Get to know your CIBSE trainers: John Griggs, the Water Services trainer


Full name: John Charles Griggs

Topic area: Water supply and drainage

CIBSE Trainer since: 2018

Tell us a little about yourself 

My background is research, being at the Building Research Establishment (BRE) for nearly 30 years in the Water Centre. The work I was involved in was used in the UK building regulations as well as national and international Standards. Hence, I am well aware of the science behind many of the requirements in today’s Standards, Regulations and Directives. Whilst at BRE, I was seconded to the Department for Trade and Industry for over 3 years; where I was responsible for all construction products. I worked on the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, the F-gas Regulations and other draft legislation that embraced the whole construction industry; not just water.

Since then I have worked for the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE) and lead a number of European research and development projects on topics that included: renewable heat storage systems, solar energy, and sustainable plastics pipe. I am now a consultant working with various clients on diverse topics such as: solid waste transport, Certification of products, forensic plumbing and training. I have been honoured to co-author two recent handbooks on water supply and drainage with some of the leading academics in the UK. 

I currently live in St Albans, where I have done so for all my life. I am married to my wife Penny and we have two sons. Our house is fitted with a number of water efficient appliances and fittings and our drainage system is fitted with mechanical valves. For many years I have monitored the water consumption and it is generally about half of the UK average per person consumption.

What do you enjoy most about being a CIBSE trainer?

Meeting other people that are interested in water supply systems and drainage systems. I like the challenge of keeping people interested, awake and educated for about 7 hrs while watching a PowerPoint presentation. Throughout my career I have been involved in producing, directing and performing in many videos. So, I try to bring some excitement to my talks by including many visual surprises with animations, a range of transitions, many reveals and interactions with the students.

Although many people might think that water supply and drainage is a rather ‘dry’ subject that has not changed much over the years, I am always surprised by the amount of development that is taking place. Changes such as new Legislation, new Standards, new technologies and new concepts are so common that I find I need to revise the courses almost continually. Also, often the questions or comments made by the students will prompt a revision of a few slides to clarify a point or explain something that I had not realised previously needed more explanation.

Although most of the training is for individuals from the CIBSE community and is aimed at engineers, I am frequently asked to do courses for corporate clients. These clients often have quite a narrow field of previous experience and future interest. Hence, there is another opportunity to re-shape the courses to the specific needs of the clients.

Do you encounter any challenges as a trainer?

One of the emerging challenges that has taken place during the Covid-19 restrictions is the breadth of locations of clients and students. I have had talks where people have been located in the UK, India and the Middle East. This has resulted in different people wanting to have lunch breaks at different times during the course and the training starting at 7am UK time. 

What is your favourite part about your topic area? 

Explaining that drainage has very little to do with water and mainly concerns air flow.

Sending the students on ‘Drain Walks’ for about 15 mins. This can be done as a group or individuals within their own homes, places of work, or in the locality. Based upon what we will have been talking about, they go and look for drainage features, issues and examples nearby. When we come back together each person shares their findings. I am often amazed at the enthusiasm shown by the students as they look with new eyes upon pipes that they may have passed by for much of their lifetimes. I find that I often learn new things from the findings of the students after their drain walks. 

Why do you think that it’s important that building services professionals keep up with their professional development?

Because of the changes that occur either suddenly (such as decarbonisation legislation) or slowly over a long period of time (such as culture, habits, relative values and expectations of the public and users). Training that was up-to-date when most people went to college does not stay up-to-date unless it is regularly reviewed. The problems that were just got around in the past can now often be solved by new technology. 

For example, the time taken for taps to deliver water of the desired temperature has in the past been measured in minutes. Today, with small bore piping, trace heating, anti-stagnation techniques, insulation and heat exchangers delivery times can, and should, be reduced to seconds.

If you could go back to your younger self when you started working in building services, what advice would you give yourself or would you try to change some of the decisions and actions done then?

Drainage can be exciting, do not just accept what senior staff tell you, challenge traditional assumptions about design limitations and performance. The UK will only stay in ‘Europe’ for a few decades. One day you will be the expert, and all the others will either be dead or have moved on to other areas. Water supply and drainage research will take you all around the world and you will meet some wonderful people who will become lifelong friends.

What would you tell someone who is just about to start or consider working in building services?  

Water may not be valued as much as it should, but it is vital to life and you can help ensure that more people get a wholesome supply on tap where they need it at any time of the day. Toilets and drains may be out of sight, utilitarian and not important to most people, but when they are missing or not working people will realise how much they should be valued.

Find out more about John Griggs’ training courses:

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