Date: 2022-11-03 18:16:33

AMCA leaders talk impending fan regulations and the association’s new strategic plan.

Note: This article appears in the 2022 edition of AMCA inmotion magazine.

By SCOTT ARNOLD, AMCA International

The winds of change are blowing in the air-systems industry. Perhaps no organization is more uniquely positioned to observe and understand the forces at play than Air Movement and Control Association (AMCA) International.

AMCA inmotion recently caught up with Kevin Faltin, who joined the staff of AMCA International in the role of executive director in March after more than 21 years with global safety-sciences company UL, and Mark Bublitz, vice president, industry affairs, The New York Blower Co., who ascended to the position of 2022-2023 president of AMCA International in October, to discuss impending fan regulations and the association’s new strategic

Mark, what are you aiming to accomplish during your term as AMCA president?

Bublitz: While air movement and control is something just about everyone experiences, the universe of people who understand the physics and the technology of it is relatively small. AMCA’s history lies in deep technical knowledge of this relatively small area of engineering. This includes product design, applications engineering, development of rating-test standards, and advocating how products in AMCA’s scope are represented in codes, standards, and regulations.

With roots dating back more than 100 years, AMCA continues to grow and evolve into a truly global organization. We now have regional offices with staff in Asia, Europe, the Americas, and the Middle East. Each region is led by a steering committee that reports up to the AMCA board of directors while providing localized strategic direction and representation of AMCA interests in the region.

My goal as president is to continue this progression so all members can benefit from the rich history and technical expertise of AMCA and to facilitate more cross-pollination of AMCA resources and opportunities among members and their customers across regions. In today’s world, everyone can communicate, so everyone can win.

Kevin, how does your experience with UL serve you in your role as executive director of AMCA?

Faltin: Over the years, I have led global teams that have significantly expanded international businesses in the testing-inspection-and-certification industry. The success of these endeavors was a direct result of dedicated, committed-to-the-mission team members. I see the same passion at AMCA and look forward to working with the team to achieve our goals.

Regulation of the performance of commercial and industrial fans and blowers appears imminent, as in 2022 the California Energy Commission (CEC) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) published a draft efficiency regulation and a draft test procedure, respectively. How significant of a development is this, and what does it potentially mean for the manufacturers and purchasers of fans and blowers?

Bublitz: Not to be overdramatic, but these regulatory efforts are the most significant events impacting the U.S. market for commercial and industrial fans and blowers in the history of the industry.

Regulation of an industry for the first time is tremendously stressful and burdensome for manufacturers, especially small and medium-sized ones, the kind that comprise the majority of AMCA’s membership. Classifying products into regulatory product classes, inventorying historical performance data of covered products, determining and administering supplemental testing, and certifying compliance into regulatory databases requires a massive commitment of staff time and information-technology investment. Additionally, there are requirements to educate distributors and customers and update software and literature.

Kevin Faltin

Mark Bublitz

What’s more, the industry has to adapt to maintain the ability to serve customers’ needs with often unique solutions. We do not want to see solutions that have performed well and met customers’ needs for years be miscategorized and removed from the market, and we have to continue to develop new products to meet our customers’ evolving needs.

It’s possible purchasers of fans and blowers will see traditional offerings become unavailable, and there will be differences in how sizing/selection software operates. This could be the result of certain products being removed from the market, as we’ve seen in Europe, or, for certain areas of the operating range of a fan, becoming non-selectable, for lack of a better term.

Where do the DOE and CEC rulemakings stand as we enter 2023?

Faltin: The DOE started its rulemaking in 2011 and, several long stories short, likely will finish its test procedure—the first of two parts of the DOE’s fan regulation—in late 2022 or early 2023. This will establish the regulatory metric and other foundations for an energy-efficiency requirement. An energy-efficiency requirement is established in what’s called an “energy standard,” which the DOE could complete in 2023. That, however, would have a five-year grace period and, thus, take effect in 2028 or 2029.

Meanwhile, California, which started its rulemaking in 2017, is on track to publish a final rule in November 2022. That final rule would take effect in 2023. From there, things get very complex, but it appears California would have a state-only regulation until 2028 or 2029, when the DOE regulation goes nationwide. Between 2023 and 2028 or 2029, other than California, the United States would have to comply with the DOE metric for fan regulation. At this time, it is not certain the DOE and California will regulate using the same metric. Like ASHRAE and the ICC (International Code Council), California has adopted the FEI (fan energy index) metric. The DOE may adopt it as well, but it also is considering a different metric based on FEI.

AMCA Executive Director Kevin Faltin discusses proposed changes to AMCA’s bylaws during the 2022 Asia Region Meeting in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Sept. 14.

Either rulemaking alone would be challenge enough to get one’s arms around. Yet the rulemakings are occurring simultaneously. How is AMCA responding?

Faltin: AMCA is trying very hard to get regulators to adopt a uniform approach to regulating fans, so manufacturers, code officials, system designers, and system owners can minimize the burden of regulation while maximizing the energy savings regulation strives to achieve. AMCA is not combatting regulation at all—we view it as inevitable. We’re doing all we can to make the regulation of fans effective at saving energy and reducing unnecessary carbon emissions while keeping things fair and efficient for manufacturers, practitioners, and owners.

AMCA completed a new three-year (2022-2025) strategic plan this year. Before we get into specifics, what are the overarching goals of the plan?

Bublitz: The new strategic plan has four foundational tenets: certification, advocacy, engagement, and governance. The purpose of the plan is to advance the organization in each of these key areas. For certification, it means expanding and strengthening participation in and enforcement of the Certified Ratings Program (CRP); for advocacy, defending and advancing members’ interests through building codes, standards, regulations, and education; for engagement, improving, broadening, and focusing participation in and awareness of the association; and for governance, ensuring and enhancing AMCA’s operational excellence and organizational governance.

Within each of these four tenets are goals and tactics established by each region to drive their localized representation of AMCA members. Staff have leadership responsibilities and metrics to help members, through a variety of committees, achieve the goals and tactics.

Faltin: Ultimately, AMCA’s mission is to advance the knowledge, growth, and integrity of the air-systems industry.

What is AMCA’s idea of “operational excellence,” and what changes have been made in continued pursuit of it?

Faltin: Operational excellence means improving processes and increasing efficiencies all while striving to have a global reach with a local touch. For example, to drive global operational excellence, we recently realigned the association into four regions: North America, Europe, Middle East, and Asia. Our intent is to utilize regional expertise to support regional members with solutions that are relevant to their respective region.

Bublitz: The goal is to create sustainable systems and processes at the board level to sustain excellent governance for the members as leadership transitions from generation to generation and as AMCA takes on more issues related to the global makeup of its membership.

How does AMCA intend to expand and strengthen participation in and enforcement of its Certified Ratings Program?

Faltin: We are actively working to establish new relationships with regional testing facilities to promote localized support and enhance our lab-accreditation program. Also, we are expanding the scope of products covered under the CRP to address more products that our members produce and to attract new members. Lastly, we are actively educating and advocating for greater awareness and acceptance of the CRP by authorities having jurisdiction.

From the standpoint of enforcement, we’ve increased our surveillance of websites—both members’ and non-members’—and started publishing performance data from approved electronic catalogs to allow end users to verify that software is working properly.

Mark Bublitz presents on the fan-energy-index (FEI) metric at a seminar hosted by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy in Denver in 2018.

We talked about AMCA advocacy in relation to the association’s response to the CEC and DOE rulemakings. How else does AMCA defend and advance members’ interests, particularly those outside North America?

Faltin: Great question. As Mark said, each of AMCA’s four regions is led by a steering committee. The steering committee establishes advocacy goals and tactics for the region. Regional staff work with regional committees and members to represent AMCA in regulatory activities. For example, European AMCA represents the interests of our European members in fan regulations promulgated by the European Commission. In Asia, there is not a centralized commission, so advocacy is addressed on a country-by-country basis. In the Middle East, advocacy is just beginning to gain a foothold, but, like in Asia, will be conducted country by country.

Bublitz: AMCA’s regions may face challenges unique to themselves, but they have access to the minds and talents of a global organization.

AMCA engages its advocacy resources—staff, committees, members—to engage directly with regulators, code committees, etc. We provide subject-matter expertise, research, and education that help shape codes, standards, and regulations. Our own standards for testing often are referenced in whole or in part in energy, construction, and life-safety codes and in energy regulations. Many staff and members sit on cognizant committees of other organizations, including NFPA (National Fire Protection Association), IAPMO (International Association of Plumbing & Mechanical Officials), ISO (International Organization for Standardization), and ASHRAE.

What are the various ways AMCA engages the HVACR and buildings industries, and how does it intend to increase and broaden that engagement?

Faltin: AMCA presents six to 10 free educational webinars a quarter. These cover a variety of air-systems-related topics, and most are worth PDH (professional-development hour) credit. Additionally, we have a robust online learning-management system for self-paced education (at a nominal cost)—also with PDH credit available—and work with colleges and universities, such as Rutgers, Harper College, and the University of Alaska Fairbanks, to provide educational resources for young engineers and HVAC professionals.

To deepen our engagement, we conduct face-to-face educational outreach at events such as the AHR Expo (International Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigerating Exposition) and HVAC Excellence and have a working partnership with Women in HVACR.

Bublitz: AMCA is active in global organizations, such as ISO, and works to build and maintain relationships with other HVACR associations. Also, AMCA staff and members create content for various industry publications and develop and publish papers and presentations for seminars. And then there is the award-winning AMCA inmotion magazine, a regular source for knowledgeable technical articles as well as updates on what is happening in the industry.

Any final words?

Faltin: AMCA has existed for more than 100 years supporting its members and contributing to the global growth of the air-movement-and-control industry. Being an AMCA member elevates your company and your company’s products within the marketplace. A product labeled with the AMCA seal confirms the product is compliant to stringent industry requirements. We will continue to grow globally and continue to have the AMCA certification seal accepted worldwide. Now, more than ever, is a great time to join our association and enjoy the benefits of all that AMCA has to offer. You can be part of the next generation of the air-movement-and-control industry.

About the Author

Scott Arnold is manager of industry content for AMCA International and editor in chief of AMCA inmotion. He can be contacted at [email protected].