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2022-23 ASHRAE President Farooq Mehboob

Presidential Presentation | 2022 ASHRAE Annual Conference

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2022-23 ASHRAE President Farooq Mehboob
Presidential Presentation | 2022 ASHRAE Annual Conference 


As Salam Alaikum,
Shalom alai khem,
Paz sea contigo,
May peace be upon you.

It was 1971… I was twenty-five years old and the Chief Engineer of the InterContinental Hotel at Dhaka in what was then East Pakistan. This was a time of great political unrest in my country as a result of ongoing racial and socioeconomic inequities between East and West Pakistan.

Ultimately the hostilities led to the breakup of Pakistan into two countries, East Pakistan became Bangladesh and West Pakistan being modern day Pakistan. At the time, I had important relationships on both sides of the conflict.

I was from West Pakistan where my father served in the army I had gone to a college in East Pakistan and my wife was also from there. 

In August, my hotel was bombed just 3-days before a planned visit from US Senator Robert Kennedy. Because of my connections in both East and West Pakistan, the message I received was, “Things are going to literally ‘blow up’ and you better get out of harm’s way.”

I took those warnings seriously. At the time, my director at the hotel had plans for me. He charged me with restoring the damage from the bombing. I promised him I would, on the condition that, once I had finished the job, I would be transferred. He agreed. As part of the plan, I immediately sent my family with our possessions ahead while I worked on the restoration project. Upon finishing my work, I joined my family in West Pakistan.

In the weeks to follow, civil war ensued and many of the West Pakistanis’ who did not leave East Pakistan ended up in prison and many were killed. Reflecting back upon that experience, I can see the series of events that were critical in securing my personal and professional future.

  1. Relationships: Over the years, I fostered diverse and trusted relationships within both East and West Pakistan.
  2. Knowledge: Because of those diverse and trusted relationships, I had access to important, accurate, and relevant information. This insight pointed me in one direction: get out!
  3. Change: Ultimately, the relationships and knowledge weren’t enough. I had to act. That required a willingness to embrace change and get me and my family to safety.

The same strategy that secured me and my family in 1971 will SECURE THE FUTURE of ASHRAE going forward. What is that?

  1. Relationships: It’s imperative that we foster diverse and trusted relationships within our Society and with our Associate Societies and industry.
  2. Knowledge: We need to arm ourselves with the knowledge that comes from seeking  important, accurate, and relevant information about our industry and the world around us.
  3. Change: We must be willing to embrace change to ensure we do more than just survive…we thrive.

I don’t have to tell you we are experiencing times of great change…although I just did! Over the last 2 years, everyone on the planet has been impacted by the pandemic on many levels. 

It’s unlikely that this era of unpredictability is going away any time soon.  The pandemic has upended our lives and accelerated change in how we live, work, shop and even dress. The future does not belong to those who sit and watch. A meaningful and powerful future will not come to us…we must collectively seek it…create itSECURE it. And that’s what we’ll do because that’s who we are. It’s in our ASHRAE DNA.

ASHRAE was born out of a realization that a platform for the exchange of ideas and experiences among HVAC&R professionals was needed for the profession to flourish. This, along with having the ability to fund and conduct independent research was essential to develop, validate and disseminate technical knowledge. This was central to the success of our members in their profession and for realizing our mission and vision.

Our success was based on problem solving, creativity, innovation, flexibility, and a willingness to adapt. Success stems from seeing an opportunity for improvement based on new knowledge and technology. This has made ASHRAE what it is today, the world’s leading global HVACR Society.  And now as we look to secure our future we face 2-great challenges:

First: Silos. Used in farming, silos are designed to isolate and insolate. They do the same within the workplace and in associations. Ultimately, they lead to disengagement and disintegration.

At ASHRAE silos are:

  • Slowing us down from taking necessary action or adopting improvements.
  • Preventing opportunities to “cross-pollinate” ideas and leverage relationships.

The result is underperformance given the brilliance and passion of our members and our resources.

Second: Resistance to change. Resistance to change is limiting and slowing our ability to adapt and develop in a manner consistent with the evolving needs of our members.

We’ve experienced sixty-years of unparalleled success, we grew from 72 Chapters in North America in 1956 to 200 chapters worldwide today, we foresaw and addressed the issues of the day:

  • In 1972 when the world was hit by the oil crisis: we rose to the challenge and gave the world energy efficiency standards used by governments around the world.
  • In 2020 when COVID struck we rose to the challenge and conclusively demonstrated that COVID is airborne. In addition, we provided invaluable guidance and set new benchmarks for buildings in the post pandemic era. 

What a heritage we possess! ASHRAE should be proud. We all should be proud!

We are now at a critical point in our evolution. Our past success could lead us to believe we are invincible, but without change we will become stagnant. Let’s remember what Bill Gates said, “Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.”

It’s imperative that we continue to hunger for, and seek, information about our market, our changing world, and our technological advances. Breaking down silos and embracing change will infuse a new dynamism in our society at all levels, bringing to our members new knowledge, technology and tools in a timely fashion helping them to successfully navigate the rapidly changing world.

Let’s look at how we can leverage Relationships, Knowledge and Change as the formula to SECURING OUR FUTURE.

Our journey forward begins by looking back. History teaches us that knowledge and technology have never been the preserve of one civilization for very long and they diffuse across cultures and civilizations, evolving all the time. Those who are actively on the lookout for new ideas, knowledge, and more efficient ways to do things move ahead in the scale of human development. 

For example:

  • Gunpowder was invented in China in the first century, it took 1200 years for it to become commonly used in Europe in the 14th century.
  • The Mughals of India were masters of sustainability, they employed microclimate engineering strategically placing misting fountains upwind of residences. They used cool roofs, solar water heating and intricate piping systems using gravity to operate fountains and water imperial gardens. It has taken nearly 500 years for these practices to be widely used across the world as part of our sustainable building designs.
  • The Arabs laid the foundations of modern mathematics, physics, chemistry, and algebra. It was centuries before this knowledge became common place and was applied across the world.

In the past the diffusion of knowledge and technology across the world took a long time. Today with our rapidly changing environment and instant communications if we do not keep pace with change, we risk obsolescence and irrelevance. What determines how quickly we can react and adapt depends in great part on how well attuned we are to developments and how willing we are to embrace change. We need to be diverse, equitable and inclusive to see, understand and take advantage of what is changing, for our success. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion are critical.

It is important to understand that diversity has many shades of meaning, for an organization to be truly diverse it needs to have diversity of ideas and views and these ideas and views can be freely discussed in a transparent and participative manner in a welcoming home. Nothing kills diversity like group think. The two key prerequisites for ASHRAE’s diversity are: Transparency and Participation.

I was born in Lahore, a city of 12-million people dating back 2500 years, located at the heart of the Punjab region famous for the amalgam of cultures resulting from centuries of invasions by the Aryan Huns, Greeks, Mongols, Turks, Arabs, Mughal’s and finally the British. Lahore is referred to as the heart of Pakistan.

Growing up, the career options available to me were: Military, law, medicine. Or engineering.

My mom had her own method for securing my future. She said no to the military, no fixed home too much moving around. Law, she didn’t trust lawyers. Medicine, too much time away from family. So, I chose the only option left: Engineering.

As a result, I studied in Bangladesh at a University affiliated with Texas A &M. I started my career with the local TRANE distributor and moved on to working with Intercontinental hotels as a regional chief engineer for central Asia and finally set up my own consulting practice.

Today, my company works in Pakistan the Middle East and Africa. I have travelled to 45 countries.

I married the mother of my children, Shaheda, in 1967. She was born in Calcutta and was part Malaysian. She passed away in 2013 from surgery complications. I have three sons and six grandchildren, each one of my daughters-in-law comes from a different ethnic background. My second wife, Aisha, is Chinese.

I have experienced the power of a truly diverse family. I  have lived diversity all my life, in every sense of the word.

As a society, we have been blessed with great leadership. Our presidents have spoken about the need to adapt to face the future, the need to build a global coalition, the coming changes to the electric grid which will transform the way we design and build, the urgent need for transitioning to the digital age, and most recently, President Schwedler has underscored the need to ‘Feed the Roots’, all these ideas/themes have much in common. They reflect the awareness that change is accelerating and the need to adapt and be equipped for the future and be willing to embrace change.

Our plan for securing our future has the following key elements:

  • Make ASHRAE more transparent.
  • Encourage greater participation by our members in society and regional activities.
  • Make ASHRAE truly diverse.
  • Harness the power of our relationships.
  • Harvest information in the service of our members.
  • Embrace change by streamlining society structure and processes.

Based on these key elements, making ASHRAE more transparent:

  • We will Improve transparency and foster greater member participation by live streaming key ASHRAE meetings, such as the board of directors and council meetings, so that members can listen in and be part of the discussion in their ASHRAE home.
  • BOD and EXCOM agendas will be circulated in advance with links to attend meetings.
  • A quarterly newsletter from the board to chapter president’s is also planned.

Encourage participation by members.

  • We will develop initiatives to lower the financial barriers to participation where possible.
  • The work of our technical committees and research will be widely reported to the members not only to create awareness of what is happening, but to encourage ideas for new activities/programs more closely aligned with the needs of our members at Chapter and Regional level.
  • Leadership and financial training offerings for regions and chapters will be expanded.
  • Products and services tailored to the requirements of different parts of the world and, wherever possible, in languages other than English will be offered on critical issues of the day.

Make ASHRAE truly diverse.

  • A comprehensive plan to make ASHRAE more diverse, equitable, and inclusive will be put in place, the plan initiatives will include chapter programs, including webinars, podcasts, and training. ASHRAE will be a welcoming home.

Harness the power of relationships.

  • We will foster greater participation by having a program of virtual joint chapter meetings between North American and international chapters focusing on critical issues of the day.
  • In order to Harness the enormous strength of our global partners and Associate Society Alliance (AASA) members in the common cause of our industry to build a global coalition. This fall, a global HVACR industry summit is planned to be held in Istanbul, Turkey, where we will deliberate on critical issues of the day, including climate change, decarbonization, et cetera, and formulate a global plan of action. The summit will be live-streamed.

Harvest information.

  • We will actively pursue important information to ensure accurate and relevant data about the global conditions of our industry and the needs of the market and our members.
  • ASHRAE roundtables are being planned alongside CRC’s and society meetings in different parts of the world, this will go a long way in not only harnessing the power of our relationships but will provide accurate and insightful information on market needs and trends.

Embrace change.

  • We will continue our streamlining efforts which have been ongoing for nearly two decades with limited success, this is critical to de-siloing and embracing the culture of change. 

ASHRAE colleagues and friends. We have an unprecedented history. Our roots can be   traced back to 1894. We have over 50,000 members in more than 132 countries. Currently we’re facing real climate, economic, and cultural challenges. And…new opportunities through the digital age and global collaboration  await us.

THE TIME TO SECURE OUR FUTURE IS NOW.

Let’s consider how YOU can make an impact. 

When you participate in board and council meetings, you will make a difference.

When you connect with our technical committees and learn about their work and participate in developing locally focused technical resources, you will not only be developing yourself, but contributing to securing our future. By participating at your chapter region and society levels in many of the programs and trainings being made available will help hone your skills and develop you professionally to face the challenges of the future.

Attending the global summit and industry ‘round tables’ will place you at the table where the coming changes and the latest industry trends are being discussed and actions planned.

Ginger Scoggins reminded us that people don’t always know how to participate. Getting involved can be a complex process. We will improve this. We will create a simple process, to guide you from INTEREST to INVOLVEMENT links on the president’s page will let you select your area of interest and society will connect you and guide you on how to participate and contribute.    

Our members are the lifeblood of ASHRAE, you have made this great society what it is today, a beacon to humanity, by your selfless devotion and giving for over a century. Now as we stand on the threshold of a new era with its challenges, I ask you to step forward for not only securing our future but the future of humanity. 

Thank you!

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