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Government Affairs

Government Affairs Update, 04-04-14

Federal Activities


GGAC Regional and Chapter Activities

  • Proposed Changes to IgCC from ICC
  • Ohio
  • New York City
  • Washington, DC

Federal Activities

For additional information on federal issues, please contact Mark Ames, ASHRAE’s Senior Manager of Federal Government Affairs, at mames@ashrae.org.

Funding Issues Front and Center on Capitol Hill

The coming of spring signals not only warmer temperatures in the nation’s capital, but also the beginning of the annual appropriations process during which Congressional committees hold hearings where top level Obama Administration officials defend the President’s fiscal year 2015 budget request.

While the President’s budget request serves as an important beginning point for discussions, Congressional offices have their own priorities, which may or may not align with the President’s. As a result, this is also the time of year when Congressional offices submit their own funding preferences for federal programs and offices, often coordinating in a flurry of short-lived activity with other offices and nonprofit organizations in the hopes of gaining support for their proposals.

In the coming weeks Congressional decision-makers will review the President’s requests and those from House and Senate Member offices, eventually drafting several appropriations bills that will make their way through committees and then be voted on in each chamber. If funding bills are not enacted into law by October 1, 2014, Congress will have to either approve a short-term continuing resolution or face a partial government shutdown of non-essential activities. 

Senators Introduce, Markup Tax Extenders Package – Addresses Energy Efficiency

Earlier this week the Senate Finance Committee marked up and approved the Expiring Provisions Improvement Reform and Efficiency (EXPIRE) Act, which seeks to extend a number of expired and expiring tax provisions, including Section 45L, which provides tax credits for residential energy efficiency, and Section 179D, which allows taxpayers to deduct certain expenditures for energy efficient commercial building property.

To qualify for the 179D deduction, current law requires the energy efficiency measure to be installed as part of a plan to reduce total annual energy and power costs by 50% or more over ANSI/ASHRAE/IES 90.1-2001 “Energy Standard for Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings” and limits the deduction to $1.80 per square foot. The EXPIRE Act would extend the deduction through December 15, 2015, update the reference to 90.1-2007, and allow the deduction to be allocated to the person primarily responsible for designing the energy efficient measure, effectively allowing tribal governments and nonprofit organizations to benefit from the deduction.

Several amendments were submitted to the EXPIRE Act, including portions of the Energy Efficiency Tax Incentives Act (S.2189), which is supported by a number of organizations, including ASHRAE.

The prospects for the EXPIRE Act are uncertain, but there is a clear desire to end the episodic expiration and extension of tax provisions.

“When I joined the Finance committee nearly a decade ago, I couldn’t possibly have imagined chairing Congress’ fifteenth time renewing the stop-and-go tax cuts called ‘extenders’”, said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR). It is “possible for Democrats and Republicans to share some ideas on reform, I want to be straightforward on one point – this will be the last tax extenders bill the committee takes up as long as I’m chairman”, Wyden continued.


Annual National Defense Bill Begins Its Long Journey Towards Approval 

Approved by Congress every year, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) guides the funding decisions and programmatic activities of the Department of Defense, including military facility construction and renovation and the associated energy efficiency activities of the Department of Defense (DOD). DOD is one of the world’s single largest building owners, operating over 562,000 buildings and structures.

Throughout April and May the House and Senate Armed Services Committees are busy drafting the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2015. In years past, the NDAA has referenced ASHRAE standards, and recently, DOD began using several portions of ANSI/ASHRAE/USGBC/IES 189.1 “Standard for the Design of High-Performance, Green Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings”. ASHRAE Government Affairs Office staff are currently working with Representatives and Senators who have either introduced NDAA-related energy efficiency and sustainability legislation or sit on the Armed Services Committees to explore their interest in introducing similar legislation and provide ASHRAE’s technical expertise where appropriate.

Unlike recent years, where the NDAA has been enacted into law in December, Members of Congress hope to complete work on the NDAA FY 2015 by mid-summer to accommodate the shortened legislative calendar caused by the mid-term elections.

Rays of Hope Still Found for Additional Energy Efficiency Legislation in the House 

By some counts, Congress has less than 30 legislative days left this year to complete all their work. (Members of Congress are typically in Washington only Tuesday through Thursday and legislative business is only conducted for a portion of each day.) While this hardly seems like enough time to get much done, in truth, Congressional staff and stakeholder associations such as ASHRAE are hard at work, coordinating on a number of issues – including energy efficiency.

In early March the House passed the Energy Efficiency Improvement Act (H.R.2126) (previously reported on here). Rather than be exhausted by this effort, there are signs that the House may pull together another bipartisan package of efficiency legislation that could include energy efficiency for schools and ESPCs. The exact contents of any such package will likely depend in large part on any actions the Senate takes to pass its own recently-reintroduced energy efficiency legislation, the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act (S.2074), also known as Shaheen-Portman. Additional information on Shaheen-Portman can be found here.

GGAC Regional and Chapter Activities

For additional information on international, state, and local government affairs, please contact Jim Scarborough, ASHRAE’s Manager of Grassroots Government Affairs, at jscarborough@ashrae.org.

Proposed Changes to IgCC from ICC

Should ASHRAE weigh-in on any proposed changes to the International Green Construction Code published by the International Code Council (ICC) or provide comments for the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials’ (IAPMO) Uniform Mechanical Code/Uniform Plumbing Code (UMC/UPC) for the current revision cycle?

Proposals for the ICC Code Development Hearings (April 27 – May 3, 2014 in Memphis) are available here.

Public Comments to the UMC/UPC published will be discussed May 1 – 2 in Las Vegas, are available here.
To provide input on any of these proposals – in particular, whether the proposed changes are consistent with the content of ASHRAE Standards and Guidelines – please contact Steve Ferguson, ASHRAE’s Assistant Manager of Standards and Codes at sferguson@ashrae.org by April 18, 2014.

In 2009, like many Midwestern states, Ohio passed legislation to establish statewide energy consumption and demand reduction requirements. These requirements are directly responsible for the rebate programs offered by investor-owned utilities for energy efficiency improvement projects. The Ohio legislature is considering this week a bill to suspend (and potentially eliminate) those requirements. Members of the local ASHRAE chapters, however, feel that these rebate programs have had a positive and significant impact on their businesses. Rebate dollars have helped to finance many projects that would not otherwise have feasible. Members are responding by calling and emailing their Senators and Representatives to tell them how much the standard has benefited their businesses directly and the industry as whole. They are asking their legislators not to support efforts to encumber the energy efficiency requirements. To register your input with members of the Ohio State Senate click here.
New York City

Con Ed recently released a new suite of demand response/demand management incentives. The latter are predicated on preparing for the retirement of the Indian Point nuclear facility and are designed to dramatically curtail Con Ed’s peak load. The incentives are time-limited but are very lucrative, over 4 times the previous value and are additive with other energy efficiency incentives. This initiative is jointly administered by Con Edison and New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). Projects must be completed and operational prior to June 1, 2016.

Measures eligible for the incentives include thermal storage, battery storage, demand response enablement, building management systems, chiller/heating ventilation and air conditioning, lighting, and fuel switching. For more information click here.
Washington, DC

On March 28, the Mayor of Washington, DC approved the DC Green Construction Code which applies to commercial buildings over 10,000 square feet and to multi-family residential four stories or higher. The model versions of the IgCC and 189.1 were carefully reviewed and integrated into already strong existing green building laws. For more information on Sustainable DC click here