After nearly a decade at ROCIS, Don Fugler is heading into a well-earned retirement. Don Fugler was a part of ROCIS before there was a ROCIS. When Don set out to assess the existing knowledge about reducing exposure to exterior pollutants, what he found was crucial in shaping our priorities, our mission, and our work. One of the first projects that Don completed for ROCIS was the 2014 white paper Protecting Homes from Outdoor Pollution, which helped lay the foundation for all that came next for us.

Don Fugler headshot

Watch Don’s presentation to ROCIS stakeholders: Protecting Homes from Outdoor Pollution

Don’s contributions to ROCIS since have been numerous and invaluable. With over twenty-five years of experience conducting research into residential energy use, ventilation, and indoor air quality for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), Don helped us work out questions related to how factors in individual homes impact pollution exposure—things such as the entry rate of outdoor pollutants, the distribution of pollutants within the dwelling, the activities within the house that create particles, and the means of reducing the concentrations of particles and other measured pollutants. 

Learn more about Don’s work in indoor environmental quality in this interview with IAQ Radio.

Don also helped design the Low Cost Monitoring Project, central to our work today. Since the beginning, Don has reviewed all LCMP monitoring data and observations and has provided weekly individualized feedback to cohort participants. In an interview with ROCIS Team Leader Linda Wigington, Don named these interactions as a highlight of his work with ROCIS over the past eight years. He expressed the pleasure of working with LCMP participants and hearing the insights that they brought to the program. “In each cohort, you’re always going to learn something.”

Get Don’s insights on data visualization in this ROCIS presentation video.

Throughout the LCMP process, Don was impressed by the reliability of low cost monitors used in the project. The monitoring data has taught us many lessons over the years. At first, Don suspected that leaky old Pittsburgh homes would do little to keep out big spikes in outdoor air pollution, but the buildings did better than expected. The data also revealed what Don calls the “regionality” of air particles—whether folks are in the middle of the city or out in the suburbs, right by a busy road or set back from a quiet street, monitors across the region often record the same large-scale patterns of air pollution, showing that we all dwell in the same airshed and can all benefit from improving the region’s air. 

And participants were responding to the monitoring results as well. Indoor air quality is “one of those things that’s hard to get people interested in,” Don told Linda, but the LCMP seemed to do the trick. Rather than shrugging off indications of poor air quality in their homes, Don was seeing that participants were willing to make real investments in improving their air quality. 

Dylos close up

When COVID hit, Don worried that ROCIS may need to stop monitoring cohorts altogether, but he was surprised at how successfully we transitioned to a virtual model. Because Don lives in Ottawa, his participation in the cohort meetings had been limited by the distance, but not anymore! Moreover, he found that the level of attendance and engagement at the virtual meetings had increased. “When we went to virtual meetings, I got lots more information, lots more contact, lots more insights,” Don exclaimed. And the same was true of the quality of content—the teamwork at ROCIS was the best it had ever been. “I was mightily impressed with the quality of all the work that people did in the webinars,” Don told Linda. “It was a really powerful and focused set of presentations that we were giving people.”

As Don retires from his work with ROCIS, we expect he’ll be spending even more time soaking up the great outdoors in Ontario—but we will feel his absence sharply. We are forever grateful for all that he has done to bring clean air solutions to so many people in southwestern Pennsylvania and far beyond. 

Best wishes, Don!