type in “Green Building Initiative,” and watch what happens.

In closing, I would like to share the story of a recent sales call that caused me to personally submerge myself on the topic of codes, and it should open your eyes too. One of the world's largest manufacturing companies invited our company to a “Heating Symposium” to discuss how to better heat their facilities while at the same time reduce energy costs.

The meeting participants included approximately 30 of the company's facilities managers, and another 30 teleconferenced in from around the world. A rather “high-power” meeting, but for me, from a topic standpoint, it was very similar to the sales calls I've done during the past 20 years. ROBERTS-GORDON® equipment is truly instrumental in reducing fuel consumption while maintaining comfort in manufacturing facilities.

After a symposium-mandated 30-minute presentation, our product was covered and firmly established in its ability to save money on heating bills. With a few minutes left for questions, the very first raised the issue of carbon emissions of our product. Carbon emissions, the ozone and fossil fuel consumption from a room full of manufacturing guys? Where were the questions on product quality, warranty, price?

This is a true sign that codes and how “green initiatives” tie into codes are major factors in the HVACR plan & spec market. It's best to stay current on this topic, because if you don't, your competition will.

As a forum for players in the plan & spec market, HARDI has decided to continue offering educational seminars at AHR, and at this point, we are hoping to pull together a topic related to the above issues. We hold the annual plan & spec meeting and seminar at the AHR show each year. If you have interest in this topic or in joining the HARDI Plan & Spec Council, please contact the HARDI office at 888/253-2128 or hardimail@hardinet.org.

Come join our committee and benefit from these and other programs that HARDI has to offer. See you at AHR 2008 — there is no place like NYC!!!!


Kevin Mahoney is the chair of HARDI's Plan & Spec Committee. He is also vice president of North American Sales and Corporate Marketing with Buffalo, NY-based Roberts-Gordon. Contact him at 716/852-4400 or kevinma@rg-inc.com.