ATLANTA - Guidance on sustainability is the goal of a new research plan developed by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers.

The plan outlines ASHRAE's goals for the next five years. It centers on sustainability, which is defined as "the concept of maximizing the effectiveness of resource use while minimizing the impact of that use on the environment."

"Research and technology are the foundation of ASHRAE on which everything else is built," said John Mitchell, chairman of the research advisory panel that developed the plan. "With issues related to energy conservation, refrigeration and indoor quality facing our industry, our foundation must remain strong."

The plan contains goals in five areas: energy and resources; indoor environmental quality; tools and applications; equipment, components and materials; and education and outreach.

Under energy and resources, ASHRAE wants to provide guidance on techniques to work toward achieving net-zero energy use by 2015, meaning buildings that consume equal or less energy than they produce on an annual basis. By 2015, ASHRAE would also like to produce new residential and light-commercial buildings that use 70 percent less energy.

In the field of indoor environmental quality, ASHRAE is aiming to improve occupant health and comfort leading to a 20 percent increase in productivity, and provide a better understanding of how contagious viruses are transmitted in an indoor environment.

In the area of tools and applications, ASHRAE has a goal to develop tools that will improve productivity in the design process by 25 percent by 2015. The association would also like to develop "dual path" standards that are prescriptive- and performance-based.

In the realm of equipment and components, ASHRAE will aim to establish techniques to improve energy efficiency of HVACR system components. There is also a goal to improve reliability and minimize the environmental impacts of working fluids and materials.

Finally, in the area of education and outreach, ASHRAE is looking to make sure results of its sponsored and cooperative research are available to the technical community. It is also hoping to ensure that ASHRAE research has an international impact.

To view the plan or for more information, visit www.ashrae.org/research.