Definition

ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers)

Contributor(s): Jessica Lulka
This definition is part of our Essential Guide: Building with modern data center design in mind

ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers) is an organization devoted to the advancement of indoor-environment-control technology in the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) industry. In 2018, the organization has more than 56,000 members from over 132 nations.

ASHRAE was formed in 1959 by the merger of the American Society of Heating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHAE), founded in 1894, and the American Society of Refrigerating Engineers (ASRE), founded in 1904. Its goal is to serve as a source of technical standards and guidelines. The international society offers educational information, courses, seminars, career guidance and publications. The organization promotes a code of ethics for HVAC professionals and provides for liaison with the general public.

ASHRAE standards

ASHRAE standards are developed so that HVAC and refrigeration professionals have access to up-to-date procedures when testing, installing and designing hardware. They also provide consistent terminology and information for HVAC professionals.  

Guideline project committees create standards. These groups focus on areas such as refrigerant emission reduction, building energy conservation, air quality and thermal comfort.

These standards and guidelines are subject to continuous maintenance, and society members can revise the information. ASHRAE publishes a monthly journal, and has technology resources listed on its website.  

The most recently introduced standards address energy efficiency in existing buildings and managing risk for Legionella, the bacteria that causes a lung infection known as Legionnaires' disease. The society is focusing on Legionella because most cases are associated with exposure to building water and heating systems.

Popular industry standards in 2018 address ventilation for acceptable indoor air quality; energy standards for buildings except low-rise residential buildings; design of high-performance green buildings; and energy efficiency in existing buildings.

A series of technical committees and public review develop all ASHRAE standards. To keep information current, these groups review standards every five years. ASHRAE's website provides information on procedures and drafts; publication notices; downloadable versions on the standards; and notices of any special project committee meetings.

Along with standards, ASHRAE offers professional certifications. These include:

  • Building Commissioning Professional Certification: Skills to manage, plan and coordinate commissioning teams for new and existing buildings
  • Building Energy Assessment Professional Certification: Training to properly evaluate equipment for energy consumption and optimization
  • Building Energy Modeling Professional Certification: Ensures competency to assess and model building systems with the full range of physics, and apply software results to validate energy models
  • High-Performance Building Design Professional Certification: Training to generate sustainability models for high-performance buildings
  • Healthcare Facility Design Professional Certification: Information on incorporating standards and regulatory codes into HVAC system design for healthcare facilities
  • Operations and Performance Management Certification: Skills to effectively manage HVAC systems and achieve performance goals relating to air quality and safety

In 2018, professionals had earned more than 2,500 certifications to expand their industry knowledge and learn how to integrate ASHRAE standards into their everyday work.

Research

ASHRAE established its research branch in 1960, and the society works with universities and research firms to gain materials for handbooks and advance technology within the field. Beyond ASHRAE, professionals can also apply for research grants that the society co-sponsors in conjunction with the Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute and the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers.

Overall, the organization's goals are to conduct research that helps its members remain the most authoritative and responsive source of technical and educational information in regard to HVAC systems operations and building environments.

The 2010 to 2018 research plan focuses on sustainability, and hopes to optimize resource effectiveness and minimize any environmental effects. Part of this plan includes goals to maximize operational energy performance of buildings and facilities; progress with Advanced Energy Design Guides and net-zero-energy buildings; reduce HVAC&R, water heating and lighting energy consumption in existing buildings; advance understanding of indoor environmental quality on work performance.

ASHRAE also has several awards that members can apply for throughout the year. They are:

  • ASHRAE Graduate Student Grant-In-Aid Award: Funds research for a full-time graduate student for investigation of ASHRAE technologies
  • Service to ASHRAE Research Award: Recognizes an individual's volunteer contributions to the organization's research
  • New Investigator Award: Advances Ph.D. recipients' academic pursuits; promotes ASHRAE research at universities and colleges; and fosters educational efforts for ASHRAE at academic institutions
  • Innovative Research Grant: Supports research that does not immediately fall into the current technical committees' scope but poses an important contribution to HVAC and refrigeration technology
  • Homer Addams Award: A $5,000 grant to a graduate student that has worked with an ASHRAE research project over the past two years. Applicants must publish a paper in ASHRAE Science and Technology for the Built Environment, or ASHRAE Transactions. The paper provides deliverables from ASHRAE-sponsored research projects.

Lobbying efforts

Aside from helping members advance their professional and academic careers, ASHRAE is a proponent of government initiatives on the national, state and provincial level. The organization supports legislature surrounding industry issues such as energy consumption and building standards.

ASHRAE's Washington, D.C., office serves as liaison between all levels of U.S. government and international relationships. Through public policy briefs, meetings, technical counsel and advisory committees, ASHRAE professionals guide politicians on matters affecting the public and HVAC professionals.

This ASHRAE contingency also works to educate members on current legislation and government action related to the industry, such as technical tools, rulings on ozone and energy consumption guidelines and any activity with the Department of Energy.

The organization also supports a committee network for sustainable energy practices, and provides resources for members and chapters to get involved with local and governmental policies.

ASHRAE membership

ASHRAE members gain access to the organization's extensive library of HVAC&R-related technical information and publications. This includes the monthly journal, technical portal access, bookstore discounts, a copy of the annual ASHRAE Handbook, as well as access to the research publication Science and Technology for the Built Environment.  

Aside from informational access, members also have the opportunity to get involved with local chapters and committees of ASHRAE. In joining a chapter, members can make the most of their involvement and help ASHRAE grow while expanding individual knowledge of the organization's work.

The ASHRAE Foundation exists to be a permanent financial resource and support ASHRAE's mission. As a proponent of expanding educational opportunities, the foundation provides scholarships, research assistance and professional development funding.

This was last updated in August 2018

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What ASHRAE standards do you use in data center design?
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My company is in Alabama. I have been able to find out if there are any requirements concerning a humidity range for comfort. A person will generally feel a great deal of discomfort at 40%. Our humidity in August is usually in the 70's and creates a definite negative impact on our business.
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