It’s been almost a year since our industry lost one of its greatest pioneers. Rob Falke was a mentor, friend, and brother to me, and to countless others as well. Together we founded National Comfort Institute (NCI), as a fledgling training organization exactly 30 years ago.
We built the organization brick-by-brick, adding many new disciplines and great people to our ranks over the years.
We had a saying, even in the very early years that “the pioneers are the ones with the most arrows in their backs.” I can assure you we plucked out quite a few over the past three decades!
Rob was known as the father of modern Residential and Light Commercial Air Balancing. But he was also known by the thousands of people he touched as one of the most caring and kind individuals they’d ever met. He was often affectionately referred to as “Doc Falke” by many.
EDUCATION WAS HIS DRIVING FORCE
Rob diligently worked to help contractors understand the concepts of HVAC performance. Just as important, he taught contractors how to teach customers about it, and help them understand the value of having someone trained in NCI’s disciplines service or replace their system.
Education was at the core of everything for Rob, yet interestingly he had no formal training in education. Instead, he intensely focused on how to teach so that just about anyone could understand complex concepts. One of Rob’s favorite tongue-in-cheek terms was, “butt-crack simple!”
But Rob was anything but simple. He had a natural curiosity and a will to unravel just about any technical challenge he came across. Many times I would hear him in his office, which was next to mine, pronounce with glee, “I got it!”
Countless brainstorming sessions would ensue with each of us trying to poke holes into a theory or a process. It’s what gave NCI the solid foundation upon which all of our training was built. Rob was never afraid to challenge or be challenged. It was in his DNA.
His life’s work in HVAC culminated in helping to create the ANSI/ASHRAE 221 Standard. For many years we worked on developing solid practices to quantify the performance of an air distribution system and how it impacted the overall performance of an entire HVAC system.
Once we honed it down, we realized we couldn’t hoard this knowledge and we had to share it with the entire industry. In 2016 Rob embarked on a four-year odyssey to make this a reality. He assembled a group of some of the finest minds in our industry with no-nonsense, real-world understanding of how things work in the field.
With the help of some prominent ASHRAE members he formed and chaired what became known as the ASHRAE 221P committee. Proposed Standard 221 was titled a “Test Method To Field-Measure And Score The Cooling And Heating Performance Of An Installed Unitary HVAC System.” Development of the 221 standard hit some bumps and potholes along the way, but in a record four short years it became a reality.
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