Home » Design and Construction

Author Interviews Part I: Mechanical and Electrical Equipment for Buildings. Greatest Text Book Ever?

1 November 2010 | Posted By Jeff Cole 3,718 views No Comment

“MEEB like this, MEEB like that, yo MEEB, you be where the party at!”
“Ask yourself, what is the best textbook in the whole universe?”
–Seduciousness (“MEEB Like This” on YouTube)

An Interview with the Authors – PART 1

MEEB11 CoverFor over 50 years, Mechanical and Electrical Equipment for Buildings, has been used by students and then retained as a reference for professional practice. Known as MEEB and now available in its 11th edition the textbook is one of a very rare group with it’s own hip-hop video available on You Tube , but is it the best textbook in the universe?

NEEA’s BetterBricks recently spoke with Alison Kwok (Professor of Architecture, University of Oregon) and Walter Grondzik (Professor of Architecture, Ball State University)—the most recent additions to the book’s roster of authors. Neither claimed greatest textbook status for MEEB, but we did touch upon many of the reasons that the unique volume— the most comprehensive text that includes all building systems—remains extremely useful to architecture, architectural engineering, and construction management students, and to practitioners striving to increase the performance of their buildings. If you are a practitioner who has not updated your copy in quite some time, read on, you may want to consider the 11th edition.

Walter Grondzik offered a summary of MEEB’s value. “It is the one place where you can grab a dose of philosophy: performance matters, people matter, the environment matters; basic concepts that underlie systems design (because if you don’t understand the concepts you don’t really know why you’re doing something); discussion of current design methodologies; and lots of photographs of equipment so you can determine: “What should I think about? Why should I think about it? How do I do it? And what might it look like from an architect’s design perspective (e.g., is a chiller as big as a chair or as big as a semi truck? That’s a lot to cover and that’s probably why the book is as big as it is.”

“MEEB started with the fundamental goal of presenting information that would allow the design of technically competent, safe systems”, says Walter Grondzik. “Over time, cost-effectiveness came into play. During the ’70s, energy efficiency. Indoor air quality is an issue which ripples through chapters. Over time, each edition has paid more and more attention to issues of human comfort. The contents have also evolved with the addition of elevators and fire protection systems and other things that designers juggle on a day-to-day basis.”

And at 6 pounds and over 1700 pages, MEEB is both substantial and substantive. Part I establishes the design context. On a stand-alone basis it is an excellent introduction to fundamental concerns of high performance, green building design, with chapters devoted to the design process, environmental resources, site resources, comfort and design strategies, and indoor air quality. Part II covers Thermal Control, Part III Illumination, Part IV Acoustics, Part V Water and Waste, Part VI Fire Protection, Part VII Electricity, Part VIII Signal Systems, Part IX Transportation, and Part X compiles the Appendices.

“MEEB started with the fundamental goal of presenting information that would allow the design of technically competent, safe systems”, says Walter Grondzik. “Over time, cost-effectiveness came into play. During the ’70s, energy efficiency. Indoor air quality is an issue which ripples through chapters. Over time, each edition has paid more and more attention to issues of human comfort. The contents have also evolved with the addition of elevators and fire protection systems and other things that designers juggle on a day-to-day basis.”

“Sustainability is being used now as a way to get beyond green because everybody can be green today. You can buy 189 [ASHRAE Standard 189] for $100 and you’ll be really deep green if you follow it. Everybody can do that, everybody has $100.

MEEB focuses upon the information needs of architects. Alison Kwok states “Initially MEEB started more in engineering and when John Reynolds came on as a co-author of the 6th edition he brought a more architectural emphasis to the book. Through four editions he has worked  to include more design process and to speak to an architectural audience. In the 10th edition, Walter and I reflowed the sequence of chapters and information, to structure the book more holistically, and we added more to the design process, design integration, and resource efficiency into the early chapters. We also added case studies to the 10th edition, which hadn’t been done before.

“We looked at every chapter and decided which needed to be split up or joined with others. One of our guiding principles considered how people read and absorb information. We did not want the reader to skip around to find references. There were many reference tables embedded into the chapters that we moved to appendices. This allowed a better flow of information for the reader.”

Walter continues, “On the 10th Edition we are both fervent believers in buildings that work and perform well and were attracted to the opportunity to take this flagship book and maintain the tradition of trying to help people design buildings that really work, while following basic principles. The ability to leave your stamp on architectural education, at a minimum, maybe to influence professional practice, was a pretty compelling argument to get involved.

“For the 11th Edition we added more conceptual information on green design and carbon neutral design. We really worked on the unit conversions, to consistently include both metric and U.S. standard units, and updated all code references and critical standards throughout the book.

Alison confirmed the changes, “We introduced four case studies in MEEB 10 and added three or four more in MEEB 11, along with 100-150 new illustrations.” The 11th Edition case studies touch upon post-occupancy evaluation and measurement and verification, but there is no one section that focuses upon performance measurement and evaluation. This may change with the 12th Edition. Examples of major renovation and retrofit work are also likely to show up in the 12th Edition, along with an increased number of case studies illustrating the application of the design process to increase the performance of existing buildings.

One of the more interesting perspectives taken by the MEEB authors is that green design and sustainable design are not one and the same.  Walter says, “Green design is only an intermediate step on the way to truly sustainable solutions.

“Sustainability is being used now as a way to get beyond green because everybody can be green today. You can buy 189 [ASHRAE Standard 189] for $100 and you’ll be really deep green if you follow it. Everybody can do that, everybody has $100. Those who are doing green, they’re in the last generation, the last decade. People are moving out beyond that and the word they like to use is sustainable. Sustainability is so critical because if we’re not sustainable we’re dead, either literally, or measured by standards of living. Something is going to give and we need to be really serious about being sustainable. I really love the definition of the Brundtland Commission, which is basically leaving resources for future generations while we still take care of ourselves.

“On an operational basis, that means a sustainable building has to have no net negative environmental impacts. The earth is pretty much burdened with negative impacts. And if we’re going to be sustainable, buildings, basically, have to tread lightly on the earth and not increase carbon dioxide, water pollution, whatever. A typical building is not near to being net negative. That’s not to condemn any really good efforts, deeper green is better. We just need to be honest. Sustainable buildings? They don’t exist. Really high performance buildings? Absolutely.”

Additional information on MEEB can be found HERE.

Leave your response!

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

This is a Gravatar-enabled weblog. To get your own globally-recognized-avatar, please register at Gravatar.