Costa Rica Moves on Mandatory IIAR Standards

Ammonia Refrigeration Education Key To Adoption
All IIAR standards, including the Carbon Dioxide standard, ANSI/IIAR CO2, have been adopted within Costa Rica on a voluntary basis as National Norms, and the country is moving forward with its plans to make the standards mandatory. The next step is to prepare and educate industry professionals in the country on IIAR standards before the mandate takes effect.

“Costa Rica was already in the process of adopting the IIAR standards for ammonia refrigeration, so their next natural step was to educate their engineers and designers on proper design installation and maintenance of ammonia refrigeration systems,” said Gary Schrift, president of IIAR.

This ‘stepping stone’ of the standards adoption process involves the implementation of a National Certification Program, which CIEMI (Colegio de Ingenieros electricistas, mecánicos e industrials/College of Electrical, Mechanical and Industrial Engineers), through CFIA (Colegio Federado de Ingenieros y Arquitectos/Confederation of Engineers and Architects), will be managing.

“We’ve been working for several years already on making the standards from IIAR the Costa Rican Norms. In order to make it mandatory, we need to have certification and people who can go and check and certify compliance with the norms,” said Mario Mora Carli, a professor at the University of Costa Rica and the current vice chair for the Costa Rica and Caribbean IIAR Chapter.

Yesenia Rector, international director for IIAR, said the program will ensure that industry professionals can apply the standards before they are required to implement them. Certificate courses are already available in Spanish for the main IIAR standards.

“Now, in partnership with us, Costa Rica will sign up the professionals to take the certificate courses from IIAR. That will prepare the professionals in the industry so when the government says this is mandatory, they have the professionals who are prepared to implement the standard,” Rector said.

This puts Costa Rica at the forefront of all other countries in the complete regulatory adoption of IIAR standards. “This represents the most organized and comprehensive industry educational approach that has been implemented in Latin America and demonstrates the commitment of Costa Rica’s government and industry organizations to environmental responsibility and industry growth,” Rector said.

Eric Smith, vice president and technical director for IIAR, said most countries have unique codes and standards that are developed by committees and legislatures within their countries. “Like states in the U.S., countries often reference codes or standards developed by code associations, which in turn often rely on standards developed by industry associations,” he said.

For example, European countries have a country-wide code that will refer to ISO or EN standards. “Other regions develop their codes similarly by examining the content of various standards and deciding what they like the best. What is a bit unique in the case of Costa Rica is that the government has decided to embrace all IIAR standards, including the CO2 standard, without modification,” Smith said. “Their refrigeration design code will be a direct reference to the standard, which has been translated to Spanish.”

Usually, IIAR standards are used by many professionals in different countries as the best practices for ammonia refrigeration systems. “However, during the last few years, some of those professionals have realized that by implementing IIAR standards in their countries, the industry benefits with more efficient and safer systems,” Rector said. “That has prompted them to reach out to key government institutions and propose the use of IIAR standards as a basis for their national norms.”

In Costa Rica, transitioning to the mandatory adoption of IIAR standards will take about two years. As the IIAR standards are revised, the country is revising and adopting standards to ensure a continuous improvement process and that standards are current.

Costa Rica has many fine colleges that currently support the educational training of many of their engineering, architecture, and other disciplines. “But rather than start from scratch, they were aware of IIAR’s many online training programs covering our standards and ammonia refrigeration,” Schrift said.

CIEMI’s certificate program in Refrigeration Systems Standards will ensure that the professionals in Costa Rica take the IIAR developed Certificate Courses for the IIAR 2, IIAR 4, IIAR 6 and IIAR 9 standards, using the IIAR Learning Management System. The education certificate program will take three years to complete and will be valid for five years. The program is based on IIAR’s Academy of Natural Refrigerants courses that have been developed in Spanish and will be taken through the IIAR LMS.

Rector said there have been several important contributors to the effort, including Carli, David Solis, the IIAR chapter chair for Costa Rica and the Caribbean, Marco Calvo vice chair for CIEMI Costa Rica, Manuel Corella, a professor at the University of Costa Rica and a member of CFIA.

Schrift said IIAR’s new membership structure is making the education possible. Before IIAR’s new membership structure, the cost for taking the four to six needed IIAR training programs would have been thousands of dollars and possibly would not have been possible simply due to the cost to all of their engineers in the country. Now student pricing for membership is $100.

“And for any member, whether a student or regular member, each member receives one free Academy class and one free video series class each year,” Schrift said. “So, for $100, Costa Rican engineers can join IIAR as a student and take two training classes each year.”

Their curriculum requires an additional ANR class each year, and engineers will pay member pricing for it. Their program runs over a two-year period, so each engineer desiring certification in Costa Rica as an ammonia refrigeration engineer will join as a student member for two years and take their free classes and one paid class annually.

Schrift anticipates an initial flurry for the next two to three years as Costa Rica focuses on getting its technicians trained. “We’re hopeful we’ll continue to see growth as these engineers transition to become full-time, non-student members of IIAR and retain their membership,” he said.

Costa Rica is recognized for embracing environmental causes. “Most of the country’s electricity is produced by renewable energy, and they recognize that ecotourism and sustainable agriculture is a significant driving factor of their economy. This focus on environmental and social well-being proliferates into decision making at nearly all levels of government,” Smith said.

As such, officials there recognize that ammonia is the most energy-efficient refrigerant for their climate. They like that ammonia is readily available and is environmentally friendly, so they want it to be used for their agricultural industry, but understand that safety is also essential to workers and the public.

“The thinking was that they should accept the standard in its entirety and recognize that the U.S. standard is robust and thoroughly vetted, in part because of the regulatory factors in the U.S. that demand it,” Smith said.

This gives credence to IIAR as an international association and recognition of the excellent work that has been done by IIAR members through the years. “It is notable that several other countries look to IIAR standards when they develop their own ammonia refrigeration standards. It is understandable that countries wish to be autonomous, but it is also noteworthy that IIAR standards are among the primary sources of reference,” Smith said.

Debbie Koske, a spokesperson at Calibration Technologies Inc., added that governments need to encourage the adoption of natural refrigerants to comply with international environmental agreements. “They also need to assure their safe use. As our climate continues to suffer, speed is of the essence. Rather than starting from scratch, governments can save time by pointing to the tried and true standards of IIAR,” she said.

Adoption of standards and the training program will bring several benefits to those operating in Costa Rica. “As IIAR standards have consolidated design, installation, operation and maintenance for ammonia refrigeration in the United States, a similar benefit will be realized in Costa Rica,” Smith said. “Rather than interpret how various codes apply to ammonia refrigeration, the IIAR standard will unambiguously be the required standard to follow.”

This ensures that systems are designed and built to a minimum level of quality, owners’ investments are protected, and workers and operators have the best opportunity for safe and environmentally conscious systems.

“Multinational companies, operating in various regions around the world, would prefer to have refrigeration systems that are consistently designed, maintained and operated and that they are equally safe and reliable regardless of where their investments are located,” Smith said.

Carli noted that there is a lot of foreign investment in Costa Rica. “A lot of large international companies, like Cargill and Coca-Cola, want to comply. We need to have prepared engineers and technicians that are certified so they can go and make sure people comply with the norms,” he said, adding that he has been working with customers who want to make all the necessary changes to comply with the norms. “They know it will be mandatory soon. Not only that, they see the benefit of having the IIAR-2 norm.”

The hope is that more countries will recognize this desire and follow the lead of Costa Rica and others who have referenced or required adherence to IIAR standards. “There are countries, such as Ecuador and Columbia, that have adopted our standards. When we share this model with them, they may pick it up,” Schrift said.

In Colombia, IIAR has been working with ICONTEC—the standards writing organization for Colombia—and its allied association, ACAIRE, to emulate Costa Rica’s process. “More and more are following in Costa Rica’s footsteps. This helps the industry tremendously, especially considering that Natural Refrigerants are the best option for having safe, energy-efficient systems that are environmentally friendly,” Rector said. “We expect this will expedite the process, not only in Colombia but also in other countries such as Mexico, Argentina, Ecuador and Chile.”

Koske believes the adoption of IIAR standards helps countries transition from ozone-depleting refrigerants to natural refrigerants like ammonia. “One of the barriers to making the transition to low GWP refrigerants is concerns around safety. Adopting the IIAR standards and training operators accordingly takes the safety concerns out of the equation and makes it easier to choose ammonia,” she said.