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ASHRAE Journal Podcast Season 2 Episode 2

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Uncovering Unconscious Bias in the HVAC&R Industry

“Equity is the goal we strive for,” says Vice President Dunstan Macauley, P.E., HBDP, Member ASHRAE, in the latest episode of ASHRAE Journal Podcast.
Join Macauley; Regional Vice Chair for the Young Engineers in ASHRAE Committee Carrie Anne Monplaisir, Associate Member ASHRAE; and Region X Director and Regional Chair Devin Abellon, P.E., Member ASHRAE, as they discuss how ASHRAE and the engineering industry can be more inclusive.

Guests, left, Dunstan Macauley, Carrie Anne Monplaisir and Devin Abellon

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  • Show Notes

    “Equity is the goal we strive to get to,” says ASHRAE Vice President Dunstan Macauley, P.E., HBDP, Member ASHRAE, in the latest episode of ASHRAE Journal Podcast.

    Join Macauley; Regional Vice-Chair for the Young Engineers in ASHRAE Committee Carrie Anne Monplaisir, Associate Member ASHRAE; and Region X Director and Regional Chair Devin Abellon, P.E., Member ASHRAE, as they discuss how ASHRAE and the engineering industry can be more inclusive.  

    The trio define diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) (1:37), explain what those terms do not mean (3:55) and share their personal experiences related to creating a more inclusive industry (8:55).

    Then, Devin and Dunstan—members of the ASHRAE Board of Directors Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Subcommittee—and Carrie Ann dive into how ASHRAE and its committees could be more inclusive (14:00) and discuss how ASHRAE members can help increase the equitable distribution of all resources (8:30), including energy equity (30:45).

    Learn more about the ASHRAE Board of Directors Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Subcommittee.

  • Guest Bios

    Carrie Anne Monplaisir, Associate Member ASHRAE, is an engineer in training (EIT) at Clark Nexsen with over six years of design and commissioning experience in the HVAC industry. She has assisted in designing systems for pharmaceutical and manufacturing facilities, laboratories, universities, offices, K-12 and retail for commercial, state, federal, Department of Defense and Department of Energy clients. She has provided commissioning services for multi-level apartments, hotels, and offices. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin in 2013. She has been an active ASHRAE member since 2014 with experience serving in chapter, region, and society roles. She is currently the Young Engineers in ASHRAE (YEA) Region III regional vice chair and is a Board of Governors member for the ASHRAE Hampton Roads Chapter.

    Devin Abellon, P.E., Member ASHRAE, is the business development manager for engineering services at Uponor North America. He has more than 25 years of experience in the HVAC and plumbing industries with a focus on high-performance and sustainable building design and construction. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California at Santa Barbara and is a registered professional engineer in California and Arizona. He is an active member of both ASPE and ASHRAE and serves on the ASHRAE Board of Directors as the Region X DRC, Handbook Subcommittee Chair for ASHRAE TC 6.5, Radiant Heating and Cooling, and as an ASHRAE Distinguished Lecturer. He also serves on the ASHRAE Board of Directors DEI Advisory Subcommittee and is a facilitator for ASHRAE Leadership Academy.

    Dunstan Macauley, P.E., HBDP, Member ASHRAE, is a building systems practitioner with more than 25 years of experience in the design of engineering systems for the built environment. He is currently a director at Setty and Associates, specializing in the design of a variety of systems for commercial and institutional projects. Dunstan is instrumental in the firm’s high performing buildings practice. Mr. Macauley is a graduate of the University of Maryland and is a registered professional engineer in New York State and the District of Columbia. He currently serves on the ASHRAE Board of Directors as a Vice-President.

  • Transcript

    ASHRAE Journal:

    ASHRAE Journal presents.

    On this episode of the ASHRAE Journal Podcast, Devin Abellon, Dunstan Macauley and Carrie Anne Monplaisir break down and define the importance of  diversity, equity and inclusion—or DEI—and how engineering can become more inclusive.

    Devin Abellon:

    It's surprising that the amount of, I'll say, negative energy around DEI, because for some reason, there's this thought that it's a political initiative. I think in today's society, where depending on what side, right or left, you're on, it can be interpreted in such a way that people, they take it the wrong way when we look at what diversity, equity, inclusion means. But I think that a lot of people would agree that those are certainly values and things that we want to work towards.

    My name is Devin Abellon. I serve on the board of directors as the director and regional chair for region 10, and I also serve on the board of directors DEI advisory subcommittee.

    Carrie Anne Monplaisir:

    Hi, my name is Carrie Anne Monplaisir, and I am the Region 3 Young Engineers in ASHRAE RVC.

    Dunstan Macauley:

    Hi, I am Dunstan Macauley. I serve on the ASHRAE board of directors as a society vice president, and I'm with the National Capital Chapter. I'm also on the board DEI subcommittee as well. What is diversity, equity and inclusion?

    Devin Abellon:

    I think diversity, most people have a good understanding of what diversity is. It's about having a group of individuals with different social, ethnic backgrounds, different genders, sexual orientations. It's about not having a group where everyone's the same, and I think there's a great value in having diversity in any organization because you get to have different perspectives, people with different backgrounds, experiences, and it creates a more creative environment.

    Dunstan Macauley:

    Equity is a fair and just treatment of all members of the community. Equity's about promoting justice, impartiality, fairness within our procedures, our policies and our processes and distribution of resources. Equity is the goal that we strive to get to, both in our professional and in our ASHRAE lives as well. We want to make sure we have an equitable distribution of all the resources. Equity is also a good distribution of our strategic priorities as it relates to ethnicity, gender, age, physical appearance, thought styles, religion, nationality, socioeconomic status, belief systems, sexual orientation and education.

    Devin Abellon:

    I think a lot of times, people, when we're talking about diversity and equity, they see them as the same thing. In my mind, also, it's a great description, Dunstan. I also think about in terms of making sure that everyone has equal opportunities, that everyone with different backgrounds, they still have the same opportunities to succeed in any area.

    Carrie Anne Monplaisir:

    I think that's where the inclusion can also tie in. Inclusion is the practice or policy of providing equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized, such as those who have physical or mental disability, and members of other minority groups. I've always liked this metaphor, I've heard it from quite a few sources, that diversity means being invited to the party, but inclusion is being invited to dance.

    Devin Abellon:

    Yeah, that's a great metaphor. I think we've talked about what DEI is, and we've gotten different definitions of DEI, diversity, equity and inclusion. But I think when we start having a conversation, it's important to understand what it isn't. I'll say from our Region 10 perspective, I hear from different chapter members, different leaders, and it's surprising the amount of, I'll say, negative energy around DEI, because for some reason, there's this thought that it's a political initiative. I think in today's society, where depending on what side, right or left, you're on, it can be interpreted in such a way that people, they take it the wrong way, unfortunately. I think when we look at what diversity, equity, inclusion means, as we had just described it, I think that a lot of people would agree that those are certainly values and things that we want to work towards. But because there's this political stigma attached to it, people immediately push back against it.

    Carrie Anne Monplaisir:

    I want to add a lot of the times, I think people feel attacked like, "Oh, we're being called out for doing something that we're doing maliciously or intently." That's not the point. You could be doing something based on these unconscious biases that we're all unaware of and DEI is trying to just spread awareness, and so that we can all just rethink about how we're interacting with other people. We're all guilty of it, we all just have things that we don't understand because we haven't had those experiences or know anyone close to that. If we just are all a little bit more aware, we take some time to educate ourselves, we can create a more inclusive world.

    Dunstan Macauley:

    Another misconception, a lot of people think diversity or DEI is a quota system, where you're trying to get equal representation from all the various groups. Diversity is actually the opposite of a quota system. By creating a diverse environment, a diverse community, you don't have to meet quotas because that is now infused throughout your organization, and therefore, you will then have a diverse board or a diverse committee or diverse structure because you've practiced these principles and used that in your recruiting processes to make sure that you are inclusive of all the area communities within your organization.

    Devin Abellon:

    I think one of the challenges in that, Dunstan, is that there could be, whether it be an organization, whether it be a professional society like ASHRAE, this thought process that we don't need that. We're not racist, we're not intentionally discriminating. We're of the mindset that we'll treat everyone equally regardless, so we don't need to have this sort of initiative because we're not like that. I think the reality is, and something I've certainly learned over the past several years as I've gotten more involved in DEI through ASHRAE and through work, is that there are things like conscious and unconscious biases that we have that we don't realize that we are actually guilty of some of the things that we claim that we are free from.

    Dunstan Macauley:

    Unconscious bias, it's natural and we all have those. Part of the DEI initiative is not changing our thought processes, but making us aware of these unconscious biases so that as we interact with other members of our community or other members of the organization, we are aware of what our thought processes are and we know how to make sure that we're being fair and we're being inclusive in how we operate within our systems. For me, when you look at a lot of studies out there that has shown that when you are inclusive of community with a wide array of backgrounds, generally you have more perspectives that you're bringing to shape your decision making and influence how you interact in your organization.

    For me, that's one of your most important reason for our DEI initiative, is to make us more inclusive to make sure that we addressing issues on a holistic basis and coming out with the best policies. Diversity and DEI also is not only important from how we interact with individuals, but when you start to look at making sure that as we move towards a more energy efficient economy and you start to look at some of the goals in the Paris climate change agreement, and we're going to decarbonization, we're making sure that disadvantaged communities are not being left behind and you start to look at energy equity and making sure that we are being inclusive of all communities as we migrate to more efficient technology.

    Devin Abellon:

    Yeah, that's great. When I think of DEI, why DEI is important to me, I think of from personal experience, I think I've been able to see both sides of the spectrum. I grew up in Southern California, I'm Asian-American, and saw bits of racism, not only towards myself and my brothers, but to my family. You get that sense, this feeling that you're made to feel inferior just growing up through school. That's something that I struggled with as I was growing up, and then I went off to college and now I was in a setting where now Asian-American males in an engineering program are not the minority. Actually, not at all. I saw it was flipped on me and I could see how other people, the females within our class, how they were treated. And so I've seen kind of both sides of that. But at the same time as I was working as a consulting engineer, I put that in the back of my head.

    Again, take on this mindset that it's not an issue. It's not something we need to worry about because we're all like-minded individuals who don't actively, we don't intentionally choose to discriminate or act a certain way. But it does come back to those conscious and unconscious biases. When I was involved in the membership promotion program, Dunstan will remember this, Dunstan came into our committee meeting with the Women in ASHRAE initiative. It was something that was done by an ad hoc, some fantastic work that was done years ago by an ad hoc, and they brought it to our committee, and I was surprised that the committee, membership promotion, trying to promote membership within ASHRAE, there was a lot of pushback on that. Some of that pushback came from some of the males, some of the females.

    You get this idea that there are a lot of very successful females in our industry who felt like, "I put in the time, I did the work to prove myself as an engineer within this industry. We don't need this because we've worked so hard to show that we are part of the group. Now with Women in ASHRAE, we're getting separated back into a separate entity," and they wear that as a badge of honor that, "Hey, this is something that I was able to persevere through.” Why does anyone have to persevere? Why does anyone have to be faced with additional challenges on top of what we already have to deal with? It's become personal for me as well, and just being involved, both with membership promotion and now with the board, it's enabled me to also learn more about myself and some of the unconscious biases that I have and made me more aware so that as I interact, I do my best to say and do the right things.

    Dunstan Macauley:

    One of my challenges, when I first, my first ASHRAE meeting, I went to a technical committee and came in and I was very enthusiastic. I've gotten a lot from ASHRAE from a lot of the technical information, and like a lot of people, you join because of the educational information you can get, and I wanted to give back. I walk into a technical committee and I was very enthusiastic and I volunteered to help, and everyone looked at me kind of strange. It was like, "Okay," they took my contact information, "We'll get in contact with you," and nothing for months, didn't hear anything back. Didn't receive the minutes, no one contacted me. I was a little bit disappointed and I stayed away for a few years because it was like I'm trying to help, I'm trying to volunteer, and no one is receptive to me offering to help.

    But it was something that I felt strongly about. I wanted to give back to my community. I came back to another meeting and I continued to come back and volunteer. Finally, I was able to make a breakthrough, and that has led to me being involved, not only serving on technical committees, but serving on standing committees, working my way up to the board of directors. I thought I had a unique story, but over the years, I have spoken to several people who have had similar experience. The question is how many good volunteers are being lost because some committees are not as inclusive and not open to welcoming new members?

    Carrie Anne Monplaisir:

    Exactly. If we can just look at how much you've contributed to our organization and how easy it would've been for you to just say, "No, let me find somewhere else to put of my time and energy," we would've lost so much important work just from you alone. Hearing that story, it just really resonates with me because with my experiences as a woman, it's slightly different, but also I know a lot of women who just stop giving their time, they won't come out to chapter event because we don't have that inclusive environment. As an organization that's constantly asking for help, we're really good at pushing it away.

    Devin Abellon:

    Yeah. We've had discussions even at this conference in terms of how to make sure that some of the committees we have are welcoming, are inclusive, because it's not every committee, but at the same time, there are number of situations where we just talked about diversity in terms of socioeconomic, gender, sexual orientation, religion, but there's also discrimination that happens because a younger engineer walks into a room, someone who is perceived as being less experienced, someone who's perceived as being not someone who can contribute to, say, a technical committee, and they're immediately marginalized and not given that opportunity to contribute.

    I think that there's some work that we need to do to make sure that all of our committees, not just TCs, but all of our committees in general are welcoming. I think sometimes we've been to enough conferences, we build relationships, we form these tight groups, and that's great. There's one aspect that it's great that we've got these tight groups who work well together, but at the same time, it can be challenging and intimidating for someone new to walk into that room and not feel like they're part of that type group.

    Dunstan Macauley:

    That's something that we have to be conscious of as we interact. Because same thing, my first ASHRAE meeting, I walked in and you saw everyone interacting with each other because they've formed these bonds. It was somewhat intimidating at first, but slowly as you get to meet people, you become part of those bonds and that interaction as well. But engineers overall are introverts. There are a lot of people who are probably seeing that interaction and saying, "I'm not going to be able to fit in—"

    Devin Abellon:

    Sure.

    Dunstan Macauley:

    —and are staying away. I think that's something that we all as members of ASHRAE should be thinking about as we see new people, being open to them, having an outreach to new members who are attending our meetings to make sure that they're feeling welcome so that we can retain their services and retain their participation in the organization.

    Devin Abellon:

    When I think of ASHRAE, I think one of the great things is that we are a volunteer organization. A volunteer organization comprised of volunteer members, all working, giving of their expertise and their time to make our industry better. That's one thing we all agree on. We're all working to make our industry better. You said it yourself, Carrie Anne, in terms of we need volunteers, we want volunteers, and we want volunteers who can bring different perspectives, different ways to solve problems, bring their different experiences. We want to make sure that we are able to create and maintain an environment where people always feel welcome.

    Carrie Anne Monplaisir:

    For me, DEI is so important. It's something I never even realized how integral it was in my career until I heard the definition, this whole push about DEI. Would've resolved a lot of issues that I've dealt with. In particular, I found out a couple years ago about this imposter syndrome, and it explained something that I never could name. I kept feeling like I was inadequate and I kept feeling like I was just a failure in classes. I kept feeling like I wasn't qualified as an engineer, even after I'd gotten my degree. Then just recently, I started reflecting on that, and my family told me I was going to fail out of engineering before I even started. When I got to college, people, their jaw would drop when they found out my major, and they would be like, "Wow, you don't look like an engineer."

    I was like, "I don't know what that means, but thanks." Then when I finally started working, I had to literally list my qualifications, which is something my male colleagues never had to do. I had a client who called my project manager and was like, "Who is this Carrie Anne? I need to meet her." We had this whole conversation. We brought in the vice principal who oversaw the whole team and then my project manager and then my male coworker who he normally dealt with, and he had never done this with anyone else, and it was a really simple project to us. He was like, "What have you worked on? What's your experience? What's your qualifications?" I pretty much laid it out that I have been doing really intense work, very focused on a specific niche of design, and I wanted to do more cookie cutter stuff so that I could learn the basics.

    I was like, "I'm actually overqualified. Thanks," and it shut him up right away. But it's the fact that I even had to do that. Then I saw an article that said we need to stop telling women that they have imposter syndrome, because this is putting the responsibility on women when the responsibility is on the system, the system that is acting on us, and it's every one with these unconscious biases that are doing that, not even knowing, but it's also just the framework and we just need to keep doing what we can to improve that and break that barrier down. Then it also, for me, multiple experiences that I can point out that my male colleagues or friends have never experienced. I got married, and six weeks later I lost my dad, and we had just moved to a new state.

    I was taking some time before trying to find a job there. I finally went to the ASHRAE chapter meeting when I thought I was ready to start networking, and an older gentleman, he's retired, found out that I had just gotten married, and first question, "When are you going to have kids?" Of course, right? I jokingly was like, "Oh, I've got some mountains to climb, oceans to scuba dive. I'm taking my time. It'll be later." He's like, "Well, you never know. You'll probably want them. You just don't know what you want." I was like, "I'm pretty positive." Then it was not even over at that point. It just kept going. He kept asking the question. He kept following me around the room as I was trying to network and meet people and talk professionally, and he just kept asking and kept pushing when am I going to have kids and kept telling me that I wanted to have kids.

    I was like, "Listen, I'm at a networking event. I don't want to bring up that my dad just died and I am just not ready, and I just got married and that's just not even on the table. Why should I have to explain this? I have friends that have had reproductive issues. Not everyone can get pregnant. Let's just stop asking this question. You have no idea what someone is going through," and that can be relatable to plenty of other experiences that we just push, we ask the questions without even realizing it. If you see a woman, you automatically ask, "Oh, are you married? Going to have kids?" Let's just stop right there. Let's stop jumping to conclusions. There's plenty of other things to talk about and ask more open ended questions and let us be the ones to fill that in, and we can share as much as we want to. We don't owe you anything.

    Then there's also been meetings that I'm in where women will say something, it gets ignored. Another woman would repeat it, and again, ignored. For 20 minutes, we're having this conversation. Women are trying to give each other credit and trying to repeat it, and then finally a male repeats it, and that's the best idea we've had all day and we can finally move on. It's just been so demotivating as a volunteer when your voice isn't getting heard, when you want to put in all this time and effort and it's just falling flat. You think, well, just like Dunstan, I could probably be giving my time elsewhere. Why is this worth it? I think as an organization, we just need to all work to let all voices be heard and not just get them in the room, but actually listen.

    Dunstan Macauley:

    You make some very good points, and I think the unconscious biases are one of the biggest challenges that we have, that we have to try and work towards and try and eliminate because a lot of people may be well intentioned, but they're not thinking about what they're saying and what that impact is on the person that they're interacting with. We really have to bring that home because we have to start thinking about how are my words impacting someone else? That's critical, because that's the only way to make sure that we're promoting more diversity, promoting more inclusiveness.

    Devin Abellon:

    It reminds me of Malcolm Gladwell's Blink. You think about this idea that you can make snap decisions, that unconsciously you can look at a situation or a person and immediately make decisions that you're trusting your gut, you're trusting your instinct, and that most of the time you're right. But you go on to read that book, it also talks about how you're not always right and that you have to actually train yourself to take in that information, all of the inputs that you're getting subconsciously, and assess them and then think it through. Dunstan, when you were talking about how we need to think about what we're saying, it's not about just acknowledging that we have unconscious biases, but it's making a concerted effort to check yourself, and everything that you do, make sure that you go through it in your head and think through how you've assessed the situation and how to respond.

    Carrie Anne Monplaisir:

    Yeah. I think we'd be better off if, before interactions, just take a couple seconds and think about what we're about to say. Then if you're talking to someone who doesn't look like you or doesn't have the same shared experiences, think, would I ask the same person that looks like me? Or if I'm talking to a female, would I ask a male the same question? Or if I'm looking at someone who has a different ethnicity, would I be asking the same question to someone who's my same ethnicity? It's only through that, if we stop and reflect before we actually just blurt things out, I think we would be able to reduce a lot of those microaggressions.

    Then also, if we do misspeak and we do make mistakes and slip up and we don't get the right response and we realize we've offended someone, let's identify that and speak out and say, "Hey, I'm sorry. I'm still learning. I'm still working on this," and I think we could get a lot further if we all just pointed that out and started apologizing in the moment, or even later on and following up and say, "Hey, I'd like to do better. I'm working on it."

    Dunstan Macauley:

    Good points. The key is pretty much embracing the fact that we all have different experiences, and realizing that we have these different experiences, and as opposed to making assumptions that somebody else's experience is similar to mine, ask more questions to understand what is this person's perspective and how does is it differ from mine? Then you can now have a conversation on the differences, as opposed to just making some assumptions that their experience are very similar to mine and we have exactly the same belief system.

    ASHRAE Journal:

    Thanks for listening to the ASHRAE Journal Podcast. We want your ideas. What topics do you want to hear about, and who do you want to hear it from? Email us your ideas at podcast@ashrae.org. That is podcast@ASHRAE.org. Let's get back to the episode.

    Dunstan Macauley:

    One of our challenges in our industry is what are some of our metrics for how we're doing, not only as ASHRAE, but the HVAC&R industry in terms of making sure that we are inclusive, diverse, and have equitable distribution of jobs and so forth. I think one of the things we need to start to do is start to track the metrics because a lot of companies are now starting to set DEI targets, and how are they going to achieve that? One of the things we have to start to look at is we have to look at the metrics that are coming out of college to supply the industry so that we know if we can meet those numbers and meet those targets. I know earlier you had mentioned the Women in ASHRAE initiative, which essentially led to our DEI policy that we have now.

    One of the things we couldn't figure out was what percentage of ASHRAE members are women? We don't have those metrics. What percentage of the industry? How many women do we retain in the industry after five years, after 10 years? There are some good metrics, especially in the United States, about college graduation. You start to see numbers around 30% of college graduates in mechanical engineer are women, as well as you start to look at other ethnic groups. Blacks and Hispanics are somewhere in the 25% to 35% range. Asian Americans are in that 30% range as well, 30% to 40%. But what are those metrics for the companies in our industry? We don't know. How many of those individuals are retaining in the industry? We have no idea, and I think that's critical as we embark on some of our DEI initiatives to start to track some of those numbers so we know how we're doing as an industry, and companies who are in the industry can now have measurable data to track their performance.

    Devin Abellon:

    I definitely agree. It's important to have metrics and understand the metrics because it'll help a company or an organization see basically how they are. I think the challenge in that is when you have hard numbers, when you have metrics and you may have the insight that, "Oh, this number's too low, we need it to be higher," then you start getting at this thing where people feel like it is a quota system. We talked earlier about how it's not a quota system. We're not aiming for a number. We don't want a certain percentage in this demographic, a certain in another, but we want an environment where there is a balance. It's hard to have that when we're striving for a balance for it to happen organically, to happen naturally, but if it's not happening, then are we almost putting ourselves in this quota type system where we're forcing, we're driving towards a particular number? I know that, playing devil's advocate, that's some of the pushback that we're getting from some of our members.

    Carrie Anne Monplaisir:

    That's how you can also sometimes fall into that trap of, "Oh, we're diverse,” but you don't have the inclusive environment. Are you actually retaining that diversity or do you have a lot of turnover as far as that's concerned? I've seen that in several companies where they look diverse on the outside, but then you really dial down into it, and a lot of those people are not happy and they do find work elsewhere.

    Dunstan Macauley:

    I think that's one of the reasons why our industry, on face value, don't mimic the numbers of individuals coming out of college, because you have a lot of individuals who will come into the industry, work for a few years, and because of the lack of equity and inclusiveness, will tend to go into other industries where they're finding a lot more success and a lot more support for them in other industries. Yes, we don't want it to become a quota system, but it's somehow we have to start to address how do we retain individuals in our industry that have diverse backgrounds?

    Carrie Anne Monplaisir:

    Well, and I have the data for women. Over 32% of women switch out of STEM degree programs in college, and then only 30% of women who've earned bachelor's degrees in engineering remain in the industry 20 years later, and 30% of the women who have left the engineering profession cite organizational climate as the reason, and I'm sure it's higher than that. I've experienced a lot of it myself. I think that's just, It stares you right in the face. We clearly have a problem when it comes to women, and I know we also have a problem when it comes to other backgrounds when we're talking about diversity, and it's a really big issue. It's just hard for me to understand why people can say, "We don't have an issue, and this isn't important," because it is very clear in the numbers, just the study that came out of the Society of Women Engineers.

    Devin Abellon:

    Okay, so we talked about a lot of things that we can be doing within our organizations, within ASHRAE in terms of changing mindsets so that we can help to ensure a more inclusive environment, a more welcoming environment, but what else can ASHRAE be doing, maybe outside of what we typically think of when it comes to operating committees and working at the grassroots of level? What are other areas where perhaps ASHRAE can be a leader in our industry for diversity, equity and inclusion?

    Dunstan Macauley:

    I think a good opportunity is energy equity. I think that's a great opportunity, not only for us to show leadership in making sure that we're bringing all communities along in this energy transformation, but also it's an opportunity for us as engineers to give back. I think you start to look at our chapters and how diverse our chapters are. Not all our members are interested in attending all the chapter meetings and so forth. Our members are looking for other activity ease to fulfill themselves. By giving back, we start to attract a different subset of members. I still remember presidential member Tom Watson created the Community Sustainability Project, and that was greatly influenced by a program in Carrie Anne's chapter, the Energy for Kids program, where it was an opportunity for ASHRAE members to give back to disadvantaged communities.

    That also led to the sustainability project that was funded at the winter and annual conference. Through some austerity measures, some of the funding got cut for that program, but that's a great opportunity, especially as we start to look at climate change and to start to give back to disenfranchised community, to make sure that they're not being left behind with inefficient technologies. Look at opportunities to go into homes and do some weatherization, ways to improve the efficiency of the systems of the homes. Look at opportunities to just bring them along in the new energy economy. I think that's a great opportunity for ASHRAE, where our members can be leaders in building a sustainable world.

    Devin Abellon:

    Dunstan, you brought up some different examples of outreach projects that ASHRAE members can be involved in, and you talked about energy equity, and I think that term energy equity, I know for myself up until recently, I didn't really know. What does that mean? If you can just help us better understand that.

    Dunstan Macauley:

    It's making sure that there's equitable access to energy efficient technologies and resources for all communities. When you look at a lot of disadvantage and disenfranchised communities, they tend to not have the financial means to upgrade to the higher energy efficient systems, and they're also left with more technologies that have higher pollution, have a higher impact on climate change. It's making sure that, as we start to transition our systems and put in more efficient systems, that we're not leaving behind a sector of our community. We're bringing them along, we're making sure that they're equipped with current technology so that they are benefiting from the higher efficiency systems, lowering their energy bills, and then that's also leading to more financial resources that they have to apply to other needs that they may have as well. If you look at ASHRAE members, we are generally a little bit more fortunate and can give back a little bit more, and that's a huge opportunity for us, as a community, as a society, to help individuals who are not as successful as we are.

    Devin Abellon:

    Just to, again, play devil's advocate, we've got ASHRAE members who are designing projects, who are designing systems, working for billing owners and things like that. We're talking about making a very intentional effort to help provide this equity to less fortunate communities on projects that—we may not choose the projects that we work on. Whether or not a particular project gets energy efficient systems, that may be dictated by the building owner in such a way that it's not equitable. I guess from ASHRAE's perspective, what can we do in terms of being better about helping out? Is it volunteering? Is it working through building owners to raise a level of awareness in terms of the impacts of this inequity?

    Dunstan Macauley:

    Yes. I think it's all of that. For example, the Hampton Roads chapter with the Energy for Kids program, have used ASHRAE, not only ASHRAE volunteers, but ASHRAE programs, they've done energy audits for community centers. They've upgraded their HVAC systems, they've provided PV systems. They've done, I believe, also solar thermal as well. They've looked at different technologies based on what are the needs of the facility and found opportunities to install or provide higher efficiency technologies so that they improve the building operation, and working both with the building owners and the facility as well, the center, to implement technologies to help the efficiency.

    Carrie Anne Monplaisir:

    Typically with that, because of the line of work that it is, we've gotten some support from manufacturers to have a discounted rate on the equipment that's being installed. Of course, the volunteers are the ones that are dedicating their time to the engineering project itself. It's just a lot of volunteering and trying to make it the most effective as possible.

    Dunstan Macauley:

    I believe also it can range from anything from design services to having contractors volunteering their time, manufacturers volunteering equipment, and so forth. It runs the gamut of everyone who's in our industry.

    Devin Abellon:

    What would you say are some maybe best practices or ideas that chapters at the grassroots level? What are things that they can do? You talked about some of the programs, but where would a chapter go to find these types of opportunities?

    Dunstan Macauley:

    They will have to look in their local communities. I would say a good place to start is some of the communities, for example, I know Hampton Roads work with the local YMCA. There's been some community that have worked with some shelters and so forth. Just looking for services that are giving back to the community. I think that's a good starting point because a lot of times those facilities don't have a lot of resources. If you can help them with upgrading their systems, and a lot of times most of them need new systems. Just by taking that off of the plate, they now can take their limited resources to funding their mission.

    Then ideas. There's a lot of case studies that are on the ASHRAE website, and as well as some procedures on how to implement the project and how to select team members and so forth. There are a lot of resources that are out there, but I think the first step is to try to identify a project that you want to get engaged in, and then start to work with that center or that facility to understand what the needs are. The key is we have lots of resources that can be used to determine not only what to do, but just designing the facility.

    Carrie Anne Monplaisir:

    Yeah. I think there's also projects that I've seen such as this school in Arkansas where there was an audit that revealed the school's district could save at least $2.4 million over 20 years. They retrofitted it, they put out solar panels, updated all of the district's facilities with new lights, heating and cooling systems and windows, and the school was able to use the savings in energy to put more money in the teachers’ pockets, and they were able to increase teachers’ pay and create a better environment for their employees and were able to attract better teachers because of that. Just as an example, they generated enough savings in just three years to transform the district's $250,000 budget deficit into a $1.8 million surplus. Just imagine the scale of that, what we could do across the country. There's been tons of other schools that have been using this as an example and implementing that. If we just did more work like this, we could reach that energy equity goal.

    Dunstan Macauley:

    It's about sharing best practices. Just communicating what we're doing with other members, and that will inspire even bigger programs.

    Devin Abellon:

    I love that idea. We talk about ASHRAE and the fact that we have this common goal to make our industry better, right? We're working towards improving our standards, our design guidelines, the processes that we use. But this is an opportunity for ASHRAE to really not only help further our industry, but really further our society and become really leaders in this space.

    Carrie Anne Monplaisir:

    I think also, I've realized as engineers, we needed to be better salespeople. A lot of the times I see building owners and contractors pushing back on certain technologies that are different, that they haven't seen before, they don't know how to operate it. I've seen cases where the engineers were great at explaining and articulating it to where they could understand, and it wasn't this scary new thing, and they were able to get it through. Then other situations where the engineer didn't push back and then we just kept doing what we were doing with less efficient. We're still using natural gas.

    If we just did a better job of explaining it to someone who's not of a technical background, I think we could make a lot more progress in that regard. Then as far as ASHRAE, we need to be pushing code development. There's several states across the US that don't have any ASHRAE codes in their requirements, and some of them are still back to 2007. We need to be making sure that our states are adopting the most recent codes to be pushing this design to be more efficient.

    Devin Abellon:

    We've had some really great conversations about what DEI is, some of the challenges, wanting to make ASHRAE more inclusive, and how this can relate not only to the work that we do within ASHRAE, but beyond, how we can work in the communities to help bridge the gap in some of the inequities that exist within our communities. For the listeners, I guess, what is the call to action? What can ASHRAE members do right now? What are some of the things they can do to help improve on any of those fronts? Carrie Anne?

    Carrie Anne Monplaisir:

    I think at the chapter level, we need to be pushing DEI-focused events. As a chapter, I've attended several that other chapters have held where the topic was specifically on DEI. They relayed all of this data that's specifically related to our industry, and that's where I learned more about the unconscious biases, and the entire time it was just light bulb, light bulb, light bulb. I think if we had more events like that and were getting our members out to those events, then we could help with that awareness. Then I also think it's time for ASHRAE to do more research on thermal comfort guidelines, because right now it's geared towards men. About 80% of the population is supposed to be comfortable, but men and women are both in the spaces and women are always the ones that are uncomfortable. We're always too cold because the guideline are all around the clothing and shoes that men wear, and not at all geared towards women. I know every woman in my office keeps a sweater and a blanket in their desk. If we just were more aware of our building occupants and did a better job to make everyone comfortable.

    Devin Abellon:

    I agree. You talk about chapter programs, and one of the things we want to make sure when talking about being inclusive is that the chapter programs are presented in such a way that it is inclusive. I think one of the issues that we've seen in some chapters when they're hosting DEI programs, is it seems to attract all of the people who are already on board. You have a Women in ASHRAE event and only the women show up, when the people who need to hear it the most, you have a message you want to deliver, they're not there. We want to make sure that these are presented in such a way that everyone is able to come. Unfortunately, as we've talked about before, is some people perceive this as a political issue. When they hear, "Oh, this month's topic is on DEI," they immediately think, "Well, I'm not going to go then."

    Carrie Anne Monplaisir:

    I've heard of people just being very conscious of the wording and trying not to just scream DEI, but just have a broad explanation of what the event is to get people in the room. You're welcome to leave in any a time if this really you feel triggered, but I think it's good to try to make that a broad topic and not just very much this is DEI or Women in ASHRAE. If you make the topic broad, then more people are willing to get in the room. As long as you get them in the room, they're more willing to listen, and then that's, I think, where you can break down that barrier, that miscommunication barrier of I'm being attacked. No, this is just to spread awareness. We're all in this together.

    Devin Abellon:

    Yeah. We know a lot of chapters have DEI or Women in ASHRAE chairs, so that's great. They can do that work to promote that within the chapter. Also, chapters have community outreach chairs who are able to help identify, to your point, some of the areas where ASHRAE members can give up their time and their services and their materials to help improve their local community.

    Dunstan Macauley:

    Yeah. So true. Another opportunity is making sure that we, our chapter leaders, are being inclusive as new members come in to the meetings. ASHRAE's based on a grassroots organization, and the strength of our organization is our grassroots. The only way that we can make sure we have an inclusive society is to make sure that that is infused from the grassroots level. It's inherent on our chapter leadership to promote diversity, equity and inclusion so that that can now feed throughout the organizational structure.

    ASHRAE Journal:

    ASHRAE Journal Podcast team is managing editor, Mary Kate McGowan; producer and associate editor, Chadd Jones; assistant managing editor, Jeri Alger; and associate editors, Tani Palefski and Rebecca Matyasovski. Copyright ASHRAE. 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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