Friday, 2 December 2016

Ties that bind

Last month, CIBSE and its American counterpart ASHRAE celebrated their 40th anniversary of working together at a ceremony in London, and also signed an agreement to work closer together. This week, CIBSE Communications Executive Matt Snowden (MS) and ASHRAE President Tim Wentz (TW) examine what that deal means in practice

TW: On the 40th Anniversary of ASHRAE/CIBSE collaboration, the two world-leading engineering organizations signed a Strategic Partnership Agreement. The agreement’s purpose is to provide a framework through which ASHRAE and CIBSE can work collaboratively to leverage each other’s strengths and accomplish organizational goals which best serve their respective members, the profession and society. 

The basic tenets of the agreement include:
  • Development of joint training and educational programs in Europe.
  • Exploring development of new conferences that accelerate technology dissemination.
  • Collaboration on research that will advance mutual member interests.
  • Coordination of research programs.
  • Mutual endorsement of conferences and exchange of technical expert speakers. 
  • Connecting of aligned membership demographics, such as Young Engineers in ASHRAE and the CIBSE Young Engineers Network.
  • Exploring opportunities to collaborate on technical publications and standards.
  • Commitment to annual volunteer or staff leadership meetings.
  • Annual staff exchanges.
ASHRAE President Prof Tim Wentz and CIBSE President John Field
 sign the agreement

What does this deal mean to the two organisations?

TW: Collaboration and sharing of knowledge are key to advancing the built environment industry. ASHRAE’s partnership with CIBSE over the last 40 years has proven to be an invaluable collaboration for our respective members and the industry at large. Our joint work through conferences, publications and education has greatly added to the worldwide best practices databank of innovative and successful technologies. I am pleased to celebrate this milestone and look forward to many more

MS: CIBSE and ASHRAE are two world-leading engineering organisations who bring many positives to the global building services industry, but at the same time have significant and positive differences. There are some instances where the task of tackling the problems which face the engineering industry will require us to work together, and times when it is better suited for us to work separately.

The worthy winner of CIBSE's graduate of the year award will attend this
year's ASHRAE winter conference in Las Vegas

Will this impact the way ASHRAE and CIBSE work with other organizations?

TW: No. ASHRAE and CIBSE both have unique relationships with organizations around the world, and that will continue. Additionally, the ASHRAE CIBSE strategy encourages working collaboratively with other organizations.

MS: One of the biggest strengths of the two organisations is their global reach, unaffected by borders, and their global network of collaborating partners. This agreement will not affect any of these relationships, and both CIBSE and ASHRAE will continue working in unique ways with these partners. In fact, this new agreement will help strengthen global collaboration with different partners, and emphasise collaboration as part of its strategy.

How will this impact members?

Members will benefit from the combined global
reach of both organisations
TW: How will members be impacted? Positively! Combining resources for common member goals and encouraging a global exchange of ideas and technologies will benefit all members. There are no immediate changes to benefits provided to either organization’s members. CIBSE and ASHRAE members already take advantage of a membership reciprocity agreement. The potential is enormous!

MS: As the only two organisations in our field with a global reach, CIBSE and ASHRAE have significant common ground and shared interests since the start of their excellent relationship 40 years ago.This new agreement will strengthen that relationship, and help spread the benefits it bring to both CIBSE and ASHRAE members, global partners and to the engineering industry as a whole. By finding opportunities to utilise and deploy both organisations separate resources, skills and expertise, CIBSE and ASHRAE will find new ways to tackle the issues facing the industry, expand our common goals and strengthen the synergy between the two.

Will joint programs be implemented in the U.S. and the UK? 

TW: There are no geographical boundaries on the collaborative programming. CIBSE and ASHRAE will align goals and resources wherever it best serves our respective members to do so. 

MS: One area of improvement will be in communication: Both organisations will ensure that the other is informed on major initiatives, and will work together to develop strategies to deploy these initiatives around the world. There will be an annual staff exchange, as well as an annual vision meeting to ensure that the two organisations become more closely aligned.

Collaboration will also benefit. Team working outcomes are normally better than working as individuals, and the agreement will pave the way for greater. This will benefit members, both societies and society in general. Collaboration between chapters and groups will ensure that those with similar remits in their respective regions will communicate closely and share knowledge, both organisations will work together in advocating building services related policies in their respective territories’ legislatures, and both organisations will create and cross-promote publications of mutual benefit in each other’s memberships.

Better communication and knowledge sharing between the two organisations
will benefit members
One of the two organisations’ great strengths is in their work within the engineering communities, and their existing network of relationships and collaborations through which they are able to make positive contributions to the industry. This agreement is the start of creating that framework to serve society and the profession more effectively in the future.

How can I get involved?

TW: ASHRAE and CIBSE are driven by volunteer expertise and leadership. There will be many opportunities for members to get involved as joint programs are implemented. Those interested in volunteering should send an email to or

Friday, 25 November 2016

Something in the air

One of the main topics at last week's CIBSE Building Performance Conference and Exhibition, indoor air quality is fast being recognised as a priority concern in the world of wellbeing. But in a field where marginal gains are everything, being on top of your data is very important Arie Taal from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at The Hague University has produced research into eliminating faults in HVAC using a BMS

Carbon Dioxide based demand control ventilation (DCV) can reduce heating/cooling loads by up to 30% and fan power consumption by up to 35%.  DCV maintains the CO2 concentration in a room within an appropriate range by adjusting the supply air flowrate.  CO2-based DCV is the most commonly used control method with CO2 sensors installed in the main return air duct.  Nowadays, the increased requirement for smart buildings, combined with a decrease of CO2 sensor prices, has resulted in buildings being equipped with more sensors.

A common issue occurs when one of the CO2 sensors encounters a fault.  This can be down to a lack of maintenance or incorrect sensor placements in rooms.  In a DCV system, a fault can mean that the estimated energy savings and air quality is not guaranteed.  In 1993 the Automatic Background Calibration (ABC) method was developed to calibrate CO2 sensors with the idea that CO2 levels would drop outside normal levels in buildings that are not occupied on weekends or weekday evenings. However, placement of sensors can become a problem as rooms on the inner side of a building or rooms with well-sealed windows may never drop outside of these baseline levels.
Properly controlled ventilation can have a big impact
 on a buidling's energy consumption
Alongside Dr Yang Zhao and Prof Wim Zeiler at the Department of the Built Environment, Eindhoven University in the Netherlands, Mr Taal has been working toward a systematic method of diagnosing faults in CO2 sensors.  Using automatic fault detection, diagnosis and self-correction in CO2 sensors would be a proactive method in air conditioning systems to solve this problem.  The premise of Mr Taal’s study has been to show how the automatic commissioning of CO2 sensors in air conditioning systems is achievable using benchmark values obtained in one of two methods.

In conventional methods, sensor faults are detected by comparing their measurements with benchmark values.  These values can be obtained manually, measured by technicians, or calculated automatically using other available measurements.  The latter is more common because it can be done automatically in the building management system (BMS).  Practical issues arise in air conditioning systems because there are no sensors equipped to measure the CO2 generation rate, CO2 concentration in the supply air and the flow rate of the supply air in m3/s.  In the development of models for CO2 sensor fault detection, the lack of information poses a real challenge.

It is important to test the sensors without
outdoor air, and with solely outdoor air
In an effort to eliminate the threat posed by this lack of information the idea is to perform one of two test methods under specific operating conditions to ascertain the required benchmark levels.

The first is to recycle air without adding any outdoor air for between one and two hours to create 100% return air ventilation.  By closing all windows, doors and fresh air dampers in air handling units the measurements of all CO2 sensors should theoretically be the same.  The second test is full outdoor ventilation, to supply fresh air into the building without any recycling for between one and two hours.  Again, at the end of the time period all of the CO2 sensors should be the same and equal the CO2 concentration of the ambient air.

Faulty sensors will be detected if their readings are different from the assessed benchmark values.  A faulty sensor can be detected if its measurements are obviously higher or lower than other sensors.

In the first method, the degree of fault is then measured from the difference between the defective sensor and the average measurement of the other faultless CO2 sensors. The second compares the faulty sensor reading to the ambient CO2 concentration both looking for a negative or positive bias in CO2 levels when measured against the benchmark.

Self-correction is the final step in the process where all of the information is taken from the faulty sensor for adjustment.  Using the assessment results from the fault diagnosis the CO2 bias can be corrected.  The results of the detection, diagnosis and self-correction will then be reported to technicians for reference.

Together with his team, Mr Taal produced a simulation of their works on the first floor of a school building at The Hague University in Delft.  In their experiment, nine rooms were used with a CO2-based DCV applied to control the amount of supply air to each room in order to keep the CO2 measurements within the benchmark.  Separate experiments were conducted to simulate different conditions. The first simulates a fault free operation and a second introduces faulty sensors to show the impacts of automatic fault detection system.

A potentially serious problem with an HVAC system can be detected
simply using a BMS

Using two operating methods to obtain CO2 benchmarks, 100% return air ventilation and full outdoor air ventilation; faulty sensors can be detected, diagnosed and self-corrected using a BMS.  From the simulations, results show that after 45 minutes there are obvious differences between functional sensors and those that are faulty.  After an hour and a half the positive or negative bias can be accurately measured.

Theoretically, the proposed methods are effective ways to detect faulty CO2 sensors, effectively diagnoses the state of failure and to automatically remove the fault.  The ability to automatically detect, diagnose and repair faults is vital to the effective running of DCV systems.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Bridging the gap

The performance gap is the big problem of our times in the building services industry, and hundreds of column inches are devoted to products created to fix it each year. Ahead of his presentation at the CIBSE Conference Casey Cole, Managing Director of Guru Systems, presents an alternative view: That process, not technology, is the answer  

New buildings in the UK consume far more energy than predicted by their designers - up to 10 times more according to an Innovate UK study. This performance gap doesn't arise because we lack technology. Studies by the UKGBC and others conclude that it's the result of failings throughout the project life-cycle, from concept to handover.

Performance gaps may arise because clients are unclear about what they want; project teams don't understand the impact of their design choices; contractors substitute products and materials on the fly and then install them poorly; or quality assurance is lax, with employers' agents either blind to the problems or willing to let shoddy work escape their net.

What goes doen on paper often doesn't make
it to bricks-and-mortar
There's no doubt about it - we've got trouble right here in the UK building industry. But innovation on its own won't solve the problem. The Internet of Things isn't coming to the rescue. Because the performance gap isn't a technology problem - it's a problem of people, information and accountability.

That's a sobering realisation, because we've all drunk the same Silicon-Valley-brand of neoliberal Kool-Aid. We know that given the right market signals, some whizzy new technology that no one has yet thought of will appear and address any problem you can name: from climate change to… well, to the performance gap.

But not this time. Any purely technological solution would simply be papering over the cracks in our poorly functioning buildings, cracks that were put there by project teams.

There's a positive side to our realisation: if we don't need new technologies to close the performance gap, then we already have the tech we need. Indeed, I think we do. But, that technology must be used to empower clients, engineers and all of us on the project team to do our jobs better. Here's how:

The first step is to collect data from existing buildings. Organisations like CBx, Digital Catapult and Guru Systems, the company where I work, are already doing this. This data is being collected from utility meters (e.g. smart meters and heat meters), building energy management systems and other monitoring systems. By analysing this data, we can understand which factors have the biggest influence on performance.

We can then set clear performance requirements and explicit means of measuring them. These must be measurable before the building reaches practical completion, while the people who can put it right are still on site. It's no use specifying kWh/m2/annum or any other target that can only be calculated once the building is occupied. By the time they can be measured, the project team will have long since moved on. So, we must define requirements for the characteristics that are measurable before occupation and that lead to good performance in operation.

Collecting in-use data from buildings rather than relying on projections is key
Most importantly, clients must make performance requirements contractual. Those clear, measurable objectives must be written into the invitation to tender and then into contract. The lead contractor and the rest of the delivery team must know from the outset what's expected of them (and that they'll be held accountable for achieving it). We have a number of clients that have now adopted this approach for heat networks and they've shown that, once it's contractual, everyone's incentives align and the gap between expectation and outcome closes.

Casey Cole is speaking on ‘Are you ready for a digital future?’ at the CIBSE Building Performance Conference on Thursday, November 17 from 10:25am to 11:20am.

Friday, 4 November 2016

The great phase-out

We wrote about the end of HFCs earlier in the year, but after an amendment to the 1989 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer made in October 2016, their days are well and truly numbered. Brought in as a refrigerant gas to replace ozone-depleting CFCs, HFC use will be reduced by 85% across the world by 2045 to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Now the race begins to replace them. With many contenders in the running Simon Lamberton-Pine, Managing Director of DPAC UK, makes the case for the natural alternative 

It all came out of the blue – mainly because we had all forgotten that this was going to happen – hadn’t we? However, what this worldwide news has done has been to heighten the awareness of the fact that air conditioning and refrigeration equipment does indeed contain harmful gases that are damaging our environment.

As consumers (who own refrigerators and air conditioners) we take the equipment for granted. For those of us who have grown up with refrigeration as part of our daily lives, do we give a second thought to the refrigerants being used and the potential impact on the environment? Of course we don’t! As a result, do we even know about the alternative refrigerants available and the resulting changes to the equipment we will need? For those of us involved in Commercial HVAC equipment supply, then we of course are all too aware, and there are plenty of manufacturers now offering alternatives to the conventional HFCs, ourselves included!

HFCs can take a hidden toll on a building's carbon footprint
However, the current main (non HFC) alternatives for the larger buildings/applications are using either Ammonia, CO2 or Propane and they all have different considerations when it comes to selecting these as suitable alternatives to a building's commercial cooling system: Ammonia is highly toxic; it is well suited to large industrial systems, but less cost effective at small and medium sizes. HCs are highly flammable; they are excellent refrigerants for very small hermetically sealed systems but safety used to be an issue for medium and large sizes – although that has now changed somewhat.

For the purpose of this article we are considering the use of R290 (Propane) and its suitability, as well as ensuring safety considerations and precautions are taken into account, as after all this is an inflammable gas! Propane has been used and selected in hundreds of projects for many years, its global warming potential (GWP) vs HFCs is well documented and it is currently the preferred alternative for large and small A/C replacement projects.

Safety is a primary concern where highly inflammable
gases are used
For larger commercial and industrial buildings, equipment is available with duties up to 1,000Kw in single packaged Air Cooled units, which can be mounted externally However, when considering replacing water cooled chillers that are installed inside a building then adequate safety systems have to be considered, (just like commercial gas boilers)

However, getting and transporting Propane for servicing is not that easy and fully licensed suppliers are the best alternative, rather than trying to get a service engineer to transport it! The applications for equipment using R290 (propane) as a natural refrigerant are widespread, covering comfort cooling, process cooling, close control (Data Centre) and general refrigeration (food storage). For example, natural refrigerants are helping the Colruyt Group to save money and deliver its environmental targets, with this leading Belgian retailer moving to hydrocarbons for 100% of its in-store cooling needs

Natural refrigerants avoid the issues concerned with the use of the fluorinated gases. Additionally, these refrigerants offer greater energy efficiency than their fluorinated counterparts – resulting in further reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The most suitable natural alternative in the air-conditioning sector is R290 (propane), which has a low GWP and has high energy efficiency. The large-scale use of R290, however, has been curtailed due to outdated and restrictive safety standards. These were designed decades ago (not taking into account advances in safety features) and over exaggerated concerns related to the inflammable nature of R290 and other hydrocarbon-based refrigerants.

There are some efforts to update international safety standards and make them more accommodating for the use of R290 in all types of air-conditioning systems. However, because of the large commercial interests of the fluorinated gas industry, these efforts are not likely to reach fruition in the near future! Customers who are interested in switching their rooftop-condensing unit from R22 to R290 (propane) sometimes find their efforts get stuck because of a lack of technical knowledge among local installers or technicians, or the absence of standards allowing hydrocarbons in these type of applications.

170 countries agreed to phase-out HFCs at the United Nations in October 2016
Many compressor manufacturers are well advanced into the production of various types using Propane and these should translate into more new equipment as time progresses. One of the biggest challenges is changing the vast quantity of domestic refrigerators, (that is for another article). Additionally, the refrigerants being used in Commercial Refrigeration equipment is now also being considered seriously for replacement with natural refrigeration alternatives. Plenty has been written already about developing nations and their extended phase out schedule and that is a whole other discussion.

UK based M&E Consultants, Contractors and FM Businesses should now be considering Natural Refrigerants as an alternative (particularly if they are involved with replacing older large packaged air cooled units) and in most cases they are far more cost effective, being more efficient and with lower running costs.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Looking after the pennies

As part of our series looking into alternative sources of energy, we've examined micro-CHP, heat pumps, solar panels and heat networks. This week, we take a different view from Prof. Andrew Geens, who believes the cleanest unit of energy is the one you don't use...

Having pledged to join the ranks of countries to ratify the COP21 protocols, and having already signed into law the target to reduce UK greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 by 57% relative to 1990 levels, the Government now finds itself facing a race against time to make some pretty substantial cuts to its emissions.

The #Build2Perform blog has featured several articles making the case for alternative methods of energy generation that are greener than our current crop of fossil fuelled power stations, but some of these are just less polluting, not pollution-free, and even wind turbines and solar panels aren’t 100% carbon neutral. They still need to be manufactured and assembled, then transported across the world and installed – all of which requires fossil fuels at present. There's also the problem of whole-life emissions: Even when installed, these technologies will require carbon-generating maintenance and spare parts from commissioning to de-commissioning, and then to be disposed of after their useful life is over.

Maintaining and replacing renewable technology adds to its whole-life carbon footprint
This will become an even more pronounced problem as renewables are deployed to developing countries without high-tech manufacturing industries of their own. The further from source and the more geographically remote the destination of the turbines or solar cells, the higher the carbon footprint to install and maintain them. But we can stop this problem before it begins by trying a new approach.

In reality, the best way to cut emissions isn’t to generate more clean energy, it’s to reduce our need for it in the first place. After all, the cleanest unit of power is one you don’t use. Industry loves infrastructure, so it’s not the most fashionable view, but it’s one that has been gathering pace because of one key advantage: Cost. Renewables may cut carbon, but we don't use less electricity, we just get it from a more responsible source. Efficiency measures cut use, boosting the bottom line. The fastest way to a businessman’s heart is through their wallet, and energy saving measures have the added bonus of requiring very little in the way of expensive extra equipment.

Renewable energy can be inefficient even though it's clean, which is bad for the books 
The numbers are striking: According to a study by US consulting firm McKinsey & Co. in 2009, Wind power cost about $38 per ton of CO2 saved; solar cost about $30. But replacing incandescent lights in a home with light-emitting diodes saved about $159 per ton of CO2, and using energy-efficient appliances saved about $108 per ton. So why is all the talk about infrastructure when efficiency is so important? Unfortunately, it’s mostly about perception. The Government is keen to invest in exciting, job creating infrastructure projects like wind farms, and the general public find efficiency too complicated or too fiddly to manage. The benefits of fitting a solar panel are more obvious than the benefits of getting higher-quality insulation.

Large infrastructure projects like Swansea Tidal Lagoon
are often preferred by politicians
However, hope is on the horizon, and it’s been gaining traction at an astonishing rate: the Energy Management System Standard, ISO 50001 has seen take-up in many European countries double, led by Germany and the UK, where it has increased by nearly four times between 2014 and 2015. So what makes it different? Primarily, an energy management system standard like ISO 50001 takes the uncertainty out of the process, and introduces a solid business case for energy efficiency.

ISO 50001 aims to put paid to that ‘fiddly’ stereotype that plagues energy efficiency, and make it the first choice technique for improving energy performance, including energy efficiency, use and consumption. This tackles one of the major weaknesses of efficiency as an energy policy against renewables, because it could often be difficult, uncertain and expensive to quantify the results – never a popular combination for businesses with an eye on their bottom line.

Instead, by using an energy management system approach, businesses can be confident in a systematic, quantifiable approach to improving energy performance.

It can also help to tackle one or more of many problems facing businesses in the coming years, whether that’s security of supply, rising bills, green credibility and compliance with Government targets. All this is put in place with constantly reviewed targets and measurable outcomes, including solutions to problems that are encountered, which remove the guesswork from the process.

It’s also very flexible – an energy management system requires a customised approach in order to be effective, and this means it is individually tailored to suit the behaviour and needs of a business. CIBSE Certification operate a register of individuals that they have assessed as competent to help organisations implement an energy management system and several of the ESOS Lead Assessors on their ESOS register have declared energy management systems as one of the areas of expertise.

Kingspan implemented ISO 50001 as part of their plan to become net zero
carbon by the year 2020
CIBSE Certification themselves are UKAS accredited to certify the conformity of energy management systems against the International Standard, ISO 50001.

Wasted energy costs UK businesses upwards of £12bn a year, but by enabling facilities managers to make a solid and attractive business case for energy efficiency, energy management systems have opened up a whole new door to lower energy usage. With uptake of ISO 50001 expected to continue to grow rapidly, expect to see the ‘less is more’ approach gain significant traction as the results start to speak for themselves.  

Friday, 21 October 2016

A meeting of minds

In this week's #Build2Perform blog, we're getting a bonus word from CIBSE President John Field. As well as his regular Presidential blog, he's written for us about his thoughts ahead of the 3rd Building Performance Conference and Exhibition on 17th and 18th November - how it's relevant, how it ties into the future of building services, and why it's exciting!

As CIBSE President one of the biggest and most exciting honours that we get in the job is to preside over a CIBSE Conference. Now in its third year, the Conference is an opportunity to mingle with and hear from some of the biggest names in our industry and grapple with the big issues of the next few years. This year I’m also chairing the second day, in which we’ll be looking at some of the major organisational challenges within the industry such as collaboration and new technology.

The most interesting thing about the Conference is that, while it obviously has a big industry focus, we’re also directly engaging with some of the most significant challenges that the whole world faces over the next hundred years. Climate change, overpopulation, energy security, health and quality of life are all well within our remit, and it’s at events like this that you can truly see how important a position building services engineers occupy in society. We make the modern world work, and this is where we look at how to make it better.

The Conference is a chance to mingle with the industry's best and brightest
Our key theme this year is ‘Inspiration’, which is hard to pin down but crucial to the future of the way we work. Given all I’ve said about engineers’ place in the world, we still don’t occupy as central a place as we ought to in positions of power – contributing to planning and policy making in the many areas to which we contribute. Unlike lawyers and bankers, engineers don’t have much representation in the UK Government. Our voices often go unheard and our advice unheeded, and we need to change that. We need to fight for influence and be prepared to challenge other engineers, other professions, politicians and the media in order to make sure sustainable and sensible policies in the built environment are top of the agenda.

With that in mind, we’ll be looking into both the past and the future on our first day. Celebrating anniversaries at their own companies and in the 40th year since the creation of CIBSE in its current form, Patrick Bellew of Atelier Ten and Max Fordham will be looking back at how the traditional role of the building services engineer has changed in the last 50 years. Then we’ll be looking forwards – why have warnings about building performance been ignored by Governments past, what can we do to change that, and what is coming up in the legislation pipeline that will affect our industry in future?

Indoor air quality is one of the big topics at the Conference,
as well as the subject of a #Build2Perform podcast!
We’re also getting to the bottom of a couple of burning issues in the industry. Air quality will be the subject of a number of talks, ranging from external air quality’s effect on the indoor environment to the ways in which indoor air quality can be improved in homes and schools. We’ll also be re-visiting the theme of collaboration from last year’s Conference, looking at what we’ve learned since then and examining the role that individual sectors have to play in the industry as a whole – from the supply chain to facilities managers.

As well as looking at the nuts and bolts of building performance, the Conference is a great chance to debate the big ideas as well. Talking about grander themes and longer-term ambitions is a great way to focus our minds on the potential of our industry, and the differences we can make to the world. We’ll be taking a look at the perfect world: What society would look like if all buildings achieved their best engineering outcomes. We’ll be looking at the imperfect world: What are the true health impacts of air pollution? And we’ll be looking at a better world: How can we ‘turn old into gold’ and make the most of the UK’s current building stock through retrofit.

It is this combination of the practical and the aspirational that makes the Conference so exciting, and the interaction of the two is at the heart of what is going to drive our industry forwards. We know that our industry represents some of the most knowledgeable technical experts in the world, and that we can do amazing things when we bring this knowledge to bear. We aim to create an environment where we can marry the two, and use our skill to make our vision happen. With a gallery of top experts here to speak, as well as over 500 people from across the industry, the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre is going to be an inspiring place for those two days in November, and we hope to see you there!  

The view from the 2015 Conference in Westminster
The CIBSE Building Performance Conference and Exhibition will be held on 17th and 18th November at the Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre in Westminster. For more info see the CIBSE Conference website.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Industrial action

At the upcoming CIBSE Building Performance Conference and Exhibition, we're going to be focussing heavily on the future of the industry - particularly the ways that new technology can be brought to bear on performance in the built environment; to find easier, smarter and cheaper ways to make buildings perform to their potential in a variety of different ways.

This week, we're speaking to two industry experts: Mat Colmer, Built Environment Specialist at the Digital Catapult Centre, and Nick Winser CBE, Chairman of the Energy Systems Catapult, who are giving is their views on technology in the built environment: What's hot, what's not and where the biggest changes are going to come.

What are the innovations in technology that will make the biggest impact to the performance of buildings in the next 15 years?

N W: I’m not sure there’s going to be a stand-out technology innovation, and fifteen years is actually not that long to make a big impact. A new home energy gateway that learns about the thermal performance of our buildings and the requirements of the occupants could provide a platform for all sorts of innovative energy services, with the potential to start a transformation in consumer and market engagement.

M C: Wireless sensor networks and IoT will have a big impact in the near term. Having reliable hyper-local networks that are off-the-shelf and interoperable will bring down the costs of monitoring our buildings, particularly monitoring the efficiency of services, and allow for products that encourage user feedback. This will allow us to gather far more information on what happens with buildings in-use.

Smart sensors relying on user feedback could be a common
low-cost feature in the future
What are the innovations in buildings that will make the biggest environmental impact in the next 15 years?

M C: Advances in curtailing energy use through intelligent metering and management, demand response and the wider use of DC power transmission will have a significant impact. Increased use of DC power additionally makes the prospect of decentralised power generation more attractive and can increase energy security.

N W: Energy efficiency itself isn’t a great driver of consumer action – for most people, spending money just to save kilowatt hours is not that attractive, and it’s unlikely to compete with other household demands. So whilst we must improve the effectiveness of efficiency measures, and reduce the cost, this needs to be coupled with imaginative new business models that refurbish living spaces, provide greater comfort, and as part of this deliver the required efficiency improvements.

Energy efficiency measures must be combined with other measures, such as
refurbishment, to maximise its effectiveness
If you could only recommend one change in process or method to improve building performance, what would it be?

N W: I think there’s a real need for focus, not just on the requirements of individual buildings, but for whole areas of our cities, towns and communities. Someone, and maybe it’s the local authority, should have the responsibility and design tools to develop local energy strategies that take account of house types, geography, supply networks and the availability of energy resources like waste heat. Growing consensus like this will be a massively important step to help individual occupants make the right future-proof decisions and find suppliers to deliver them.

M C: Make time to learn from the experience of others. Too often the same mistakes are made purely because time and budget constraints discourage creativity and encourage the familiar.

Waterman's Everyman Theatre in Liverpool won the Building Performance
Award for the community impact of their design
What is the most exciting potential collaboration opportunity in building services over the next 15 years?

M C: Advances in virtual reality and augmented reality technology will enable visual and interactive collaboration across sectors. Many problems in construction projects originate from poor communication. VR and AR technology allows partners to use shared spaces to explain and revise designs. Consequently misunderstandings and errors are less likely to occur.

N W: I think there’s a great opportunity for energy to be much more than a utility purchase. I’m sure we will see retail players who have trusted brands, using their reputations to develop new products that include home refurbishment with energy efficiency built in, and maybe other organisations that can bring a ‘lean’ process mindset to help advance the retrofitting of the nation’s buildings.