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Harmonizing Technical Terminology to Create Understanding

Harmonizing Technical Terminology to Create Understanding

By Art Hallstrom, P.E., BEMP, Fellow/Life Member ASHRAE

From ASHRAE Journal Newsletter, June 23, 2020

Designing high efficiency systems is challenging enough when all the team members know what each other is saying. Differences in terminology or definitions among ASHRAE and other industry partners can further inhibit ASHRAE members from effectively communicating and designing systems.

Harmonization can help. This process takes definitions for the same term from different sources and merges them into typically one definition. Harmonizing within and with organizations outside ASHRAE enhances communications. The results are generally better products and increased brand visibility for both organizations.

Last year,  ASHRAE TC 1.6, Terminology, expanded its inside ASHRAE harmonization efforts by going outside ASHRAE for the first time. They worked with Refrigeration Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) from ASHRAE and the International Institute of Refrigeration (IIR)—another international HVAC&R organization—to create agreed-upon harmonized definitions for terms used by both IIR and ASHRAE. These ‘’super-harmonization’’ terms increase the prominence of participating organizations.

How the Harmonization Process Worked with IIR

The first step includes ASHRAE and IIR finding the SMEs, exchanging organizational glossaries, and the refrigeration SMEs began harmonizing refrigeration-related terms.   

The second step involves the ASHRAE TC 1.6 working file. This Excel file contains about 27,000 terms and definitions from 10 years of ASHRAE standard and guideline glossaries and other sources like Building EQ, ASHRAE Handbook volumes, Position Documents and ENERGY STAR. 

Light editing is done to make the terms consistent in the working file format. For example, the term ‘’air, standard’’ becomes ‘’standard air.” Informational notes are removed. Nested terms are separated so each one is a standalone term.

Material from some external sources is not included in the working file because the source is marketing their glossary as a member benefit or is selling it. In those cases, the external source glossary is provided only to the SME’s working on the topic. For example, the ASHRAE-IIR formal harmonization agreement limits the IIR glossary use to the refrigeration SMEs.

Once the working file is ready, the last step involves ASHRAE and IIR SMEs using the working file to create super-harmonized terms. The first group of terms (cooling, refrigeration, chilling, freezing and cold chain) were approved by ASHRAE, ASHRAE Staff, IIR, TC 1.6 and added to ASHRAE Terminology webpage in 2019.

ASHRAE TC 1.6 Working File

All authors of standards, guidelines and related publications can use the TC 1.6 working file as a tool to help harmonize their glossary, thus making the publications more understandable to others. The working file is free for ASHRAE members and can be obtained by contacting TC 1.6.

ASHRAE Terminology

In 2010-11, ASHRAE President Lynn Bellinger created a Presidential ad hoc committee that recommended making the printed ASHRAE Society Blue Book Glossary of industry terms into a free online resource—what is now ASHRAE Terminology. It now includes about 4,000 terms. Terms published in ASHRAE Terminology are generally more generic and harmonized than the terms found in a specific publication.

For example, seven ASHRAE standards have six different definitions for “standard barometric pressure.” In ASHRAE Terminology they have been harmonized to one definition.

ASHRAE encourages authors and reviewers to seek authoritative or cooperative sources inside and outside ASHRAE to evaluate the best possible definitions from all sources, especially where ASHRAE is not uniquely qualified to define a term. Ideally, authors should try to harmonize so fewer separate definitions exist, but not at the expense of accuracy. 

ASHRAE TC 1.6 welcomes new committee members interested in being a SME or harmonizing terminology. Join here.