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IAPMO
UMC Embraces Geothermal 
 
 

 

Development of geothermal heating and cooling standards will help the industry grow.

Almost two years ago, I shared some insight into a day with the International Association of Plumbing & Mechanical Officials (IAPMO). I had been selected to be part of the technical committee to develop the 2018 Uniform Solar Energy & Hydronics Code (USEHC) under the ANSI consensus process. The code is published with considerable verbiage toward regulation of geothermal HVAC technologies.

I did not know that I, along with other geothermal advocates and experts, would be offered an appointment to the Uniform Mechanical Code (UMC) technical committee. This committee is comprised of 26 members, working toward preparation of the UMC for release in 2021.

It is telling that IAPMO has sought the input of geothermal experts. Ground-source systems are becoming mainstream in growing numbers of jurisdictions domestically and worldwide. In New York, Dandelion Energy (started at Alphabet’s X on Google’s campus) was launched as an independent company in spring 2017. Since then, it has grown quickly to a waiting list of thousands of homeowners nationally and is continuing expansion.  

This type of involvement provides remarkable validation for geothermal HVAC technologies. As expected, the entire geothermal industry has experienced rapid growth. Market size for 2016 was valued at more than $80 billion and is set to exceed 110 GWt by 2024.

Geothermal HVAC technologies have had little regulation in our building codes and are often confusing to building officials. The International Ground Source Heat Pump Association (IGSHPA) has been diligent in its efforts to provide competent information on construction standards, much of which has been helpful in efforts to create competent and time-tested building standards.

New York is a great incubator for technologies such as geothermal and the state has been diligent in adopting IGSHPA regulations. In addition, through the efforts of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), financial rebates were provided to spur growth in technologies that reduce combustion of fossil fuels and help to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

About the IAPMO process

The process of code updates uses Robert’s Rules of Order. It’s a parliamentary procedure, similar to what you would imagine taking place in the U.S. Congress to approve new laws. There are lawyers (to make sure everything complies and provide guidance), and transcribers and officials that help to ensure the committee does everything correctly. We were carefully guided in every aspect of the process.  

Folks not on the committee are seated in full view of the proceedings. Many of those in attendance had special interests ranging from representatives of Underwriter’s Laboratories to paid consultants for manufacturers attempting to have a new product approved for use. When an item submitted would come up for a vote, those interested parties would approach the rostrum/podium to be recognized by the chair and then were given a few minutes to clarify their positions.

Voting by simple majority is done electronically. There are 23 voting members but in the case of a tie (if someone abstains), the chairperson casts their vote.

This process for the UMC will be complete in 2021. The timeline may be viewed at www.iapmo.org. There are many hurdles along the way. I can attest that it takes hundreds of hours of personal time, and thousands of dollars in travel, all of which must be paid by the committee members. No compensation comes from IAPMO.

As a geothermal HVAC writer and consultant, I am pleased with the good work being done toward adoption of geothermal heating and cooling standards by IAPMO. Geothermal implementation is growing leaps and bounds and our building departments are gaining competent templates from which to work.

Geothermal wrap-up

Now is the time to get up to speed on geothermal technologies. Commercially, the forecast for energy-efficient commercial HVAC system revenue is expected to increase from $29.4 billion in 2018 to $61.2 billion in 2027. Spend some time learning about all of the fascinating benefits that come from geothermal, such as elimination of cooling towers and boilers, simplified design and unbeatable energy-efficiency. With an overview of the technology, you’ll fully understand the benefits and wide variety of applications.

NYSERDA realized this and worked with the New York Geothermal Organization to create a full-day, on-the-road CEU training program for professional architects, engineers and students. The program covers topics such as geothermal system design overview, variations of earth loop systems, choosing the right geothermal system type, evaluating the benefits of geothermal systems, and applications of geothermal systems.

The program was so well-received that IGSHPA put the training online. Professionals who complete the training are fully confident that geothermal technologies will work for them.

Go to the IGHSPA website, learn about geothermal technologies, and what you need to know to specify them, and get AIA Credits (CEUs).