Friday, 31 July 2015

Reflections on our 'two years running'

By Brian Morris, Managing Director of Beverley Clifton Morris, winner of Building Services Consultancy of the year (up to 100 employees) 2014 and 2015

As I made my way down to Grosvenor House, London in February I had no expectations of winning an Award. My company, BCM, was a finalist in the Building Services Consultancy of the Year (under 100 employees) category at the CIBSE Awards 2015. As we headed to the hotel reception to greet my colleagues and our guests, I was determined to enjoy the evening, though had resigned myself to not being a winner on this occasion.

In 2014, we won the award. It was the first time we had entered and being called on stage had taken me by surprise. It was a fantastic, overwhelming experience and it took a good few days before it truly sunk in.

To be named as a finalist in 2015 and attend as ‘reigning champions’ was an honour. It recognised that we’d had an incredible 12 months in terms of growth, business wins, and key strategic developments, and were still ‘worthy candidates’.

BCM collect their Award for Building Services Consultancy of the Year (up to 100 employees) 2015

Though I really didn’t think that the judges would award the trophy to the same company for a second year running. I honestly thought that it was nice to be a finalist and be there to pass the torch on to another deserving company. I’d even mentally planned to go and congratulate the winner.
But the judges DID the unexpected. BCM was announced as the winner and I took to the stage for a second year running, to collect a matching trophy that now sits proudly next to its older sibling in our growing trophy cabinet.

And how very grateful we are that the judges made said selection, as the response from our clients and industry peers was phenomenal. Retaining the prestigious industry award for a second year truly ascertained our place as the best firm of our kind in the country. It highlights our positive contribution to the industry and shows how we are leading the way.  Clients and partner organisations recognise this, and combined with our strategic developments, we have seen further growth this year.

Our continual investment in training and development played a vital part in the win, judges praised our e-MPDS programme, run under the auspices of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE), and how members of our team are trained as CIBSE Low Carbon Consultants. Our Knowledge Transfer Partnership with Liverpool John Moores University was also highlighted as innovative good practice.

Our double win has helped us with our recruitment also. Being able to say we are a multi-award winning firm is something that makes us stand out, as does the publicity and heightened awareness that stems from such wins.

How will I feel on the train down to the CIBSE Awards 2016, should we be fortunate enough to make the final cut again? Could the same firm possibly win THREE years in a row? Fingers crossed!

The 2015 BPA statuettes
The Building Performance Awards 2016 are open for entries until 10 September 2015 with 14 categories recognising the products, projects and people redefining excellence in the built environment.

Friday, 24 July 2015

A pathway to nearly zero energy

The Government has announced in its recent Productivity Plan that the zero carbon buildings target in England is to be dropped. This has been widely criticised, but England and the rest of the UK are still committed to all new buildings being “nearly zero energy” from January 2021 through the EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive. Hywel Davies, Technical Director of CIBSE, proposes a practical realisation of this target.

The coalition government was committed to zero carbon homes from 2016 and zero carbon non-domestic buildings from 2019. Those goals were described back in the early days of the coalition, and George Osborne wasted little time in announcing that the idea of ‘zero carbon’ buildings, combining energy efficiency measures and “Allowable Solutions”, is finished.

The sudden change of policy has been widely criticised for removing a long standing objective that had driven innovation in the construction sector. This undermines those in the industry who do seek to reshape construction and deliver real innovation, who will find that companies will be less willing to commit to anything related to government policy because of the risk of a sudden change of policy.

In Wales, the Assembly Government was quick to express disappointment over the Chancellor’s announcement and to confirm that Wales was committed to meeting the ‘nearly zero energy’ targets. And in Scotland the 2007 Sullivan report set out an ambitious pathway to reduce energy use and emissions from buildings, even though it had to be reviewed in 2013 in the light of the economic downturn.

Policy uncertainty discourages innovation in new projects 

Zero carbon v. Zero energy
The “zero carbon” target was set before the recast of the European Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) came into play. That Directive requires all new buildings to be “nearly zero energy” from 1 January 2021. And the UK is committed to that target.

The EPBD defines a nearly zero energy building (nZEB) as “a building that has a very high energy performance, as determined in accordance with Annex I. The nearly zero or very low amount of energy required should be covered to a very significant extent by energy from renewable sources, including energy from renewable sources produced on-site or nearby”.

It was never clear how the government intended to align the zero carbon concept, with “allowable solutions” as an offset mechanism, with this definition of nearly zero energy based on renewables. ‘Zero carbon’ homes from 2016 relied on a combination of minimum energy efficiency standards as set out in Part L, coupled with the allowable solutions payment, with no clear requirement for renewables anywhere, let alone ‘on-site or nearby’.

Building Regulations Part L

Given that it is mid 2015 now, anyone with passing familiarity with the last three rounds of revisions to Part L will realise that ‘zero carbon’ homes in 2016 would have been based broadly on Part L 2013.This would have been most unlikely to have satisfied the nZEB definition, and so a further round of changes in regulations and associated practice would have been needed for nZEB, at further significant cost to the industry.

For homes the earliest that this revised Part L could have been delivered would have been in late 2016, for the October common commencement date for new regulations. With a six month lead in before coming into force, and a year for transitional provisions, it would have been April 2018 at the earliest before we really got to ‘zero carbon’.

And for non-domestic buildings, a target of 2019 would inevitably have been based on a revised Part L coming into force in October 2019, with a potential for a transitional period of six months or a year, taking us almost to the ‘nearly zero energy’ deadline.

A model of a heat network, designed to cut energy waste


We are now on a timetable to nearly zero energy buildings from 1st January 2021. That date is outside the control of the UK government, it is in the Directive.

1.    The EPBD sets out a clear timetable for the development of Part L, as the minimum energy efficiency standard for England. Article 4 requires Member States to set minimum standards, and these must cover new build and refurbishment. Whilst the Directive acknowledges that the standards must be cost effective, this is set over the whole life of the building, not just for build cost. And Article 4 also requires the standards to be reviewed at least every five years.

2.    The EPBD requires Member States to undertake a review of how cost optimal their standards are using an EU methodology that is set out in a Regulation. This takes a different view of some aspects of cost effectiveness to the Treasury. The first such review was published in 2013, although it was due in 2012. The delay was due to the late publication of the methodology regulation. So the next cost optimal analysis is due in 2017. If that review finds that Part L is behind the curve for cost optimal requirements, then Part L will have to be brought up to speed. And that will have to be in 2018, since the previous review was in 2013. So we now have a clear timetable set out for us, not in a Treasury document, but in the EPBD and supporting Regulation.

3.    As zero carbon was a UK policy, it came under “one in two out” (rumoured to be heading for one in three out), whereby to increase the regulatory costs of Part L twice (or three times) that regulatory cost would have had to be removed through deregulatory measures. Now that we are working to an EU Directive, “one in two out” does not apply, which makes it less of a challenge to bring Part L up to reasonable requirements in 2018.

So the net results of dropping ‘zero carbon’ are:

·         A single goal, ‘nearly zero energy’.
·         A clear timetable for upgrading Part L to support this goal.
·         No potential conflict between the ‘zero carbon’ and ‘nearly zero energy’ targets.
·         A focus on energy.

A private wind turbine generates space capacity for the national grid

Next steps
Given the announcement of the expected capacity gap, or spare capacity in the national grid this coming winter, it is a welcome development. Every megawatt of energy saved in a building is energy that does not need to be generated, thereby freeing up finance for more productive purposes.

So whilst the sudden change of tack will have damaged industry confidence, our focus must now be on how we can meet the nearly zero energy targets.

CIBSE, is the professional body which is most intimately involved in the manufacture, design, installation, commissioning, operation and maintenance of most of the energy using systems installed in a building. We are uniquely placed to take a lead in considering the way forward for Part L in a nearly zero energy, cost optimal, world. We will bring together a working group to consider how Part L 2018 might most effectively support the delivery of nearly zero energy new buildings, and cost optimal requirements for refurbishment. We would encourage all those who share that interest to come and join us on the journey to delivering nearly zero energy buildings. 

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

The new face of district heating

After months of drafting, an extensive public consultation and many rounds of input from several major organisations, the Heat Networks: Code of Practice for the UK was finally unveiled. But it wasn’t just an important night for the Association for Decentralised Energy (ADE) and CIBSE, for whom this was a ‘first of its kind’ document. It marks an important milestone for the future of heating in the UK.

And that’s not an idle boast; the Government already holds heat networks to be an important asset in the fight against energy insecurity, having issued a target of 14% of the UK’s heat to be supplied this way. As a result, we have had a tremendous level of support from the Department of Energy and Climate Change who provided funding for the completion of the Code and development of the training programme.

CIBSE's Phil Jones, ADE's Time Rotheray and DECC's David Wagstaff launch the Code
The reason for this stretches all the way back to the oil crises of the 1970s, after which many European countries woke up to the fact that they would have to start taking their energy security seriously. In the face of heating oil rations, blackouts and driving bans, countries such as Sweden and Denmark opted to manage their citizens’ heating more efficiently from heat networks, while Britain opted to invest in its domestic gas network.

In 2015 we are starting to see similar pressures to those in 1973, but the threat is different. Climate Change is forcing the UK Government to re-think the ways in which it supplies energy to its citizens, as dwindling gas supplies and the increasing unsustainability of fossil fuels makes an alternative more and more necessary. 40 years later, heat networks in Europe are a much more mature concern; Malmo in Sweden and Denmark’s capital Copenhagen supply close to 100% of their heating, while the UK languishes far behind with less than 2% supplied that way.

Battersea Power Station used to supply Pimlico with waste heat

Unfortunately, for all the international pedigree that heat networks have, the picture is not the same in Britain. Without a heat networks culture already in place, planners and developers are taking some convincing of the benefits: Neglected as an option over the decades, heat networks often have a history of poor installation and maintenance, as well as a bad reputation for being installed in inappropriate settings. This Code, with the accompanying training, puts the skills and standards in place which will convince developers that new networks will be properly installed.

This has the potential to change the face of heating in the UK, as it will finally make district heating a recognised alternative for heating in high density areas, and could make it the solution of choice up and down the country. And this isn't just a boost for the Government; over half of the average home’s energy costs are taken up by heating bills, which will be lowered considerably by the ability to tap into cheaper, shared heat sources. 

Fundamentally, the Code will give developers the confidence they need to choose heat networks as their preferred solution, safe in the knowledge that a rigorous set of standards and a robust form of measurement is in place to ensure their effectiveness. This will prove crucial in the years ahead, if the Government is to achieve their 14% target. 

Pumping equipment at Pimlico District Heating Undertaking