Friday, 27 May 2016

Behavioural issues

Six months on from the second annual CIBSE Building Performance Conference and Exhibition, CIBSE Head of Sustainability Sara Kassam revisits one of the key topics from the two days: The 'Built for Living' panel. In this blog, she looks at the findings of the talk on well-being

Behavioural issues and their impact on the design of the built environment are an important topic for building services engineers and facilities managers, one where there is a definite appetite for better understanding, which was why it was a key area of focus at CIBSE’s Conference.

The event saw Professor Rhiannon Cocoran from the University of Liverpool consider how wellbeing is related to place; Professor Alexi Marmot from UCL look at factors affecting performance and productivity; and Polly Turton from Arup speak about how workspaces can be made more flexible and adaptable. Ann Marie Aguilar, also from Arup, give an insight into understanding behavioural responses to engineering and design.
The 'Built for Living' panel at the 2015 CIBSE Conference and Exhibition
Ann Marie Aguilar’s presentation focused on a report published by the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Economic and Social Research Council and consultant Arup. The document, Built for Living: Understanding Behaviour and the Built Environment through engineering and design, focuses on fostering good health and wellbeing, boosting performances and productivity and improving the stewardship of energy, water and waste.

The report is available to download at; it makes some interesting points relevant to those involved in the design and operation building services some of which are outlined below.

Good design is about developing an inclusive, user-centred solution which will work for the majority of a building’s occupants. However, a major challenge for designers looking to provide a user-centred focus is that there is no single agreed model of human behaviour that they can use.

There is no guarantee that occupants will use a building as designed
The situation at the moment is that engineers, facilities managers and architects all have different areas of knowledge and different experiences of the interrelationship of design and human behaviour, often at different stages in the lifecycle of buildings. Bringing together this knowledge has the potential to enrich designers’ responses. To this end, there is an opportunity to aggregate knowledge already in existence and to add to it through further research and post occupancy evaluation.

Since no single discipline or profession has all the necessary expertise a ‘Systems Thinking’ approach has been suggested as a way of enabling multidisciplinary collaboration. By helping identify how different parts of the system interact, designs can be developed to incorporate the complex interactions between buildings and the people that use them.

Some existing processes such as Soft Landings can provide a means for designers and constructors to enable a building to be designed to meet the end user’s needs. Soft Landings ensures occupant behaviour is included by involving the occupants at an early stage in scheme design. Participation is continued throughout the construction process and continues with involvement of the design and construction team beyond practical completion.

Buildings need to be considered as large systems interacting with other systems
including the occupants
User involvement is critical when considering the application of new technologies. Designers and engineers, for example, understand how it is technically possible to save energy in buildings through the use of particular technologies. However, what they often fail to consider is the importance of human behaviour and that users need to understand the purpose of the technology and how to use if the technology is to perform at its optimum capability.

Designers also need to be aware that the careful handover of a building is required to ensure the building works for them, while those maintaining the building understand how to actually make it work best for the users and to enable the building to perform to its maximum potential.

Eight practical principles for design have been proposed for use throughout a project, from architectural brief to final use. These are:

  • View human behaviour in the built environment as a complex socio-technical system
  • Use collaborative methods and tools to involve all key stakeholders, especially end users, throughout the design process
  • Include behavioural issues from the very beginning of the design process, in particular making the behavioural assumptions explicit at the outset.
  • During design, explicitly consider key characteristics of all users
  • Make it easy, fun and engaging to create and sustain good habits
  • Ensure the system gives users feedback at the right time and in the right format
  • Empower users to handle problems with the system as they occur
  • Learn and apply lessons from related domains

Incorporating these principles into a project should help improve design outcomes.

It is good practice to make engaging in good habits fun and engaging for occupants
As a proactive organisation CIBSE includes direction on the impact of occupant behaviour on the design of building services and the management of facilities in its guidance. In particular the recent editions of CIBSE Guide F: Energy Efficiency in Buildings and CIBSE Guide M: Maintenance Engineering and Management both acknowledge the potential impact of occupant behaviour.

Ultimately, people cannot be treated as components with predictable properties that can be engineered into a system because people often don’t behave in the ways designers expect. Instead, by increasing their focus on users’ behaviour building services engineers have an excellent opportunity to both improve the performance of buildings and the people in them.

Friday, 13 May 2016

Changeable weather

As part of the culmination of a major new project CIBSE has just released its latest package of weather data, which comprehensively updates the old files while adding some new features. Dr Anastasia Mylona, Research Manager at CIBSE, blogs below about what we can expect from the new files

Last week, CIBSE launched an updated set of weather files for dynamic building performance simulation, includes observed changes in climate for energy analysis (Test Reference Years – TRYs) and new files for overheating analysis (Design Summer Years – DSYs). Both sets of updated files are also available for future weather representations based on the latest climate change projections (UKCP09).

The datasets, produced in association with the MET Office, are based on historical data that has been collected from 14 sites around the UK since the early 1980s and has been combined with  the latest climate projections to produce future weather files up to the 2080s.

Working with the MET Office, whose climate statistics show that the eight warmest years in the UK since 1910 have occurred in the last 14, CIBSE sought to update its existing weather files to take into account rising temperatures.

MET Office data shows the eight warmest years since 1910 have occurred
in the last 14 years
Using this data, engineers will be able to design buildings that take into account the latest information about local weather conditions. This means that buildings and their services can be designed to be more sustainable, and more resilient to current and future weather conditions. These new datasets are based on the latest Met Office observations and climate projections and aim to provide the industry with an updated representation of current and future weather for their thermal and energy building performance analysis.

The Test Reference Year (TRY) weather files represent a typical year and are used to determine average energy usage within buildings. The weather file consists of average months selected from a historical baseline. The new TRY files are created from an updated baseline of 1984 to 2013 (compared to the previous 1984 to 2004), ensuring that the observed effects of climate change will be included in the selection of the months.

Design Summer Years (DSYs) are used to simulate the effects of overheating in buildings in each location. Recently, probabilistic DSYs were developed for the London area (outlined in TM49) in an effort to replace the old DSY with a set of years which better describe overheating events, their relative severity and their expected frequency. The latest release of the DSY updates the weather files in the remaining 13 locations across the UK using this new methodology and uses an updated baseline from 1984 to 2013 to select the files. There are now 3 DSYs available per location, representing summers with different types of hot events.

The data comes from 14 locations in the UK, from Edinburgh to the south coast
©Robert Galloway
This updated datasets are especially important for the building services industry for two reasons. The TRYs now include temperature differences brought on by climate change, which could result in cooling demands increasing whilst heating demands decreasing. A more significant change is that to the DSYs. The new files use candidate years that have warmer, more severe heat events in them, allowing designers to test the upper limits of their thermal design. Even the least severe DSY is likely to be warmer than previous DSY for each location, which will subsequently impact overheating analysis across the whole country.

The release is accompanied by a Technical Briefing and Testing of the new files. The testing of both sets of files highlights the differences between the previous and updated datasets.

Friday, 6 May 2016

A wider scope

It’s only been two months since a glittering Park Lane ceremony celebrated the presentation of the Building Performance Awards 2016, but we’re already hard at work planning for next year. The call for entries for the 2017 competition opens on Monday 9 May, with the event set for 7 February at Grosvenor House.

This year will be the tenth anniversary of CIBSE awards, celebrating engineering excellence in the built environment. Over the years the awards have evolved to reflect changes in how we define building performance and best practice, and we're changing again: we've altered the name of the Building Services Consultancy of the Year category, and added a new Consultancy category. But why have we done this and why should you enter this year?

The blog spoke to 2016 judging panellists Sarah Ratcliffe, Programme Director at Better Buildings Partnership, Susan Hone-Brookes, Engineering Sustainability Leader at Laing O'Rourke and Munish Datta, Head of Plan A & FM at Marks & Spencer about the changes and their experiences on the panel.

Why change the name from Building Services Consultancy to Building Performance Consultancy, and why have three Consultancy categories: Up to 100 employees, 101-1000 employees and Over 1000 employees?
Susan: The change in name is to recognise that the focus of their work is not just to deliver purely ‘services’,  but to understand the holistic impact on post occupancy building performance. 

You would expect the challenges and resources for a company to be proportional to size and global reach. Our industry has innovative organisations setting standards on all scales. Adding a third category here is an opportunity to recognise and celebrate more consultancies on a level playing field.

So how do you see these awards as different from other awards?
Sarah: The CIBSE Building Performance Awards are different because they focus on the actual performance of buildings as opposed to building design, they require demonstrable proof (and data) to support their submissions, which in itself is a significant challenge.

Winner Project of the Year Leisure 2016 and Building Performance Champion 2016
Everyman Theatre Liverpool, by Waterman Building Services
Why do you think the CIBSE BPAs are important?
Sarah: Over 80% of the building stock today will still be here in 2050, it is therefore absolutely critical that these buildings perform to high standards – the awards are an important way of evidencing and rewarding that performance and leading by example, providing the industry with a examples where sustainability.

Munish: These awards are important as they celebrate organisations and buildings that are achieving huge reductions of emissions and operational costs. As the global building stock contributes significantly to global carbon emissions, making heroes of those that are leading reduction is critical to mobilise the industry as a whole.

Judges bring invaluable knowledge and experience to the awards judging process but did you find any benefit personally or professionally from participating in this experience?
Sarah: It is always really difficult to keep up to speed with what is going on in the industry and the awards provide a way to short-cut a lot of research into finding the best buildings out there and analysing their performance. 

There is much that we can learn from looking beyond our own field of vision, I was fascinated by some of the submissions from outside the commercial property sector (schools, hospitals theatres) that have taken a really innovative approach to sustainability and also make the connection between the performance of a building and occupier well being and productivity.

Building Performance Champions Waterman Building Services
Munish: As double winners in the 2014 CIBSE BPA Awards (‘New Build Project of the Year - over £10m’ and the ‘Carbon Champion of the Year’ for M&S Cheshire Oaks Plan A Store) I have first-hand experience of the thoroughness of the judging process. Sitting on the other side of the fence as judge has re-enforced this perception both in terms of the process and quality of judging.

Susan: I have long been on the ‘other side of the fence’ in regards to award submissions.  It was extremely interesting, therefore, to sit judge side and carry out the process of evaluation.  Lessons I learnt included quite simply to ‘answer the question’ posed in the award information, not to waffle, not to include too much corporate information but to include clear evidence.  I also learnt an awful lot personally from reading the submission, taking away knowledge on how building consultancies today are tackling many of the issues we as an industry currently face.  

Who would you invite to the BPA and why?
Sarah: Everyone! Delivering building performance involves collaboration across the whole property industry from investors to occupiers, asset managers to maintenance engineers. The Building Performance Awards has something for everyone – there is a huge amount to be gained from ‘designing for performance’ and the awards help to highlight leading projects that bring these benefits to life. 

Munish: I would love to invite ‘Starchitects’ so that they can appreciate how important it is to design buildings that operate efficiently, are enjoyable for their occupants and look beautiful within their broader context.

A project of Hoare Lea, winner of Building Services Consultancy (Over 100) 2016
What did you find most interesting about your experience on the judging panel?
Munish: I am particularly impressed by the focus on reductions in life cycle carbon in addition to operational carbon – it’s important to recognise that embedded carbon is ultimately operational carbon in the entire value chain.

Who are you looking forward to meeting at the Awards dinner?

Munish: It’s always a pleasure to meet fellow judges and the excellent CIBSE team that diligently organise these awards. I especially enjoy meeting the individuals and organisations who bring these awards to life – all the nominees! 

To enter or to find out about any of this year's award categories, visit