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

Friday, 3 February 2017

Technically speaking

The CIBSE Technical Symposium is always a tinderbox for the rest of the year, sparking discussion, debate and ideas that will set the agenda for the next twelve months and beyond. To get us in the mood, Technical Symposium Chair Prof. Tim Dwyer is here to give us a sneak preview of some of the highlights.

It’s a long and difficult process to go from the bare bones of an idea to a fully-fledged academic paper on a subject in building services, but it’s also where some of the biggest new ideas in the industry are born. After all of the hard work, this period is perhaps the most exciting: Where the work of the dedicated authors emerges in its final form at the CIBSE ASHRAE Technical Symposium.

The practitioners, researchers and academics have devoted many hours to their posters, case studies, technical notes and papers. Now the scientific committee, of over 70 willing and knowledgeable volunteers, is poring over the submissions, providing the essential appraisal and feedback to ensure that that the integrity of the Technical Symposium is upheld. The final programme of over 50 presentations is developed from the set of reviewed papers and will not be finalised for a few weeks, but to provide an impression of the shape, and diversity, of this year's Symposium here are some previews of what to expect.

All styles of project are welcome, from published academic research to
case studies and slideshow presentations
Melody Wang of Affiliated Engineers California, USA will examine the challenges of adapting systems design to meet the changing role of buildings. By considering the renovation of a university campus originally built in the 1950s and how the occupants requirements for 21st century thermal comfort and transformed expectations for the building use Melody will examine how can this can succeed with constraints of budget, space, building/system information whilst preserving the building's heritage. This case study will look at multiple campus renovation projects at the University of Florida that produced more resilient buildings for the future.

Tom Lawrence of the University of Georgia Atlanta, USA and ASHRAE distinguished lecturer, will consider how the advent of a smart grid opens the potential for smart buildings to participate in load management and demand response programs in collaboration with the electrical utility or grid system operator. He will illustrate how the interaction of smart buildings with a smart grid can affect both the occupants’ thermal comfort as well as the building’s energy consumption (and the corresponding environmental impacts). His paper includes a discussion of how 'model predictive based controllers' at the building level could serve as powerful tools to optimise the operation of smart buildings and improve human comfort perceptions while helping to better integrate renewable energy systems with increased grid stability.

Tom Lawrence will present on demand response programmes in his Symposium talk

Sophia Flucker of UK based Operational Intelligence Ltd  Will examine how the environmental impact of data centres can be minimised but looking beyond energy efficiency. By developing a lifecycle approach Sophia will explain that there are two other significant areas of impact - the embodied impact of materials and the grid power source. By focussing purely on energy efficiency, operators may cause a burden shift by taking action to reduce energy consumption whilst increasing the embodied impact and although there is limited data available research has identified which factors significantly impact a facility’s environmental impact. She promotes that this should be used not only in the design process but throughout the data centre lifecycle.

Abdullahi Ahmed of Coventry University UK will show how a EU funded project focussing on the refurbishment of existing public buildings aims to bring together design and decision making tools and innovative building fabric to achieve energy reduction in the region of 50%. Using Coventry University estates as a Living Lab case study and by selecting and testing advanced available technologies, as well as novel techniques developed in the EU project, he will explore the challenges and develop a methodology to successfully analyse, select and install the different technologies to overcome the challenges faced during the coordination of retrofitting activities.

Abdullahi Ahmed will focus on the potential of a
building's fabric to reduce its energy usage
Kevin Kelly of Dublin Institute of Technology Ireland will uncover a new interior lighting design methodology. Compared to the traditional methods that commonly consider the average illuminance on a working plane the proposed new lighting design system is designed for appearance rather than visual performance. It has been suggested that this could offer the prospect of a quantum leap in lighting quality and Kevin will explain that the new metric of 'mean room surface exitance' will provide a route to discover whether this is truly a better way of designing lighting. He will candidly explore some of the challenges remaining before these new methods can be fully adopted.

The registration fees for the two day event have been kept low to encourage the widest participation. Delegates will receive access to all papers, access to all sessions across two days, lunches, refreshments, the awards cocktail reception, and the evening ’networking’ buffet dinner on the evening of the first day. It's all hosted at Loughborough University - but be sure to book now to avoid disappointment!


Tickets to the 2017 CIBSE ASHRAE Technical Symposium start from £85+VAT, to find out more and book your place visit www.cibse.org/technical-symposium-2017

Friday, 27 January 2017

Inspired thinking

In this month's #Build2Perform podcast, CIBSE PR and Communications Executive Matt Snowden spoke to Ant Wilson, Director of Building Engineering at AECOM, about his career, inspirations, and his opinions on some pressing issues in building services.

Opening up the paper to check the New Year Honours list isn't something that the majority of us will ever have to concern ourselves with, but it recently became a reality for AECOM Director of Building and CIBSE veteran Ant Wilson MBE. Ant will be familiar to many at the Institution, being part of CIBSE life for most of the last 40 years and lending his expertise to countless committees, groups, societies and technical projects.

A silver medal winner and Fellow of the institution, rarely has the citation in an award for 'services to Engineering' been so apt, as Ant has lent his time to a huge variety of areas across the industry - from young engineers and BIM, to lighting and facades. I sat down with him on one of this many visits to Balham, to have a chat about his recent honour, and to get his views on his last 40 years in building services.


About Ant Wilson MBE FREng CEng FCIBSE FEI FSFE
Ant Wilson is a well-known and respected figure in the building services industry who has been involved in a wide range of CIBSE activities, including building modelling, façade engineering, lighting, carbon reduction and energy certification. He has been an advisor to government on building regulations for many years, and was awarded Fellowship of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2015.

His outstanding work in the wider industry has been reflected in his extensive work for CIBSE. As well as being a CIBSE Council member from 2003-2009, he also served on the CIBSE Carbon Task Force, was a founding member of the Society of Façade Engineering committee, is a Fellow of the Society of Light and Lighting and currently serves on the CIBSE Certification Advisory Group and on the CIBSE Knowledge Programme Sub Committee.

Other accolades include the ACE Engineering Ambassadors award and the Institute of Mechanical Engineers award for promotion of construction and building services. He has also served his local church in Dunstable for over thirty years.

Friday, 20 January 2017

CIBSE Year in Pictures

It's a new year and a new start, but let's not forget all that came before in 2016! PR and Communications Executive Matt Snowden presents a picture gallery of some of 2016's best moments from head office, the regions, the groups and societies and beyond!

It's been quite a year here at CIBSE, with enough launches, awards, events and milestones to fill a decade. CIBSE has a dedicated network of members, volunteers and staff all around the globe who are striving to spread the art and science of building services engineering, and to make the industry and the planet a better place as a whole. Below is a slideshow of snaps to show just some of the things you got up to over the last 12 months.


(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)