Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Is Gross Domestic Product (GDP) Running on Empty?

An opinion piece from Tony Dennis, CEng MCIBSE

18 March 2018 marks the fiftieth anniversary of Robert (Bobby) Kennedy’s speech about the pitfalls of using Gross Domestic Product (GDP and GNP) as a proxy to measure a nation’s success and wellbeing. He stated
….It does not allow for the health of our children…..or the intelligence of our public debate….or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.’[1]

Before the United Nations required countries to collect data to report GDP, mid-20th century, the economist and chief architect of GDP, Simon Kuznets, had himself already warned against equating its growth with wellbeing,
 ‘The welfare of a nation can scarcely be inferred from a measure of national income’ [2]. 
Evidently both men considered GDP to be an inappropriate measure of national wellbeing. GDP largely accounts for market transactions, but does not consider the social cost of decision-making or its impact on the environment and income inequality [3]. Consider that the devastation wrought from a hurricane, arguably induced through climate change, would boost GDP.

Using GDP is similar to having a fuel gauge permanently reading full when driving a car. A reality check with the first and second laws of thermodynamics tells us that perpetual motion is not possible and energy degrades in quality, disintegrating irreversibly with use and time (entropy being a measure of disorder) e.g. the first law would be false if work could be generated by an adiabatic, closed system, without a diminution of its internal energy. Little wonder then that patents globally are now closed to the consideration of all such machines!

By having GDP as the benchmarking economic metric aren’t we claiming the laws of thermodynamics are false? Using the earth as a perpetual motion machine with infinite bio-capacity? Assuming it can keep on producing without limit, with economic growth at all costs? Equating wellbeing with increased consumption and detached from the biosphere and ecosystem? These notions are seemingly the very antithesis of sustainable development? We hear that the West over-promotes material consumption when looking for success and satisfaction. The measure of GDP growth perhaps drives over-exploitation of earth’s natural capital, and diminution of its biocapacity, breaching fundamental ecological and planetary limits (the notions of Planetary Boundary Analysis and Ecological Foot-printing are explored in the upcoming revised Guide L). If everyone lived as the developed nations, we would need three planets to maintain our lifestyles [4]. As Robert Kennedy added,
 ‘Too much and for too long, we seem to have surrendered personal excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things’ [1]. 
Despite GDP’s indications, a glance in the analogous fuel tank can suggest we’re running on empty?

How might we address the anomaly? No other scientific law has contributed more to the liberation of the human spirit than the second law of thermodynamics. This is not surprising as it is the central law in science, and hence in the rational understanding of our universe, because it provides a foundation for understanding why any change occurs [5]. Even though the law’s natural default setting is for order to descend into disorder it nevertheless allows us to harness the flow of disorder to create new order and structure on our planet. As it also explains how life on earth is possible, our wellbeing necessitates that we shape our global social and economic policy around its boundary conditions. As engineers we know about harnessing energy flow to create new order, such as creating a living, working building system. By minimising entropy’s increase we uphold the quality of energy available to help sustain life. Perhaps this helps define sustainability and offers insight into the adventure that is engineering.

What could a new economic metric (or working fuel gauge) look like? It would weigh up the environmental impact and the social costs of economic production and consumption; in line with thermodynamic boundaries. In balancing market transactions against external costs, it would capture their negative or positive influence in overall health and well-being e.g. accounting for the costs borne by society to repair or control pollution and poverty. It would capture the cost-benefit of getting more energy from renewables; increased energy efficiency from our building systems; a circular economy; reducing the income gap; putting more durable products on the market; using mediation rather than adversarial litigation, volunteering in the community; preserving wetlands, forests, and farmland; shorter commutes – and all expressed in monetary units. Such metrics are taking shape, such as the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) [3]. If aligned with ecological footprinting and planetary boundary analysis, it would help bring more precision to the metric; helping in the process to identify a ‘Global Sustainable Development Quadrant’ for all sectors of society to target. See the UN’s Human Development Index combined with the well-being measurement index (HPI, New Economics Foundation), plotted against Ecological Footprint per person (see figure 1) [6].
Figure 1: The UN Human Development Index (HDI) measures a country’s average achievements in the areas of health, knowledge, and standard of living (0.8 is considered “very high human development”). The Happy Planet Index from the New Economics Foundation measures who gets the best lives per unit of renewable natural resource. The Ecological Footprint tells us how much of the earth’s bioproductive areas are needed to provide for that development (if less than 1.71 global hectares per person (GHA/p) then a country’s resource demands are globally replicable). The UK’s Ecological Footprint is 5.05 GHA/person (2013).
Do we want a metric that will help to sustain life or one that will continue to profligate its demise at the expense of our wellbeing? Do we want a metric that will support the uptake of sustainable practice or one that will continue to oppose it? As the Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz pointed out to the World Economic Forum in Davos (2016), in relation to the shortcomings of GDP, 
“What we measure informs what we do. And if we are measuring the wrong thing, we are going to do the wrong thing”.
 Necessity would therefore say that the sooner GDP is replaced with a metric fit for purpose the better – and perhaps Robert Kennedy would have approved of that.

References/Further Reading

[1] Kennedy, R. F. Remarks at the University of Kansas, March 18, 1968. [For full speech see http://www.jfklibrary.org and search the above].
[2] Simon Kuznets in report to the Congress, 1934; Cited in: Gernot Kohler, ‎Emilio José Chaves (2003) Globalization: Critical Perspectives. p. 336
[3] Time to leave GDP behind; Costanza, R, et al (Vol 505, Nature 285, Macmillan Publishers Limited. 2014)
[4] One Planet Living - The case for Sustainable Consumption and Production in the Post - 2015 development agenda, Schoon, N., Seath, F., Jackson, L. 2013
[5] The Laws of Thermodynamics; a very short introduction. Atkins, P. Oxford University Press 2010
[6] Sustainable development: two indices, two different views, The Global Footprint Network. See https://www.footprintnetwork.org/2016/07/20/measure-sustainable-development-two-new-indeces-two-different-views/

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

So much for taking back control. Hywel Davies, CIBSE Technical Director, highlights some concerns about the EU Withdrawal Bill.

Post Brexit, the Government’s message was that all EU legislation will be copied into domestic UK law to ensure a smooth transition and to avoid a “black hole in our statute book” on the day after the UK leaves the European Union.

This was the promise of the White Paper on leaving the EU, which was published in March 2017. To deliver this, the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill is the key plank of legislation, which sets out to replace the 1972 European Communities Act. However, ClientEarth, an organisation of activist lawyers committed to protecting the environment, has looked at the draft of the Withdrawal Bill and it has raised some serious concerns that in its current format not everything in EU law will be transposed into UK law.

In relation to fully transferring current EU requirements into UK law, there has been a long running issue over the status of the text of Regulations and Directives which precedes the numbered Articles. This text appears in numbered paragraphs known as Recitals. Whilst in mainland Europe these are clearly understood to be part of the legal text, and set out the philosophy or spirit of the legislation alongside the specific provisions of the Articles. In UK law this is not the case, and the important background principles set out in the Recitals are not treated as being part of the law. There is an extension to this in that there are principles which are set out in the EU treaties and underpin EU legislation. ClientEarth have noted that these principles are not retained at present in the drafting of the EU Withdrawal Bill.

Another concern raised is that the Bill transfers too much power from MPs and Peers to Government Ministers and the civil service by allowing important decisions to be made behind closed doors. This is because most EU legislation is implemented in UK law using secondary legislation – Statutory Instruments such as the Energy Performance of Buildings Regulations in England and Wales. These Regulations are prepared by Ministers and officials and laid in Parliament without any significant scrutiny. Where this was done to transpose EU legislation into UK law, the parent EU measure would have been through extensive consultation during its development, and had been approved by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers on behalf of the Member States.

But now the secondary legislation will be open to amendment or repeal without any such safeguards. This opens the UK Government to exactly the same criticisms of unaccountability many Brexiters levelled at the European Commission. ClimateEarth refers to this lack of accountability as a ‘democratic deficit’.

I would argue that for detailed engineering and technical regulations there is also a serious risk of a technical deficit too if ministers change laws without taking advice, or are poorly advised by civil servants or sectional interests. There may be potentially serious unintended consequences which could be avoided with a bit of proper engagement with those who really understand the technical requirements in a way that the civil service may not.

Effectively, what ClimateEarth is saying is that if we are not very careful, ministers are going to be able to meddle with EU-derived law on a whim without proper public or parliamentary scrutiny. This could run the risk of ideologically-driven ministers changing laws that have been the subject of due process just because they don’t like them. That is wrong; there is a process to be gone through and an argument to be won. It is also not without precedent, as those familiar with the 2015 consultation on “improving and streamlining the Display Energy Certificate regime” will know. This was based on a thoroughly flawed technical analysis of the Directive and the Regulations, and proposed what many felt was a total gutting of an important energy efficiency measure.

Another ClimateEarth concern with the Bill in its current form is that it could lead to a reduction in standards. One reason for this is that UK law differs from European law in that most of Europe the law works on the basis of the principles and intent of the law (the precautionary principle), whereas in the UK we, pretty much, work on the letter of the law.

This difference becomes important because the treaties set out principles, so that when a European lawyer looks at a piece of European legislation, they do so in the context of what Europe is trying to achieve. This is why ClimateEarth say that the Bill fails explicitly to retain the overarching principles of EU environmental law, such as the precautionary principle, that shape and direct environmental law and policy, assist in the interpretation of environmental law, and which are currently part of EU law.

Basically, if the UK government is not firmly committed to the precautionary principle, then if something is not written down in the letter of the directives a UK court could say: ‘Ministers have talked about the precautionary principle, but since it is not written into UK law it is not binding’. This is a serious concern.

ClimateEarth also highlights an issue that the Bill does not “fully convert EU Directives by losing recitals and provisions including important environmental safeguards and obligations - including crucial reporting and reviewing obligations - that are currently incorrectly or incompletely transposed in UK domestic law.

There has, for example, been a longstanding concern that the UK has not properly implemented the EPBD. As it stands the Withdrawal Bill means that if we haven’t properly transposed a piece of EU law, then there will be no scope to fix it after we leave. I think this could be an issue that is particularly relevant to revisions to the EPBD, which are likely to come into force before we leave the EU and should, therefore, be transposed. However, the incomplete and incorrect transposition mechanism might mean that if the revisions are published close to the UK’s departure date that they might not be transposed and there will be nothing we can do about it.

The last major concern highlighted by ClimateEarth is what it calls ‘a governance gap’. This is the result of the UK not adequately setting out a pathway for replacing governance functions, such as ensuring proper implementation, compliance and enforcement of environmental law, which are currently undertaken by EU institutions.

Last month, Michael Gove, Secretary of State for DEFRA, announced the formation of a new ‘commission-like body’ to enforce environmental law after Brexit. There is, however, no guarantee that the new body will fully address this governance gap after the Minister signalled that the government would consult on the role and powers such a new body might have.

The gaps identified by ClientEarth in the Withdrawal Bill could have crucial environmental and democratic significance for the UK post Brexit. There is only a short timeframe in which to amend the Bill. Let’s hope that the government does so and soon, because the environmental issues EU laws were brought in to address are as valid now, if not more so, than they were when the laws were first introduced.

Julie Godefroy’s opinion piece ‘Achieving a green Brexit’ in the CIBSE Journal also addresses this issue.  

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Transforming a Slough waste-recycling centre using Green Infrastructure

As Green Infrastructure Design Challenge 2017 winners we’ve been invited to share our experience of being involved in the competition which was part of Green Sky Thinking Week 2017, so here goes ….

We are Louise and Stephen Handley, Landscape Designers at Amey plc. I must admit Stephen ‘fell’ upon the competition whilst ferreting through the Landscape Institute website. We don’t usually have time to enter competitions, but the brief for the Green Infrastructure Design Challenge corresponded closely with a project we were working on for Amey, and as designers anything that allows you to play with a project is welcome!

The live project was a planning application to convert a piece of land near our offices to an additional car park, extra spaces being needed because our offices are merging with the local authority and an increase in staff will follow.

The site is currently green (e.g. grass) and acts as a flood defence for the adjacent stream - the area being in a 1 in 100 chance of annual flood zone. Our proposals aimed to lessen the impact of a hard surfaced car park on a sensitive site and improve the space’s function as flood defence. We integrated rain garden clusters, swales and porous surfacing into the scheme.

The Challenge brief called for measures to be proposed for both the interior and the wider public realm, so we integrated the exterior treatment of the building with the external space and then connected this to the new car park with a ‘green walk’ which incorporated tree planting and a dense hedge.

Although this was a design competition, we approached the brief as if it were a realisable project, experimenting with ideas for improving the existing offices, whilst considering how future development of the building and site could incorporate Green Infrastructure measures and new technology.

The Green Infrastructure Adaptation Strategy we developed for the site used first-hand experience from current occupants and the CIBSE Design Summer Year (DSY) and Test Reference Year (TRY) files to help us guestimate the adaptation measures which may be needed from 2020. The issues we highlighted in the strategy provided us with principles for the design, such as:-

 internal comfort and building fabric
 external comfort and building facade
 drainage, attenuation, and flooding
 landscape features
 landscape innovation

Our office building is a ‘peach’ of a poor environment for people to work in. Sandwiched between a waste transfer station and a sewage pumping station, and bordered by the M4, its construction and aspect ticks all the boxes for overheating in the summer, poor insulation, poor air quality, ventilation etc. We knew that the introduction of vegetation into the offices would benefit the occupants in terms of wellbeing and air quality, but we also knew that the lack of natural light in some of the deeper corners of the building would be a problem in terms of growing. This problem led us to looking at hydroponic growing with artificial light (no… not that) and in turn we discovered a company called Plant-e, who have developed and patented a way to produce light and energy from living plants.

‘Fantastic!’ cried the enthusiastic designers, ‘we’ll just grow stuff vertically under red and blue LED lights, powered by plants!’ ‘Errmm …’ cautioned the scientists at Plant-e, ‘not so sure about that, but we could certainly experiment with the idea.’ So we had interesting conversations about fitting PMFCs (plant microbial fuel cells) into hydroponic units and storing solar power from the roof in batteries which could power the fuel cells, and we developed conceptual vertical units to grow edible plants which could be tended and eaten by the office staff.

Given that the building is to house more staff and their comfort and wellbeing should be considered as important to productivity, we decided to take out a section of the front elevation and install an atrium where the additional much needed sunlight is filtered by screens of plants, both outside and inside. The external walls and roofs are clothed in vegetation which will improve both summer and winter insulation issues and act as attenuation for heavy rainfall, and this in turn will be directed to rain gardens in the ground plane. Large scale tree and hedge planting will address heat island, air pollution, and shading issues – all of which are current problems.

Click here to view our winning entry.

Our challenge experience

Competition work stretches your thinking beyond your comfort zone, this one is no exception.
We have gained valuable knowledge which has now become part of our design approach for all new projects.

We have made interesting new contacts – notably Plant-e in the Netherlands, Shelley Mosco, research assistant for the Landscape and Environmental Research Group at Greenwich University, and of course Anastasia Mylona, Research Manager at CIBSE and the ARCC network.

Flexibility in the site selection allowed participants to interrogate their own chosen building and public realm, and then allow the brief to guide how to approach the site.

The CIBSE Analysis formats - Climate Change Risk Assessment, Adaptation Strategy etc were invaluable in helping to structure the information that we needed in order to develop the design.

Thank you and goodbye for now.

Click here to find out more about the CIBSE / UKCIP Green Infrastructure Design Challenge and how to enter for the 2018 competition.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Plan - Do - Check - Act

Many UK businesses are looking to increase efficiency and reduce energy costs. Whether as part of an overall corporate strategy, a route to organisational efficiency or a key focus of a cost or carbon reduction drive, monitoring and managing your energy use effectively makes sound business sense. But what steps can companies take to manage their energy use? CIBSE takes a look at ISO 50001 and the business opportunities associated with it.

ISO 50001, the globally recognised energy management standard developed by the International Organisation for Standardisation, is the key tool in that process.

It provides a framework for effectively managing the energy that an organisation uses in its premises. It helps organisations understand where they are using energy, how that energy use can be managed effectively, and how consumption and costs can be controlled into the future.

The standard is effectively a framework to:

  • Develop policies and approaches for the more efficient use of energy
  • Help set organisation targets and objectives 
  • Use data to better understand and make decisions about energy use
  • Monitor, review and improve on an ongoing basis.

Conformity with ISO 50001, confirmed through official third party certification, can be a route to a range of business benefits. It allows organisations to demonstrate responsible and efficient energy management, and can provide returns in energy and cost savings, and employee engagement. It can also give organisations an important business edge, in public relations and satisfy tender requests for responsible energy management.

Steps to managing your energy use
Constant monitoring allows companies to review and develop their energy management processes

ISO 50001 follows a plan-do-check-act process, with organisations seeking certification needing to:

  • Plan – Create an energy plan with baseline indicators of energy performance, strategic and operative energy objectives and action plans
  • Do – Implement the plans, targeting improvements
  • Check – Check that the plans being put into action are proving effective, by monitoring, measuring, and comparing results with the initial objectives
  • Act – Review performance in regular reporting, to optimise and improve energy related performance and the energy management system.

The business opportunities

ISO 50001 is a relatively new standard, issued in 2011, but its uptake is growing rapidly. According to an ISO survey, almost 12,000 ISO 50001 certificates were issued in 2015, up 77% on the preceding year. It is now applied by major brand names in manufacturing industries, retail, financial services, communications and many other business sectors in the UK and internationally.

The standard is suitable for any business in any sector, although some organisations may be able to drive greater benefits than others, with more significant energy users having the greatest potential to make savings. That doesn’t mean, however, that the standard is only viable for major energy users, as it can form part of an integrated approach to energy management, and provide broad opportunities for business improvement.

How organisations can make the most of the ISO 50001 opportunity

The most popular way to demonstrate conformity with ISO 50001 is via third party certification. CIBSE Certification is an independent body, with UKAS accreditation to certify to this standard, and is backed by the recognised authority and expert building services knowledge of the global engineering body, CIBSE.

CIBSE Certification is UKAS accredited for the certification of ISO 50001

Want to know more?

CIBSE Training provides a course designed for energy professionals who are looking to gain an in-depth knowledge of the ISO 50001 Energy Management Systems (EnMS) standard, and also those who are tasked with designing, implementing and maintaining an EnMS that complies with the ISO standard.

Find out more: www.cibse.org/iso-50001

CIBSE Certification operates a register of Low Carbon Consultants, all able to provide authoritative, expert advice on managing energy use, increasing efficiency and helping organisations implement an ISO 50001 compliant energy management system. The register contains more than 1,200 names, located across the UK, all of whom have undertaken an assessment to demonstrate their competence.

CIBSE Certification can also offer non-accredited certification for:

ISO 9001 Quality Management System
ISO 14001 Environment Management System
ISO 18001 Health and Safety Management System

To find out more and to check out the register of Low Carbon Consultants, visit the CIBSE Certification website: www.cibsecertification.co.uk

Friday, 1 September 2017

Leading lights

Local authorities have cottoned on to the cost benefits of LED lighting in our streets, and in government owned buildings across their portfolio. But to what extent can LEDs help squeezed budgets? Society of Light and Lighting Secretary Brendan Keely takes a look.
Just under a year ago, the UK Government affirmed its commitment to the 5th Carbon Budget which binds it to a target of 57% cut in carbon emissions by 2032 – with a view to an 80% cut by 2050. This is a refreshingly ambitious target, but according to Dr Hywel Davies of the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) it will mean that the Government must maintain all of its current climate policies and find further ways to make cuts if it is to stand any chance of hitting this goal. This means the Government is going to have to get creative in order to eke out savings above and beyond what it is already doing.
Last year I wrote that a great way of cutting down on emissions is to target the 180,000 government owned buildings in the UK, two-thirds of which are run by local authorities – encouraging them to switch to properly designed and specified LED lighting solutions in order to save money and carbon.
LEDs can save councils money on energy costs in contexts from streets to stadia
Since that article was published, local authorities across the UK have been rolling out LEDs en-masse for their environmental and budgetary benefits, in new builds, as part of retrofits, on motorways and in street lighting. With most local councils aiming to replace all of their sodium-based street lighting with LED alternatives gradually over the next decade, LED will soon be a fixture just about everywhere.
Much has been made of the great efficiency savings that can be made with LED technology – since the year 2000 LED lights have become ten times more efficient and can boast far longer lifespans than even the most advanced fluorescent lights. Combined with other measures to boost efficiency, such as controls systems, LED solutions can represent a step-change in the efficiency of a building’s lighting – up to 80% savings in some cases.
The maths also looks good from a lifetime perspective as well – a combination of a long life, energy efficiency and low maintenance costs are a great asset to facilities managers worried about the overall cost of a new technology. In this vein, they are also easy to integrate into existing energy management systems: They can easily be set to dim automatically or turn off altogether to reflect the number of people in a room, the time of day or the time of year. This applies on the scale of a single room, a whole building, a stretch of road or a whole town, and can save money without jeopardising safety because their efficiency actually increases when they are dimmed.
Local authorities can make savings across their building portfolio
The energy and carbon savings possible with LED lights are well documented, and local government has bought into their potential on a large scale – but simply seeing LED as a cheaper, newer replacement for fluorescent lights that tick a few green boxes seriously underestimates their other benefits.
At the recent CIBSE Technical Symposium, Ashley Bateson of Hoare Lea observed that only 1% of the cost of running a business is energy related while 9% is rental and a massive 90% is staff costs. The health and wellbeing of the occupants who live and work in a building is hugely important to a company’s bottom-line, because staff absence and illness costs more than any amount of inefficiency, but it can’t be easily measured on a meter so is often overlooked.
The effects of the built environment on health are numerous, complex and touch just about every element of a building. Just sitting next to an open window can reduce a staff member’s sick days by as much as 6%, for example, and higher CO2 concentrations can reduce student’s cognitive performance by 72%. Lighting is no exception to this.
Artificial light is known to affect the human circadian rhythm

The most well-known application of lighting to wellbeing is in the human Circadian Rhythm - the biological processes that regulate our waking and sleeping hormones. Since researchers discovered that this cycle is greatly affected by light, when less light enters the eye it tells our brains that it’s dark and time to sleep or when brighter time to wake up, much has been made of the role of artificial light in this process. Too much blue light in the evening can fool the body into thinking that it’s day time – thereby interfering with the natural sleep cycle.
Daylight remains the most effective means of keeping the Circadian Rhythm in check, but with the advent of LED lights that can mimic a range of colours and intensities it is increasingly able to replicate natural changes in the spectral distribution of the light to mimic natural light, to the extent that it can offset the damage to mood and sleep cycles linked to prolonged periods in doors. The light changes colour during the day – from colder blue light in the afternoon when we need a boost to be active to warmer colour temperature light in the evening when we’re resting. In the winter months when it gets dark early, it could even mean the difference between a well-rested workforce and a tired one.
The versatility of LED technology also allows designers to create bespoke solutions that create a balance between the light’s usefulness and its impact on health. Obviously a workplace needs to be well-lit enough to be safe and functional, but the impact of lighting too intensely from above can be anything from eye pain caused by glare or flicker. It can even make a room harder to see, by creating dark areas where there isn’t a balanced light distribution. Using control systems in conjunction with LEDs, it is possible to reduce these problems by setting light intensity to match the local requirements, and allow office users to choose their own settings for comfort. Even the ability to adjust lighting levels gives building users a psychological boost that lowers absenteeism and increases productivity.
LED light can be produced in a variety of colours to mimic the day/night cycle
LED lighting is crucial here because they not only produce light, but the right kind of light for a workplace environment. There are numerous studies that link brighter offices with increased productivity, motivation and enhanced wellbeing. The flexibility of LEDs not only allows us to light the room more effectively, but with the right kind of light to ensure the lease disruption.
While the savings attributable to energy efficiency caused by the switch to LED lighting is great for local authorities, it really only scratches the surface of what is possible for the whole range of publically owned buildings – from workplaces to leisure facilities, schools, hospitals and libraries. A 1% increase in productivity or health of employees can far outweigh all of the savings achieve through efficiency.  But it’s all down to how LEDs are implemented and deployed within buildings.
In order to ensure that the technology is properly utilised so that it is as effective and efficient as possible, local councils will have to ensure that it is professionally designed as part of a wider strategy that bakes efficiency into the design of their buildings. It’s not as simple as replacing one technology with another like-for-like: it needs to be properly designed and installed by an engineer or designer following industry guidance, such as that produced by the Society of Light and Lighting and the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers, to be as effective as it can be, and ensure that works harmoniously with the building, the occupants and the other systems in play.

Friday, 25 August 2017

New horizons

With the launch of the new CIBSE UAE region, CIBSE is preparing for a rush of new activity in the area from all over the built environment. We take a look at some of that activity with Society of Public Health Engineering's UAE representative Andy Russell, who reports on the launch of their UAE chapter

After months of planning a SoPHE UAE launch event was held at the Dubai World Trade Centre Club on Level 33 overlooking downtown Dubai on the 8th March. SoPHE UAE was conceived in October 2016 with Andrew Russell of Hilson Moran, Simon Lewin of WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff and Keith Perry of Polypipe taking lead roles for SoPHE in the region. The partnership and collaboration between the three individuals and their organisations will be key to raising the standards of PHE design and profile of SoPHE in the region.

As a landmark in the UAE this iconic building opened in 1979 and the 39-storey Sheik Rashid Tower is featured on the 100 dirham bank note. As Dubai’s first skyscraper it remains a pioneering symbol of international trade and is home to many leading international corporations including CIBSE UAE. A fitting venue for the SoPHE UAE launch evening.

The Sheik Rashid Tower, Dubai's first skyscraper
The evening started with addresses from CIBSE UAE Chairman Raef Hammoudeh of KEO IC who spoke about the status of CIBSE in the region and SoPHE Chair Steve Vaughan of AECOM who spoke about the role of SoPHE as a society.

Steve also gave an update on the growth of SoPHE since 2014 with nearly 900 members in 10 regions together with the training and educational initiatives being led by the society. The importance of the Young Engineers Group was also discussed and how the society are looking to develop the engineers of the future.

As expected the launch event was well attended mainly by non-members indicating great potential for the future of SoPHE in the UAE so the evening focussed on the benefits of joining CIBSE, Membership options and what SoPHE can offer in the region together with outlining future events within the region.High on the agenda for the new region is a UAE Technical Group to produce technical bulletins and training specifically tailored for UAE PHE design to improve the standard and consistency of PHE design across the region.  

Polypipe gave a short presentation to show how they support the society in terms of training and education for public health engineers in the region.The evening concluded in the local McGettigans bar (another Dubai landmark!) with live music, food and drinks courtesy of Polypipe.SoPHE would like to thank Polypipe for their continued support of the society together with their involvement and funding to make SoPHE UAE happen this year.

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 www.cibse.org/bpa