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: