Friday, 11 August 2017

A business plan

British Land has won four CIBSE Building Performance Awards in the last five years, most recently for energy efficiency improvements to its property portfolio. With entries open for the 2018 AwardsSara Kassam, CIBSE’s Head of Sustainability Development, sets out to understand why energy efficiency is so important to the property company.

When British Land won the Client Energy Management category at the 2012 CIBSE Building Performance Awards the property company had achieved a 15% reduction in like-for-like landlord energy use across its office and retail properties and was targeting a 20% reduction in energy intensity per square metre across its entire portfolio.

Five years on and British Land won the Test of Timecategory at this year’s CIBSE Building Performance Awards for continued energy performance. It won this accolade for a 40% portfolio-wide reduction in carbon intensity (scope 1 and 2) relative to 2009 levels, a 38% reduction in landlord energy use and its 2020 target to cut energy intensity by 55% - all while increasing focus on the wellbeing and productivity of people in its buildings.

York House in London is part of the British land portfolio 
British Land’s impressive energy performance improvements are the result of its Energy Efficiency programme. Over the last four years, the programme has resulted in occupiers saving a total of £13 million, cut carbon emissions and helped position British Land’s portfolio to meet forthcoming climate regulations.

The programme came about in 2009 in response to emerging occupier interest in energy efficient spaces, anticipating future demand.  What’s exciting at the moment, having shown we can deliver on energy efficiency, is occupiers’ growing interest in other aspects of sustainability, particularly wellbeingsays Matthew Webster, justifying his job title as Head of Wellbeing and Futureproofing at British Land.

“The work we’ve done on smart management of energy has given us a unique understanding of how data can provide management insights and be used to improve the environment for the people in the building,” he says. “At a basic level this includes optimising lighting levels, air quality and temperatures for both efficiency and wellbeing; we’re now applying the same proactive approach we used on energy to enhance our buildings for wellbeing and productivity”.

The British Land team collect their Test of Time Award at the
2017 CIBSE Building Performance Awards
Eight years on and Webster says he’s still having discussions with potential occupiers about energy. “I’ve had lots of conversations before people move into a building about how it is going to perform from an energy perspective,” he says. However, energy efficiency is now “a hygiene factor” that occupiers simply expect rather than a differentiator:  “Our proactive approach to energy efficiency has contributed to the attractiveness of our buildings, helping attract occupiers and keep existing occupiers with us,” he says.

The increased focus on energy is also about British Land facing increased scrutiny from commercial investors with ethical and environmental requirements forming part of their investment criteria. “There is increasing scrutiny and requirements from investors to report on portfolio efficiency via things like carbon disclosure,” Webster explains.

So what has British Land done to reduce its landlord energy consumption by 38%? It is a combination of active energy management, transparency on energy consumption, up-skilling of building engineers and energy efficiency retrofits.

The digital strategy around energy management was an important part
of British Land's success

British Land uses Broadgate Estates to operate and manage its buildings. “It is the Broadgate Estates teams managing our buildings who’ve made the biggest difference by changing their culture so that every property manager and engineer prioritises energy efficiency and wellbeing in everything they do,” Webster explains.

The 55% target energy intensity reduction across the portfolio was selected as being a target that was “challenging” but at the same time realistic for property teams he says. “We will be able to get to it; since 2009, we’ve got a much better understanding of what can be achieved,” he says.

Interestingly, Webster says that saving energy is not simply a matter of return on investment. “There is lots that we can do that doesn’t need capital invested, once smart metering is installed it is about managing the building as efficiently as possible”.

Almost 90% of British Land’s entire portfolio is now covered by smart meters. “Our property teams have access to energy data in 15-30 minute slots so that they can see when plant is running when it shouldn’t be and take necessary action,” he says. “In the past systems would have turned on a chiller at 5am regardless of whether it is needed, now we manage what we’ve got in a more efficient way,” he adds. In addition, off-site specialists also monitor data for offices to identify additional energy efficiency opportunities.

British Land have access to up-to-the-minute energy data via smart meters
which cover 90%of their portfolio
Other free and low-cost interventions introduced by British Land include:
    Installing daylight sensors to reduce lighting levels in line with increased daylight
    Ensuring equipment and lighting are always turned off outside working hours
    Eliminating heating and cooling plant conflicts by ensuring there is a dead-band between when the heating turns off and the cooling kicks in
    Increasing the use of ‘free’ cooling during the day when outside temperatures are below internal temperatures and also using outside air at night to remove residual heat from offices.

To see how well it is performing against over developers, British Land benchmarks with the wider industry through initiatives such as the Better Buildings Partnership and, surprisingly, Australia. “We’re particularly interested in Australian buildings because they have NABERS [National Australian Built Environment Rating System] and compliant buildings seem to be performing better than the UK market in energy performance,” Webster says. In fact, over half of all Australian commercial office buildings are now covered by the scheme and, on average, have increased energy efficiency by 12%. Importantly from British Land’s perspective, the  Australian market is now rewarding investment in energy efficient design for buildings with a high NABERS rating by higher asset values and lower occupant vacancies.

British Land’s benchmarking initiative is not confined to existing buildings, it also sets out to benchmark its new buildings to make these as energy efficient as it can. For this exercise, British Land uses CIBSE Technical Memoranda 54 to set the performance targets for its new buildings. This guidance enables the design team to evaluate operational energy use more fully, and accurately, at the design stage “You do the modelling with the design team and then you use those benchmarks to give the designers an energy target to work towards,” explains Webster. Currently TM54 is being used on eight new buildings. “Once we’ve achieved 80% occupancy we’ll invite the design team back in for a conversation with the buildings operators for them to see how well the building is performing in operation”. Webster says that the meeting is not to criticise the designers but to give them the opportunity to learn what has worked well and what could have been improved upon in the design.

Buildings in Australia have seen dramatic improvements in energy consumption
after introducing the NABERS scheme
In its drive to continuously improve energy efficiency British Land has also started to trail on-site energy generation. At St Stephens shopping centre in Hull, for example, over 1100 photovoltaic panels were installed on the centre’s roof. These generate enough clean electricity to meet a third of the electricity demand in common areas cutting annual electricity bills by £30,000 and generating a return on investment of 14% over 25 years and saving 3000 tonnes of carbon.

Similarly, an air-source heat pump was installed at 350 Euston Road in 2014. This has cut gas use by 85% and achieved payback within a year. This has the additional benefit of saving occupiers £60,000 a year and has cut temperature-related complaints by 40%. The switch as also cut annual carbon dioxide emissions by 410 tonnes and reduced the need for boiler flues, which also helps to improve local air quality.

Looking to the future, British Land already has plans in place to meet its 55% energy intensity reduction target. Through the Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme audits across the portfolio, it has identified further initiatives that could deliver an additional £3.7m net savings and optimise environmental conditions. “This now forms a key part of our roadmap to achieving our reduction target,” Webster says.

To find out more about the CIBSE Building Performance Awards and how to enter for the 2018 competition (deadline: 15 September 2017) visit

Friday, 28 July 2017

Bright future

With record June temperatures and the launch of CIBSE's new TM59, the built environment is starting to get tough on overheating. Sara Kassam, Head of Sustainability Development at CIBSE, takes a look at a paper presented at this year’s CIBSE Technical Symposium set out to evaluate both the overheating risk and suggest appropriate mitigation strategies

Retrofitting homes and building new homes with high levels of fabric insulation, is a key tenet of the UK government’s carbon emissions reduction strategy. But, while a well insulated home may require very little heating in winter, without minimizing solar gains and without the implementation of sufficient ventilation strategies, in the summer, high levels of insulation can increase the likelihood of a home overheating. 

Research by the University of Sheffield, based on computer modelling, has shown that with increased levels of insulation overheating is a problem, one that is set to get worse under the impact of climate change. However, the research also shows that with a few simple mitigation strategies a well-insulated home will enable the occupants to benefit from enhanced winter comfort without the risk of overheating in summer.

Computer modelling can predict overheating based on a variety of factors
The findings were presented in the paper Evaluating Overheating Risk and Mitigation Strategies in Low Energy Houses in the UK: Two Sheffield Case Studies, at the recent CIBSE Technical Symposium. For the study the researchers selected two detached homes in the Sheffield area. One was a new-build home built to Passivhaus standards. The other was an existing home, which had been retrofitted to Zero Carbon standards. 

Evaluation of the likelihood of overheating in both homes was undertaken using Passive House Planning Package steady-state energy balance software based on the East Pennines climate dataset with altitude adjusted to reflect the actual location. Future climate datasets used for the analysis were developed by the University of Exeter for both the 2050s and 2080s, under the high emissions scenario, based on the UKCP09 climate projections. 

Overheating metrics were based on the PHPP maximum default temperature of 25℃, which must not be exceeded for more than 5% of the time to ensure good comfort levels. If the 25℃ threshold is exceeded for 10% or more of the time then, under PHPP additional summer heat protection will be necessary.

Results of the modelling for the retrofit house:
Pre-retrofit, in the current climate, no overheating is predicted. 
With the building retrofitted to Zero Carbon standards overheating occurs for 2% of the time
By the 2050s, the Zero Carbon standard building will overheat 8% of the time
And by the 2080s, overheating will occur 13% of the time

Results of the modelling for the new build house:
In current climate, PHPP predicts overheating will occur for up to 32% of days annually.
By the 2050s, that figure will have risen to 52% 
And by the 2080s, 57% of days will be above the overheating threshold 

The researchers suggest some appropriate mitigation strategies for the retrofit house: 

Modelling predicted the new build house would overheat on the majority
of days by the 2080s

Reducing wall insulation
The results suggest that overheating could be reduced by 2%, in both the 2050s and 2080s climate scenarios by reducing wall insulation from Passivhaus to Building Regulations standard. Reducing roof insulation levels made no improvement on overheating frequency in the 2050s and only a 1% improvement by the 2080s.

Opening windows for night-time ventilation to provide 1.5 air changes per hour suggested overheating frequencies could be within the 10% figure in the 2050s. However, by the 2080s the same night cooling strategy would lead to a 12% overheating frequency.

Internal and external shading will reduce the amount of direct summer solar gain, reducing overheating risks. In the retro-fit house, internal shading reduced overheating frequency massively to keep it within 10% for both the 2050s and the 2080s scenarios. External permanent shading was also modelled with similar results.

For the new build, external vertical blinds with horizontal slats were most effective. External blinds eliminated overheating in the current climate and reduced overheating frequency to 10% and 14% in the 2050s and the 2080s future climate scenarios.

Strategies from solar shading to natural ventilation can be used to mitigate the
risk of overheating in the future
Reducing transmitted solar energy
In the retrofit building the glazing g-values (the value of solar energy transmitted through the glass) was reduced from 0.62 to 0.3, reducing solar energy permeability from 62% to 30% produced a significant reduction in the overheating frequency so that in the 2050s overheating would occur 2% of the time, rising to 5% in the 2080s. In the new-build, the g-value was reduced to 0.25, which decreased overheating frequency to 3% in the current climate context. However, reducing g-values was less effective in the future climate scenarios and led to an increase of space heating demand.

Combined strategies
For the retrofit house, it was found that night-time ventilation combined with temporary internal shading and permanent external shading eliminated overheating risk entirely in the 2050s, while in the 2080s overheating only occurred for 2% of the time. For the new build house a combination of reducing glazing g-values and adding external blinds eliminated overheating in the current climate and reduced it to 3% in the 2050s climate context. However, in the 2080s, there will still be 12% overheating frequency.

The findings show that while low energy housing standards such as Passivhaus can lead to reduced space heating demands the modelling also showed that over time the changing climate would lead to a higher frequency of overheating occurrences. However, the modelling also showed that with appropriate overheating mitigation strategies overheating risks could be predominantly eliminated in current and future climate scenarios. A robust solar heating mitigation strategy for houses in Sheffield would be: internal or external shading, night-time ventilation and reduced glazing g-values.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Heat rises

In this month's #Build2Perform podcast, CIBSE PR and Communications Executive Matt Snowden spoke to CIBSE's Dr Anastasia Mylona about what's inside the newly launched TM59: Design methodology for the assessment of overheating risk in homes

New guidance published by the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) aims to address the causes of overheating in homes, as the UK enters a summer that could be the hottest since 1976.

Addressing what the industry had identified as a gap in its knowledge, CIBSE have created the new Technical Memorandum 59: Design methodology for the assessment of overheating risk in homes (TM59) in order to set a standard by which overheating can be assessed using a consistent methodology.

The new TM59, available now as a free download and officially launched at University College London on 28 June, has created a common approach that will see the whole industry consistently apply the same methodology. This approach may be crucial in the years ahead, with the MET Office reporting that the eight warmest years in the UK since 1910 have occurred in the last 14.

Further reading

TM59 on the CIBSE Knowledge Portal
The TM59 press release 

Friday, 7 July 2017

30 years and counting

Celebrations of CIBSE Australia and New Zealand's 30th birthday are in full swing this year, with a Presidential visit and a cocktail reception already under their belt. CIBSE ANZ Business Development Manager Sharon Pestonji takes a look at the highlights.

It’s been 30 years since the Australia and New Zealand region of CIBSE was inaugurated. The faces of the ANZ committee have changed, but the passion driving our region forward is still as relevant as ever. In times where the pulse of change beats fast, CIBSE continues to provide industry with the guidance and training for safe, comfortable and efficient buildings.

It is not prudent to forge forward without looking back to recognise your roots, CIBSE ANZ has published 30 Years and Counting, to mark the occasion. The 30th Anniversary publication is a collection of monumental projects, photographs and memorabilia documenting the history of CIBSE in the region, plus a look at the present and future of the building services industry in Australia and New Zealand. This publication will be sent to all CIBSE ANZ members and is available electronically to browse.

The publication '30 years and Counting' will be sent to all CIBSE ANZ members
Sponsored by Fantech, AG Coombs and Norman Disney & Young, a highly successful 30th Anniversary Cocktail Function, held on the 15th June 2017 at Melbourne’s Sealife Aquarium celebrated the occasion. Guests included CIBSE members, industry leaders and dignitaries, including CIBSE President, Peter Y Wong who travelled from Hong Kong to attend. In his address, he recognised and thanked the contributors to the success of the growing region. 

“30 years is a long time. Over the years we have had many triumphs and challenges. The achievements of CIBSE ANZ are of course a sum of many contributions from loyal volunteers, members and supporters.” 
- CIBSE President Peter Y Wong

The function was also an opportunity for CIBSE and Engineers Australia presidents to re-new the long-standing agreement for the Mutual Recognition of Engineers. This agreement simplifies the transfer of equivalent Australian and International titles and qualifications for members. Read more

CIBSE President Peter Y Wong addresses the CIBSE ANZ reception

The function also hosted the first ANZ region-wide competition for Student of the Year and Young Engineer of the Year awards, recognising innovative ideas of students and the significant contribution of young engineers to building services. Finalists were flown from around the region for the winners’ announcement on the night. Thai Nguyen, a Mechanical Engineering (Hons) Student of the University of New South Wales and Simon Green, a graduate Building Services Engineer from Arup specialising in mechanical engineering design took the top prizes. Read more

In 2016, the CIBSE ANZ Committee were instrumental in establishing an external Advisory Panel to help the development of CIBSE ANZ, reflecting the region’s ambitions to grow and focus on the engineers of the future. Their efforts secured the first full time appointment in the 30-year history of CIBSE ANZ - Earlier this year, Sharon Pestonji was appointed and immediately tasked with business development for the institution. Last week CIBSE enthusiastically welcomed Tim Spies of Norman Disney and Young to the panel, who continue to work on a 2020 vision of expansion and growth for the institution in the region.

Engineers Australia President John McIntosh exchanging signed
mutual recognition documents with CIBSE President Peter Y Wong
Looking to the future, Paul Angus has been elected as CIBSE Australia and New Zealand Region Chair at the ANZ Regional Committee meeting on 16th June 2017.

Friday, 30 June 2017

Gothic revival

As part of our new series about the future of the UK's building stock, we take a look at the past. Making new homes sustainable is already a massive issue, but with one in five houses more than 100 years old, bring them up to standard is key to meeting sustainability targets. CIBSE Technical Director Dr Hywel Davies takes a look at one such project.

If the UK is to meet tough carbon reduction targets for 2050, then it will have to tackle the emissions from the country’s 10,000 Grade 1 listed buildings. These buildings are notoriously difficult to refurbish because changes require listed building consent and because the interventions have to be removable to allow the building to be returned to its pre-intervention state. And often the refurbishment needs to understand the original design principles to ensure that the work enhances the building and does not cause longer term effects, for example by installing heating and changing the moisture balance in the fabric. 

Speaking at the last CIBSE Building Performance Conference, architect Oliver Smith, a director of 5th Studio, and Joel Gustafsson, senior engineer at Max Fordham explained how they tackled one of the most radical refurbishments ever attempted with the refurbishment of New Court, part of Trinity College, Cambridge. This scheme shows that with the right approach, a willing client and an imaginative partnership of engineer and architect a radical low energy refurbishment of a Grade 1 listed building is possible. 

The stone facade of New Court, Trinity College Cambridge
New Court is a neo-Gothic terrace of four-storey blocks that have accommodated students, including the current Prince of Wales, for almost 200 years. The conservation as normal approach would have been to do very little with this notoriously draughty building because its listing sets out to maintain the integrity of the building’s fabric. For New Court, the team set out to reduce heat losses by adding insulation and improving its airtightness

Adding insulation to the listed exterior was not an option so the team set about developing a means of insulating the walls internally. Aside from the need to obtain consent for the intervention, the team’s biggest concern with this approach was that improving the wall’s thermal insulation could lead to moisture and condensation problems causing mould growth and even result in some of the building’s timber joists rotting.

Sustainability fabric and systems:
a. Photovoltaic panels
 b. Fresh air intake and outlets
c. Extract air and heat exchange
d. Fabric upgrades – air tightness, insulation
 e. Underfloor heating
f. Ground-source heat boreholes
Using the hygrothermal modelling tool ‘WUFI’, Max Fordham evaluated a series of interventions with various insulation thickness and vapour barrier locations. With new build schemes, the vapour barrier is usually on the inner face of the wall, to prevent vapour entering the wall from inside. However, for New Court the modelling showed that solar driven moisture pressure would drive moisture into the wall from the outside, through the brick, stone and render walls where it would collect on the cold face of the insulation. To prevent this occurrence the team chose to leave out the vapour barrier to allow vapour to pass through the wall. The difficulty with this approach is that it restricted the amount of insulation that could be added because the wall had to remain warm enough to prevent interstitial condensation of the water vapour. 

The optimum thickness of insulation depends on the materials used to construct the wall so samples of the materials were sent to a laboratory for analysis with the results used to inform the WUFI model of the wall. 

At the same time as the samples were being analysed, the team also used monitoring experts ArchiMetrics to monitor the performance of the actual building. This involved measuring conditions internally and at various points within the wall. ArchiMetrics also installed a weather station to measure external conditions. The weather station enabled the WUFI model to be calibrated and its performance predictions to be checked against the walls’ actual performance figures.

Based on the model, the insulation solution selected was: 
4mm of lime plaster to level the wall’s inner face;
A 72mm thick sheet of wood fibre insulation;
An inner face of plasterboard.

In addition to insulating the walls the team also had to minimise heat losses and air leakage through the building’s wooden casement and sash windows. Over 30 options were modelled, including replacing the windows with double and triple glazed units. Although the windows are not original, English Heritage would not permit their replacement with new units so instead the old units were removed and refurbished. This involved replacing the existing glazing with slim, vacuum double glazed units and the addition of draught proofing.    

New bathrooms installed at New Court
An MVHR system prevents moisture build-up in the rooms. The MVHR units are hidden in the roof void; supply air is ducted from the units down the old chimney flues and into the rooms through the fireplaces. Air is extracted via the ensuite WC or allowed to spill into the communal areas via an undercut in the room door before it is extracted from the communal kitchen.

When the team applied for listed building consent with this solution, the local council used BRE to appraise the team’s work. The research organisation concluded that the exercise was robust, but decided that there was still a possibility moisture problems might occur. As a consequence, listed building consent was granted on the basis that the college undertake to monitor and report on moisture levels within the fabric for seven years. Should problems be discovered, then the insulation will be removed.

The refurbishment also involved the installation of new services, including new heating. A radiator heating system installed in the 1950s was removed and replaced by a low temperature underfloor heating system. Initially this is fed from an existing plantroom; in the future heat will be supplied from a ground source heat pump. A control system, incorporating an occupancy sensor, controls the heating and lowers the set temperature after four hours without an occupant; the set temperature is lowered further after the room has remained empty for 24 hours. Additionally, sensors located in the window frame turn down the heating when the windows are open.

Refurbished and upgraded windows are installed to maintain the aesthetics
The new lighting and room electrics are incorporated into a series of lining panels attached to the wall. Because these are interventions on a Grade 1 one listed building they are designed to be fully removable, the lining panels incorporate lighting and electrics and eliminate the need to chase wires into the wall.

Initial results show the building to be performing as expected, which should ensure the students are comfortable for another 200 years.  More importantly, the solution devised by 5th Studio and Max Fordham shows that it is possible to make radical energy improvements to the thousands of other Grade 1 listed buildings, and provides some practical examples of what can be done to inform those responsible for listed building consents.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Green sky thinking

With the Green Infrastructure Challenge over for another year, member of the judging panel FM Group Vice Chair David Stevens takes a look at what made the competition's winner stand out, and what it might mean for the future of Facilities Management.

OpenCity’s Green Sky Thinking week (15-19 May) is designed to get people thinking about green issues in new ways. As the name implies, it’s an ‘anything goes’ opportunity to look at green principles and technology free of any baggage, and how they can be applied to make our lives more sustainable. CIBSE and the ARCC Network take part by, among other things, running the Green Infrastructure Challenge – a specific look at the way green technology can be applied to building services.

Green technology impacts just about every industry and profession connected to buildings, from the structure to the lighting and the drainage, but in my opinion it is facilities managers who got by far the most food for thought out of what we learned from the challenge. It’s clear that green infrastructure is now a serious consideration for FMs, not a gimmick.

The radical design supports a wide range of green technologies
The winning project, a waste management facility in Slough, has a laundry list of sustainability concerns – from overheating to poor air quality and flooding – perhaps to be expected from a 1980s block sandwiched between a motorway and a rubbish tip. As one of the judges on this challenge, I was blow away by what the winning team from Amey were able to achieve in their design. Just about every instance where you might expect a mechanical solution, it was augmented by a natural one: Green walls supplemented air conditioning, green roofs replaced solar shading, rain gardens replaced drainage pumps and even electricity was supplied from plants.

The real eye-opener from me was how seamlessly the design worked for the building, green elements and all. For a long time, green infrastructure has had a gimmicky reputation – a solitary green wall in a design, but the real heavy lifting is still to be done by mechanical services. But here, the approach is striking: Heating and cooling provided by green walls and roofs that reflect heat in summer and insulate it in winter. Solar panel outputs increased by 10% when paired with a green roof, which cools the panels and maintains their efficiency. Rain gardens used as living wind breaks that cut wind borne pollution and actively remove it from the atmosphere.

Green infrastructure produces greater gains when used
in concert with mechanical services
These are interesting developments for any built environment engineer, but for facilities managers they are a golden opportunity to upskill and corner a market. At the end of the day, after a project is finished and handed over it’s the FM who is going to be taking the plaudits and the flack from its performance for many years afterwards. With budgets stretched and targets ever-tighter, every little helps, and it’s exactly the sort of marginal gains provided by green infrastructure used in concert with mechanical infrastructure that will make the difference.

It’s not all about energy, either – Facilities Managers are also responsible for the day to day comfort and well being of a building’s occupants, and it’s here that green infrastructure’s strengths really start to show.

A lot of research is currently ongoing into the financial benefits of promoting well being in improving staff health, cutting absenteeism and increasing productivity, but the broad consensus is that an office full of staff with higher well being is better both financially and as a working environment than one which is less pleasant to work in.

It also benefits the workplace by increasing staff engagement with the process of sustainability. Sustainable policies work best when the building’s occupants comply, whether that’s through turning off lights, shutting down computers or closing doors. These rules can seem arbitrary when presented on their own, but green elements create a pleasant and very physical addition to an office environment that staff can interact with. Just being around plants can boost task performance by 15%, but by watering them, smelling them and interacting with them, staff can actually see the benefits of sustainable policies right in front of them.

Green infrastructure encourages interaction between occupants and services
By investigating the potential of green infrastructure in their own buildings, an FM can tackle several problems at once and add real value to their organization. Practically they can increase the effectiveness of their own building services by augmenting them with green infrastructure to lessen a rage of problems, from overheating to poor air quality. They can make a big impact on the company’s bottom line by boosting the well being of staff, and the can make their place of work a generally more pleasant place to be.

By being early adopters of this technology, FMs can corner the market as experts in green infrastructure – and stand to gain the most from its success.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Passing the torch

As the medallion is passed to new SLL President Richard Caple, he sets out his vision for the Society during his year in charge and sets his sights on an inspirational term for young lighters, as well as a return to the design-led roots of lighting  

Like most “lighters” I accidently got into the industry about 18 years ago. Having finished college, I
realised that I needed to get a ‘proper’ job, so having studied Design Technology and Graphic Design at A-Level I set about finding something that utilised the skills I had learnt. I applied for a job at Thorlux Lighting who were advertising for a Trainee Lighting Design Engineer.

Many courses are a route to lighting, including
graphic design and STEM subjects
At the time of course, I didn’t have a clue what one of these was, but the job description sounded quite interesting. To my surprise they offered me the job and, unbeknownst to me at the time, my lighting career had started. I went on my first lighting course in 2001 with the LIF (as it was named then) with Dr John Frost who on the first day was explaining trigonometry and Pythagoras and why they would be important over the next few days. Now, bearing in mind I hated maths at school, I did wonder what on earth I had done, but thankfully (and with the added incentive of keeping my new job) this time it made more sense!

I worked my way through all of the LIF courses, taking a particular interest in the photometry
and testing, something that would later define my role in Thorlux. I then completed the LET Diploma, the SLL Lighting Diploma, and finally culminating in my Lighting MSc at the Bartlett in 2012.

Today I still work for Thorlux and I’m lucky enough to be involved in a number of different areas of the business. My passion is not only to design high quality, energy efficient lighting solutions, but to educate, train and provide best practice guidance in our changing and fast moving market.

Looking back, in one sense you could say I was lucky that I had joined a company that was willing to invest in me and my education, but of course, all of this would have not been possible had these lighting qualifications not been available to me. I think that in the UK we should be proud that we have such a wealth of education and knowledge and I consider myself lucky that I have found, all be it accidentally, a job and industry that I am interested in and passionate about.

However, it seems a shame that I stumbled across this by accident. So the question has to be asked, why shouldn’t and doesn’t lighting be a more obvious career choice? As a key part of my year as President I wish to continue the work that Jeff has done by promoting lighting as a career and a profession. I therefore look to inspire through working with STEM, but also wish to engage with a slightly older age group, those in higher education as well as young engineers already in the building services industry. I also hope that over the course of the year we can publish a career pathway document to help those seeking or considering a career in lighting to see what options, routes and qualifications are available to them.

The SLL will continue to work with young lighters through events
like Ready Steady Light
Our industry has undergone radical change over the last decade, primarily driven by the LED revolution of course. I think it is recognised by most that the LED revolution is over, but I still think there is a legacy of misunderstanding when it comes to this technology, and greater clarity is needed from manufacturers and suppliers, as well as improved standardisation. I still feel there is a knowledge gap between end users and professionals. This is, of course, where the Society can and does help.

Our Technical and Publications Committee goes from strength to strength, and over the next 12-18 months there is a vast amount of new guidance to be published in the form of Fact Files, updates to existing Lighting Guides as well as completely new editions. The Code and Handbook will also be updated. As a young engineer the Code was something that was always on the end of my desk, and to a certain degree, still is today.

I do find it interesting just how technical and involved our industry has become, even during my short time. I also have concerns. If we compare a modern luminaire today with one of 10 years ago, the two are very different animals. They are different because not only do today’s luminaires provide light, they are also a platform for other embodied technology’s, such as Wi-Fi, Li-Fi, Bluetooth, and sensors which can monitor CO², temperature, humidity and so on.

New technology such as Li-Fi should not take the place of traditional
lighting design skills
While I am not suggesting this is necessarily a bad thing, I think crucially we must not forget that first and foremost, a luminaire is exactly that, a device to illuminate our space. While we must embrace new technologies and our ever greater connected world, we must never forget that quality lighting within space is fundamental to our health and wellbeing. I would hate to see good lighting take second place to a good internet connection!

I’m also concerned that far too much emphasis is placed on the energy saving potential of LED technology. While this is of course extremely important, not least from an environmental perspective, it is just one factor in the overall consideration. I see whole projects being based on energy, CO² and maintenance savings with not a single lighting calculation being made to check that the proposed replacement will meet the requirements of the space and its users.

Return on investment and paybacks seems to rule over all else. This is where the SLL provides a wealth of education and guidance on best practices, and we must continue to keep banging the drum on quality lighting. As Iain Macrae discusses in his recent Newsletter article, staff costs far outweigh any capital or maintenance costs for a building. If the new lighting is not fit for purpose and fails to meet the basics such as light levels, uniformity, colour performance, and compliance with glare and luminance, then the ‘investment’ may end up not being so wise.

No new lighting solutions are complete without quality research
and design behind them
While on the subject of wellbeing, Human Centric Lighting, or however you wish to term it, seems to be the current ‘in vogue’ topic. While it is generally acknowledged that changes in the colour and intensity of lighting can affect our mood, wellbeing, alertness and productivity, I feel it is still unclear as to how we actually apply this. Do the needs change if you are working in an office compared to a hospital? We can of course talk passionately on this subject, but at the end of the day much more independent research is needed, and importantly I think, we must never forget that there is no substitute for daylight. The SLL is working on a position paper around this topic, and I hope that over the course of the year it will be published.

Our industry faces a number of challenges in the future. Our Government has recently invoked Article 50 and started the count down to the UK leaving the EU. No one knows yet what this means for any of us, let alone the impact it may have on our industry, and for many who do business throughout Europe it will no doubt be an anxious time. From an industry perspective we need to make sure that our voice continues to be heard to ensure we are best placed to deal with whatever the outcome is. Through working with other organisations and bodies the SLL can play its part in helping. This is something that I am very mindful of as I go through my year, particularly as more information becomes available from Government, whatever Government that may be after June 8th.

The SLL is growing every year, we have well over 3,500 members worldwide and as a result we are doing more than we have ever done before. Events such as Ready Steady Light, the Masterclass series, Young lighter of the Year, industry trade shows, and many regional events name just some. The newest edition to the calendar is the Night of Heritage Light. The multi award winning event that took place originally in October 2015 was phenomenal, and although I only played a very small part, I was proud to be at the Ironbridge site and experience what took place.

Ironbridge Gorge illuminated on the Night of Heritage Light
©Terry Moore 2015
I think it was a great reflection on how passionate our industry is and how well we can all work together. The same was also true of Night of Heritage Light 2 which took place in October last year as a part of the illuminating York festival. Once again a huge amount of time and effort was given by our volunteers to deliver these amazing events. Both have raised the profile of not just the SLL, but our industry as a whole; we have captured imagination and helped inspire those normally outside of the industry to become involved. I am keen therefore to ensure we continue this momentum and I am working with Simon Fisher on some pretty exciting plans for Night of Heritage Light 3, which will take place later in the year, so do watch this space!

All these events would not be possible without the support of CIBSE and the hard work of the Balham staff, Brendan and Juliet in particular. So I would like to thank them for everything they do, and I very much look forward to working with them and the wider CIBSE team over the course of my year. My congratulations also to the new CIBSE President Peter Wong and President Elect Stephen Lisk, Stephen being a Past President of this Society of course.

I would also like to recognise the work that is undertaken by our Regional Lighting Representatives. Having been one myself for the best part of 10 years, I fully appreciate the work and effort that goes into running lighting events at local level. I hope that over the course of the year I will be able to visit some of our regions and also get involved in their events, but I would like to take this opportunity to thank all them for their hard work.

York's Multangular Tower illuminated during the Night of Heritage Light 2
©Lee Wright 2016
May I also thank Past President Jeff Shaw for very ably steering our ship over the last twelve months, and I look forward to continue working with Jeff. As mentioned in his Presidential address, 12 months is actually a very short amount of time to realise a vision, and I hope that I can carry on some of the things he has started. I also cannot do this alone, and look forward to continue working with President Elect Iain Carlile, and Vice Presidents Jim Shove, Bob Bohannon and Ruth Kelly-Waskett.

So in summary, my main aim for the year is to promote lighting both as a career and a profession. I hope that I can inspire more people to pursue lighting as a career choice. I think one of the great things about our industry is how diverse it is, from lighting designers to product designers, electrical and mechanical engineering, testing, research, the list goes on.  Our industry never stands still, there is never a dull moment (pardon the pun!). There are also many different levels you can join, and hopefully, as I have demonstrated, you can start at the bottom and work your way up.

There's never a dull moment when you're a lighter
©Kenton Simons 2015
Finally, I was asked recently what it meant to be a member of the SLL and why should someone become one? So the only way I could answer this is by saying what being an SLL member means to me. I said that the SLL is a professional body representing all interests in light and lighting. The SLL is one of the oldest professional lighting bodies with a worldwide reach and a growing membership. Between us all, we have thousands of years of combined lighting experience, be this in artificial light, or daylight.

The SLL offers me guidance and support through technical publications and events, and as my career progressed has offered me professional recognition for my efforts through their different membership grades. But more than anything the SLL is a home, a home for my interest and passion for lighting. As a social society I can discuss, engage and interact with other likeminded “lighters”. The SLL do some truly great things, and I’m sure there will be many more great things to come in the future. So, who wouldn’t want to be part of this?