CAL SMACNA, SMART Western States Council partnership good for all

“Energy efficiency” and “air quality” are the current buzzwords. And in California, programs and regulations related to these words are ubiquitous. California’s Energy Commission has mandated that energy efficiency in nonresidential buildings is measured through mechanical acceptance testing. They’ve required improved indoor air quality in schools and have created the first-ever state-level indoor air quality guidelines.

These measures have opened up opportunities for heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) professionals. The California Association of Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors, National Association (CAL SMACNA), the contractor side, and the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) Western States Council have worked together to ensure their members get a large part of these booming markets.

When Dion Abril came to the SMART Western States Council in 2015, he had the opportunity to meet with CAL SMACNA’s Executive Vice President Chris Walker, and a partnership was born.

“We did a lot of communicating back and forth,” said Abril, executive administrator for the council. “We realized that we had a lot in common and that our shared interests would benefit our members.”

Abril worked with Walker primarily to get on the same page about the promotion of the Mechanical Acceptance Testing.

“We need to promote the program, and we need to make sure that the California Energy Commission knows we are working together to train our members to the same standards and quality,” Abril said.

Abril emphasized the cooperation between CAL SMACNA and the Council benefited SMACNA’s contractors and his SMART members.

“While some think we might be concerned about different things, we realized we have the same goals,” Abril said. “We have to consider costs, and they have to consider costs. We both have concerns about public safety. We have the same gains in mind.”

Walker came to CAL SMACNA from a legislative and regulatory background. He has worked extensively on issues such as air quality with regulators at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the California Environmental Protection Agency, the California Air Resources Board, the Department of Consumer Affairs, the Bureau of Automotive Repair and local air districts.

“Energy codes should work to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and make headway to a decarbonized future,” Walker said. “California is in the vanguard when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and combating global warming.”

With the help of the National Energy Management Institute Committee (NEMIC), Walker and Dion worked on ensuring that California Energy Code Title 24 Standards for 2019 were implemented on Jan. 1. Walker was quick to point out while he and Abril worked together to provide some of the information to the SMACNA contractors and SMART training centers about the standards, NEMIC helped with task.

“This has been a huge chore,” Walker said. “NEMIC has done a tremendous job in shouldering the technical administrative burden.”

Walker noted that he, Abril, and NEMIC staff — including Administrator Dave Bernett; Soph Davenberry, chief technology officer; and Chris Ruch, NEMI director of training — went on a “roadshow” in California to educate decision makers about the standards.

“We have to make sure that instructors are properly trained under a robust curriculum. We are short skilled workers because of our current economy,” Walker said. “But our hard work is paying off. People are paying attention.”

Title 24 standards will soon be entering the 2022 code cycle, so their collaboration will continue. They also need to continue to attract new technicians and contractors to help with the Mechanical Acceptance Testing, Walker added.

Another new project for the group is dealing with enforcement of air quality guidelines recently implemented in California.

“As buildings have become more efficient, building envelopes have become tighter,” Walker said. “A new phenomenon has emerged: people are overexposed to carbon dioxide. I don’t want to say they are getting ill, but they are suffering ill effects from it.”

In schools in particular, overexposure can contribute to lowered test scores and absenteeism. In a study by University of California, Davis’ Western Cooling Efficiency Center, researchers found that 65% of California classrooms were under-ventilated. Under-ventilation was caused by improperly selected equipment, lack of commissioning, incorrect fan control settings and maintenance issues (e.g., dirty filters).

Walker and Abril will be addressing the need for changes together in the future.

“And we will work on fire life safety and a number of other issues, too,” Walker said.

NEMIC is a not-for-profit organization created in 1981 and sponsored by SMART and SMACNA. 

NEMIC is charged with identifying and developing market and educational opportunities, seeking to create or expand employment for SMART members and programs that assist SMACNA contractors in a green environment. NEMIC is committed to the growth and prosperity of both organizations.

Particularly, NEMIC’s emphasis is on accelerating the benefits derived from ANSI accreditation of TABB (International Certification Board/Testing, Adjusting and Balancing Bureau).

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