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This year, the Second City will play host to the entire HVACR industry with the ASHRAE Winter Conference, taking place Jan. 20-24 at the Palmer House Chicago, and the AHR Expo, taking place Jan. 22-24 at McCormick Place. The conference will provide hundreds of educational sessions and numerous networking opportunities. The expo will host more than 2,000 exhibitors and 65,000 industry professionals.
It’s a great way to kick off the New Year.
Having the two events take place in conjunction with one another is a huge advantage for members of the industry.
“The benefit is that ASHRAE members can kill two birds with one stone,” says Clay Stevens, manager of the AHR Expo. “They can come to Chicago and not only go to the conference and all the sessions that ASHRAE has to offer, but they can also come to the (AHR Expo) in the same visit and find out what the major manufacturers have to offer.”
Manufacturers, and the future, will be a focus throughout the four-day event.
At the McCormick Place, the AHR Expo will showcase exhibitors in three special sections: Building Automation and Control Showcase; Software Center; and Indoor Air Quality Association Pavilion.
The expo will be the hub for the latest and most innovative products in the HVACR community.
“I think what makes the AHR Expo so special are the exhibitors and the fact that they totally focus on our industry,” Stevens says. “Some shows have a lot of stuff. It doesn’t necessarily have to relate to the main focus of the show, but in our case, all of the exhibitors are HVACR related. Our show is the largest and most comprehensive in the world that is totally focused on HVACR.”
The product floor at the AHR Expo will stretch out nearly 11 acres, which were meticulously planned to make it easier for attendees.
“One of the reasons the three products sections were selected is that they are pretty definite. They don’t overlap with each other or other categories. The companies that choose to go into those sections are pretty much dedicated to those categories, and it makes it just a little easier for people visiting the show to find the companies they want.”
Stevens says it can be beneficial for attendees to visit ahrexpo.com to sort through the products most essential to their business.
“Doing a product search will give you a listing of exhibitors, their booth number, and a little run down on what they are going to show,” he says. “Then, you can actually make your own agenda on the website with the companies and products you want to see and the program will provide the best path to take. If you just wander, you are going to waste a lot of time.”
The list of exhibitors online, as Stevens notes, will continue to evolve up until the expo. So, attendees should continue to check for updates.
While the exhibitors are the highlight of the expo, Stevens thinks the learning opportunities are the most important.
“What I want people to leave with is the knowledge of a new product, technology or method that they have never seen, that will help them accomplish their objectives and become more successful,” he says. “The wonderful part about the show is that the industry comes together at one place, at one time, with its very best. When you attend the expo, you can be assured that what you are seeing in the exhibits is the newest and most creative and innovative that there is anywhere. I just hope that people will leave with something they couldn’t have found anywhere else, and that will help them.”
The AHR Expo will also offer the largest educational program in the history of the event. With more than 120 sessions, attendees can learn about indoor air quality, new refrigerants, health care facilities, and of course, energy efficiency — an old stand-by that Stevens says, “the show has centered on and probably always will focus on.”
With the future in mind, the AHR Expo will feature several sessions assigned for entry level positions in building automation and in testing and balancing, teaching the fundamentals. This is the first year the expo will have these types of educational opportunities for up-and-comers in the HVACR industry.
“I think in year’s past, maybe, there wasn’t so much emphasis on bringing along the new people. Now, I think the industry in general is becoming more aware of the need to attract younger people, people who will ultimately be the future of the industry,” Stevens says.
It’s not just at the expo that attendees can pick up tips and learn something new; the ASHRAE conference will be a hub for learning as well.
Tracks at the conference offer a variety of opportunities to learn about different parts of the HVACR industry. Topics include systems and equipment; fundamentals and applications; standards, guidelines and codes; earth, wind and fire; tall buildings; modeling throughout the building life cycle; and heat exchange equipment. A main focus throughout all learning areas this year is efficient and resilient design.
“Engineers and designers continue to advance designs to reduce the ecological impact of our built environment on the world around us. It has practically become second nature,” says Michael Collarin, chair of the 2018 ASHRAE Winter Conference. “However, and seemingly more so in recent years, the industry has needed to take steps to mitigate the impact of the world around us on our built environment. This is especially the case in our transportation, government, and mission critical arenas, where the loss of critical infrastructure can have severe consequences, including the loss of life. The tracks and programs for the conference will focus on resources to design, build, control, commission and operate facilities and infrastructure that need to not only be efficient, but resilient.”
The conference will kick off with a keynote address from Debbie Sterling, founder and CEO of Goldiebox. Sterling is an engineer, entrepreneur and one of the leaders in the movement toward getting girls interested in science, technology, engineering and math.
More than 200 presentations will take place over four days with about 300 speakers sharing their knowledge during the tracks and technical sessions in Chicago.
ASHRAE will also bring together young engineers on day two, where the Young Engineers in ASHRAE (YEA) will have an opportunity to network. There will also be the ASHRAE Learning Institute, with more than 20 courses and two full-day and five half-day seminars that can be applied toward a professional engineering license.
The HVACR industry is known for its strong face-to-face connections, and these shows continue to prove it’s a good, if not necessary, place for everyone — manufacturers, designers and others — to really get to know one another.
“One thing about the AHR Expo that makes it unique is that it thrives on face-to-face contact between people who use and specify equipment, and people who manufacture and design the equipment. I think that is unique feature that makes it very valuable,” Stevens says.
And what better place than one of the largest melting pots the U.S. has to offer. Chicago has more than a few conferences under its belt. The Windy City has a history of bringing the HVACR community together to learn about the latest and most innovative products and methods being put into place.
“If you were to look at a chart of show attendance and show size over the years, Chicago has always been up there — if not the top,” Stevens says. “What makes it work so well is it has great convention facilities; it has great hotels, great restaurants; it’s relatively easy to get to; and it’s surrounded by a very tight population density.”
While Chicago’s bright lights may dazzle tourists for most of 2018, for four days in January, the folks of the HVACR industry will be the ones that shine.