Letters to the editor

No Real Evidence of Third-Party ConflictI read with interest "A/E Building Inspections: Conflict of Interest in Miami?" (Nov. 2001, p. 11), regarding plan review and inspections by independent third parties, and the purported conflict of interest promulgated by the firms interviewed. But those worried about owner influence should look closer at the words "independent third party.


No Real Evidence of Third-Party Conflict

I read with interest "A/E Building Inspections: Conflict of Interest in Miami?" (Nov. 2001, p. 11), regarding plan review and inspections by independent third parties, and the purported conflict of interest promulgated by the firms interviewed. But those worried about owner influence should look closer at the words "independent third party."

Fairfax County, Va., for example, has had a successful third-party plan review program for four years. Our engineering firm was one of the first participants and has experienced great success. In fact, all of our reviewers are professional engineers or registered architects, and are BOCA-certified in their respective fields. We have taken and passed the same test as county-employed code reviewers, and our certification lists us as a "Peer Reviewer."

Liability issues are a moot point, because the designer of record is still responsible for design and construction. As a peer reviewer, we check for compliance with the applicable codes and issue comments to the designers of record. We become part of the design team, often working informally to solve code-related issues, using faxes and e-mails to speed up the process. But we do not bend or bow to the pressure of architects or developers to skirt code issues. We defer all questionable issues to county reviewers, but bring them to the attention of the county to be resolved first. Furthermore, a BOCA review report is issued with the completion of every review to detail the items and comments specifically reviewed on each set of drawings.

The program has been so successful that less than a year ago, Prince George County in Maryland started a similar program. Both counties have guaranteed those plans that have received peer review will be taken first for permit review. They then perform a cursory review of the projects. Now projects can receive permits in four days that normally would have taken 12 weeks. Others that would normally take 180 days , can now be expedited in 45 days.

SPENCE NEUFELD, P.E. K. T. Associates, Herndon, Va.

Schultz says enough

I am deeply disappointed that my contemporaries would request "expulsion from the ranks" for anyone not in agreement with 100% of the ASHRAE standard pertaining to building ventilation and air quality (Letters, November 2001, p. 6).

My article, "The Perils of Progress," (June 2001, p. 19) was specifically directed to Edgewood Elementary School, not the middle school, high school or any other building requiring adherence to ASHRAE recommendations.

Elementary schools are too often at the bottom rung of school district expenditures. As such—and for whatever reason—when such schools need a mechanical retrofit, the engineer is confronted with implementing a completely satisfactory HVAC system that is 20% to 30% below comparable budgets.

The most imporant step for the designer is to obtain unanimous agreement with school officials as to the system concept, fully explaining advantages and disadvantages as they apply to environmental quality, operating cost, maintenance and impact of installation costs.

A major upfront decision is the option to design on the basis of state code or ASHRAE requirements. The latter is viable if the state adopts the standards word for word. There is, indeed, a movement for the adoption of the International Building Code, which, as I understand it, has incorporated ASHRAE's recommendations in total. However, only 13 states have adopted the IBC.

As a result, state code has to be weighed against ASHRAE's recommended ventilation standards. Experienced building managers are well aware of the legal issues involved with designing to state code. In such cases—and specifically in regard to Edgewood Elementary—it becomes imperative to formally document such decisions.

In the case of Edgewood Elementary School, it was unanimously decided that no unit ventilators would be allowed; instead, overhead perimeter air-distribution systems from central air-handling units were installed.

Other major HVAC system components included the following: DDC controls; hydronic heating in lieu of steam, including primary/secondary reset controls and DX cooling for all areas.

Furthermore, it was determined that the maximum classroom size would be no more than 30; there would be no night or weekend activities; and no summer school activities would occur, except normal maintenance functions.

Considering that the mechanical system would only be required to meet the designer's intent for 20% of the entire year—and maintain setback conditions for only 30% of the year—incorporating energy-conserving technology became an exercise in futility. Clearly, the approved system incorporates all of the conservation features the budget would allow. The low cost of natural gas further reinforced the district's decision not to implement further expenditures.

A year after its retrofit, in complete accordance with Wisconsin state code (7.5 cfm per occupant), Edgewood School has become the model for two similar retrofits. This decision is the direct result of enthusiastic district officials and faculty members who indivually attest that the IAQ in these buildings far surpasses anything in their experience. If a 7.5-cfm design produces these results, you expect me to recommend 10 or 20 cfm per ocupant?

For the record, I have tremendous respect for ASHRAE and its contributions to the betterment of our society. I personally have been involved at the Region VI and local level for 42 years, including presidency of the Wisconsin chapter, and twice serving as the general chairman of the Region IV committees. I am still actively involved in promoting ASHRAE and its career opportunities at local technical colleges and the Milwaukee School of Engineering. I can only hope that others are just as active.

As to my relationship with CSE, the experience has been most gratifying, and CSE is to be commended for its major contribution to our industry progress. I sincerely hope that publication management will continue its policy of allowing technical expressions of opinion, good or bad, conforming or nonconforming.

Personally, I have been gradually reducing my activities to a level befitting a 76-year-old who has chosen to ease into retirement. Anyone who can abruptly disassociate from a lifetime of dedication to a specific endeavor has not been truly involved to begin with.

Having served my term on the staff for probably too long, I respectfully offer my resignation. Technology is proceeding with unbelievable speed, and keeping pace is becoming increasingly difficult. Occasionally we need to "pull in our horns" and revert to a simpler form of HVAC, especially in cases of cash-strapped schools. This may be reverting to a "cookie cutter" approach, but I would like to point out the cookie cutter has no effect on the quality of the cookie.

CSE is in the enviable position of not only keeping pace, but setting the pace. I wish you the very best of luck in your continued efforts.

FRED SCHULTZ, P.E., Enervation, Inc., Milwaukee

Math Still Questioned

Ken Lovorn's response to criticism (Letters, Oct. 2001, p. 14), is somewhat confusing as he seems to imply that the theoretical relationship between horsepower and wattage of 746 watts/horsepower was incorrect. What he should have included is that the higher wattage consumption of the motors is due to motor inefficiencies.

Also, you cannot expect a higher horsepower motor's usage to be a multiple of a smaller horsepower motor's. Smaller motors are typically much less efficient than a large motor.

Perhaps a follow-up article on electric motor characteristics, including efficiency, power factor, etc., would be very helpful to your readers.

Apology Requested

Ken Lovorn's reply to two letter writers taking issue with his calculations further exposes his ignorance and added arrogance to it. He includes a gratuitous insult to an entire profession, then makes a further miscalculation to justify his prior error.

A typical normal efficiency 10-hp, 460-volt, three-phase motor draws 13.2 amps with a power factor of 0.78. My calculator shows the power consumption of that motor to be 8.2 kW. Mr. Lovorn's error was to assume a power factor of 0.92 instead of the realistic 0.78. After making the correction, the comments by the letter writers appear to be in order. Mr. Lovorn owes them and us an apology


Author's reponse:

To Mr. Mariam, I agree that motor inefficiencies are the culprit. As motors increase in size, there is a definite increase in efficiency and resultant decrease in relative losses. However, the point of the original article was that concentration on increasing the efficiency of the motor was not the optimum method of maximizing the overall savings. Much greater savings can be realized by increasing the efficiency of the driven load. I agree that a follow-up article would more fully address these issues.

In response to Mr. Waller, I cannot agree with his taking issue with the power factor. I do agree that I erroneously used the phrase "… most mechanical engineers …" I should have said, "most mechanical engineers with whom I have worked." I apologize to those with whom I have not worked that were mistakenly included.

But to the issue at hand. Selection of power factor—whether it be 0.92 or 0.78—it is not mundane to the point of the article, and neither is the power usage of the 10-hp motor. The issue is that greater savings may be had by increasing the efficiency of the driven load.

KEN LOVORN, P.E., Lovorn Engineers, Pittsburgh

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