Friday, 16 December 2016

Future perfect

Last week's #Build2Perform blog 'Back to the future' focussed on the future of Building Services, as told by our 'Are you ready for a digital future?' panel at the Conference and Exhibition. This month's podcast takes a look from another angle - by looking at the past. Principal of Atelier Ten Patrick Bellew and Max Fordham, Founder of Max Fordham LLP, are our speakers.

This Month's podcast featured extracts from the CIBSE Building Performance Conference and Exhibition session 'Celebrating Anniversaries & Sharing Aspirations', featuring Patrick Bellew and Max Fordham, and chaired by Peter Murray of New London Architecture.

This session focussed on the history of their two organisations, both industry heavyweights and CIBSE award winners in their own right, and what lessons they have learned over the years. As well as a look at the changes within the industry over the last 50 years, the session also took a look forward into the industry's future, as we try to apply what we've learned from technological revolutions in years past to the ones happening right now.

Here's some more information on some of the issues raised in the podcast:

  • Tamsin Tweddle outlines her work on Soft Landings in the Architect's Journal
  • The CIBSE Journal takes a look at Cundall's newly Well Certified offices in London, which incorporate high indoor air quality standards.
  • The #Build2Perform podcast hears from Conference speaker and sustainability consultant Julie Godefroy about indoor air quality.
  • BIM Consultant Carl Collins writes on how to use BIM more intelligently, and talks about it in our podcast 'Zen and the Art of BIM'

Friday, 9 December 2016

Back to the future

A month after the CIBSE Conference and Exhibition, CIBSE Communications Executive Matt Snowden takes a look back at the highlights of the session 'Are you ready for a digital future?' and examines what we learned.

When we take a step back and review the engineering industry it’s easy to take a look at the past and the future. We can look at the decisions and plans we made a week, a month or a year ago and take lessons from the good and bad things that resulted, and promise to learn from them. That’s all part of planning for the future, where we’re confident that these experiences will help us to avoid making mistakes and achieve our objectives.

What is much harder is examining what we are doing right now, particularly where technology is concerned, mostly because of a lack of data. At a time when new technology available to the engineering sector promises to revolutionise our jobs as much as when the computer replaced the drafting desk, it seems impossible to imagine that this might be holding us back rather than pushing us forward.

Talking about digital issues can focus too much on the tech, and
not enough on the user
That’s exactly what was discussed at the CIBSE Conference and Exhibition, during the session ‘Are you ready for a digital future’, but rather than focussing on the ‘business end’ of the issue – the technology itself – the session focussed on the ‘back end’ – the supply chain that is trying to use it. 

The result was some interesting points about what the supply chain actually wants from digital engineering, and how companies can overcome their own shortcomings to take full advantage.
Mike Darby, CEO & Co-Founder of Demand Logic, made a great point early on about the sheer volume of data available to engineers in the modern world. A lot has been said about big data in just about every industry there is, but built environment professionals are at the forefront of the biggest connected devices in the world – the buildings we live and work in.

He calculates that there are over 170,000 BIM data points in a new building like 20 Fenchurch Street (the Walkie Talkie) alone, bringing in spreadsheets worth of data every day, but that the human interface with this data creates a bottleneck. Every byte of that data is wasted, along with the resources expended to gather it, if it is not stored and used correctly at the user end. This amounts to a lot of waste, both potential and actual, and a lot of money thrown away as a result.

The 'Digital future' panel in action at the CIBSE Conference
One of the issues at play was raised afterwards by panellist Dave Mathews, a Partner at Hoare Lea, who said that we’re just not designing user-friendly systems that give simple feedback about their performance. This is an obvious problem, because users can’t act on what their building is telling them about its performance if they can’t understand what it’s telling them. This part is the responsibility of engineers, who can demonstrate their value to a project by working with the other stakeholders and the occupants to explain how a building works and why.

The job of the engineer shouldn't stop at handover
The job of the engineer doesn’t end when the keys to the building are handed over and everybody has moved in. Alex McLaren of Heriot-Watt University was on the panel, and believes that it’s her responsibility as an engineer to revisit the project periodically to check up on the tenants, and to see what lessons she can learn by the project in-use as well. According to Mike Darby, often the people in charge of maintaining the building and its performance just aren’t trained to a high enough standard to get the best use out of its systems.

By sticking with a project to make sure that everybody has enough information to run it properly afterwards, an engineer can ensure that issues that aren’t picked up in the six-week commissioning period don’t come back to haunt them later on. This can simply mean a handover period to explain why certain systems exist and how they work, or it can even mean a more in-depth training period to bring the maintenance staff up to speed. This sounds like a lot of work but, of course, there’s something in it for the engineer too. 

As Alex McLaren said in the panel: ‘Who remembers the engineer after the end of a project?’ You may not have your name stamped on the building like an architect would, but you can demonstrate continuous value to the project way beyond delivery by ensuring it works well.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Ties that bind

Last month, CIBSE and its American counterpart ASHRAE celebrated their 40th anniversary of working together at a ceremony in London, and also signed an agreement to work closer together. This week, CIBSE Communications Executive Matt Snowden (MS) and ASHRAE President Tim Wentz (TW) examine what that deal means in practice

TW: On the 40th Anniversary of ASHRAE/CIBSE collaboration, the two world-leading engineering organizations signed a Strategic Partnership Agreement. The agreement’s purpose is to provide a framework through which ASHRAE and CIBSE can work collaboratively to leverage each other’s strengths and accomplish organizational goals which best serve their respective members, the profession and society. 

The basic tenets of the agreement include:
  • Development of joint training and educational programs in Europe.
  • Exploring development of new conferences that accelerate technology dissemination.
  • Collaboration on research that will advance mutual member interests.
  • Coordination of research programs.
  • Mutual endorsement of conferences and exchange of technical expert speakers. 
  • Connecting of aligned membership demographics, such as Young Engineers in ASHRAE and the CIBSE Young Engineers Network.
  • Exploring opportunities to collaborate on technical publications and standards.
  • Commitment to annual volunteer or staff leadership meetings.
  • Annual staff exchanges.
ASHRAE President Prof Tim Wentz and CIBSE President John Field
 sign the agreement

What does this deal mean to the two organisations?

TW: Collaboration and sharing of knowledge are key to advancing the built environment industry. ASHRAE’s partnership with CIBSE over the last 40 years has proven to be an invaluable collaboration for our respective members and the industry at large. Our joint work through conferences, publications and education has greatly added to the worldwide best practices databank of innovative and successful technologies. I am pleased to celebrate this milestone and look forward to many more

MS: CIBSE and ASHRAE are two world-leading engineering organisations who bring many positives to the global building services industry, but at the same time have significant and positive differences. There are some instances where the task of tackling the problems which face the engineering industry will require us to work together, and times when it is better suited for us to work separately.

The worthy winner of CIBSE's graduate of the year award will attend this
year's ASHRAE winter conference in Las Vegas

Will this impact the way ASHRAE and CIBSE work with other organizations?

TW: No. ASHRAE and CIBSE both have unique relationships with organizations around the world, and that will continue. Additionally, the ASHRAE CIBSE strategy encourages working collaboratively with other organizations.

MS: One of the biggest strengths of the two organisations is their global reach, unaffected by borders, and their global network of collaborating partners. This agreement will not affect any of these relationships, and both CIBSE and ASHRAE will continue working in unique ways with these partners. In fact, this new agreement will help strengthen global collaboration with different partners, and emphasise collaboration as part of its strategy.

How will this impact members?

Members will benefit from the combined global
reach of both organisations
TW: How will members be impacted? Positively! Combining resources for common member goals and encouraging a global exchange of ideas and technologies will benefit all members. There are no immediate changes to benefits provided to either organization’s members. CIBSE and ASHRAE members already take advantage of a membership reciprocity agreement. The potential is enormous!

MS: As the only two organisations in our field with a global reach, CIBSE and ASHRAE have significant common ground and shared interests since the start of their excellent relationship 40 years ago.This new agreement will strengthen that relationship, and help spread the benefits it bring to both CIBSE and ASHRAE members, global partners and to the engineering industry as a whole. By finding opportunities to utilise and deploy both organisations separate resources, skills and expertise, CIBSE and ASHRAE will find new ways to tackle the issues facing the industry, expand our common goals and strengthen the synergy between the two.

Will joint programs be implemented in the U.S. and the UK? 

TW: There are no geographical boundaries on the collaborative programming. CIBSE and ASHRAE will align goals and resources wherever it best serves our respective members to do so. 

MS: One area of improvement will be in communication: Both organisations will ensure that the other is informed on major initiatives, and will work together to develop strategies to deploy these initiatives around the world. There will be an annual staff exchange, as well as an annual vision meeting to ensure that the two organisations become more closely aligned.

Collaboration will also benefit. Team working outcomes are normally better than working as individuals, and the agreement will pave the way for greater. This will benefit members, both societies and society in general. Collaboration between chapters and groups will ensure that those with similar remits in their respective regions will communicate closely and share knowledge, both organisations will work together in advocating building services related policies in their respective territories’ legislatures, and both organisations will create and cross-promote publications of mutual benefit in each other’s memberships.

Better communication and knowledge sharing between the two organisations
will benefit members
One of the two organisations’ great strengths is in their work within the engineering communities, and their existing network of relationships and collaborations through which they are able to make positive contributions to the industry. This agreement is the start of creating that framework to serve society and the profession more effectively in the future.

How can I get involved?

TW: ASHRAE and CIBSE are driven by volunteer expertise and leadership. There will be many opportunities for members to get involved as joint programs are implemented. Those interested in volunteering should send an email to or

Friday, 25 November 2016

Something in the air

One of the main topics at last week's CIBSE Building Performance Conference and Exhibition, indoor air quality is fast being recognised as a priority concern in the world of wellbeing. But in a field where marginal gains are everything, being on top of your data is very important Arie Taal from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at The Hague University has produced research into eliminating faults in HVAC using a BMS

Carbon Dioxide based demand control ventilation (DCV) can reduce heating/cooling loads by up to 30% and fan power consumption by up to 35%.  DCV maintains the CO2 concentration in a room within an appropriate range by adjusting the supply air flowrate.  CO2-based DCV is the most commonly used control method with CO2 sensors installed in the main return air duct.  Nowadays, the increased requirement for smart buildings, combined with a decrease of CO2 sensor prices, has resulted in buildings being equipped with more sensors.

A common issue occurs when one of the CO2 sensors encounters a fault.  This can be down to a lack of maintenance or incorrect sensor placements in rooms.  In a DCV system, a fault can mean that the estimated energy savings and air quality is not guaranteed.  In 1993 the Automatic Background Calibration (ABC) method was developed to calibrate CO2 sensors with the idea that CO2 levels would drop outside normal levels in buildings that are not occupied on weekends or weekday evenings. However, placement of sensors can become a problem as rooms on the inner side of a building or rooms with well-sealed windows may never drop outside of these baseline levels.
Properly controlled ventilation can have a big impact
 on a buidling's energy consumption
Alongside Dr Yang Zhao and Prof Wim Zeiler at the Department of the Built Environment, Eindhoven University in the Netherlands, Mr Taal has been working toward a systematic method of diagnosing faults in CO2 sensors.  Using automatic fault detection, diagnosis and self-correction in CO2 sensors would be a proactive method in air conditioning systems to solve this problem.  The premise of Mr Taal’s study has been to show how the automatic commissioning of CO2 sensors in air conditioning systems is achievable using benchmark values obtained in one of two methods.

In conventional methods, sensor faults are detected by comparing their measurements with benchmark values.  These values can be obtained manually, measured by technicians, or calculated automatically using other available measurements.  The latter is more common because it can be done automatically in the building management system (BMS).  Practical issues arise in air conditioning systems because there are no sensors equipped to measure the CO2 generation rate, CO2 concentration in the supply air and the flow rate of the supply air in m3/s.  In the development of models for CO2 sensor fault detection, the lack of information poses a real challenge.

It is important to test the sensors without
outdoor air, and with solely outdoor air
In an effort to eliminate the threat posed by this lack of information the idea is to perform one of two test methods under specific operating conditions to ascertain the required benchmark levels.

The first is to recycle air without adding any outdoor air for between one and two hours to create 100% return air ventilation.  By closing all windows, doors and fresh air dampers in air handling units the measurements of all CO2 sensors should theoretically be the same.  The second test is full outdoor ventilation, to supply fresh air into the building without any recycling for between one and two hours.  Again, at the end of the time period all of the CO2 sensors should be the same and equal the CO2 concentration of the ambient air.

Faulty sensors will be detected if their readings are different from the assessed benchmark values.  A faulty sensor can be detected if its measurements are obviously higher or lower than other sensors.

In the first method, the degree of fault is then measured from the difference between the defective sensor and the average measurement of the other faultless CO2 sensors. The second compares the faulty sensor reading to the ambient CO2 concentration both looking for a negative or positive bias in CO2 levels when measured against the benchmark.

Self-correction is the final step in the process where all of the information is taken from the faulty sensor for adjustment.  Using the assessment results from the fault diagnosis the CO2 bias can be corrected.  The results of the detection, diagnosis and self-correction will then be reported to technicians for reference.

Together with his team, Mr Taal produced a simulation of their works on the first floor of a school building at The Hague University in Delft.  In their experiment, nine rooms were used with a CO2-based DCV applied to control the amount of supply air to each room in order to keep the CO2 measurements within the benchmark.  Separate experiments were conducted to simulate different conditions. The first simulates a fault free operation and a second introduces faulty sensors to show the impacts of automatic fault detection system.

A potentially serious problem with an HVAC system can be detected
simply using a BMS

Using two operating methods to obtain CO2 benchmarks, 100% return air ventilation and full outdoor air ventilation; faulty sensors can be detected, diagnosed and self-corrected using a BMS.  From the simulations, results show that after 45 minutes there are obvious differences between functional sensors and those that are faulty.  After an hour and a half the positive or negative bias can be accurately measured.

Theoretically, the proposed methods are effective ways to detect faulty CO2 sensors, effectively diagnoses the state of failure and to automatically remove the fault.  The ability to automatically detect, diagnose and repair faults is vital to the effective running of DCV systems.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Bridging the gap

The performance gap is the big problem of our times in the building services industry, and hundreds of column inches are devoted to products created to fix it each year. Ahead of his presentation at the CIBSE Conference Casey Cole, Managing Director of Guru Systems, presents an alternative view: That process, not technology, is the answer  

New buildings in the UK consume far more energy than predicted by their designers - up to 10 times more according to an Innovate UK study. This performance gap doesn't arise because we lack technology. Studies by the UKGBC and others conclude that it's the result of failings throughout the project life-cycle, from concept to handover.

Performance gaps may arise because clients are unclear about what they want; project teams don't understand the impact of their design choices; contractors substitute products and materials on the fly and then install them poorly; or quality assurance is lax, with employers' agents either blind to the problems or willing to let shoddy work escape their net.

What goes doen on paper often doesn't make
it to bricks-and-mortar
There's no doubt about it - we've got trouble right here in the UK building industry. But innovation on its own won't solve the problem. The Internet of Things isn't coming to the rescue. Because the performance gap isn't a technology problem - it's a problem of people, information and accountability.

That's a sobering realisation, because we've all drunk the same Silicon-Valley-brand of neoliberal Kool-Aid. We know that given the right market signals, some whizzy new technology that no one has yet thought of will appear and address any problem you can name: from climate change to… well, to the performance gap.

But not this time. Any purely technological solution would simply be papering over the cracks in our poorly functioning buildings, cracks that were put there by project teams.

There's a positive side to our realisation: if we don't need new technologies to close the performance gap, then we already have the tech we need. Indeed, I think we do. But, that technology must be used to empower clients, engineers and all of us on the project team to do our jobs better. Here's how:

The first step is to collect data from existing buildings. Organisations like CBx, Digital Catapult and Guru Systems, the company where I work, are already doing this. This data is being collected from utility meters (e.g. smart meters and heat meters), building energy management systems and other monitoring systems. By analysing this data, we can understand which factors have the biggest influence on performance.

We can then set clear performance requirements and explicit means of measuring them. These must be measurable before the building reaches practical completion, while the people who can put it right are still on site. It's no use specifying kWh/m2/annum or any other target that can only be calculated once the building is occupied. By the time they can be measured, the project team will have long since moved on. So, we must define requirements for the characteristics that are measurable before occupation and that lead to good performance in operation.

Collecting in-use data from buildings rather than relying on projections is key
Most importantly, clients must make performance requirements contractual. Those clear, measurable objectives must be written into the invitation to tender and then into contract. The lead contractor and the rest of the delivery team must know from the outset what's expected of them (and that they'll be held accountable for achieving it). We have a number of clients that have now adopted this approach for heat networks and they've shown that, once it's contractual, everyone's incentives align and the gap between expectation and outcome closes.

Casey Cole is speaking on ‘Are you ready for a digital future?’ at the CIBSE Building Performance Conference on Thursday, November 17 from 10:25am to 11:20am.

Friday, 4 November 2016

The great phase-out

We wrote about the end of HFCs earlier in the year, but after an amendment to the 1989 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer made in October 2016, their days are well and truly numbered. Brought in as a refrigerant gas to replace ozone-depleting CFCs, HFC use will be reduced by 85% across the world by 2045 to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Now the race begins to replace them. With many contenders in the running Simon Lamberton-Pine, Managing Director of DPAC UK, makes the case for the natural alternative 

It all came out of the blue – mainly because we had all forgotten that this was going to happen – hadn’t we? However, what this worldwide news has done has been to heighten the awareness of the fact that air conditioning and refrigeration equipment does indeed contain harmful gases that are damaging our environment.

As consumers (who own refrigerators and air conditioners) we take the equipment for granted. For those of us who have grown up with refrigeration as part of our daily lives, do we give a second thought to the refrigerants being used and the potential impact on the environment? Of course we don’t! As a result, do we even know about the alternative refrigerants available and the resulting changes to the equipment we will need? For those of us involved in Commercial HVAC equipment supply, then we of course are all too aware, and there are plenty of manufacturers now offering alternatives to the conventional HFCs, ourselves included!

HFCs can take a hidden toll on a building's carbon footprint
However, the current main (non HFC) alternatives for the larger buildings/applications are using either Ammonia, CO2 or Propane and they all have different considerations when it comes to selecting these as suitable alternatives to a building's commercial cooling system: Ammonia is highly toxic; it is well suited to large industrial systems, but less cost effective at small and medium sizes. HCs are highly flammable; they are excellent refrigerants for very small hermetically sealed systems but safety used to be an issue for medium and large sizes – although that has now changed somewhat.

For the purpose of this article we are considering the use of R290 (Propane) and its suitability, as well as ensuring safety considerations and precautions are taken into account, as after all this is an inflammable gas! Propane has been used and selected in hundreds of projects for many years, its global warming potential (GWP) vs HFCs is well documented and it is currently the preferred alternative for large and small A/C replacement projects.

Safety is a primary concern where highly inflammable
gases are used
For larger commercial and industrial buildings, equipment is available with duties up to 1,000Kw in single packaged Air Cooled units, which can be mounted externally However, when considering replacing water cooled chillers that are installed inside a building then adequate safety systems have to be considered, (just like commercial gas boilers)

However, getting and transporting Propane for servicing is not that easy and fully licensed suppliers are the best alternative, rather than trying to get a service engineer to transport it! The applications for equipment using R290 (propane) as a natural refrigerant are widespread, covering comfort cooling, process cooling, close control (Data Centre) and general refrigeration (food storage). For example, natural refrigerants are helping the Colruyt Group to save money and deliver its environmental targets, with this leading Belgian retailer moving to hydrocarbons for 100% of its in-store cooling needs

Natural refrigerants avoid the issues concerned with the use of the fluorinated gases. Additionally, these refrigerants offer greater energy efficiency than their fluorinated counterparts – resulting in further reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The most suitable natural alternative in the air-conditioning sector is R290 (propane), which has a low GWP and has high energy efficiency. The large-scale use of R290, however, has been curtailed due to outdated and restrictive safety standards. These were designed decades ago (not taking into account advances in safety features) and over exaggerated concerns related to the inflammable nature of R290 and other hydrocarbon-based refrigerants.

There are some efforts to update international safety standards and make them more accommodating for the use of R290 in all types of air-conditioning systems. However, because of the large commercial interests of the fluorinated gas industry, these efforts are not likely to reach fruition in the near future! Customers who are interested in switching their rooftop-condensing unit from R22 to R290 (propane) sometimes find their efforts get stuck because of a lack of technical knowledge among local installers or technicians, or the absence of standards allowing hydrocarbons in these type of applications.

170 countries agreed to phase-out HFCs at the United Nations in October 2016
Many compressor manufacturers are well advanced into the production of various types using Propane and these should translate into more new equipment as time progresses. One of the biggest challenges is changing the vast quantity of domestic refrigerators, (that is for another article). Additionally, the refrigerants being used in Commercial Refrigeration equipment is now also being considered seriously for replacement with natural refrigeration alternatives. Plenty has been written already about developing nations and their extended phase out schedule and that is a whole other discussion.

UK based M&E Consultants, Contractors and FM Businesses should now be considering Natural Refrigerants as an alternative (particularly if they are involved with replacing older large packaged air cooled units) and in most cases they are far more cost effective, being more efficient and with lower running costs.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Looking after the pennies

As part of our series looking into alternative sources of energy, we've examined micro-CHP, heat pumps, solar panels and heat networks. This week, we take a different view from Prof. Andrew Geens, who believes the cleanest unit of energy is the one you don't use...

Having pledged to join the ranks of countries to ratify the COP21 protocols, and having already signed into law the target to reduce UK greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 by 57% relative to 1990 levels, the Government now finds itself facing a race against time to make some pretty substantial cuts to its emissions.

The #Build2Perform blog has featured several articles making the case for alternative methods of energy generation that are greener than our current crop of fossil fuelled power stations, but some of these are just less polluting, not pollution-free, and even wind turbines and solar panels aren’t 100% carbon neutral. They still need to be manufactured and assembled, then transported across the world and installed – all of which requires fossil fuels at present. There's also the problem of whole-life emissions: Even when installed, these technologies will require carbon-generating maintenance and spare parts from commissioning to de-commissioning, and then to be disposed of after their useful life is over.

Maintaining and replacing renewable technology adds to its whole-life carbon footprint
This will become an even more pronounced problem as renewables are deployed to developing countries without high-tech manufacturing industries of their own. The further from source and the more geographically remote the destination of the turbines or solar cells, the higher the carbon footprint to install and maintain them. But we can stop this problem before it begins by trying a new approach.

In reality, the best way to cut emissions isn’t to generate more clean energy, it’s to reduce our need for it in the first place. After all, the cleanest unit of power is one you don’t use. Industry loves infrastructure, so it’s not the most fashionable view, but it’s one that has been gathering pace because of one key advantage: Cost. Renewables may cut carbon, but we don't use less electricity, we just get it from a more responsible source. Efficiency measures cut use, boosting the bottom line. The fastest way to a businessman’s heart is through their wallet, and energy saving measures have the added bonus of requiring very little in the way of expensive extra equipment.

Renewable energy can be inefficient even though it's clean, which is bad for the books 
The numbers are striking: According to a study by US consulting firm McKinsey & Co. in 2009, Wind power cost about $38 per ton of CO2 saved; solar cost about $30. But replacing incandescent lights in a home with light-emitting diodes saved about $159 per ton of CO2, and using energy-efficient appliances saved about $108 per ton. So why is all the talk about infrastructure when efficiency is so important? Unfortunately, it’s mostly about perception. The Government is keen to invest in exciting, job creating infrastructure projects like wind farms, and the general public find efficiency too complicated or too fiddly to manage. The benefits of fitting a solar panel are more obvious than the benefits of getting higher-quality insulation.

Large infrastructure projects like Swansea Tidal Lagoon
are often preferred by politicians
However, hope is on the horizon, and it’s been gaining traction at an astonishing rate: the Energy Management System Standard, ISO 50001 has seen take-up in many European countries double, led by Germany and the UK, where it has increased by nearly four times between 2014 and 2015. So what makes it different? Primarily, an energy management system standard like ISO 50001 takes the uncertainty out of the process, and introduces a solid business case for energy efficiency.

ISO 50001 aims to put paid to that ‘fiddly’ stereotype that plagues energy efficiency, and make it the first choice technique for improving energy performance, including energy efficiency, use and consumption. This tackles one of the major weaknesses of efficiency as an energy policy against renewables, because it could often be difficult, uncertain and expensive to quantify the results – never a popular combination for businesses with an eye on their bottom line.

Instead, by using an energy management system approach, businesses can be confident in a systematic, quantifiable approach to improving energy performance.

It can also help to tackle one or more of many problems facing businesses in the coming years, whether that’s security of supply, rising bills, green credibility and compliance with Government targets. All this is put in place with constantly reviewed targets and measurable outcomes, including solutions to problems that are encountered, which remove the guesswork from the process.

It’s also very flexible – an energy management system requires a customised approach in order to be effective, and this means it is individually tailored to suit the behaviour and needs of a business. CIBSE Certification operate a register of individuals that they have assessed as competent to help organisations implement an energy management system and several of the ESOS Lead Assessors on their ESOS register have declared energy management systems as one of the areas of expertise.

Kingspan implemented ISO 50001 as part of their plan to become net zero
carbon by the year 2020
CIBSE Certification themselves are UKAS accredited to certify the conformity of energy management systems against the International Standard, ISO 50001.

Wasted energy costs UK businesses upwards of £12bn a year, but by enabling facilities managers to make a solid and attractive business case for energy efficiency, energy management systems have opened up a whole new door to lower energy usage. With uptake of ISO 50001 expected to continue to grow rapidly, expect to see the ‘less is more’ approach gain significant traction as the results start to speak for themselves.  

Friday, 21 October 2016

A meeting of minds

In this week's #Build2Perform blog, we're getting a bonus word from CIBSE President John Field. As well as his regular Presidential blog, he's written for us about his thoughts ahead of the 3rd Building Performance Conference and Exhibition on 17th and 18th November - how it's relevant, how it ties into the future of building services, and why it's exciting!

As CIBSE President one of the biggest and most exciting honours that we get in the job is to preside over a CIBSE Conference. Now in its third year, the Conference is an opportunity to mingle with and hear from some of the biggest names in our industry and grapple with the big issues of the next few years. This year I’m also chairing the second day, in which we’ll be looking at some of the major organisational challenges within the industry such as collaboration and new technology.

The most interesting thing about the Conference is that, while it obviously has a big industry focus, we’re also directly engaging with some of the most significant challenges that the whole world faces over the next hundred years. Climate change, overpopulation, energy security, health and quality of life are all well within our remit, and it’s at events like this that you can truly see how important a position building services engineers occupy in society. We make the modern world work, and this is where we look at how to make it better.

The Conference is a chance to mingle with the industry's best and brightest
Our key theme this year is ‘Inspiration’, which is hard to pin down but crucial to the future of the way we work. Given all I’ve said about engineers’ place in the world, we still don’t occupy as central a place as we ought to in positions of power – contributing to planning and policy making in the many areas to which we contribute. Unlike lawyers and bankers, engineers don’t have much representation in the UK Government. Our voices often go unheard and our advice unheeded, and we need to change that. We need to fight for influence and be prepared to challenge other engineers, other professions, politicians and the media in order to make sure sustainable and sensible policies in the built environment are top of the agenda.

With that in mind, we’ll be looking into both the past and the future on our first day. Celebrating anniversaries at their own companies and in the 40th year since the creation of CIBSE in its current form, Patrick Bellew of Atelier Ten and Max Fordham will be looking back at how the traditional role of the building services engineer has changed in the last 50 years. Then we’ll be looking forwards – why have warnings about building performance been ignored by Governments past, what can we do to change that, and what is coming up in the legislation pipeline that will affect our industry in future?

Indoor air quality is one of the big topics at the Conference,
as well as the subject of a #Build2Perform podcast!
We’re also getting to the bottom of a couple of burning issues in the industry. Air quality will be the subject of a number of talks, ranging from external air quality’s effect on the indoor environment to the ways in which indoor air quality can be improved in homes and schools. We’ll also be re-visiting the theme of collaboration from last year’s Conference, looking at what we’ve learned since then and examining the role that individual sectors have to play in the industry as a whole – from the supply chain to facilities managers.

As well as looking at the nuts and bolts of building performance, the Conference is a great chance to debate the big ideas as well. Talking about grander themes and longer-term ambitions is a great way to focus our minds on the potential of our industry, and the differences we can make to the world. We’ll be taking a look at the perfect world: What society would look like if all buildings achieved their best engineering outcomes. We’ll be looking at the imperfect world: What are the true health impacts of air pollution? And we’ll be looking at a better world: How can we ‘turn old into gold’ and make the most of the UK’s current building stock through retrofit.

It is this combination of the practical and the aspirational that makes the Conference so exciting, and the interaction of the two is at the heart of what is going to drive our industry forwards. We know that our industry represents some of the most knowledgeable technical experts in the world, and that we can do amazing things when we bring this knowledge to bear. We aim to create an environment where we can marry the two, and use our skill to make our vision happen. With a gallery of top experts here to speak, as well as over 500 people from across the industry, the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre is going to be an inspiring place for those two days in November, and we hope to see you there!  

The view from the 2015 Conference in Westminster
The CIBSE Building Performance Conference and Exhibition will be held on 17th and 18th November at the Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre in Westminster. For more info see the CIBSE Conference website.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Industrial action

At the upcoming CIBSE Building Performance Conference and Exhibition, we're going to be focussing heavily on the future of the industry - particularly the ways that new technology can be brought to bear on performance in the built environment; to find easier, smarter and cheaper ways to make buildings perform to their potential in a variety of different ways.

This week, we're speaking to two industry experts: Mat Colmer, Built Environment Specialist at the Digital Catapult Centre, and Nick Winser CBE, Chairman of the Energy Systems Catapult, who are giving is their views on technology in the built environment: What's hot, what's not and where the biggest changes are going to come.

What are the innovations in technology that will make the biggest impact to the performance of buildings in the next 15 years?

N W: I’m not sure there’s going to be a stand-out technology innovation, and fifteen years is actually not that long to make a big impact. A new home energy gateway that learns about the thermal performance of our buildings and the requirements of the occupants could provide a platform for all sorts of innovative energy services, with the potential to start a transformation in consumer and market engagement.

M C: Wireless sensor networks and IoT will have a big impact in the near term. Having reliable hyper-local networks that are off-the-shelf and interoperable will bring down the costs of monitoring our buildings, particularly monitoring the efficiency of services, and allow for products that encourage user feedback. This will allow us to gather far more information on what happens with buildings in-use.

Smart sensors relying on user feedback could be a common
low-cost feature in the future
What are the innovations in buildings that will make the biggest environmental impact in the next 15 years?

M C: Advances in curtailing energy use through intelligent metering and management, demand response and the wider use of DC power transmission will have a significant impact. Increased use of DC power additionally makes the prospect of decentralised power generation more attractive and can increase energy security.

N W: Energy efficiency itself isn’t a great driver of consumer action – for most people, spending money just to save kilowatt hours is not that attractive, and it’s unlikely to compete with other household demands. So whilst we must improve the effectiveness of efficiency measures, and reduce the cost, this needs to be coupled with imaginative new business models that refurbish living spaces, provide greater comfort, and as part of this deliver the required efficiency improvements.

Energy efficiency measures must be combined with other measures, such as
refurbishment, to maximise its effectiveness
If you could only recommend one change in process or method to improve building performance, what would it be?

N W: I think there’s a real need for focus, not just on the requirements of individual buildings, but for whole areas of our cities, towns and communities. Someone, and maybe it’s the local authority, should have the responsibility and design tools to develop local energy strategies that take account of house types, geography, supply networks and the availability of energy resources like waste heat. Growing consensus like this will be a massively important step to help individual occupants make the right future-proof decisions and find suppliers to deliver them.

M C: Make time to learn from the experience of others. Too often the same mistakes are made purely because time and budget constraints discourage creativity and encourage the familiar.

Waterman's Everyman Theatre in Liverpool won the Building Performance
Award for the community impact of their design
What is the most exciting potential collaboration opportunity in building services over the next 15 years?

M C: Advances in virtual reality and augmented reality technology will enable visual and interactive collaboration across sectors. Many problems in construction projects originate from poor communication. VR and AR technology allows partners to use shared spaces to explain and revise designs. Consequently misunderstandings and errors are less likely to occur.

N W: I think there’s a great opportunity for energy to be much more than a utility purchase. I’m sure we will see retail players who have trusted brands, using their reputations to develop new products that include home refurbishment with energy efficiency built in, and maybe other organisations that can bring a ‘lean’ process mindset to help advance the retrofitting of the nation’s buildings.

Friday, 7 October 2016

Performance, not promises

Having already taught us that BIM is a way of handling information, rather than a catch-all term for a specific programme or legal requirement, CIBSE BIM Consultant Carl Collins is back. This time, he's exploring what the different stakeholders in construction want from BIM, and how you can use BIM to help them get it.

The world is changing and the construction industry has to change with it. We are increasingly moving from analogue to digital technologies, for reasons of efficiency and transparency. Everybody is trying to lift the lid on digital technologies in the construction sector and the relevance of BIM to our everyday lives.

Many presentations and seminars over recent years have focused on the processes and forms of information exchange, but rarely looked at how they can be applied, especially for the bulk of the sector, that work on typical construction projects. The reasons for BIM have been stated many times before, and CIBSE is launching a series of roadshows that will show you how to use the technologies and processes to increase efficiency, accuracy and quality of information and to reduce the risk on projects, by exposing data in a structured way.

Different stakeholders want different things from BIM
By sharing openly and using relatively simple technology and techniques, you can see how to use data from a single source to generate multiple outcomes. It’s all about the bottom line, working smarter and using our digital assets more extensively will allow us to compete more effectively in this ever-changing world. But in order to know what those outcomes ought to be, you have to know the needs of different kinds of stakeholders and what they want.

For clients too, it can be the difference between getting the building they actually want – or not, performing at the peak of its ability. This can generate utility savings and provide a better environment for the occupants, increasing their efficiency and output, and can simply be a matter of asking the right questions at the right time in the design process.

SME Contractors
BIM can be used to gain better understanding of how the designs can be realised in the flesh, to procure with more certainty and to reduce re-work by understanding what is to be constructed and how. Digital tools can also be used to discover alternative suppliers and products, using metrics other than pure cost, to give the client the building they actually want.

The great benefit of doing this is simply that it reduces waste and uncertainty over cost, which can be a great benefit to an SME contractor and to the client. Forewarned is forearmed, and the ability to accurately simulate as many of the potential costs and permutations as possible allows the project to remain close to specification throughout its life.

BIM can help specialist contractors and their
clients plan for their unfamiliar needs
Specialist Contractors
It’s important to understand the needs of the client, the main contractor and the actual design by using shared and trusted data. When using specialist contractors this data can be vital, because it allows the designer to anticipate the unexpected when working in an unfamiliar area of the industry.

New equipment, new processes, tight deadlines and unforeseen challenges are often per for the course when working in highly specialist areas. Digital technology can be used to identify and compare new suppliers and products and rehearse details like construction sequences, so there will be fewer surprises at site. This minimises cost by reducing the number and impact of mistakes, and by reducing the time a project takes.

SME Consultants
Consultants' lives can be made considerably easier if you learn how to leverage design data to generate designs and deliverables that are BIM Level 2 appropriate, and making your consultant's life easier can streamline your processes to make fees go further and thereby increase profits. A consultant’s time can be expensive, which makes it all the more frustrating when it’s problems in your own systems that are holding up the project and costing you money.

Even worse, a mistake caused by bad processes costs even more time and money to fix and can damage your relations with the whole supply chain, while the alternative creates greater certainty in your designs and generates trust relationships with your clients and contractors.

Manufacturers and Suppliers
Manufacturers like to understand what is required of their products more fully, which can be achieved by having exact specifications contained within a BIM model. This allows them to reduce their overhead in information requests and fabricate using trusted data from the design teams. Use digital procurement techniques to deliver the right product at the right time and keep up to date with design changes as they happen can save money, and even make the difference between success and failure in delivering on time.

BIM helps ensure manufacturers have accurate, consistent specifications
Facility Managers
As the people who will actually be running a building on delivery, and who will be held accountable for its performance decades down the line, having a full understanding of the asset they will run is important. As one of the main beneficiaries of the data contained within a BIM model for years to come, what can benefit a building's FM the most is having actual input in how the model is designed and what parameters it measures, because they know what will be most useful to them in the long term.

For that reason, it is important that FMs are fully involved in the process of designing the parameters of the building they will run, know what the design parameters are and the actual performance characteristics of the systems that are constructed and use the design and commissioning data to populate the CAFM model automatically.

Monday, 3 October 2016

The air we breathe

Welcome to the fourth #Build2Perform podcast! This month, we're concentrating on the issue of indoor air quality. What is it, why is it important and what can engineers do about it? I'll be speaking to two experts in air quality, independent sustainability consultant Julie Godefroy and Alan Fogarty of Cundall, to answer those questions and more!

You can listen to the podcast below, but you can also find it in the iTunes library and on other podcast apps by searching #Build2Perform if you'd like to listen on the move via smartphone or tablet. We'll also be discussing the podcast on Twitter under the #Build2Perform, and you'll find useful links about what you hear under the podcast below.

Indoor air quality is becoming one of the next great public health issues of our time, and is being considered more and more by designers as a fundamental part of the building's health. Overshadowed somewhat in the public eye by its outdoor cousin, more and more research is being carried out into an area that could claim more than 40,000 lives a year in the UK alone.

One of the most recent and comprehensive studies carried out int his area is by the Royal College of Physicians, and takes in both indoor and outdoor data. CIBSE also has knowledge available specifically on the indoor component, such as KS17: Indoor Air Quality & Ventilation, published in 2011.

From a regulatory perspective, both the UK Government and the European Union have rules on indoor air quality standards, which are summed up by the Government here. Indoor air quality in the home and in schools is a major thread at this year's CIBSE Conference and Exhibition. Sessions that deal directly with this issue are:

Friday, 23 September 2016

Making cities smarter

With the rise of Big Data in construction and design gathering pace, we have the opportunity to use measurable data to shape buildings and cities around their occupants like never before. Ever on the lookout for the next big technology in the field, the team at Innovate UK recently picked data-analytics company NquiringMinds as IoTUK Boost winners, and they're here to tell us what all the fuss is about.

The Internet of Things has been regarded as the next step in our evolution for a while, but until recently we’ve only just started to realise its full potential. With the ability for everything to be connected and working in a smarter, more efficient way, it’s little wonder that innovators have been looking for different pathways to creating a platform to reap the benefits of it all. Step forward, nquiringminds, who won a Small BusinessResearch Initiative contract to develop an open data platform to help cities deliver key services in a smarter fashion.

To put the power of the technology into perspective, nquiringminds allows cities to capture, secure, analyse and use all sorts of data so that all of its operations can be smoothed out. Whether that’s the running of schools, managing the traffic flow of public transportation, connecting health and social care services or many other things, we now have an answer to make our cities much smarter places to live and work.

The data has always been there, but before there’s never been a chance to round it all up and analyse it with any great depth. That’s because there’s no one organisation or individual who owns it, so the likes of national agencies, emergency services, private companies and subcontractors horded the data and made it tough to decipher. With the nquiringminds platform we have the technology to break down the dam holding the data back, providing the key insights that we’ve been looking for. This means the planning and running of a city’s operations can be streamlined like never before.

The software that nquiringminds developed allows for sensors to be placed into buildings, which then provide state of the art analytics. These analytics can be shared with numerous people and organisations, resulting in a variety of benefits for the people living in them. For example a social worker would be able to tell if an elderly person was moving around the house okay, and a maintenance company would be able to tell if any equipment is close to failing. Elsewhere homeowners will be able to check if they’re getting the very best deals on their energy usage.

New technology is vastly increasing the amount of useful data available to engineers 
These sensors are already being used in 200 council homes in Southampton in order to predict when any refurbishment will be needed. The technology also currently looks into the management of waste, the planning of infrastructure and many other useful insights. Thanks to innovations like this we’ll be able to overcome many of the challenges faced in our cities and enhance the quality of life for everyone residing there.

For more videos like this head to Innovate UK’s YouTube channel, or take a look at their Twitter account here.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Time to pull up a chair

As the UK experiences its hottest September day since 1949, the Government signs a major new emissions target and nations begin to ratify the Paris Agreement, the focus on climate change has never been higher. As part of our look at how different built environment professions can improve building performance Geoff Prudence, Chair of the CIBSE Facilities Management Group, looks at what building performance means to FMs 

The UK Government recently approved its 5th Carbon Budget, committing the UK to reducing its emissions by 57% relative to 1990 levels by 2030. This is an encouragingly ambitious target, but the Government knows it needs to stick to all its current measures, and introduce new ones, to stand a chance of being successful. Most of the hard work so far has been done by cutting carbon emissions from power generation, and the Committee on Climate Change has singled out the built environment as an area that needs to pull its weight.

This will come as no surprise to those working in the built environment, especially facilities managers, who have to deal with the cost and performance implications of inefficient buildings on a daily basis. In fact, the energy consumption of commercial buildings is estimated to be between 15 and 30 per cent higher than was anticipated at the design stage. Sometimes even more. The problem facing facilities managers in this situation is that, while much can be achieved by implementing energy efficient policies within an existing building, a large amount of the fault can rest in the building’s fabric and design. In cases like this, there are many reasons why a building may not be performing to the original specifications laid out by the client.

Countries across the world are signing up to the Paris Agreement to keep
global temperatures less than 2C above pre-industrial levels
First and foremost is poor communication of objectives and a lack of shared vision between the client and the contractors responsible for designing and constructing the finished building. While the performance gap is a known and recognised problem within the industry, there is no party with clear responsibility for ensuring that designers, whether architects or engineers, are all pulling together to prioritise the energy efficiency of the building over its life.

More than just an issue of profit margins, the performance gap has implications for consumer confidence in the entire building services industry. Such large differences between the expectations and the delivered product would not be acceptable in other businesses, and are damaging to the perception of the industry as a whole. As demands on buildings from the users, the climate and from Government increase, it is only going to become more necessary that building services professionals work together to tackle the issue.

A second issue is the problem of exactly how the performance gap is defined and measured: Should the performance of the building be measured against the estimates at the design stage, or should it be measured against the more detailed plans produced when the tendering process is complete? The latter may give more accurate estimates based on the exact design of the structure and the materials to be used, but it also has the potential to reduce ambition and allow the designers to be too conservative, sacrificing performance for cost.

Measuring performance based on plan can allow
designers to get away with being too conservative
Within this issue, there is also the problem of exactly how to measure building performance in the first place, from the conceptual stage all the way up to the finished product. There is no universally agreed way to measure and correct the observation of energy performance for factors like design change, occupant behaviour, changing weather conditions and simple wear and tear. These can all impact the performance of the building over and above its design, but must be estimated before a more accurate measurement is taken, which can create a wide discrepancy with actual performance.

The root of these issues is really that the ‘performance gap’ is just a handy phrase for summing up a whole series of different problems that occur with many different aspects of a project, including lighting, ventilation and energy performance. Without a clear model with defined metrics from which predictions can be made, and results tested against, it is difficult to create a definitive solution for disappointing performance.

Another aspect of the performance gap is that what is designed may be changed during the construction and installation stage. Products can be substituted, installation details may not be fully correct and systems may not be fully commissioned.

The services plant, from boilers to air conditioning units, requires constant maintenance to keep at peak condition. Focusing on a building’s performance at its design stage neglects the importance of measuring performance over its entire life-span. To achieve this, there needs to be both a common thread of individuals collecting this data and continuously monitoring the building’s performance, as well as the framework in which to store this information for it to be retrieved by future users.

Without this, the building’s performance will slowly degrade as elements are gradually replaced by cost equivalents without reference to the original performance targets set at the building’s design. Only by ensuring that changes and maintenance keep the building’s energy performance within acceptable standards, subject to proper testing of new elements in comparison with the old, can the performance gap be addressed in the long term.

Maintenance is just as important as the building's designed performance
in measuring whole-life performance
So what is the role of the Facilities Manager in making sure that buildings are able to perform as required? The answer requires a much more hands-on approach on the part of Facilities Managers, even before the first ground is broken on a new project.

As the people running the building in the many years to come after it is finished and handed over, Facilities Managers are the perfect choice to be the guardians of its performance throughout the life of the project. There is a tendency for the many parties involved in the design and construction of a project to see the shiny new school, apartment block or hospital as the objective, when for the client it is merely the start of a long relationship. The FM knows the management strategies they favour to get the most out of a building, so they should be implementing these at the very start of a project rather than working around what already exists when they move in. There need to be examples of FM and Systems thinking implemented directly into the design process.

A fantastic tool that can be used to make this dream a reality is Building Information Modelling (BIM). Its application in the design and construction sectors is already much appreciated, but the real potential behind the technology lies in helping a building maintain peak performance end-to-end throughout its lifecycle. Nobody knows the day-to-day realities of running a building better than Facilities Managers, so they should be pushing to have much more input into the building’s model – making sure it is designed for every day of the next 60 years, and not just for handover.

Facilities Managers should have input into the creation of the original BIM model
Facilities Managers need to ensure that the information being fed into models is what they need, for example standard classifications for plant items and the maintenance that they require. This all contributes to the idea of the FM as the thread of continuity running through the life of the building, knowing what systems are in place, why they exist and how to maintain them correctly. In this role, the use of BIM would back up the decisions of the FM with actual data, which could be used to inform changes to the complex, interdependent and ever-changing needs of the building. The most important thing is to get Facilities Managers up and engaged with the need for this, because if you don’t then you won’t get a seat at the table.

However, the adoption of the BIM model as an efficiency enabler is just the start of a wider FM revolution that could make it a firm part of the design process. The vision is a building and it’s design around use and business impact, being constantly monitored for greater efficiencies. The practical application of all this data can then find its way into every aspect of the building’s operation, from the O&M manual to Commissioning Codes.

A different approach to design could see FMs
present from design through to delivery
Without a proper evidence base behind them, commissioning a system is effectively guesswork based on estimates which we have already seen have the potential to be flawed. While it is a legal requirement to prove that commissioning has taken place on systems installed in a building, there is no set commissioning cycle that the installation team has to follow – good commissioning and bad commissioning are the same in the eyes of the law. With the aid of a robust data set to inform decisions, a hand in construction from the start, proven Commissioning Codes and effective maintenance based on CIBSE Guide M, it is possible to ensure that all of the building’s systems are set up to be as efficient and cost-effective as possible.

The ‘performance gap’ remains one of the greatest challenges facing the building services industry today, particularly to the facilities managers who have to face the everyday reality of a poorly performing building in the form of spiralling energy bills and missed targets. As climate change becomes a more urgent issue in the built environment, and the pressure to crack down on waste increases, it is only going to become harder to meet more and more stringent requirements with buildings that are just not up to the job. This is why it is more important than ever that the influence of the facilities manager grows to influence the design and construction of the building from beginning to end of life, and act as the informed cheerleader for better performance.

Friday, 9 September 2016

Time in the sun

Continuing our series exploring alternative methods of power generation, including Micro-CHP and Surface Water Source Heat Pumps, we turn our attention to photo-voltaics (PV). This week, we explore the work done by Dr. Cynthia Skelhorn, Qatar Green Building Council and Dr. Maria Muhlbauer, UnionBent GbR, Management Systems, Germany in determining the potential of PV in the two countries.

All countries and forward-thinking governments are aiming to address two main issues in developing long-term energy policies.  First, from a demand perspective, they must consider how to decrease energy consumption by implementing energy efficiency policies and technologies. There are several benefits to this; it can lower the Government's own energy bills across the national portfolio of publicly owned buildings common to many countries, it can lower the household and business bills of a country's citizens, and it reduces a country's reliance on imported energy, increasing that country's self sufficiency.

Micro-generation using PV is a promising avenue for renewable initiatives
Secondly, from a supply side, they must consider their best options for alternative energy sources in order to reduce the CO2 emissions that accompany the consumption of fossil fuels. Carbon-intensive methods of energy generation are first on the chopping block, with Governments across the world exploring ways to switch from coal, oil and gas to renewable alternatives like wind and tidal. Despite a leveling or declining trend in the US and OECD countries, consumption of liquid fuels continues to increase on a global scale.

Qatar Green Building Council (QGBC), a member of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development (QF), hosted Dr. Maria Mulhbauer from UnionBent GbR in Germany in order to develop and adapt her expertise in Building Integrated Photovoltaic (BIPV) management systems to the climate and economics of Qatar and the GCC region.  Dr. Mulhbauer is investigating the potential for demonstrating a BIPV system in Qatar’s first Passivhaus, located in Barwa City, developed in cooperation with Barwa Real Estate Group and Qatar General Electricity & Water Corporation (Kahramaa), and other numerous private companies and organizations operating in Qatar.

Germany aims to generate 60% of its power using renewables by 2050
Building up photo-voltaic  micro-grid generation could be one of the most promising approaches for supply-side policies. However, the integration of BIPV has its own drawbacks. Every country that seriously wishes to distribute PV micro-generation must have comprehensive information on risks and benefits for its citizens.  Additionally, PV systems must be adapted to the environmental conditions, the economic situation and the requirements of the inhabitants. Matching these requirements will be more sustainable than temporary subsidies or exorbitant feed-in tariffs, as adopted in some European contexts.

To demonstrate this statement, two different countries - Germany and Qatar - are compared.

Annual Solar Radiation
German annual solar radiation amounts to approximately 1000 kWh/m2. High temperatures and dirt are not frequent problems. While the radiation is five times higher in the summer than in the winter, the level of solar radiation on any particular day depends on the cloud cover, the number of daylight hours, and the altitude above sea level. Moreover, the position of the sun, which is determined by the various seasons and the geographical latitude, influences the intensity of the sun and so the output of the PV system.

Energy security fears are driving countries in the
Arabian Gulf to explore renewable generation
The annual number of daylight hours in Germany stands at about 1,300 to 1,900 hours (compared to 8,760 hours in a year). Management systems that can automatically switch on different appliances to match the consumption to the small PV energy peak during the daytime present a means for the most effective utilization of energy in systems that are not yet developed for storing the energy generated.

In contrast, Qatar, as a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), belongs to one of the most productive solar regions with some of the highest summer temperatures in the world. It is fortunate in having a high annual irradiation level of 2190 kWh/m2 and up to 3400 daylight hours. This represents an environment for utilizing solar energy, but also with some drawbacks, such as reduced efficiency of the modules by these high temperatures and near-permanent covering of the modules with sand and dust. Therefore, the PV systems need additional equipment for cleaning and cooling to reduce these extreme climate effects.

The Pay Back Time (PBT)
The PBT is often used as a guide to cost effectiveness. If the PBT is significantly less than the expected lifetime of the system, the project is considered to be cost-effective. Electricity tariffs play an important role in this cost-effectiveness of BIPV systems.

In Germany, the grid parity was reached in 2012. Therefore, the price for electricity for private consumers is similar to the costs for own-produced energy, as in the BIPV system.  This leads to an estimated PBT of 6 – 8 years to repay the costs of manufacture and installation, depending on the proportion of own-consumption.  The conditions for the extended micro-grid generation currently are very good and in the coming years it is likely that 20-30 % of the entire electrical power supply will be covered by PV energy.

Qatar experiences some of the highest summer temperatures in the world
The current low electricity tariff in Qatar leads to a high PBT of more than 100 years for both south tilted and horizontal BIPV. In order to promote the additional advantages of renewable energy in this particular situation, the government must develop and provide additional incentives to its citizens.

Because of the current low cost of electricity, the motivation for adoption of renewables in Qatar must be based on something other than energy cost savings.  Several other motivations might include: the desire to be viewed as a pioneer in renewable technologies within the GCC region, adopting a policy of saving energy resources internally in order to export the savings to the international market, or perhaps taking the lead in placing a value on CO2 emissions and using this as a platform for increasing alternative technologies.  Whatever the motivation might be, it is clear that Qatar certainly has the right environmental conditions for developing and utilizing PV and BIPV in its energy policy plans for the future.