Friday, 21 April 2017

The next step

Fresh from its win at the H&V News Awards in the Best BIM Innovation award, CIBSE digital engineering consultant Carl Collins explains what BIMHawk is, and where it fits into the BIM landscape.

In Level 2 BIM products are described by 3-D geometry and by their accompanying technical information. The output from separate modelling systems, eg. architectural, building services, structural engineering are combined in a single common data environment to create a digital 3-D representation of the building and its systems. Using this model software can then enable the coordination of the mechanical and electrical services, for example, with the other building components such as the structure.

The same common data set, will allow an operative to select an object, such as a chiller, and interrogate its properties, such as when replacement parts are needed under planned maintenance. When collections of objects are joined to create a system, all of the objects in a system can inherit and share attributes, so potentially this would provide the planned maintenance schedule for a particular system, such as a chilled water system, for example, based on the collection of its components’ needs. It is the richness of the data that will determine the potential effectiveness of BIM as a maintenance tool.



Until now, very few building services product manufacturers have produced BIM models that incorporate data. Or, where data is available, it is often produced in response to a consultant’s questions on a bespoke basis and not in a standard format. Now that is about to change with the CIBSE and NGBailey launch of the BIMHawk website.

BIMHawk is a free online toolkit and suite of software programmes developed specifically to speed up the development, dissemination and adoption of standardised product data. CIBSE recognised the need for standardised product data back in 2011, when it was apparent that manufacturers were working in isolation to create their own, bespoke product libraries, often in response to demands from customers for data for use in a BIM model.

A lack of consistency between manufacturers'
data has held BIM back
BIM is supposed to make the construction and maintenance process simpler, faster and cheaper. However, CIBSE recognised that many of these bespoke product libraries suffered from flaws of limited compatibility and interoperability between BIM modelling platforms. And without an agreed industry product standard there would be no consistency in manufacturers’ data, which meant that many of the potential benefits of BIM would fail to materialise.

CIBSE set out to establish a set of common parameters for different building services products through its creation of Product Data Templates. A PDT is a collection of parameters that describe a particular product, or product type. Only parameters useful to a designer, contractor or maintainer are included on a CIBSE PDT. To ascertain which parameters should be included on a particular PDT the Institution worked with trade associations, competing manufacturers, designers and facilities managers.

To date, PDTs produced by CIBSE include those for cooling coils, fan convector units and cable tray systems. For the full, up-to-date list go to www.bimhawk.co.uk. To allow manufacturers to create, complete and upload PDTs online CIBSE teamed up with Paul Marsland, design and BIM development manager of NG Bailey. The BIMHawk website is the outcome of this partnership. The website also allows PDTs to be integrated into BIM authoring systems.

One particularly useful feature of BIMHawk for product manufacturers is that for every parameter added, BIMHawk will check for that parameter in the BuildingSMART Data Dictionary to see if the parameter name already exists. BuildingSMART is an international organisation set up to enable BIM models to be exchanged from one platform to another through the use of a platform neutral language called Industry Foundation Classes. To do this each individual object parameter must be created with a common globally unique identifier, or GUID. If a parameter with the same name has been defined previously, BIMHawk will extract its GUID. If not, BIMHawk will generate its own definition and associated GUID.

When a manufacturer populates a PDT with product specific data to digitally define a particular product it is called a Product Data Sheet (PDS). Manufacturers can upload their product data sheets to BIMHawk. This will enable consultants, contractors and commissioning engineers to access standardised data and to compare products from a variety of manufacturers on a like-for-like basis to make specification quicker and easier. In effect, BIMHawk becomes a catalogue of catalogues.

BIMHawk will soon contain data useful to other sectors, such as water
BIMHawk is not just for building services engineers, it is designed to be of use to any construction discipline. To that end CIBSE are working with the Landscape Institute, BIM4Water, BIM4FitOut and others to create a much larger product database. Currently the PDTs outside of the CIBSE remit are not yet on BIMHawk, but they will be soon.

Alongside the website, CIBSE and Marsland have developed a Revit plug-in to allow BIM models to acquire product data in a structured format from a PDT. The plug-in removes the need for manufacturers to create new product models from scratch.What’s more: the next iteration of the Revit plug-in will bring the values from the PDS into the BIM model. This will allow designers to look through the data sheets of different manufacturers to see which products are the best fit for a particular design concept and then import the data on the size and performance characteristics of that product.

With the launch of BIMHawk, CIBSE will help to speed up the development, dissemination and adoption of standardised product data. This will be a massive step forward in enabling collaborative working and the exchange of data and information throughout a project’s lifecycle in a consistent manner, something that until now has been missing.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Template for success

BIM is an area of constant innovation, but without the work of hundreds of volunteers this pace of change wouldn't be possible. Iain Paterson, Business Development Manager at UK fume cupboard manufacturer Safelab Systems Ltd. gives a manufacturer’s account of creating the all-important Product Data Template (PDT) for a product category.

Since they continuously expel conditioned air from a building, fume cupboards are an extremely influential component of the building services engineering remit for many educational and research   buildings. In a typical new university STEM building, where there might be from 30 to 130 fume cupboards, a complex interplay of face velocity, air flow rate, make-up air requirements and discharge velocities will have an impact on the design of HVAC systems and the required duct diameters and fan specifications.  The design will have a significant impact on the awarding of
BREEAM credits.

Modelling the effects of various fume cupboard configurations on building
services specifications requires product data to be in a BIM environment

In order for consulting engineers to be able to quickly model the effects on building performance of changing parameters such as face velocity or sash height, these parameters need to reside in a BIM environment, and consistently so; the federated BIM model that is crucial to compliance with Level 2 BIM relies on data being stored and exported in a consistent format.
As is the case with many other companies, our product data is set out in technical data sheets and operating manuals.  In the BIM world we fully recognise this data must be readily available in a digital format for uploading into software such as Revit, for example.

Discussions about how to maximise the usefulness of our BIM models
for consulting engineers led to our involvment in the PDT project
But where to start?  Discussions about BIM models with Rich Cole at SES Engineering led us to approach CIBSE to instigate the creation of a new PDT.  A PDT is a document in a specific format containing the parameters required to describe a product for the purposes of BIM.  The PDT needs to cover everything from the key product dimensions needed by architects, to performance data required for consulting engineers' calculations, and the maintenance schedules needed by facilities managers following project handover.


Helpful discussions with Carl Collins, CIBSE digital engineering consultant, provided us with the official sanction to generate the official PDT for our product category.

So what’s involved? For all the sophistication of the software surrounding BIM, it must be emphasised to any manufacturer considering creating one that a PDT is, in essence, simply an Excel spreadsheet, and a standard Excel template which forms the basis of all new PDTs is available from CIBSE.  Whilst the PDT’s format is determined by CIBSE, it is for us as the PDT originator to propose which product data to include and exclude.

The level of detail is key.  Just as in a well-designed ‘lean’ Revit model to which the product data will be attached, a PDT’s level of detail should be just sufficient for purpose.   As a manufacturer we hold a profusion of product data that would never be used in a BIM environment. At this point we found discussions of our initial thoughts with Buro Happold were invaluable. As a user of the data they were able to advise which parameters were critically important and in which units of measurement would be preferred.

A well-designed BIM model should have just enough information to be useful
Eventually we had refined, buffed and polished our draft PDT to the point where we felt it was ready for the peer review stage, in which our trade association, GAMBICA, is now circulating our draft PDT amongst its members. The PDT which emerges will be put out to public consultation, before ultimately being signed off by a chartered engineer under the auspices of CIBSE.

As the originators of the PDT, we will always be consulted by CIBSE should any changes to it be proposed.

We are proud Safelab is playing a role in the CIBSE PDT project, whose outcome will help significantly in enabling the full potential of BIM to be realised, and look forward to the next step.
For any manufacturer thinking of generating a PDT, please get in touch at www.safelab.co.uk – we would be more than happy to share any knowledge and experience of the process. You will be placing yourself in the enlightened vanguard of your industry!

Acknowledgements
We have been helped on our PDT journey by the generous input of Jose Fandos at Buro Happold,
Rich Cole at SES Engineering Services, Eugene Sayers at Sheppard Robson, Tim Collins at GAMBICA and Carl Collins at CIBSE.

Friday, 31 March 2017

Performance by design




CIBSE’s Home Counties North West (HCNW) Region hosted an event in February, exploring the president’s theme: why building performance often fails to satisfy users.  Stuart Huggins, Head of Maintenance - South at Fresh Student Living, was at the talk and provides his view of the debate. 


The discussion focused on: collaboration: integration of user requirements into design; the role of FM; how new technology can add value to post-occupancy evaluation (POE); and how this could feed back to designers.

Panel chair Chris Jones discussed the uncertainty that Brexit has brought about for legislation and building compliance. Speakers Kevin Barrett, David Stevens, Mike Darby and Chris Jones focused on planning, briefing and conception.

Accelerating cost-fixity, differing agendas, failures to identify user requirements, rapid value engineering, contractual divisions, changes and compressed programmes were all identified as contributors to poor integration, with rushed commissioning resulting in the need for specialists to investigate complaints long after occupation.

The panel showed how over-complexity, incomplete design and coordination might also contribute to poor building performance. Taking a user and operational FM perspective, Barrett and Stevens illustrated unnecessarily complex solutions that cost more but failed to grasp very simple user needs.

Jones suggested that Building Regulations approval could become ‘provisional’ on completion, with final regulatory approval being granted only after a POE, DEC and EPC analysis.

Darby explained how POE analysis was gradually building a database of performance profiles. Significant operating cost reductions were materialising long after commissioning. But Demand Logic’s database was also revealing how effective and responsive different kinds of HVAC design solutions were in practice, and in real time.

To read Stuart Huggins insightful report visit the HCNW website or link directly to his report.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Off the boil?

As part of our series on the future of heating in the UK we sat down with Phil Jones, Chair of the CIBSE CHP/District Heating Group, to discuss his thoughts on the future of the commerical boiler sector in the UK. Will it lose ground to renewables, or could there be a joint solution?

What are the biggest challenges facing the commercial boiler sector and how can they be overcome?

Firstly, competition from other low carbon heat generators is slowly eating into the commercial boiler sector’s share of the market. The Government has recognized low-carbon heating solutions in its 5th Carbon Budget as a key way of tackling the UK’s carbon footprint, and within the industry initiatives like CIBSE’s Codes of Practice on Heat Networks are making them an attractive alternative financially.

They’re also suffering from lower heat demands in buildings. Firstly, new buildings are subject to tighter energy regulations, meaning that they have to be built to be more efficient and use smaller boilers. But that problem also extends to existing buildings, which are increasingly being retrofitted with energy efficiency measures such as more sophisticated control systems and better insulation, which reduce the demands on the boiler. Secondly, we have seen a move to lower temperature heating systems which are more efficient. This firstly means that less heat is needed, and therefore a lower boiler output, but it also plays straight into the hands of low carbon alternatives that work better at lower temperatures.

Older buildings retrofitted with better insulation are driving down boiler size
Climate change has a part to play in this too – we’re simply having more warm weather and we’re using our heating systems less. Combined with buildings which have lower heat demands, we are using fewer, smaller boilers – a trend which looks to continue.

Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future of the commercial boiler sector in the UK and why?

I’m reasonably optimistic in the short term, because the changes we’re seeing are by no means across the whole industry, nor will they happen overnight. Investors and clients are still slightly nervous about low carbon technology because it doesn’t have a very long pedigree in the UK, and the economic issues of the last ten years mean that up-front cost is still a very important factor alongside whole-life cost.

However, as more low-carbon solutions are installed and the market gets stronger I think we’re going to see technology like heat pumps and solar panels grow their market share relative to boilers. Particularly if the Government is to meet its target of a 57% carbon emissions reduction relative to 1990 levels, and continues to incentivise low-carbon alternatives.

What will be the ‘next big thing’ in industrial / commercial heating in terms of technology and or ‘trends’?

Surface Water Source Heat Pumps make use of Britain's often
untapped network of urban waterways
I think heat pumps, particularly Surface Water Source Heat Pumps, are the next big thing in heating because they’re so versatile. They can both heat and cool, at the same time, and they’re created with the kind of whole-life costing approach that is seen as best practice when designing new buildings, they require fewer pieces of additional equipment to run like flues and chimneys and they’re very economical with regards to running cost and maintenance.

They also take advantage of water, a natural resource Britain has in great amounts, from rivers and canals to lakes and the sea. Water naturally sits at a higher temperature than the air or the ground, and in Britain there is a lot of it even in urban areas where demand is greatest.


CIBSE has just released its second Code of Practice, on Surface Water Source Heat Pumps (SWSHPs), which is intended to maximise the amount of information available to engineers on the technology and to increase the standard of installation, making it more attractive to clients.

How do you see the future shaping up for commercial boilers and how will this affect contractors and manufacturers?

The low-carbon revolution is a reality and it isn’t going to go away, so designers and contractors will have to get more understanding and training around how to install low-carbon technology and integrate it into existing buildings and their systems. Facilities Managers are going to be at the forefront of this, because they will be overseeing the transition in the longer term.

One of the primary benefits of low-carbon technology is that it delivers sustainability and savings across the whole life of the building, but this can only be achieved if it is properly specified and installed in the first place, and then properly managed as part of a wider energy strategy. FMs will have to adjust their strategies accordingly and ensure that they have the knowledge to maintain these systems too.

Is there a knowledge gap in the marketplace when it comes to the integration and operation of low and zero technologies with commercial boilers? If so, how can it be addressed?

One of the biggest factors holding low-carbon technology back in the past has been a lack of information and a lack of training. It’s a vicious cycle, where a lack of real-world examples means there is less demand, which leads to less training and knowledge, which means fewer low-carbon solutions installed.

District Heating requires more working examples in use to provide useful data
The industry has been addressing this by creating standards backed by training to show how a proper low-carbon system should be installed and run, and what results a client can expect from a successful example. This works to dispel the concern caused by lack of information, and Codes of Practice such as CIBSE’s own on Heat Networks and SWSHPs work alongside training to increase the standard of work across the industry.

Another point that needs to be addressed ties into the ‘whole life’ element again, which includes the specification stage. A workable energy strategy depends on a heating system that is fit for purpose and designed to fit the needs of the building and the environment. By training specifiers to take this into account, we can greatly increase the technology’s effectiveness.

Is there any future in hybrid systems comprising renewable (say, solar or biomass) linked to conventional condensing boiler technology?

The future may lie in hybrid systems designed as a
backup to renewable technology
Boiler based systems are likely to be the way forward for some time, as low-carbon solutions remain a relatively small part of the market and aren’t necessarily on everybody’s radar. But increasingly, we will see mixed/hybrid systems as building operators are likely to want to install boilers as a back-up to a low-carbon technology, and also to supplement it to ensure that their needs are fully covered. As confidence in these systems increases and they increase their market share, we will probably see an increase in the number of buildings that solely use renewable technology instead of conventional boilers.

Where do you see the commercial boiler sector in five years from now?

In five years’ time I can see the commercial boiler sector being smaller, but not dramatically so. It may well have lost some ground to renewables, but it will still be the first choice for clients and building owners.

However, in 20 years’ time I think that we will see a dramatic difference: use of commercial boilers will be down considerably, replaced in the market by low-carbon alternatives.


Friday, 24 February 2017

From strength to strength

After the University of Bradford’s unprecedented second win of the top prize at the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) Building Performance Awards, CIBSE’s Technical Director Dr Hywel Davies explains what makes the University’s work stand out

The University adopted a 'fabric-first' approach, renovating
outdated and inefficient elements
The University of Bradford’s Department of Estates and Facilities is no stranger to the Building Performance Awards – they won two awards in 2012, including the overall Champion’s Award, for the impressive work they had carried out under their imaginative ‘Ecoversity’ programme. That they are back again in 2017 with another two wins under their belt proves the effectiveness of the strategy they created and their long term commitment to buildings that perform to meet the needs of the University.

In common with many universities in the UK, the Bradford has a large and varied building portfolio, which often includes examples that are a challenge for FMs due to their age or function. In Bradford’s case this is a bigger problem, because most of their estate’s 28 buildings were constructed in the 60s and 70s, with the attendant problems of poor thermal performance, asbestos, large single-glazed areas and blown air heating.

Unfazed by considerable hurdles, the Estates and Facilities team implemented their ‘Ecoversity’ approach, which is designed to tackle the issues in both the building fabric and the culture of the University that were holding it back. This involved considerable physical improvements. They over-clad a thirteen-storey 33,940 sq m tower and a three-storey 8,500 sq m workshop block dating from the sixties; implemented LED lighting and controls installations and replaced transformers and pumps. They also introduced engineering and control improvements to the district heating network; expanded the BEMS, and reviewed and optimised compressed air use.

As well as these one off measures, the team also conduct rolling energy and water audits, regularly review their air conditioning systems and consult with users over operating times, and have installed a second Combined Heat and Power (CHP) system as well as optimising the existing plant.

Bradford were commended for including staff and students in their
drive to develop the University sustainably
On top of this, the Estates and Facilities team introduced changes to the culture around sustainability within the University. This involved expanding Ecoversity beyond the running of Estates and Facilities and into the formal and informal learning experience of all the University’s students. 

Staff and students are involved in their initiatives, and a strong sense of community is fostered around the idea of sustainable development of the University site, in order to help occupants and users improve behaviours. To oversee this, two new posts – mechanical and electrical building services technicians – were created in 2014. One of their core roles is to identify anomalous energy use and wastage, and apply on-site solutions.

The Bradford team previously won the top prize in 2012, the called the
Carbon Champion Award
The results speak for themselves: City Campus in Bradford is the only place in the world where a single estate has three ‘BREEAM Outstanding’ buildings and a Passivhaus building within 100 metres of each other with the highest ever BREEAM Outstanding score for a university for the Bright Building. It has cut its carbon footprint by a stunning 35% over the last decade and dramatically reduced utility costs by 27% in a market that has risen by 90%, saving £8 million compared to ‘business as usual’. 

Overall its wide ranging initiative has been a great success for the University and is an example for all in the sector that buildings that perform effectively for the occupants save money, and not just energy.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Smart moves

Towards the end of 2016, the Electrical Contractors’ Association (ECA) partnered with CIBSE and Scottish electrical trade body SELECT to produce a survey that assessed how much built environment professionals know about 'smart' technology. With the results in Steve Martin, ECA Head of Specialist Groups, goes over what we've learned

Just 20 per cent of the UK’s commercial buildings are considered to be ‘smart’ at present. It’s likely that as this vast market grows, many building clients, such as architects, consultants and facilities managers, may not be ready for this technological revolution.

With this in mind, the ECA, CIBSE and SELECT launched a ‘connected technology’ survey for clients last year, to help understand the current state of play.

Overall, there were 229 responses to the survey over a three-week period in November and December, including responses from consultants, engineers, end clients and facilities managers.

The survey show the UK lagging in knowledge of newer smart technology
Significantly, four in 10 clients said they were ‘not familiar’ with the term the ‘Internet of Things’, which has become widely used in the industry in recent years. This finding shows that there is much more to be done in terms of raising awareness of the technology and opportunities that exist to clients.

Broadly speaking, respondents said that buildings across a range of sectors, including residential, commercial, retail, and industrial, had at present adopted ‘a limited amount’ or ‘very little’ connected technology. Significantly, looking forward five years from now, over half of clients said that ‘a significant or overwhelming majority’ of buildings in the above sectors would have connected technology installed, highlighting the major opportunity that exists in the market right now.

In terms of the technologies themselves, ‘CCTV and security’ was highlighted as the technology most likely to be installed in buildings in five years’ time (78 per cent of respondents). Heating (74 per cent), fire systems (69 per cent) and ‘Building Energy Management Systems’ (67 per cent) also featured prominently on the list.

The main reason why clients said that they would be willing to install connected technology at present is to ‘improve energy efficiency and reduce energy bills’ (58 per cent said it was their top priority). However, with ‘CCTV and security’ the technology most likely to be installed over the next five years, there now appears to be a shift in attitudes towards prioritising safety and security.

In terms of the main barriers to installing connected technology in buildings, clients identified ‘the cost of installing it’ (82 per cent) as the main one, with ‘lack of clear advice / knowledge (55 per cent), and cyber security (49 per cent) also considered major factors.

Perhaps tellingly, almost four in 10 clients (39 per cent) said that they didn’t take any steps to protect smart installations against cyber threats. This is an area clients urgently need to address, especially when you consider the inherent risks in the modern day of not securing your business from hackers, and the anticipated growth in smart installations over the next five years.

Given recent technological advances, such as lighting controls and smart meters, there is actually a growing need for clients to take a proactive role in the design of their buildings and systems. This will allow them to have access to the data, and have the control they need, with an infrastructure to support it. Effectively, if clients have a comprehensive smart building solution designed and installed, this will allow for enhanced building monitoring and maintenance.

Alongside industry partners, including CIBSE and SELECT, the ECA will now be looking to establish how installers, engineers and clients can work together more effectively on developing the connected buildings of the present and future.



Friday, 10 February 2017

Top of the class

On the 7th of February, the CIBSE Building Performance Awards celebrated it's tenth anniversary at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London and announced it's 2017 winners in front of over 760 guests. PR and Communications Executive Matt Snowden presents a selection of the best pictures from the night

The annual Building Performance Awards rewards the projects, teams, products and organisations that truly excel and provide exceptional building performance in an industry focused on delivering value to clients. Focusing on real, measured performance rather than promises or plans, the Awards are a true mark of excellence in building and demonstrate a real commitment to improving well-being and sustainability in our industry.

Below is a selection of images from the night, and the winning projects behind the awards.


(Note: The slideshow is best viewed in full screen mode. To access full screen mode, click the arrows in the bottom right-hand corner. To view captions, click 'show info' in the top right-hand corner)

For more information on the 2017 winners please visit www.cibse.org/bpa