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Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, HVAC systems have been at the center of concerns such as indoor air quality and the need to minimize potential exposure. At the local level, HVAC installers have increased their efforts to keep equipment and supplies clean, and technicians are wearing gloves and masks as protection to keep customers safe. Many HVAC companies have also sought to give back to local communities hard-hit by the pandemic. As an industry, HVAC has remained committed to maximizing service to communities, and to each individual customer. Pandemic response For example, Johnson Controls has been part of the pandemic response from the beginning. The company first responded to the developing crisis in Wuhan, China, where local personnel worked to fulfill urgent needs for new hospitals. Local personnel worked to fulfill urgent needs for new hospitals As the pandemic evolved, Johnson Controls also implemented local and regional contingency plans across the globe to ensure employee safety and customer support. “As a global company, we have been addressing this crisis from the very start and are proud of our frontline leadership responding in every corner of the world,” says George Oliver, Johnson Controls Chairman and CEO. He pledged the company will do whatever is needed to keep essential products, services and personnel up and running. Helping Hospitals Johnson Controls’ products and services in the HVAC category are essential to hospitals and operating rooms and are a necessary component for operation of almost all the Critical Infrastructure Sectors recognized by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Properly ventilated buildings are critical to improve air quality and prevent the spread of disease and secondary infection. According to Johnson Controls, it is essential to maintain systems and keep them in service where people continue to live and work. Industrial refrigeration is also vital in markets ranging from food and beverage processing to the petrochemical industry. Here is another example of the HVAC community’s involvement in responding to the COVID-19 crisis: AAON, a semi-custom commercial HVAC equipment manufacturer, provided 50-ton customized HVAC units for the Stony Brook Temporary Hospital on Long Island, just east of New York City. The Tulsa, Okla., company provides 44 of the units, totaling 2,200 tons of HVAC apparatus, which equates to the cooling capacity of more than 700 single-family homes. Aiding the pandemic AAON worked around the clock to make the equipment and ensure the units arrived in New York City on a tight timeline. AAON’S New York sales office had called President Gary Fields to inquire about the company’s ability to meet the hospital’s need. A 1,038-bed temporary hospital to treat non-COVID-19 patients during the pandemic was constructed A 1,038-bed temporary hospital to treat non-COVID-19 patients during the pandemic was constructed at Stony Brook University. The Army Corps erected four temporary tent-like structures near the university’s athletic fields as part of the New York State initiative to relieve local hospitals during a spike in patients due to the pandemic. Ultimately, like many temporary facilities built in response to the pandemic, the hospital was not used. However, the facility will be ready in case it is needed for a second wave of the pandemic.
Data is playing an increasingly important role in smart buildings. Analysis of building system data is guiding an expansion of capabilities in the smart building environment, making building systems – including HVAC – more efficient and effective. The convergence of multiple building management systems is inevitable -- it's just a matter of time and it’s already happening. The data collected from the various systems make up a data profile that can be put to work to create new outcomes. Customers want to increase their control of environments using smart technology. I spoke with the folks from Johnson Controls (JCI) about these topics at the recent AHR Expo in Orlando. As it relates to HVAC, they say data can guide system operation based on historical data and a variety of sensors that can determine, for example, that there are 15 to 20 people in a conference room and adjust the HVAC system accordingly. Contributing technologies include wifi access, smart phone connectivity, smart meeting room technologies and sensors such as proximity and heat systems. Sensors used for fire and security are augmenting data that can be used to guide the operation of HVAC systems. Improving efficiencies Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning can do even more to optimize how systems operate "Every generation of HVAC we launch is more energy-efficient and more environmentally friendly," says George Oliver, JCI Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. As the largest consumer of energy in a building's infrastructure, HVAC is the focus of efforts to improve efficiencies. Applying new tools such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning can do even more to optimize how systems operate. "We want to optimize the equipment, processes and sensor data to create a model to best operate a building," says Oliver. The benefit is a huge reduction in energy usage and lowering of the carbon footprint. The goal is to combine an energy-conscious view of operating a building while improving the customer experience. There are cost savings in the range of 20 to 40% of operating a system. Building platforms, access control, and video management Johnson Controls is seeking to incorporate new technologies into building platforms and control, as well as access control and video management. “Buildings have so many kinds of systems, but how do we put all that together?” asks Oliver. Technology is coming together through protocols and an operational technology (OT)-informed world. Johnson Controls has been working with direct channel partners and end users on enhancing their platform and improving their ability to manage data, whether in an existing building or new construction, to optimize how equipment is being utilized. Concepts of AI, machine learning, smart Internet of Things and “smart edge” guide how Johnson Controls operates as a company. A single data platform enables creation of a smart building today that incorporates an integrated, streamlined approach. The additional capabilities are being managed by Android or iOS “apps.” Adopting new technologies The user environment of HVAC has been slow to change" “The user environment of HVAC has been slow to change, but it is accelerating now with adoption of new technologies,” says Mike Ellis, JCI Executive Vice President and Chief Customer and Digital Officer. Adoption of new HVAC equipment is critical to modernizing systems, and the new equipment works alongside the trend to “digitization.” “The industry is at an inflection point in a positive way, and is accepting the technology,” said Ellis. “What we’re hearing from customers is that they want to make a difference, create a differentiation, and bring it together in a unique way.” But will existing players (like JCI) drive the changes, or will it come from outside, high-tech firms? “We believe the domain players inherit an advantage because they really understand the importance of data in the building environment. Among collected data, the secret is: What data is important and how is it analyzed? How is that technology deployed? Industrial companies have the right ecosystem to make it happen, based on 130 years of seeing how buildings operate.” Moving forward “We realize the industry is being disrupted, which begins at the top,” says Oliver. “Smart edge” refers to the remarkable amount of expertise at the edge of the network, where tens of years of data informs the building “science.” The resource is impossible to duplicate. Johnson Controls is working with end-customers to define and direct how JCI is moving the company forward. The accelerated roadmap is based on the experience of people in the buildings. “We are right at the heart of major global trends – sustainability, connectivity and data, and cyber- and physical security,” says Oliver.
Johnson Controls has announced that it has added fully integrated, factory-built and installed wrap-around heat exchangers (WAHX) to its YORK Solution Indoor and Outdoor air-handling units, meeting a growing need for energy-efficient dehumidification methods in a compact footprint. Integrated wrap-around heat exchangers, WAHX offers dehumidification benefits for many HVAC air handling system applications, including schools, hospitals, laboratories and gymnasiums. They’re manufactured on the same line as YORK AHRI 410-certified air handler coils. Johnson Controls guarantees the performance and reliability of the entire system, without need for onsite installation or additional manufacturing lead time. Integrated wrap-around heat exchangers, WAHX Integrated WAHX offers dehumidification benefits for many HVAC air handling system applications YORK Solution Indoor and Outdoor units with WAHX possess all the state-of-the-art innovations for which the solution has become known worldwide, including: AMCA-certified fan systems, including both AC induction and EC motor options to meet project requirements for performance, efficiency, acoustics, size, footprint, serviceability and redundancy. Service-friendly features such as slide-out coil stacking racks with removable coil pull wall panel, raised coil supports for easy drain pan access, motor removal rails, inward-swinging doors and inside door handles. Standard Building Information Models (BIMs) to aid in design and engineering. membrane roof system YORK Solution Outdoor units are engineered specifically for use in outdoor environments and feature a patent-pending zero-penetration membrane roof system backed by the confidence of a 10-year roof warranty. They also include an exterior two-layer coating system with a salt spray test rating that exceeds 2,000 hours – up to four times longer than other paint systems. YORK Solution Outdoor units are the first semi-custom air handlers to offer a full-length integral factory-installed service vestibule, providing convenient, safe service access with full protection from inclement weather conditions.