Details are not the details. They make the design.
American designer Charles Eames is quoted, "Details are not the details. They make the design." The meaning of this quote is simple - the small things that are so often overlooked actually constitute the entire body. While intended to address the importance of details in design, this quote is equally applicable to many other subjects. A couple weeks ago I saw this statement realized in ASHRAE, the world's standard-bearer of heating, ventilation, air-conditioning, and refrigeration, as I attended the ASHRAE Region VII Chapter Regional Conference.
Chapter Regional Conferences, or CRCs, are annual events held in each of ASHRAE's fourteen regions to serve as an opportunity for the chapters that constitute the region to carry out regional level business. Chapter representatives are given the chance to report on their chapters' activities, highlight their best practices, and undergo scrutiny of areas of deficiency. Chapter delegates also are given the chance to make decisions on which of their members are best suited to serve as leaders of the region and how best to improve and update the operations of the chapters, regions, and society.
There are many details that make up ASHRAE. It's easy for newcomers and outsiders to make assumptions about the leaders of this society. One might assume the group of people who guide ASHRAE is a small collection of the world's greatest thinkers and experts in the field of HVAC/R, constantly setting the pulse of the industry and guiding and directing standards and policies. After all, ASHRAE publications are used around the world, impacting millions of buildings and the people that use them. These technical standards affect political policy on a scale ranging from global to municipal. This assumption is partially right and partially wrong.
Naturally, there is a small contingent of impressively intelligent individuals who participate in ASHRAE and its leadership. But I saw for myself there is opportunity for someone like me, who is NOT the best and brightest our industry has to offer, to participate in ASHRAE leadership.
ASHRAE is comprised of a spectrum of people in the HVAC/R industry with a wide variety of experiences and areas of expertise. These individuals may be professors, researchers, engineers, architects, manufacturers, sales representatives, facility owners, contractors, or students. Regardless of intellect, experience and ability, all members can participate in the leadership of the society. There is a clearly set architecture of government within ASHRAE, with the president of the society holding the highest office, but there are also clear pathways for literally any member to contribute to the operation of the body. Considering the society has such diversity within its membership and the individual members are able to participate in the leadership of the society, the only correct assumption to make regarding traits of individual leaders of ASHRAE is that they are active in serving their profession. There are many members of ASHRAE, each one unique, that make up the society membership and society leadership. These unique details make the design.
Just as there is diversity in who constitutes ASHRAE, there is diversity in the reasons for involvement in ASHRAE. On a fundamental level, anyone involved in the HVAC/R industry is involved in ASHRAE. It is this organization that deeply impacts how engineers design HVAC systems, how building operators use their systems, and how manufacturers make equipment. Involvement is unavoidable. But active involvement that leads to the improvement of ASHRAE is optional. So what are the reasons to be active in ASHRAE? I cannot think of a single bad reason to be involved. For some, including myself, involvement in ASHRAE is a way to positively shape the direction of our industry. For others, it is a way to give back to a community that served them throughout their careers. I'd also like to think that for most of us it is a chance to have a good time and enjoy a community of like-minded individuals. Consider also the reason of personal advancement. This may include networking, professional development, and advertising. As a young man in the industry, this is one of my reasons for involvement and I have no reservation in saying so. I work for a wonderful company that supports my involvement, and I want to do right by them. I also have a wife and children in the picture and I am responsible for them. The community of ASHRAE gives me business opportunities that help me meet those objectives. Many, many others would echo those sentiments as well. Everyone in our industry has a reason to be actively involved in this important organization.
How to get involved.
Start with your chapter. Become a society and chapter member. Talk to those who are leaders and ask what needs exist. Share your expertise. Ground level opportunities exist in the form of committee chairs and co-chairs and board of governors. Maybe your company has a speaker on staff who can speak at a chapter meeting. Sponsor an event. Give to Research Promotion. I'm sure I've left out several opportunities for involvement, but the least you can do is go ask someone knowledgeable. Start with the details, and you can be a part of the design.
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