Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Great lives

It’s the week after National Women in Engineering Day (#NWED2016) and the results of our exclusive poll on the most inspiring women engineers you voted for are being counted. This week, CIBSE Press Officer Matt Snowden takes a look at some information about some of the most popular entries nominees.

We’ve had a phenomenal response to our poll, and we’re thrilled that so many people have been inspired by women past and present who have blazed trails in the engineering industry. What has been particularly interesting to see is the sheer variety of engineers suggested, with over 20 separate individuals receiving votes, showing that women engineers occupy a greater place in our lives than we thought possible.

We’ve had a look at your responses, and here are some of the top choices (in no particular order). Watch this space, because soon we'll be announcing the engineers past and present in full who have inspired you most. We're also dedicating our second podcast to women in engineering, and the issues affecting their careers!

Dame Caroline Haslett
Having transferred from secretarial work at the Cochran Boiler Company to works during the First World War, she trained as an engineer on-the-job having been moved to their Scottish Office thanks to her skill as a manager. From there, she designed transatlantic shipping boilers and became an expert electrical engineer, wiring up her own flat in London.

A maid operates an early electric vacuum cleaner
She began advising the Government on the education of women, and was invited to join as organising secretary to the new Women in Engineering Society. Thanks to her work, the Society soon spread its ideas around the world to the USA and Russia, and Dame Caroline continued her work with women and with electricity – meeting famous figures including Einstein and Henry Ford to espouse her views.

As an engineer, she promoted the disciple as a means to make the lives of women in the home easier by spreading electricity far and wide to power lights and labour saving devices. She also strongly believed in electricity as a means to promote safety, particularly with regards to lighting in poorly lit factories.



Ada Lovelace
Often regarded as the world’s first computer programmer, Ada Lovelace ‘The enchantress of number’ is most famous for her work with Charles Babbage on his Analytical Engine, but her contribution to science extended beyond her work on the first mechanical computer.

As a lifelong devotee of science and the scientific method, Ada was ahead of her time in analysing the effect that computers could have on our lives in the future, when her colleagues focused only on the technical abilities of the machine itself. A controversial figure in her time, this included running up thousands of pounds in gambling debts while trying to develop a mathematical model for betting.

A prototype Analytical Engine © Bruno Barral
As a woman she was ahead of her time, mixing and corresponding with some of the finest minds of her day, and is today rightly memorialised in countless buildings, awards, educational institutions and even one of the Crossrail tunnel boring machines under London. Her views on computing began our conversation on the place of technology in society one hundred and fifty years before the present day, when it is changing the way we think, work and communicate.

An economics graduate from Hull, Amy Johnson seemed like an unlikely aviation pioneer, but she had the skill and determination to turn a hobby into a career against the odds in a male dominated industry.

Taking her first flight at the age of 23, she gained an “immense belief in the future of flying”, and began taking lessons at her own expense. Leaving a promising career in a London solicitor’s office behind, she took a job as an aircraft mechanic after gaining her pilot’s license and passed her exam to become the UK’s first woman ground engineer.

Amy with her plane 'Jason' in India on her flight to Australia
© Dabbler
Unable to make a living as a commercial pilot, Amy’s determination to fly saw her complete ever more daring feats of aviation – becoming the first woman to fly to Australia, breaking the record UK to Cape Town time held by her husband and flying from Britain to America in one hop, flying a custom designed plane with massive fuel tanks.

Turning her attention towards the war effort, her passion claimed her life in 1941 when she was accidentally shot down by friendly fire while undertaking a mission for the Air Transport Auxiliary. Amy used her skill as an engineer to achieve the unthinkable throughout her life, and displayed great dedication to her love of flying.


Emily Warren Roebling
In one of the greatest stories in engineering history, Emily Roebling took on one of the greatest engineering challenges of the 19th century and oversaw the construction of New York’s Brooklyn Bridge based on her self-taught education in engineering.

Building the longest suspension bridge in the world over a busy river with banks frequently covered in a layer of frozen mud proved backbreaking work, which claimed the health of Emily’s father-in-law, the original chief engineer of the project. Her husband also succumbed to illness while working in the cassions under the massive towers, which were pumped with compressed air to stop the mud flowing in.

The Brooklyn Bridge under construction between 1872 and 1887
Facing financial problems and the collapse of the project, Emily began helping her paralyzed husband in running the construction. At first as a messenger and then as an advisor, Emily started studying topics in civil engineering - maths, strength of materials, stress analysis, and cable construction. From a woman who had never studied engineering in her life, she became the project’s unofficial chief engineer, and ended up heading construction on the first steel cable suspension bridge for 11 years  – a ‘wonder of the industrial world’.

Such was the public gratitude for her work that she was named in its opening ceremony, and became the first person to cross it when it opened in 1883.

Friday, 17 June 2016

And now for something completely different...

The Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers is launching its very first podcast, titled #Build2Perform and focused on discussing the latest events and ideas around building performance in the built environment. To introduce the first in a monthly series this week’s blog is by Matt Snowden, CIBSE Press and PR Executive, and co-host of the new show.

We at CIBSE are always looking for ways to bring you new and exciting content on building performance, and this week we’re proud to announce the first edition of our new #Build2Perform Podcast. My colleague Sara Kassam, Head of Sustainability Development at CIBSE, and I will be bringing you a new episode every month, with discussion on the latest news and views in building performance.

Alongside the podcast, we will also be publishing and accompanying blog (this month it's below the podcast!) that will contain more information on the topics discussed as well as links and images to help you learn more. The Podcast will be published in the first week of every month on this very blog, so make sure to keep an eye out for future editions. You’ll also be able to find it via Twitter by following the @CIBSE account, and by searching #Build2Perform.

Speaking of which, we’re always happy to hear your thoughts on anything you hear – from the podcast itself to the issues discussed. If you’d like to get involved in the discussion, or just think your friends deserve a dose of building performance chat in their lives, tweets and re-tweets using the hashtag #Build2Perform are most welcome!

NEW: You can now listen to and download the podcast directly from the iTunes library. Just open up iTunes and search #Build2Perform




Green Sky Thinking
In this first podcast we talked mostly about Green Sky Thinking Week, an event that ran from 25-29 April and was organised by Open City, a London-based architecture education organisation. Listed below are some of the concepts discussed, and where you can go to find out more:





Friday, 10 June 2016

The digital engineer

Bored with BIM? For all the potential that the technology holds, it's something that industry professionals are finding hard to get excited about. CIBSE BIM Consultant Carl Collins writes for us this week about how we can fall back in love with data.

Be honest: How many people do you know that are actually excited about BIM these days? It is trumpeted every day in trade media as the solution to just about everything in its many forms, and the possibilities are undeniably exciting. So why is it that, on your average project, the BIM aspect is about as inspiring as doing your tax return? It has an image of rules and regulations, compliance and guidelines. An annoying box to be ticked.

Somewhere along the line BIM got institutionalised – it ditched the jeans and t-shirt and put on a grey suit. It stopped being inspiring and became just another tool in the box for meeting project requirements, and staying the right side of the law. But it wasn’t always this way.

It might be a relatively new phrase, but we’ve been digital engineers for a long time. When I started in mechanical engineering, I was a draughtsman – the big desks and long rulers that are almost museum pieces today were commonplace, and computers were few and far between. It was the sort of thing you invited visitors to your office to come and look at, like a new baby or a car.

Ok, maybe not QUITE that long...
Back then, we were using simple CAD applications on computers that were little more than virtual drawing boards – these were the ancestors of the modern 3D BIM models we know today, but far more important was what else we were doing. For the first time we were using computers to interpret and store information for us, to help eliminate errors and to automate certain processes. That’s when BIM truly started, and when the digital engineer was born.

And that’s the really exciting part of BIM that I want us to re-capture – the massive iceberg under the surface that represents the most valuable part of BIM: The way we capture, organise and deploy data. It’s not just an expensive add-on to a project, it’s more like a way of working that permeates everything we do. Part of what I’ll be doing at CIBSE is training people to think differently about BIM in order to use it better by using it more creatively.

The best thing about BIM is its freedom, rather than its constraints. At the end of the day it’s just data, and it’s how that data is organised that determines what it does – so it’s really up to you to use your imagination, and apply the technology in novel ways to solve a problem. If that sounds simple, it’s because it is. Fundamentally, it’s no different to what engineers have always done: solving problems by doing creative things with the tools available. So we’re all digital engineers, but we need to embrace this role to make the most of its potential.

Engineers have always solved problems with innovation, like Atelier Ten's
2014 Building Performance Award winning 'Gardens by the Bay' 
But why is this relevant now? We’ve been using BIM for years, and using computers in this way for decades – but the more recent rise of ‘smart’ technology which embeds sensors in just about everything is revolutionising the types and quality of data that we can collect. At the recent IFS Digital Britain event, the Chairman of the HM Gov Construction BIM Task Group Mark Bew gave the NHS as an example: If we can make people healthier by making the buildings they use better, we can save the NHS billions every year just in money they’ve not had to spend. Similarly, the cheapest way of saving energy is not to generate more clean power, but to ensure that this electricity is never needed in the first place through more efficient buildings.

The future of IT, circa 1992
This sort of whole-life thinking will be the bread and butter of BIM level 3, and will enable a future full of data-enabled collaborative working on projects that will maximise the use of the supply chain’s capability to deliver value to clients. It will allow us to create better performance-based project briefs with the means to prove compliance, and it will allow an unprecedented level of real-time control over a building’s assets.

Building services engineers are pretty unique as a profession because they can claim ownership of one of the biggest shares of data afforded by new smart technology – that produced by buildings and everything in them. It’s comparable in scope to that first wave of computers that dropped into engineers’ offices and changed our jobs forever. The opportunity is there, but it requires us to think more creatively about BIM and what it means if we are to grasp it.



Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Finding inspiration

As part of National Women in Engineering Day 2016, organised by the Women's Engineering Society, CIBSE has organised a brand new survey to determine who you think is the most inspiring women engineer in history, and who inspires you today. Matt Snowden, CIBSE PR and Communications Executive, explains more.

CLICK HERE TO TAKE THE SURVEY

CIBSE is an institution for everyone who is passionate about building services engineering and the good it does in society, and we’re firmly of the opinion that the more people we can encourage into our exciting, ground-breaking, life-saving industry, the better. A big part of what we do is to spread the public benefit of building services engineering and to do that to the best of our ability without engaging more than half the population is an unachievable task.

Women engineers are still a minority in the engineering industry
That’s why we’re so excited by the work of a fellow engineering organisation – the Women’s Engineering Society – and their big event: National Women in Engineering Day. They describe it as an “International awareness campaign to raise the profile of women in engineering and focus on the amazing career opportunities available to girls in this exciting industry”, and it’s certainly making a splash. With over 500 events across the country last year, as well as the involvement of Prime Minister David Cameron and the Prince of Wales, trending on Twitter worldwide and discussed on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour programme, it’s doing a great deal to raise women in engineering in the public consciousness.

It’s not just up to professional organisations to make a difference, though. To truly change the experience for women in engineering, it requires the participation of everyone involved in the industry. In order to help raise awareness and highlight the fantastic work of women engineers now and throughout history, we’re asking you to nominate your greatest inspirations of today and yesteryear.


Female engineers have been behind some of the most awe-inspiring achievements in human history, but often their contributions are overlooked. There are also thousands of brilliant, dedicated women working in engineering right at this moment – at the top of their game, blazing trails and showing young women starting out just what is possible with a career in engineering.

Between now and National Women in Engineering Day, we’re looking for your views on the most inspiring women engineers in history and now, via our online poll. Click the link below to access it, fill it in, and we’ll announce the results on National Women in Engineering Day on 23 June..




Friday, 27 May 2016

Behavioural issues

Six months on from the second annual CIBSE Building Performance Conference and Exhibition, CIBSE Head of Sustainability Sara Kassam revisits one of the key topics from the two days: The 'Built for Living' panel. In this blog, she looks at the findings of the talk on well-being

Behavioural issues and their impact on the design of the built environment are an important topic for building services engineers and facilities managers, one where there is a definite appetite for better understanding, which was why it was a key area of focus at CIBSE’s Conference.

The event saw Professor Rhiannon Cocoran from the University of Liverpool consider how wellbeing is related to place; Professor Alexi Marmot from UCL look at factors affecting performance and productivity; and Polly Turton from Arup speak about how workspaces can be made more flexible and adaptable. Ann Marie Aguilar, also from Arup, give an insight into understanding behavioural responses to engineering and design.
The 'Built for Living' panel at the 2015 CIBSE Conference and Exhibition
Ann Marie Aguilar’s presentation focused on a report published by the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Economic and Social Research Council and consultant Arup. The document, Built for Living: Understanding Behaviour and the Built Environment through engineering and design, focuses on fostering good health and wellbeing, boosting performances and productivity and improving the stewardship of energy, water and waste.

The report is available to download at www.raeng.org.uk/publications/; it makes some interesting points relevant to those involved in the design and operation building services some of which are outlined below.

Good design is about developing an inclusive, user-centred solution which will work for the majority of a building’s occupants. However, a major challenge for designers looking to provide a user-centred focus is that there is no single agreed model of human behaviour that they can use.

There is no guarantee that occupants will use a building as designed
The situation at the moment is that engineers, facilities managers and architects all have different areas of knowledge and different experiences of the interrelationship of design and human behaviour, often at different stages in the lifecycle of buildings. Bringing together this knowledge has the potential to enrich designers’ responses. To this end, there is an opportunity to aggregate knowledge already in existence and to add to it through further research and post occupancy evaluation.

Since no single discipline or profession has all the necessary expertise a ‘Systems Thinking’ approach has been suggested as a way of enabling multidisciplinary collaboration. By helping identify how different parts of the system interact, designs can be developed to incorporate the complex interactions between buildings and the people that use them.

Some existing processes such as Soft Landings can provide a means for designers and constructors to enable a building to be designed to meet the end user’s needs. Soft Landings ensures occupant behaviour is included by involving the occupants at an early stage in scheme design. Participation is continued throughout the construction process and continues with involvement of the design and construction team beyond practical completion.

Buildings need to be considered as large systems interacting with other systems
including the occupants
User involvement is critical when considering the application of new technologies. Designers and engineers, for example, understand how it is technically possible to save energy in buildings through the use of particular technologies. However, what they often fail to consider is the importance of human behaviour and that users need to understand the purpose of the technology and how to use if the technology is to perform at its optimum capability.

Designers also need to be aware that the careful handover of a building is required to ensure the building works for them, while those maintaining the building understand how to actually make it work best for the users and to enable the building to perform to its maximum potential.

Eight practical principles for design have been proposed for use throughout a project, from architectural brief to final use. These are:

  • View human behaviour in the built environment as a complex socio-technical system
  • Use collaborative methods and tools to involve all key stakeholders, especially end users, throughout the design process
  • Include behavioural issues from the very beginning of the design process, in particular making the behavioural assumptions explicit at the outset.
  • During design, explicitly consider key characteristics of all users
  • Make it easy, fun and engaging to create and sustain good habits
  • Ensure the system gives users feedback at the right time and in the right format
  • Empower users to handle problems with the system as they occur
  • Learn and apply lessons from related domains


Incorporating these principles into a project should help improve design outcomes.

It is good practice to make engaging in good habits fun and engaging for occupants
As a proactive organisation CIBSE includes direction on the impact of occupant behaviour on the design of building services and the management of facilities in its guidance. In particular the recent editions of CIBSE Guide F: Energy Efficiency in Buildings and CIBSE Guide M: Maintenance Engineering and Management both acknowledge the potential impact of occupant behaviour.

Ultimately, people cannot be treated as components with predictable properties that can be engineered into a system because people often don’t behave in the ways designers expect. Instead, by increasing their focus on users’ behaviour building services engineers have an excellent opportunity to both improve the performance of buildings and the people in them.

Friday, 13 May 2016

Changeable weather

As part of the culmination of a major new project CIBSE has just released its latest package of weather data, which comprehensively updates the old files while adding some new features. Dr Anastasia Mylona, Research Manager at CIBSE, blogs below about what we can expect from the new files

Last week, CIBSE launched an updated set of weather files for dynamic building performance simulation, includes observed changes in climate for energy analysis (Test Reference Years – TRYs) and new files for overheating analysis (Design Summer Years – DSYs). Both sets of updated files are also available for future weather representations based on the latest climate change projections (UKCP09).

The datasets, produced in association with the MET Office, are based on historical data that has been collected from 14 sites around the UK since the early 1980s and has been combined with  the latest climate projections to produce future weather files up to the 2080s.

Working with the MET Office, whose climate statistics show that the eight warmest years in the UK since 1910 have occurred in the last 14, CIBSE sought to update its existing weather files to take into account rising temperatures.

MET Office data shows the eight warmest years since 1910 have occurred
in the last 14 years
Using this data, engineers will be able to design buildings that take into account the latest information about local weather conditions. This means that buildings and their services can be designed to be more sustainable, and more resilient to current and future weather conditions. These new datasets are based on the latest Met Office observations and climate projections and aim to provide the industry with an updated representation of current and future weather for their thermal and energy building performance analysis.

The Test Reference Year (TRY) weather files represent a typical year and are used to determine average energy usage within buildings. The weather file consists of average months selected from a historical baseline. The new TRY files are created from an updated baseline of 1984 to 2013 (compared to the previous 1984 to 2004), ensuring that the observed effects of climate change will be included in the selection of the months.

Design Summer Years (DSYs) are used to simulate the effects of overheating in buildings in each location. Recently, probabilistic DSYs were developed for the London area (outlined in TM49) in an effort to replace the old DSY with a set of years which better describe overheating events, their relative severity and their expected frequency. The latest release of the DSY updates the weather files in the remaining 13 locations across the UK using this new methodology and uses an updated baseline from 1984 to 2013 to select the files. There are now 3 DSYs available per location, representing summers with different types of hot events.

The data comes from 14 locations in the UK, from Edinburgh to the south coast
©Robert Galloway
This updated datasets are especially important for the building services industry for two reasons. The TRYs now include temperature differences brought on by climate change, which could result in cooling demands increasing whilst heating demands decreasing. A more significant change is that to the DSYs. The new files use candidate years that have warmer, more severe heat events in them, allowing designers to test the upper limits of their thermal design. Even the least severe DSY is likely to be warmer than previous DSY for each location, which will subsequently impact overheating analysis across the whole country.

The release is accompanied by a Technical Briefing and Testing of the new files. The testing of both sets of files highlights the differences between the previous and updated datasets.

Friday, 6 May 2016

A wider scope


It’s only been two months since a glittering Park Lane ceremony celebrated the presentation of the Building Performance Awards 2016, but we’re already hard at work planning for next year. The call for entries for the 2017 competition opens on Monday 9 May, with the event set for 7 February at Grosvenor House.

This year will be the tenth anniversary of CIBSE awards, celebrating engineering excellence in the built environment. Over the years the awards have evolved to reflect changes in how we define building performance and best practice, and we're changing again: we've altered the name of the Building Services Consultancy of the Year category, and added a new Consultancy category. But why have we done this and why should you enter this year?

The blog spoke to 2016 judging panellists Sarah Ratcliffe, Programme Director at Better Buildings Partnership, Susan Hone-Brookes, Engineering Sustainability Leader at Laing O'Rourke and Munish Datta, Head of Plan A & FM at Marks & Spencer about the changes and their experiences on the panel.

Why change the name from Building Services Consultancy to Building Performance Consultancy, and why have three Consultancy categories: Up to 100 employees, 101-1000 employees and Over 1000 employees?
Susan: The change in name is to recognise that the focus of their work is not just to deliver purely ‘services’,  but to understand the holistic impact on post occupancy building performance. 

You would expect the challenges and resources for a company to be proportional to size and global reach. Our industry has innovative organisations setting standards on all scales. Adding a third category here is an opportunity to recognise and celebrate more consultancies on a level playing field.

So how do you see these awards as different from other awards?
Sarah: The CIBSE Building Performance Awards are different because they focus on the actual performance of buildings as opposed to building design, they require demonstrable proof (and data) to support their submissions, which in itself is a significant challenge.

Winner Project of the Year Leisure 2016 and Building Performance Champion 2016
Everyman Theatre Liverpool, by Waterman Building Services
Why do you think the CIBSE BPAs are important?
Sarah: Over 80% of the building stock today will still be here in 2050, it is therefore absolutely critical that these buildings perform to high standards – the awards are an important way of evidencing and rewarding that performance and leading by example, providing the industry with a examples where sustainability.

Munish: These awards are important as they celebrate organisations and buildings that are achieving huge reductions of emissions and operational costs. As the global building stock contributes significantly to global carbon emissions, making heroes of those that are leading reduction is critical to mobilise the industry as a whole.

Judges bring invaluable knowledge and experience to the awards judging process but did you find any benefit personally or professionally from participating in this experience?
Sarah: It is always really difficult to keep up to speed with what is going on in the industry and the awards provide a way to short-cut a lot of research into finding the best buildings out there and analysing their performance. 

There is much that we can learn from looking beyond our own field of vision, I was fascinated by some of the submissions from outside the commercial property sector (schools, hospitals theatres) that have taken a really innovative approach to sustainability and also make the connection between the performance of a building and occupier well being and productivity.


Building Performance Champions Waterman Building Services
Munish: As double winners in the 2014 CIBSE BPA Awards (‘New Build Project of the Year - over £10m’ and the ‘Carbon Champion of the Year’ for M&S Cheshire Oaks Plan A Store) I have first-hand experience of the thoroughness of the judging process. Sitting on the other side of the fence as judge has re-enforced this perception both in terms of the process and quality of judging.

Susan: I have long been on the ‘other side of the fence’ in regards to award submissions.  It was extremely interesting, therefore, to sit judge side and carry out the process of evaluation.  Lessons I learnt included quite simply to ‘answer the question’ posed in the award information, not to waffle, not to include too much corporate information but to include clear evidence.  I also learnt an awful lot personally from reading the submission, taking away knowledge on how building consultancies today are tackling many of the issues we as an industry currently face.  

Who would you invite to the BPA and why?
Sarah: Everyone! Delivering building performance involves collaboration across the whole property industry from investors to occupiers, asset managers to maintenance engineers. The Building Performance Awards has something for everyone – there is a huge amount to be gained from ‘designing for performance’ and the awards help to highlight leading projects that bring these benefits to life. 

Munish: I would love to invite ‘Starchitects’ so that they can appreciate how important it is to design buildings that operate efficiently, are enjoyable for their occupants and look beautiful within their broader context.

A project of Hoare Lea, winner of Building Services Consultancy (Over 100) 2016
What did you find most interesting about your experience on the judging panel?
Munish: I am particularly impressed by the focus on reductions in life cycle carbon in addition to operational carbon – it’s important to recognise that embedded carbon is ultimately operational carbon in the entire value chain.

Who are you looking forward to meeting at the Awards dinner?

Munish: It’s always a pleasure to meet fellow judges and the excellent CIBSE team that diligently organise these awards. I especially enjoy meeting the individuals and organisations who bring these awards to life – all the nominees! 

To enter or to find out about any of this year's award categories, visit www.cibse.org/building-performance-awards