The issue of EE and IAQ product assessment and product choice reveals a highly fragmented marketplace. Factors pointed out by participants indicated that the following situations exist:
- Hundreds, if not thousands, of hvac products associated with energy efficiency and indoor air quality are in the market. They range from consumer products such as air cleaners to commercial equipment like chillers.
- There is no comprehensive or well-organized catalogue of EE and IAQ equipment.
- There are competing and sometimes unsubstantiated claims for EE and IAQ products, most of which come from manufacturers.
- The roles of private testing laboratories are unclear and may be biased.
- There is no consistency among tests or testing laboratories for either the products or the claims.
- Almost all tests are laboratory or manufacturer based; almost nothing is tested in actual building use or life cycle situations.
The emphasis on existing technology assessment efforts has been focused in new construction and has concentrated almost exclusively on new equipment as a single solution to problems associated with energy efficiency and indoor air quality. Factors pointed out by conference participants indicated that the following situation exists:
- 80% of the building stock that will be available in 25 years is in place today. Therefore, rehabilitation and retrofit issues deserve at least equal attention to new buildings.
- There are virtually no long-term or total buildings hvac system data available within the field. Virtually all data are on individual equipment.
- There is comparatively little information available on creating protocols for hvac operation. There is even less information available, arrayed in an appropriate way, to help make decisions about equipment and system choices. And still less information is available for owners, designers, and contractors to decide to how integrate EE and IAQ into buildings systems.
- There are incredible numbers of competing interests and claims in the industry that could allow for situations where conflicts of interest arise. Technology is closely guarded as stockholders seek competitive advantage. Therefore, an independent not-for-profit organization that serves as a referee and criteria setting body would be highly beneficial. Moreover, such an organization could encourage product development, but not take part in the commercial activity.
As participants debated the potential technology assessment roles, they suggested that rather than engaging in basic assessment of products similar to the Underwriters Laboratory, the Center should more appropriately recognize excellence and establish criteria. The Center should engage in long-term assessment and testing and monitoring only in certain applied situations that fill strategic gaps within the development of the hvac industry. Specific consensus was reached on the following roles within the area of technology assessment:
- Function as an organizer and overseer of the arena of technology assessment activities throughout North America.
- Promote accreditation of various laboratories that provide testing and assessments.
- Perform selected independent assessment activity.
- Test, monitor, review and evaluate systems used to improve energy efficiency and indoor air quality.
- Encourage the development of new building envelope and hvac technologies.
- Serve as an information broker.