Starting In the Plus Column

In January 2010, the HVACR Industry gathered in the sunny climes of Orlando, FL for this year's edition of the International Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigerating Exposition (AHR Expo). The mood was up-beat. That's quite a change from the past 12 months as the industry continued to suffer in the hands of the global recession that's made all of our lives a little harder.

Up beat was a nice change. For three days we all took a break from the economy, the bail-out, and unemployment numbers to bask in the glow of new technologies, fresh ideas, and hope for a better, more energy efficient year.

Though smaller in terms of the number of exhibitors and attendees, there was a concentrated feel about the AHR Expo. When the show doors opened early on the first day, a river of contractors, engineers, students, and guests streamed in and, like a school of walleye, darted as one toward the area of the floor that housed building-automation and controls exhibitors.

There seemed to be a pent-up need to see the latest technology for controlling indoor environments. The talk was of turnaround and growth. The feeling in the air was one of optimism.

In the BACnet booth, for example, connectivity and economic turnaround were hot topics. Other discussions centered on the impact of wireless in the health-care market and how that marketplace is growing. And there were many conversations on demand-controlled ventilation.

Another source of excitement was the entire smart building, smart grid, and building connectivity industry, with plenty of product and technology from around the world to share.

There was a buzz going on about something called the Internet “cloud.” For those not in the know (like me), this term is a metaphor for computing via the Internet. Typical cloud computing providers deliver common business applications online which are accessed from a web browser, while software and data are stored on servers. This is an exciting development in the intelligent-building market.

Another key word I kept hearing was “optimization.” One exhibitor aptly summed it up when he said: “The industry focus is on optimization. Automation is a means to that end.”

Sure, all these topics lead back to green and to sustainability. That's good. More importantly, they were spoken of with eagerness, maybe even joy.

So why so positive? Certainly the dollars pumping into the economy from the federal stimulus program is key. Perhaps it was because of rumors that President Obama's push for a cap and trade bill was stalling. Or even early news that the climate-change bill will refocus on green job creation. Any way you cut it, people seemed very optimistic about upcoming opportunities.

As I said, some of the new product technologies on display contributed to the air of excitement. As the editors of ContractingBusiness.com walked the floor, they targeted some of those products that drew much of this kind of attention and now present some of them here.

Take a look on page 30 for our post-show coverage and see for yourself what's new. Obviously there's no way we could cover everything displayed this year, but we will continue to include the new products and trends in upcoming issue of the magazine.

If the excitement of the show isn't enough, I'm pleased to introduce our 2010 Commercial Contractor of the Year, a company that has weathered many storms — both economic and nature-based — and has found the right mix of people and systems to not only succeed and excel in their market, but also to give back to the industry they love so well.

So who is the Commercial Contractor of the Year? Turn to page 24 and learn why Gillette Air Conditioning has taken the industry's most respected award.

There's no doubt about it — there's nothing like the good feeling associated with starting out the first quarter of the new year in the “Plus Column.”

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