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ASHRAE Journal Podcast Episode 31

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Ginger Scoggins, P.E., Fellow ASHRAE, 2023-24 ASHRAE President

Tackling the Climate Crisis With ASHRAE President Ginger Scoggins

Join ASHRAE Journal Managing Editor Kelly Barraza and 2023–24 ASHRAE President Ginger Scoggins as they discuss tackling the climate crisis, approaching issues of cost when implementing decarbonization strategies and what’s in store for the rest of Scoggins’ tenure.

Have any great ideas for the show? Contact the ASHRAE Journal Podcast team at podcast@ashrae.org

Interested in reaching the global HVACR engineering leaders with one program? Contact Greg Martin at 01 678-539-1174 | gmartin@ashrae.org.

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  • Host Bio

    Kelly Barraza

    Kelly Barraza is the managing editor of ASHRAE Journal. She has extensive experience in writing, editing and reporting in scientific publishing and public health. Her career has touched federal law, medicine, research, engineering and public/media relations. Kelly lives in her hometown of Atlanta, Georgia.

  • Guest Bio

    Ginger Scoggins is a licensed mechanical engineer with 34 years of experience. She is the President and Co-owner of Engineered Designs, Inc., a full-service engineering which she founded 25 years ago. Ginger is also a certified commissioning agent, as well as a certified energy manager, and works on the design and commissioning of high-performing buildings across a wide variety of markets.

    In addition to running her firm, Ginger is heavily involved in ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-conditioning engineers) since 1988 when she joined the Triangle Chapter in Raleigh, becoming the first female president of the chapter in the 1995-96 year; the first female Regional Vice-chair; and the first female Director & Regional Chair for Region IV. Ginger was recently named a Fellow of the organization and is the 2023-24 President of ASHRAE.

  • Transcription

    Kelly Barraza:

    Welcome to ASHRAE Journal podcast. I'm your host, Kelly Barraza, managing editor. On this episode, I'm interviewing this year's Society President, Ginger Scoggins. Hi, Ginger.

    Ginger Scoggins:

    Hi, Kelly.

    Kelly Barraza:

    How are you doing today?

    Ginger Scoggins:

    I'm doing good. How are you doing today?

    Kelly Barraza:

    I'm all right. I'm just excited to talk to you about some of the topics you're addressing with your presidency and also just your experience in ASHRAE and in the industry. Why don't we start with your presidential theme for 2023, 2024, Challenge Accepted Tackling the Climate Crisis. Why did you pick this theme?

    Ginger Scoggins:

    Kelly, it just seems like the right time to pick this theme. I think in the past it's been probably a little too controversial to pick this theme, but we felt like it was time to address the issues head on that we're seeing with the built environment in terms of greenhouse gas emissions from the built environment and the climate, and it seems like it's just the right time that we hit this issue head on, and so my team and I discussed a lot of other options and just decided that this was the best way to directly let our members know that we are really working hard to prepare them for the coming changes in our industry.

    Kelly Barraza:

    Excellent. I know that you've been working really hard toward it in a lot of ways, even before you were president and before you were even on track with the president. I think you also had a decarbonization challenge for the Young Engineers in ASHRAE. I think the submissions will be closed by the time this episode airs, but I believe more information will be out on what the goal of that challenge is in Chicago conference.

    Ginger Scoggins:

    Yeah, so the goal of that challenge is really to get our chapters thinking about how they can decarbonize things or buildings locally, not just at society level. We're doing a lot of work at society level on decarbonization. The goal is to get the chapters and the regions to think about how they can impact their local communities by decarbonizing buildings in the built environment, and to work with industry and to work with other nonprofits and see what they can do to make a difference in their areas.

    Kelly Barraza:

    Excellent. And ASHRAE has been working really hard to also think big picture collaboratively too, with other associations. I think when you and I last saw each other in person, it was in D.C. in October at the 2023 Decarb conference that ASHRAE had did. I think it was their second one they've hosted, and that one was specifically led by different industry associations, IFMA, APPA, all these acronyms. You've been traveling a lot lately. What have you been doing to spread the message of decarb and just ASHRAE and its initiatives globally in different places?

    Ginger Scoggins:

    Well, that's what my theme and my presidential speech is all about, and it's about what we're doing as an organization to prepare our members to understand the impact, because a lot of members don't understand the impact of buildings on the global greenhouse gas emissions. So the first part of my speech actually kind of walks through how buildings do contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. Then the second part of my speech talks about what ASHRAE is doing to prepare our members to address this issue, and then what members can do themselves to prepare themselves to understand the issue and address it in their work. I'm not a climate scientist. I've read a lot, and so I just encourage our members to do their own reading and come to their own conclusions and see how they can help impact the greenhouse gas emissions from what they do on a day-to-day basis and what they do when they design buildings.

    Kelly Barraza:

    Excellent. Have you experienced a difference in the reaction from members or engineers based on where you've gone in the world, whether it's Sri Lanka or Mexico or North Carolina? You want to talk about that?

    Ginger Scoggins:

    Yeah, it's interesting to me. I think our young engineers are all engaged in the whole climate crisis concerns. Seems to be older folks that have a little bit more struggle believing that it's a manmade crisis maybe, and that it is actually even a crisis in some regards. It just depends on the people in the room as to the reaction that I get. It also depends on the area of the world and the area of the country. There's a lot of areas in this country that are oil and gas areas, and they have a little more concerns with the message and a little more pushback, if you will. But yeah, it's really interesting to me the comments that I get. The folks that you can tell are really embracing the issue and trying to figure out what to do and the folks that are really not embracing the issue and just determining that it's not something that we need to be worrying about. So all I can do is spread the message and see if people accept the challenge and learn for themselves and see where they end up.

    Kelly Barraza:

    Yeah, I know that a big concern too is with all the regulations and governments coming out and being, we have to go green, we have to reduce carbon emissions. It's a problem, and it's also an energy crisis and a money crisis problem too. The concern there is also how do we maintain the money preserves for these companies where their interests are in oil and gas? Have you had any issues with that in your consulting work at Engineered Designs?

    Ginger Scoggins:

    I think there's always issues. Budgets are always primary factors and projects. What is the budget? How is the budget to be used? What are the priorities of the owner? What does the owner feel like in terms of where their head is in terms of the building emissions or ESG or anything along those lines? So we always try to fill that out when we're talking to owners and say, "Do you have any concerns about buildings, climate, all of that. How do we fit that into the budget?" Every project is different, every owner is different, and every owner's focus is different.

    So a really good book I read said, "You should really meet people where they are, and if they're not engaged in the whole greenhouse gas emissions discussion or climate change discussion, there's other discussions you can have. You can talk about energy efficiency." I don't know anybody that walks away from energy efficiency, not wanting to save energy, because that saves money and owners that are really not engaged in the whole climate discussion, they aren't engaged in budget discussions. So energy, that's where you can have that conversation that they can really relate to.

    Kelly Barraza:

    In your speech the iconic line is "I am a child of the seventies." In the seventies there was quite a big energy crisis, and ASHRAE was also making moves then to start standards addressing that. So do you remember anything about that time with the crisis going on?

    Ginger Scoggins:

    Yeah, like I said in my speech, the only thing I really remember is not being allowed to turn on our air conditioning, which I'm from Tennessee, and that was a very hot environment during the seventies. But there was a big concern back then about spending too much time in air-conditioned environments, which is what we do today, which is really interesting that we've come full circle there. So the seventies were a great time. I think that people were outside more. I think that at least where I was growing up, there was a lot more interaction with the people around you and neighbors than we see today in a lot of locations. So I don't remember much about the seventies and the energy crisis. I was driving at that time, at least late in the seventies, maybe after the energy crisis. Worst part was over with. I do remember the lines at the gas station.

    Kelly Barraza:

    I remember a couple memories of gas lines too from my childhood. So that's so interesting because I know you talk a lot about your car in your speech, your Ford Pinto and how absolutely safe and fuel-efficient it was. Exploding gas guzzling cars.

    Ginger Scoggins:

    Exploding cars, yeah.

    Kelly Barraza:

    Yeah.

    Ginger Scoggins:

    I don't think that many of those explosions happened, but I think the Pinto is well known for that issue.

    Kelly Barraza:

    Yeah, I think that still lives on decades after the Pinto was retired as a car. They're just a fun exploding car, right?

    Ginger Scoggins:

    Yep.

    Kelly Barraza:

    So you talk about people being outdoors a lot in the seventies or just in the past where it was just less connected internet, less indoors, people going to work, going to school in person. Now in 2020, that changed dramatically with COVID and people inside all the time in buildings for work, for school, for everything. Did you see a dramatic shift in the industry then for how energy use might've gone up or down with COVID?

    Ginger Scoggins:

    Yeah, I think that you probably saw some. I haven't done the numbers, you probably saw some reduction in energy use in commercial buildings because people were not in there. Only so much you can turn down systems, especially in the south because you would've mold concerns and all of that. So you still have to condition the buildings. So what I did see as a business owner when all this happened is that a lot of new projects were just canceled, like new commercial buildings. All of that was just completely canceled, and there was a lot of focus on renovating and retrofitting existing buildings and doing a lot of studies on indoor air quality in existing buildings.

    So a lot of owners were concerned about what could they do to improve the indoor air quality of their buildings so they could show their tenants, or in the case of a lot of universities, the students, that it was safe to go into the office buildings and the classrooms. So for our industry, there was a lot more focus at that point in time on indoor air quality. Not that indoor air quality is never a non-issue because it always is, but owners, I think it really, really showcased or put the spotlight on indoor air quality in office buildings.

    Kelly Barraza:

    Absolutely. I know at that time too, I think my time was a little fuzzy. 2020, 2021, the last time you were on ASHRAE Journal podcast, you spoke about the ASHRAE headquarters project, which happened right around the start of COVID, which probably was another layer of complexity y'all were desperate to get for that project.

    Ginger Scoggins:

    Right. We had a timeline and we were just getting into construction in late 2019, and then COVID hit in March of 2020, but we were able to finish the job. Our contractor did a great job keeping us on schedule. There were a few scares here, there and yonder with folks coming in with COVID, but they had testing stations there. They had wash stations there for hands, and I made everybody wear masks. So the job kept trucking along, which was great. Then we also had the building evaluated by our task force in terms of how safe it was for the occupants. We're really fortunate with the system that we chose is that we don't have recirculated air in our building. We have dedicated outdoor air units that take our existing air in the building, and they take it out through a wheel, and they bring in preconditioned, preheated, precooled air from outside. So we didn't have a lot of recirculated air, which was a concern throughout COVID.

    Kelly Barraza:

    That's excellent. I know ASHRAE too has also, this past year, they released 241 pathogen mitigation standard. I don't believe it's been implemented yet in some buildings. I think there was some interest in some federal building stocks, but I think there was also some issue with that, with making sure that our indoor environs are safe and we're not spreading cooties essentially.

    Ginger Scoggins:

    Yeah, 241 is great. It gives people at least a standard to calculate and determine their indoor air quality conditions in their building. So ASHRAE really stepped up to the challenge and did that very quickly at the behest of the White House. So that standard, hopefully if there's concerns in the future, and even now, that standard can be used for indoor air quality evaluation.

    Kelly Barraza:

    You've been working in this industry since you've been straight out of college, my understanding in the eighties. You want to go back in time and talk about how it was when you first started working here and how it might've changed since then to where you are now?

    Ginger Scoggins:

    Well, everything's gotten faster, that's for sure. When I started in this industry, we were doing drawings on a drawing board and CAD quickly took over, and then Revit has taken over from that. So things are moving faster than they used to move. We used to have a little more time to design things than we have today. But on the flip side, with the advent of the software that's available today, we're able to do things a little faster. So that's been a big change. If you're asking more about being a female in this industry, there hasn't been a whole lot of change, at least in my area of the country. I always ask the question when I go to different chapters. I always kind of look at the demographics in the room. A lot of the urban areas, you can see a difference with more women in the room than you can see in a lot of the rural areas or suburban areas.

    So I was actually in Nashville this week. We had a Women in ASHRAE happy hour event, and I was talking to a lot of the women there about how many women were now in their graduating classes. These were young women that had graduated in the last two or three years. Some schools they said it was 15, 20%, and some said there was like three of us in the entire curriculum. So I think there's architectural engineering that's out now that is getting a lot more interest from women, and they can have a mechanical focus. Straight mechanical engineering degrees, I don't believe is getting the increase in women that some of the other engineering disciplines are. I think a lot of women think mechanical engineering, they're going to be designing cars, and maybe that's not of interest, but there's a big broad array of things you can do with a mechanical engineering degree. So I think the advent of the architectural engineering curriculum has really helped drive women into our industry.

    Kelly Barraza:

    Do you work a lot with architects closely with them, with your designs?

    Ginger Scoggins:

    I do.

    Kelly Barraza:

    Do you find a different approach with them than an engineer? What would be a different approach for an architect? See, I'm a newbie to this, so how does an architect and an engineer and a building owner walk into a room?

    Ginger Scoggins:

    That's funny. Yeah, there's definitely a different mindset. There are a lot of architects that really do have an engineering mindset. There's a lot of architects that don't. So it just depends. The really, really creative architects tend to want to think more outside of the box and engineers like our boxes. So it's a little bit of a challenge, I think for engineers to think more out of the box than it is for architects. There's definitely more creative architects, and there's definitely more realistic or practical architects. Just like with anybody else, there's different types of everybody. So it just depends on who you're working with. Like I said earlier, what their focus is and somehow sometimes you have to as an engineer say, "Yeah, that's not going to work. I don't see how that is ever going to work." You have to come to a consensus just like being in ASHRAE on a committee. You got to get everybody to consensus, and sometimes that's easier than other times.

    Kelly Barraza:

    So how have you approached diplomacy with all the work you've done at ASHRAE with other people? You've worked the past chair of the headquarters committee. You've been a delegate for COP26 and 2021 ASHRAE president, and the list goes on. So have you found your diplomacy skills, you've had to work on them actively within ASHRAE, I imagine?

    Ginger Scoggins:

    I think by the time you get to this level, you've figured out how to be diplomatic, and that starts early, I think, in your ASHRAE career because whenever you're running a chapter or you're on a society level committee, it's all about consensus and it's all about getting everybody in the room to at least somewhat agree to the point where you can come to a conclusion. People might walk away and say, "Well, that's not what I wanted." But at least when you walk away, you should be able to walk away and say, "It wasn't exactly what I wanted, but I got some of my points across."

    I think by the time you get to ASHRAE president, your diplomacy skills should be well honed after many, many years of being involved in ASHRAE and committees and volunteers and everybody in the room. This is the thing, when I run my company, I have the final say so I don't have to worry so much about that. But when I'm sitting in an ASHRAE meeting, everybody in that room is just like me, and they are used to making their own decisions, and so we have to get everybody to consensus in some manner moving forward. So that's the challenge that I like to think that I've gotten fairly good at, but there's always challenges on that front.

    Kelly Barraza:

    So in terms of looking forward, do you have any advice for any incoming presidents behind you, Ginger?

    Ginger Scoggins:

    I think the incoming president is behind me, and I know two of them already, are well versed in how to do exactly what I was just talking about. I have no concerns with the incoming presidents behind me. I think every president that gets in this role has a focus, and they want to make sure they accomplish as much as they can during their year and you have to start early. You have to start really before your year starts to have everything ready when you kick off, otherwise it's too late. I know both of them are doing that. So they both have their focuses. They're both working on what they want to accomplish their year so they can have everything ready when they take over. My hope is focus on decarbonization and climate change does not go away because it is not something that can be a one-year discussion and then fade into the background. This is something that's going to affect our industry for the next 10 or 20 years or longer.

    Kelly Barraza:

    Exactly. Well, any parting words? I think we're at the end of our recording here. I'll say before I kick us both out of this recording, it was a pleasure speaking with you, Ginger. I've been seeing you everywhere because you're a globetrotter of course. Thank you so much for being on our episode of ASHRAE Journal podcast. I'm sure we'll see you again on this podcast since you're prolific with these.

    Ginger Scoggins:

    Well, thank you, Kelly. I think this has been interesting, and hopefully I got you the information you need for this to be a good podcast.

    Kelly Barraza:

    Excellent. For your sake, I hope everyone listens to it, and for my sake, I hope nobody listens to it. For myself, for myself. 

    Thank you everyone for listening. This has been Kelly Barraza and Ginger Scoggins on ASHRAE Journal podcast.

    ASHRAE Journal:

    The ASHRAE Journal podcast team is editor Drew Champlin; managing editor, Kelly Barraza; producer and associate editor, Chadd Jones; associate editor, Tani Palefski; creative designer, Teresa Carboni; and technical editor, Rebecca Matyasovski. Copyright ASHRAE. The views expressed in this podcast are those of individuals only and not of ASHRAE, its sponsors or advertisers. Please refer to ashrae.org/podcast for the full disclaimer.

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