Friday, 25 September 2015

A holistic approach to building

Earlier this year CIBSE released the first update to its foremost publication on environmental design, Guide A, in nearly a decade. We spoke to the Chair of the Guide A steering Committee Derrick Braham, to find out the whole story behind the changes to the Guide.

What is different about the new guide?

First and foremost, the new Guide A is a holistic and comprehensive update of the old. It’s taken nine years of hard work to achieve, but as our flagship guide on environmental design, it’s imperative that care is taken to ensure all the changes of the past decade have been taken into account. And a lot has changed; from new EU regulations to altered Government targets, new research and new techniques, and these all must be taken into account in each chapter to ensure that there is consistency in the design process.

There has also been a second driver behind the process of updating Guide A: The building services industry’s response to climate change. This is an aim that is baked into the Guide rather than something that can be tacked on, but it manifests itself most clearly in the inclusion of the new Chapter 0, which aims to set out a route map for environmentally conscious design.

Building services engineers are working in a profession for which climate change will be tremendously important in the long run, both in terms of how they affect it, and how it affects them. Research by the Sustainable Energy Association showed that inefficient buildings are costing the UK £12bn a year in wasted heat, not to mention the amount of greenhouse gases emitted to replace that excess. It is clear therefore that action is needed to ensure that new buildings are constructed with standards in mind to cut that waste, and who better to lead the charge than building services engineers?

What were the main driving forces behind the changes to the guide?

If the costs to the economy, client and environment weren't enough of a case, there’s the future to consider. A changing climate means changing weather conditions, which may have a huge impact on the future design of buildings, as well as the effectiveness of those already in place. Designers, contractors and especially facilities managers of the future will be left trying to deal with a situation that is very different from our own, in which the current rule book is torn up by greater extremes in temperature, leaving current and planned structures ill-equipped to deal with the new conditions.

There are few professions that have such a grasp on the future of climate change as the engineer. Politicians often have competing agendas, and can only guarantee any particular direction for a maximum of five years – building services engineers in one form or another are with a building for its entire life span. It was with this in mind that we created Chapter 0. Using this chapter and their professional judgement, the engineer has a way of assessing the entire process of designing a building according to the original aims, as well as calculating how to achieve those aims.

By using this method to design, construct and maintain a building, the engineer is taking responsibility for the impact his profession has on the environment and working to effect positive change. This has been made possible by one of the biggest jobs associated with the updated Guide: Updating the enormous amount of data that goes into producing a leading guide such as this. This includes updating figures from the parameters of human hearing, to mean geographical temperatures throughout the seasons, which all help to better define comfort in the context of environmental design.

What does it mean when you say the update is 'holistic?'

It’s important to remember that comfort is just as much a part of the design process as efficiency, something that can make a failure of even the most ecologically sound building. Designing a building is a fundamentally people-focussed activity, something which an engineer can easily lose sight of under pressure to deliver ever greater efficiency. Unfortunately, the systems in a building that are most often associated with comfort, such as the air conditioning, heating and ventilation, are also often the biggest culprits when it comes to reducing its efficiency.

So when we say that Guide A is a holistic approach to environmental design, we really mean it. When considering the consequences of climate change, Guide A makes an effort to ensure that the building is both efficient and liveable; not a harsh and Spartan slave to efficiency, or a luxurious waste of electricity. This is achieved by providing methods of calculation such as fabric performance, heating and ventilation system sizing and methods for thermal comfort evaluation and energy demand, to ensure that the engineer has as many tools as possible at their disposal to make the right decisions.

The upgrades to Guide A serve to make it the most complete Guide available on environmental design, but they also add a considerable amount of data that will future-proof the Guide for decisions made today that will be felt tomorrow. As a result, it will allow engineers to step up to the plate and really make a difference in design that limits the effects of climate change.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Collaboration in action

By Geoff Prudence, Chairman of CIBSE Facilities Management Group

The task of a Facilities Manager is often a challenging one. Over the last 20 years, the increasing number and complexity of systems in place to operate, control and support systems within buildings has made it necessary for the FM to have a wide range of understanding in more and more areas. The CIBSE Facilities Management Group have long promoted the need for greater understanding and collaboration with the controls industry to improve the operation of buildings.

An added complication is the continuum of flaws within a building’s design or materials that make the FM’s job harder, once buildings are in their operational life. Small changes during the design process will have a greater positive or negative impact (and cost) in the operational life, but is an opportunity that must be taken.

Some buildings have inefficiencies baked into the design
When CIBSE’s President Nick Mead also supported the need for collaboration in his inaugural speech, he was talking about work which will fundamentally alter the way that the disciplines involved in building services work with each other to make buildings better, not just tick boxes.

In line with that theme that Nick highlighted, we were pleased to announce our arrangement with the Building Controls Industry Association (BCIA), a strategic partnership that is key to our aims. As I have said previously, building performance is an issue that resonates particularly strongly with FMs, because they are the ones who have to manage a poorly performing building long-term, if it isn’t constructed with effectiveness and efficiency in mind.

It is essential that all professions grasp the opportunity we now have to really take designs and operations of future buildings and existing building retrofits to a new level. From its outline brief through to orientation, shape, services and plant and workspace requirements, experienced FM’s can add real value to any project. The Plan of Work, CIBSE Guides, BIM and all the other Tools are there-We just need to make it happen!

And it’s that emphasis on the long term that makes energy management so important to the Facilities Management Group. For an FM with so many variables to account for when trying to optimise the efficiency of their building, using energy management systems can be vital in keeping track of it all in context and making sure they have the best chance of success. But all this depends on having an energy management system that is installed appropriately, commissioned correctly and operating to the highest standards. CIBSE Certification's recent accreditation to certify energy management systems against ISO 50001 is a great leap forward, but it will require more in the industry to realise the benefits of such systems to affect the UK as a whole.

Energy Management Systems can be vital in keeping track of data
It’s that long term aspiration, operational excellence and energy performance in practice over the life of the building we are thankfully seeing more of. There is opportunity to showcase this through the 2015 CIBSE Energy Performance award which as well as projects has categories for Facilities Management Operations and controls/improvements through energy efficiencies.

Going forward, this will be the first of many such agreements which will see the Facilities Manager make allies with the many different industries who can contribute to the overall goal of managing energy usage down to cut costs and carbon emissions: Lighters to emphasise the importance of energy saving solutions, HVAC engineers to ensure that the installed systems are commissioned properly, renewables engineers to ensure that the building’s potential for green power is maximised.

By working with the BCIA, CIBSE Facilities Management be working to promote awareness and best practice around operations, controls in buildings and input/collaboration to designs for better outcomes.

After all we all want to make buildings work more effectively-Don’t we?

Friday, 4 September 2015

A reliability problem

Mark Hawker of Sainsbury's
With August’s announcement of the official programme for CIBSE Building Performance Conference and Exhibition, the countdown to the grand opening begins here. On the 3rd and 4th of November, more than 300 of the world’s leading experts in building services engineering will pack the Queen Elizabeth II Exhibition Centre in Westminster along with top manufacturers and leaders in other disciplines related to the built environment.

Their focus at this iteration of the Conference will be ‘Working Together for Resilient, Efficient and Healthy Buildings’, and attendees will see talks on security, BIM and performance evaluation amongst others, all tied together by the theme of Nick Mead’s presidency: Collaboration, and how it can improve building performance.

In the first of our series of blogs on the upcoming Conference, we spoke to Mark Hawker, Senior Engineering Design Manager at Sainsbury’s Supermarkets Ltd about the session he will be leading on Reliability Centred Maintenance, and the reasons behind choosing the topic.

First of all, why was Reliability Centred Maintenance an important subject to talk about at the Conference?

Maintenance and Facilities Management are the "Cinderella" side of the business - in the kitchen covered in dirt, not considered front of house or at the front of people’s minds. However, it remains a crucial element in the running of any building, because if equipment is not well maintained it will not perform nor last.

Before the 1950s it was assumed that aircraft components had an operational life, and that they needed to be continuously replaced to keep the aircraft running.

40 commercial aircraft crashed for every 1 million take offs.  Through a study of their alarming failure rate, engineers were able to determine the age of these components had little effect on their failure, and that a strategy based on the whole system’s function was more effective than trying to estimate each part’s life span.

The process developed was instrumental in getting this down to 0.7 crashes for every 1 million take offs.    


What is the impact of this on the professional industry?

At many forums I attend there is a tendency to focus on the new sexy shiny stuff that is being developed and not how to maintain it to keep it working.

I raised the subject of Reliability Centred Maintenance as a process originally born in the aviation industry, but it is now used in military, the pharmaceuticals industry, the nuclear industry and in FMCG - I think it’s time for Building Services to draw learnings from what is happening elsewhere.

So who in the industry is it most relevant to?

There are plenty of other industries that use RCM, and have done for years. The real disconnect in building services seems to be between those who build and those who maintain, rather than between specific industries. There can be a focus on implementing the latest new kit, rather than on how it can be maintained.

I perceive that building services as an industry have things they can learn from other industries – like philosophies such as RCM, and that this is partially as a result of those who build and those who maintain not working together enough. Even the latest equipment can fail quickly if its maintenance isn’t done well, so we need to recognise that this is just as important as new technology in maintaining building performance.

The impact will be the same as the other places it is used: Better performance and reliability, lower operating costs, greater efficiency and a greater overall lifespan. It needs discipline in developing and rolling it out, from the RCM analysis itself, to embedding in a maintenance system and training technicians. You expect this level of diligence when you get into a plane or a car – we should expect it when we enter any commercial or public premises. The results in other industries speak for themselves.

For full details of the conference programme and to register your place, visit