The objective of this project was to participate in the development of a reference within the mechanical engineering professional literature for engineers responsible for designing heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems for museums, archives, and libraries. This reference—Chapter 20 of the applications handbook of the American Society for Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers—is designed primarily to be used in new construction.

The project had two components:

One of the most important repositories for system design information are the four handbooks published by the American Society for Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) dealing with: (1) refrigeration, (2) fundamentals, (3) HVAC systems and equipment, and (4) applications. These are used extensively by engineers, and represent an attempt to collect the most valuable, up-to-date, practical and theoretical data possible. One handbook, ASHRAE Applications focuses only on industrial applications. Chapter 20 is specific to museums, libraries, and archives.

The first attempt to summarize museum, library, and archive environmental requirements—and to show how they can be optimally provided for through a well thought out HVAC system—was found in the 1999 version of the handbook. It is the policy of ASHRAE to review and update information in each handbook, as it becomes appropriate, with a three-year cycle being not uncommon for a new chapter.

By design, the first version of Chapter 20 concentrated on temperature, relative humidity, and system selection, leaving gaseous and particle air pollution filtration to be developed in later editions. The second iteration of Chapter 20—which was the focus of this project—sought to more effectively balance all environmental concerns, while making the overall structure easier to follow.

The committee responsible for revision was composed of individuals within the target profession who were selected because of their recognized expertise in some or many areas of application. Publishing experts in hospital, microcircuit fabrication, or museum environments determined the committee composition for their particular chapters. For Chapter 20, this ensured a mixture of conservators, conservation scientists, academic research architects, industrial engineers and practicing museum, archive, and library HVAC engineers. The GCI's selection for participation in the Chapter 20 committee was based on the Institute's history of environmental research on air pollution and its preventive conservation philosophy.

The project's structure evolved to suit the requirements of the committee entrusted by ASHRAE to revise Chapter 20. Many of the committee members met during ASHRAE's annual meetings. Writing assignments for the chapter itself were conducted using e-mail. Consensus of revisions was also obtained via e-mail.