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How Do Buildings Work: Going on an Adventure in ASHRAE’s First Children’s Book

How Do Buildings Work: Going on an Adventure in ASHRAE’s First Children’s Book

From ASHRAE Journal Newsletter, Dec. 14, 2021

“How do they work? Why don’t they fall?

What lights them up? Do they need to be tall?”

ASHRAE’s first children’s book marries rhyming and engineering. The recently released Lucy's Engineering Adventure introduces children to building and HVAC engineering through a young girl's visit to a building site where her father uses a metaphor of the human body to explain the building's structural system, electrical system and HVAC ducts.

Developed by ASHRAE’s Student Activities Committee as part of its goal to promote and encourage engineering and HVAC&R careers, the book teaches young children about the built environment in a relatable, interesting way, said Danielle Passaglia, Associate Member ASHRAE, who wrote the book.

“I took a lot of inspiration from my own childhood growing up as a young kid who loved to ask questions,” she said.

Exposing children to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) concepts early can help increase their interest in the subject matter, increasing their chances of becoming an engineer.

“A key component to having kids want to go into STEM is introducing them early to what we do and doing it in a fun and exciting way that they can understand. Our industry is very niche, and yet the impact of it is all around us,” Passaglia said. “I hope this book educates kids on how buildings work and sparks an interest in engineering and the building industry. I hope it shows them an avenue within STEM that may not have been on their radar.”

The book explores HVAC principles and how buildings operate and does so in a simplified way for children to understanding.

“To make HVAC understandable to kids, we used the metaphor of a person’s respiratory system—how they breathe fresh air into their lungs. We discussed how a building brings in fresh air that can either be cooled or warmed. We discuss how these systems can use a lot of energy and how it’s the engineers job to find a good solution to make buildings run clean and, overall, help the environment,” said Passaglia, who is the ASHRAE Illinois Chapter’s Student Activities Chair.

To make the book more relatable to all children, the book’s protagonist, Lucy, is a young girl who’s looking to follow in her father’s footsteps. “I believe it mirrors what we are trying to achieve in the industry today,” she said. “I also wanted Lucy and her dad to be racially ambiguous since I believe minorities are underrepresented in our industry as well. I wanted this book to connect to kids of all genders, races, socio-economic statuses and academic levels.”

Passaglia said she hopes Lucy’s Engineering Adventure becomes the first in a series of ASHRAE children’s books that could address topics such as sustainability, climate change and the built environment in a fun and challenging way.

“These topics can often be boring or mundane to explain to kids, but I think it’s important to start teaching them young and let them explore these ideas since they are the future of our industry,” she said.