Friday, 29 July 2016

Zero hour

Following the publication of Guide B early in July Matt Snowden, Communications Executive of CIBSE, explores the new Guide's Part 0, the rationale behind it, and how it could affect the industry as a whole.

To use a tired old metaphor, writing CIBSE guidance is a bit like painting the Forth Bridge. Or it would be, if engineers hadn’t solved that problem too by using a pioneering new glass flake epoxy paint to ensure the famous crossing doesn’t need another coat until 2031. It’s this same constant engineering innovation that necessitates revision of CIBSE Guides to ensure they always stay as up to date as possible with the latest changes in technology and legislation.

Such is the case with Guide B which, until it was launched earlier this month, hadn’t been totally replaced since 2001. Obviously a lot has changed since then, and even since its last update in 2005 there have been fundamental changes in the industry – the European Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), for one. As a result, the Guide which has been nearly a decade in the making has been comprehensively updated.

Among the new revisions are heat networks, included as a result of the Government’s support of the technology, and Guide B4 on Vibration Control – which is designed to help engineers keep projects within acceptable noise limits. One of the most interesting new additions to the Guide however, is part B0 (so named to avoid upsetting the numbering), because of the reasoning behind its inclusion.

For a start it’s a first for CIBSE in that it’s an online-only part of the guide, set out to highlight features that are specific to, or particularly important for, a wide variety of activities. In its current version, the chapter features activities and building types including: offices, dealing rooms, supermarkets, commercial kitchens, and farms. Drawing on CIBSE’s vast pool of knowledge that touches every conceivable application of building services, the intention is to make this online section a living thing that can be added to and revised much more frequently.

But why the change? Dr Roger Hitchen, chair of the Guide’s steering group and author of the chapter had this to say: “The inclusion of Part 0 to the new Guide has been driven by changes we have seen in the industry, which has seen more and more engineers join building services from other disciplines or more general engineering degrees. The intention is to make this transition easier and to make their future work more effective by helping them to understand the issues created by different contexts, and their relevance to HVAC design.”

Part 0 covers many different applications, from kitchens to farms
This, then, is an example of the practical application of collaboration in action. By making it easier for engineers from other disciplines to contribute to, and benefit from, CIBSE’s knowledge we are helping to spread the ideals of best practice and sustainability across the whole industry and beyond. In return, we are benefitting from the experiences of other industries to make our own perspective broader and the knowledge we provide more useful.

No engineer can be a font of all knowledge, even within their own industry, and it’s not realistic to expect individuals to know everything about every facet of a building project that they might be working on. What this does instead is to give a grounding in the basics of HVAC design – the considerations and unique features of each unique situation. This helps non-experts to at least ask the right questions, to know what to consider in a design and to take the needs of building services into account when designing a building.

A part of a building that may have been a source of annoyance for an architect suddenly makes sense in light of what they might learn from Part 0. Understanding why that feature exists and why the engineer has done what they have might even allow another professional to step in and suggest another way of fixing the same problem that draws on their own experience in their industry.

A broad understanding of another profession's work encourages joint
working and creative problem solving
As a result of this, we will be helping to end the disconnect between the different professions involved in creating a building and helping them learn from one another. At EcoBuild this year, Past-President Nick Mead said that “Engineers and Architects must learn to work together, or neither will get what they want”. While this is true, Part 0 of Guide B is taking that idea one step further: Engineers must work with every stakeholder, and every stakeholder must work with engineers. By adapting principles from each other’s disciplines and truly understanding each other’s objectives, we can all ensure we are pulling in the same direction.

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