Bahnfleth Environmental Health Award honors professor, spans generations

April 24, 2019

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A determination to improve people’s health and productivity through improved indoor environmental quality (IEQ) isn’t the only thing William P. Bahnfleth, professor of architectural engineering at Penn State, shared with his late father, Donald.

Both studied at the University of Illinois, both had careers that included academic appointments and professional practice, and both served as presidents of ASHRAE (formerly the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-conditioning Engineers), who is bestowing the 2019 Donald Bahnfleth Environmental Health Award to his son.

“We both believed that the primary purpose of buildings is to serve the needs of the people inside,” William Bahnfleth said. “We can design buildings to save energy and reduce environmental impact, but a building that delivers poor IEQ that affects well-being is a failure.”

The Environmental Health Award, initiated in 2006, was renamed in 2019 to honor Donald’s memory and his central role initiating ASHRAE’s environmental health activities during his presidency in 1985-86 through the creation of the Environmental Health Committee (EHC). It recognizes excellence in volunteer service focused on environmental health issues, which allows ASHRAE to contribute technological advances for the benefit of industry and public.

As the 2019 recipient, William Bahnfleth is being recognized for his service, including terms on the EHC, twice serving as chair of the ASHRAE IAQ (indoor air quality) conference, and authoring papers and articles for ASHRAE related to environmental health.

“My father was an advocate for indoor environmental quality when it was an emerging concern of the construction industry,” William Bahnfleth said. “I wasn’t aware of it at the time, so when I later became interested in IEQ as a research area and an advocate for it through my ASHRAE leadership role, it was surprising to learn how much he had done nearly 30 years earlier.”

He added, “His statements from that time show that he saw the public health impact of buildings as one of the most important emerging issues in architectural engineering, even though he also was a proponent of energy efficiency. He was way ahead of his time in that regard.”

Bahnfleth will receive the award at the ASHRAE Annual Conference in Kansas City on June 22.

“My dad was tremendously proud of what I accomplished in ASHRAE and my career and I’m proud to be the first recipient of this award renamed in his honor,” he said.

  • William P. Bahnfleth, professor of architectural engineering at Penn State

    William P. Bahnfleth, professor of architectural engineering at Penn State

    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated April 24, 2019