It was hard not to be optimistic about the U.S. economy after visiting the AHR Expo in Chicago.

It was hard not to be optimistic about the U.S. economy after visiting the international Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigerating Exposition, Jan. 27-29 at Chicago's McCormick Place convention center.

Besides the record-setting attendance - more than 58,000 - not one exhibitor I talked to this year was complaining. Obviously my informal survey left out a lot of companies, but I can't remember another trade show where I wasn't able to quickly find an exhibitor who had at least a few gripes.

Maybe all those leads won't turn into sales, but it says a lot about the hopefulness of many contractors and manufacturers that they were willing to send employees to the show. If you check out our post-AHR Expo coverage this month, you'll see there was no shortage of new products for them to look at.

The mood was more serious at many of the seminars sponsored by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers during its annual winter meeting at Chicago's Palmer House Hilton hotel. This year, perhaps even more than the 2002 show, public safety was a top concern, with talks on environmental security and mold remediation among the best attended.

ASHRAE officials presented an updated version of "Risk Management Guidance for Health, Safety and Environmental Security Under Extraordinary Incidents," its recommendations to building managers for ensuring the safety of occupants and determining where a building may be vulnerable to terrorist attacks or natural disasters. With the nation's terror-alert system constantly saying the U.S. faces a significant threat of terrorist attack, the release of the document could not be timelier.

"Building occupants have come to expect 100% reliability from the infrastructure that serves them," said James Woods, Ph. D., P.E., and chairman of ASHRAE's ad hoc committee that prepared the report. "Most are not aware of how vulnerable and interdependent these systems are."

Among the report's recommendations:

  • Integrate the control sequences of hvac systems for normal and "extraordinary" periods of operation.

  • Do not compromise the health, comfort or safety of occupants in the name of reducing a building's vulnerability to attack.

  • Locate outdoor intakes so they are protected from external sources of contamination and away from publicly accessible areas to help prevent their inadvertent obstruction.

  • Establish a plan for dealing with an extraordinary incident and hold regular drills.

    For a copy of the full report, go to

    Speaking of trade shows, I just returned from the National Roofing Contractors Association's 116th annual convention in New Orleans. It was my first time attending the event, as well as sightseeing in the Big Easy. I had a great time with both activities. Although this show covers the whole roofing industry, there was plenty of metal roofing on display, as you'll see in this month's feature. Metal roofing's role as an environmentally responsible building material was evident, with many manufacturers promoting their "cool" metal-roofing line of products.

    This is a relatively new trend in roofing that we featured as our February cover story. If you're a metal-roofing contractor, it might be worthwhile to promote the energy savings metal can provide to your customers. More and more people are concerned about the environment, and metal-roofing's ability to be recycled may help make a sale. And with energy costs increasing again, many people are looking for ways to lower their heating and cooling costs. Some research indicates a metal roof could help do both.


    Can you direct me to all ready-made or custom products and fabricators that would help provide an elegant architectural wall-supporting bracket design that would support an 18-in. diameter? Exposed sheet metal circular supply and return at intervals to be determined. The goal is to help make this duct float off the wall and become a feature of the dance-studio double-height space.

    Robert Cohen, AIA


    Readers, can you help him out?