Debate Continues Over Separate ASHRAE IAQ Standard

One of the hot debates at last year's ASHRAE Winter Meeting in Atlantic City was whether there was a need for a separate indoor air quality standard for the hospitality industry, where smoking is more prevalent than in other types of spaces. The matter was discussed during a meeting of the Standing Standards Project Committee for Standard 62.


One of the hot debates at last year's ASHRAE Winter Meeting in Atlantic City was whether there was a need for a separate indoor air quality standard for the hospitality industry, where smoking is more prevalent than in other types of spaces. The matter was discussed during a meeting of the Standing Standards Project Committee for Standard 62.1 (SSPC 62.1), but rejected due to a lack of consensus.

A year later, ASHRAE has no formal plans to revisit the matter, but separate standard proponents have not gone quietly into the night. Since last year's defeat, they have represented the argument to various levels of ASHRAE, including SSPC 62.1, various technical committees, the Board Policy Committee on Standards and the Standards Committee. If necessary, they also plan to present their argument to ANSI, says Elia Sterling, president of Theodor Sterling Associates, a consulting firm that advises the commercial building industry on indoor IAQ issues.

The debate, of course, stems from an addendum to ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 62.1, Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality , that proponents of a separate standard say will leave hospitality spaces—such as bars, restaurants, and casinos—out in the cold and will no longer provide guidance for engineers to design ventilation systems for these types of spaces.

"This standard no longer applies to hospitality facilities, so what we need is a standard that does," says Sterling, also a consultant to the American Gaming Association.

He argues that the current SSPC 62.1 committee is biased against hospitality and smoking, citing that while one-third of the spaces covered by the standard are hospitality-related, there are currently only two representatives from the gaming industry on the committee and virtually none from any other area of hospitality. He and other supporters of a separate standard envision a committee that includes people from the hospitality industry, as well as a technical committee made up of people who are experienced and knowledgeable in creating ventilation systems for hospitality spaces.

Reaction to such a plan is mixed. Pat Banse, a Houston engineer with extensive experience with HVAC, plumbing, and fire protection design, agrees that the issue warrants more discussion. Having designed systems for health-care facilities, whose IAQ requirements he feels shouldn't be generalized, he sees the value in establishing a separate standard for different types of facilities. "It would seem that there should be a separate standard [for hospitality]," he says. "Every time you try to lump things together, you find that some areas don't fit into a category."

Andy Persily, the chairman of SSPC 62.1 last year, says that while he agrees certain sectors might warrant separate standards, hospitality isn't one of them. "They're different, but so are schools and retail spaces. Does that mean that different standards should be made for every space type? That would be a potential nightmare for ASHRAE and designers," says Persily.

That being said, he does concede that ASHRAE is currently considering separate standards for low-rise residential, health care and even airline cabins.

Steve Taylor, also on the SSPC 62.1 panel that defeated the motion, doesn't see any need for further discussion.

"No convincing case was made that a separate standard was necessary," he says emphatically.

Lee Burgett, chairman of the board of ASHRAE's Policy Committee on Standards, says its not so much a case of the committee being stubborn, as it is a bureaucratic issue. What makes the issue so controversial, he says, is the fact that environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) has no acceptable concentration level. And the bottom line—according to association member petition—is that ASHRAE can't write a standard on pollution without an acceptable concentration level.

However, ASHRAE is not sitting idly by, Burgett says. There is a plan to create a special guide that will specifically address the reduction of ETS in ventilation systems for the hospitality industry.

Will it largely satisfy people in the hospitality industry? Burgett believes it will, but obviously it won't satisfy everyone. "Once this publication is released, they will say, no, this is unacceptable or they will see the value in it. I hope it's the latter," says Burgett.

Sterling thinks the guide is a good start, but not enough. "If zero [ETS concentration level] is your goal, no technical guide or anything else is going to provide you with a method of achieving that," he says.

Further, he argues that a perceived ASHRAE blessing—even if meant only as a guide—carries a lot of weight that could have detrimental effects.

"If the changes to the standard are adopted as code, it will be nearly impossible to design systems that achieve a zero percent ETS level. That could essentially lead to a smoking ban in restaurants, bars and the like," he says.

A balanced SSPC 62.1 committee and a separate standard, he maintains, would keep this from happening.

"We don't want to work outside of ASHRAE. We believe ASHRAE is the appropriate forum. But we believe that committee that undertakes this effort should include all of the different viewpoints and that it get under way as soon as possible."

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