During the 2022 Eurovent Annual meeting in Malaga, Spain, the Eurovent Commission appointed Ilkka Salo, Managing Director of Talteka, its Vice-Chairman. He will be supporting the continuing Chairman Lennart Ostergaard, Senior Manager of VELTEK Ventilation.
Lennart Ostergaard and Ilkka Salo have been part of Eurovent over the past years and are also members of the association’s Commission, Board of Directors, General Assembly and various Product Groups. The Commission is one of the association’s decision-making bodies, consisting of staff members of Eurovent’s national Member Associations, the Eurovent President, and guests invited at the discretion of the President. Its key tasks, as opposed to other decision-making bodies, are to coordinate among national Member Associations and to develop guiding positions and documents. Eurovent managed to interview both the Commission Chairman and Vice-Chairman and find out a bit more about the Commission’s priorities, European regulatory topics relevant for manufacturers and future prospects in the HVACR sector.
Being the Chairman of the Eurovent Commission comes with great honour but also with many responsibilities. How do you combine your role of Commission Chairman and Senior Manager of VELTEK Ventilation?
Lennart Ostergaard (LO): To serve as Chairman is indeed both a great honour and a big responsibility which certainly requires focus and resources. However, I firmly believe that it is important for the national industry associations to prioritise time on developing and supporting Eurovent and to participate in shaping the positions of our industry. I also believe that this is an important part of how I best serve my members and as such, it is an easy decision for me to prioritise some of my time for Eurovent. I am also so fortunate that my Board of Directors fully agree with the importance of contributing to and benefiting from the strong European cooperation that Eurovent constitutes.
As the Commission Chairman, what are your current priorities and how do you plan to support the HVAC sector together with other Eurovent member representatives?
LO: One of my core priorities is sustainability. Climate change is the number one must win battle of our time, and as industry, we must understand and respond to this challenge. We need to contribute to developing documentation on the climate impact of our products, and to share this information with society. It is also important to support and contribute to the European legislative development about inclusion of the life-cycle environmental impact of products, including their carbon and environmental footprints. There are many tasks for us in the travel towards sustainability – including development of standards on product category rules for the products of the industry and making sure that environmental product declarations are recognised and valid throughout Europe and that the data is easily shared internationally in digital formats. The costs of making product environmental declarations must also be reduced and probably we need to develop EPD-generators as our product complexity is very high compared to many other products used in the building industry.
What are some of the challenges in the HVAC industry you have had to deal with and also some that you think you might have to deal with in the future?
LO: One very important issue which I have used a lot of time and effort on already and still need to focus on in the future, is the poor indoor climate of existing buildings. For example, in our schools, children are attending classes almost throughout all Europe in an appalling indoor climate. Research shows that they get tired, unfocused, and may lose up to 15% of their learning abilities.
Within this regard, I am amazed that we as society have built an entire complex of regulation on the energy efficiency of buildings in the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive but have missed to set firm requirements on the minimum indoor climate for our buildings in the same directive.
The only reason that most of our buildings, like home, offices and schools use energy in the first place is due to our requirements on the indoor climate. Imagine that we shut down the heating, cooling, ventilation, and lighting systems of a building – how much building related energy consumption would be left?
We need to revise our EPBD such that all member states must formulate minimum requirements for the indoor climate for all building types used for human occupation. These requirements should be in line with the European standard on indoor environmental quality, EN 16798-1, which has been written on a request from the European Commission as part of the original EPBD dating back to around 2006.
Of course, most member countries have a set of requirements on IEQ for new buildings, and some countries even have some requirements on existing buildings. Formulating a set of minimum requirements nationally for all existing and new buildings should be mandatory for all aspects of the indoor environmental quality, including lighting, noise, thermal comfort, and air quality. We should also include an evaluation of the indoor environmental quality in the Energy Performance Certificates.
The risk of not doing so is that we might succeed in minimising the energy consumption of our buildings, but at the same time, also deteriorate the reason for the energy consumption which is our indoor climate. What have we achieved if the energy performance is A-rated, while the indoor climate is only worth a G-rating?
You have been involved in the work of Eurovent as a member representative in the General Assembly and the Commission. Now, as the Vice-Chairman of the Commission, what are your take aways from this and how do you think it will impact your new role?
Ilkka Salo (IS): It is important for the national associations to be part of a European-level umbrella organisation. National legislation is increasingly coming from Brussels. On the other hand, Eurovent's credibility as an influencer is enhanced by the fact that, through its member associations, it represents many European industries in our sector and also small, and medium size companies. It is therefore important that there is an open and transparent link within Eurovent between the various actors. Recent reforms will increase this cooperation in order to pursue common interests. I look forward with great interest to the work of both on the Commission and the Board level. I hope to be able to give a new insight through my own experience and to learn more deeply about Eurovent's activities and to export this information to our own members.
What are the current main technical and regulatory issues that the HVAC sector is facing and how are you handling them?
IS: Sustainability and energy-related factors play an increasingly important role both in our own sector and globally. Requirements for products and product information management and verification continue to become stricter. At the same time, we must ensure that good indoor air and indoor conditions are not compromised. Digitalisation and new innovations as well as the latest research work are major factors in this work. As one example, we have recently emphasised the importance of air hygiene in the fight against COVID-19 and similar airborne diseases. There is also a need for extensive cooperation here.
With your huge experience in the HVAC industry both with Talteka and now as the new Vice-Chairman of Eurovent Commission, do you think there have been the correct regulations and policies put in place for the HVAC sector in the past years?
IS: This is a complex question. On one hand, regulations should only set objectives and leave room for new innovations. On the other hand, it often happens in construction sector that the prescribed minimum also becomes the maximum. We need standardised customs and general quality standards and guidebooks alongside the regulations. However, it is important to maintain technological neutrality.
At the regulatory level, we still have a lot of work to do in reconciling energy efficiency with good indoor climate. We should have clear requirements for a safe and healthy indoor environment. The challenges are to verify good conditions and to improve the efficiency of energy use. High-quality energy-efficient solutions and demand-based use are key factors in this and for example, CO2 content is a good and easily measurable general indicator for indoor air quality. In these matters, we must also target communication to the general public, in addition to professionals.