New York— The National Energy Management Institute (NEMI), the ventilation, indoor air quality and air balancing arm of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation (SMART) workers, and Actors’ Equity Association, the national union representing more than 51,000 professional actors and stage managers in live theatre, have partnered to release a new model ventilation standard for live performance spaces. SMART represents more than 180,000 sheet metal and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) experts across North America. 

The new specification, which is freely available to anyone who owns or manages a live performance venue, provides new real-world guidance for how venue operators can ensure a safe workplace and indoor air quality for both workers and audience members alike. Covering everything from operations to maintenance to system design, the protocol is drawn from respected industry organizations such as ASHRAE and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) among others and incorporates feedback from venue operators and professional HVAC technicians. 

View the new guidance on Equity's website.

"When unions come together and collaborate– even if the unions are from different industries – they can make the workplace safer for everyone. This is especially true in this case, where not only will the workers benefit, but so will the audience,” said Mary McColl, executive director of Actors’ Equity Association. “The use of this new resource will be a concrete way for producers and venue owners and operators to show that they are committed to safe, resilient and energy efficient ventilation systems as we exit the pandemic.”

“This new protocol is based on the science and lessons from the field from professional union HVAC technicians during the pandemic,” said David Bernett, NEMI administrator. “It will mean safer workplaces for everyone in a theater, from the performers to the audience and staff, for years to come.” 

“Unions for performers and sheet metal workers and HVAC technicians have used their lessons from the pandemic to create a playbook for safer, more resilient and efficient live performance venues,” said David Michaels, professor at the George Washington University School of Public Health and former administrator of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. “Improved indoor air will prevent not only COVID, but also flu and other airborne diseases. So many live performance spaces aren’t just about art, they are often public gathering places in communities for public and educational functions. With this new playbook, I hope that Congress will consider a grant program to upgrade the HVAC systems in live performance venues. Modernizing the infrastructure in our live performance spaces would not only support good middle-class jobs of HVAC technicians, but mean a safer environment for the general public and performers alike.” 

During the pandemic, Actors’ Equity Association has worked to prioritize workplace safety, retaining former head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Dr. David Michaels, to advise the union on pandemic safety issues. The union recently released updated safety guidance for producers. Equity also fought for a testing and vaccination site in New York to help reopen the city’s theatre district. 

ACTORS' EQUITY ASSOCIATION, founded in 1913, is the U.S. labor union that represents more than 51,000 professional actors and stage managers. Equity endeavors to advance the careers of its members by negotiating wages, improving working conditions and providing a wide range of benefits (health and pension included). Member: AFL-CIO, FIA.  #EquityWorks


The National Energy Management Institute (NEMI) is a not-for-profit organization jointly funded and managed by the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA) and the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation (SMART) workers. It provides supervisor-level training and inspector/design professional training to SMART members and signatory contractors in testing, adjusting and balancing (TAB), fire smoke damper testing, smoke control systems testing, indoor air quality, sound and vibration testing and Mechanical Acceptance Testing. Additional information can be found at or by calling 703-299-5646. 

July 8, 2021