CIBSE Knowledge - Behind the scenes: an interview with the authors of 'Heat pump installations for multi-unit residential buildings' (AM16)


We welcome its four main authors - Joshua Bird, Ilaria Ricci Curbastro, Mike Edwards and Iona Norton - to share insights about AM16 and their work in building services.

Because the delivery of heat pumps is so important in the decarbonisation of the UK economy, it was important to us that this guide would help people get their decision making and design decisions right so that they are designing and delivering successful heat pump installations that provide affordable, low-carbon heat to people’s homes.
Mike Edwards
Iulia Margineanu, Services Marketing Executive: 
Thank you for making time to chat with us. Could you tell us about yourselves?

Mike Edwards: I am a building services engineer and project director at Arup. I have had various roles with Arup since graduating including in our sustainability team, working overseas in the Middle East, a period as a resident engineer and most recently focussing on the delivery of commercial, residential and refurbishment projects in the UK.

I am passionate about helping clients decarbonise their buildings and helping them deliver great design for people.

Iona Norton: I am a mechanical engineer at Arup in our London office, though I am originally from Melbourne, and started my career in Australia. I have worked in our building physics, energy modelling and sustainability teams, and recently have had a focus on residential building design.

I enjoy designing for the technical challenges associated with quickly changing heat pump technology – but I find my favourite projects are those where there is a real emphasis on designing for the community, and where possible try to get involved in pro-bono projects.

Joshua Bird: I am a building services engineer in Arup’s Buildings Engineering team, but I started out my career as an energy consultant within Arup - working on a range of initiatives from Smart Cities to District Heating.

I now work mostly on designing residential and commercial office buildings, focusing on low carbon design, the end user experience and - of course - heat pumps.

Ilaria Ricci Curbastro: I am a mechanical engineer at Arup working in the MEP team in our Milan office, though I have been working for 4+ years in our London office. 

In my career, I had the chance to get involved in a wide range of buildings with a particular focus on residential and commercial building design. I am at the forefront of promoting heat pump knowledge and uptake in our European region.

I enjoy the many possibilities offered by heat pumps for achieving very high energy efficiency in our buildings, and the key role they play in reducing the local carbon emissions. 
My favourite projects are the ones where there is a total design aspiration for all electric, low carbon buildings.

 
IM: Sounds like you’re a team of passionate individuals with a great background experience! Have you worked on any other publications aside from AM16?

ME: A couple of years ago I was part of the authorship team for a UKGBC publication on retrofit at scale, 'Regeneration and Retrofit'. It’s focused on large-scale residential retrofit, setting out the local, regional and national benefits of improving the built environment. It’s a publication I was proud to be involved in and it is still very relevant to the challenges of today.

I am also currently involved in a new guidance document focused on the benefits and challenges of retrofitting buildings which is aimed at clients and project teams.

In the distant past, when I was a junior engineer at Arup, I also did the modelling for CIBSE TM36 which was around long enough to have been withdrawn in 2018! 

IN: For the 2020 CIBSE Technical Symposium, Josh and I worked on the publication 'Environmental comfort in residential buildings: overheating, acoustics, energy and the planning system'. We presented virtually and were part of an online Q&A session.

I contributed to the CIBSE Guidance Note 'Domestic hot water temperatures from instantaneous HIUs' (published earlier this year). My contribution was analysis of manufacturers’ heat pump data to indicate the extent to which a reduction in domestic hot water temperature would improve heat pump efficiency, and reduce electrical maximum demand.


JB:
I have been lucky enough to co-author two papers for the CIBSE Technical Symposium over the past five years:
  • An operational lifetime assessment of the carbon performance of gas-fired CHP led district heating (CIBSE Technical Symposium 2016)
    At the time the message that gas-fired CHPs could no longer be justified on environmental grounds seemed divisive, so it is interesting to see how the industry has moved on in half a decade.

  • Environmental comfort in residential buildings: overheating, acoustics, energy and the planning system (CIBSE/ASHRAE Technical Symposium 2020)
    I am proud to have worked on this paper with Iona and others at Arup as I think it is an important and neglected topic in modern homes.
IRC: I contributed to the CIBSE Guidance Note 'Domestic hot water temperatures from instantaneous HIUs(published earlier this year). My contribution was engaging with stakeholders at the early stages and persuading them of the importance of safely reducing the domestic hot water temperature to improve heat pump efficiency.

 
IM: It’s nice to hear you have all worked on various CIBSE knowledge materials and been part of different CIBSE events. Now moving on to AM16, what are some of the key areas it expands on?
This guide provides a methodological approach for designing heat pump systems in residential buildings. 
It hopefully guides the readers in the complex decision-making process of selecting the best scheme for their building, providing the technical tools to inform their decision at every step, without providing an answer that fits all situations. 
Ilaria Ricci Curbastro 

 ME: We were keen that the publication provided useful information for designers. As designers ourselves, we wanted to ensure it provided guidance on the key issues we had encountered in designing heat pump installations in larger residential projects.



Because the delivery of heat pumps is so important in the decarbonisation of the UK economy, it was important to us that this guide would help people get their decision making and design decisions right so that they are designing and delivering successful heat pump installations that provide affordable, low-carbon heat to people’s homes.

 We took it as a given that the readers were already interested in heat pumps so the aim of the guide was principally to focus on the specific application. 


IN: On more and more residential projects there are design discussions around the best heat pump configuration for that application – should you have an ambient loop? Should you have in-home or centralised heat pumps?

The guide should hopefully make these decisions easier for designers
– showing the process we should go through to calculate heating loads, estimate profiles, and size systems.


JB:
AM16 covers the whole product lifecycle for a heat pump system - from design through to decommissioning.

It explains the importance of understanding your building’s demands and requirements before selecting the correct configuration of heat pump.
The guide also expands on the practical areas of hydraulic arrangements for heat pumps and optimising the controls.


IRC: This guide provides a methodological approach for designing heat pump systems in residential buildings.
It hopefully guides the readers in the complex decision-making process of selecting the best scheme for their building, providing the technical tools to inform their decision at every step, without providing an answer that fits all situations.
The guide provides tools for demand estimation, discusses the importance of understanding the demand and offers technical information on sizing, controls optimisation, commissioning and decommissioning.
 

IM: What should the readers expect to achieve by reading the publication in terms of knowledge and best practice in building services?

ME: Simply put - I hope that it helps readers deliver successful heat pump installations.

We wanted to be clear about what we think 'successful' means and that is stated early on in the document. There are specific considerations that need careful thought and discussion with respect to designing and operating heat pumps and I hope this guidance makes these clear to the readers.



IN:
I hope that the guide helps designers to design sustainable, maintainable, affordable systems! 
We would love to hear any feedback from the readers of the guide.

JB:
If nothing else, AM16 drives home a message which is particularly crucial in the residential sector: heat pumps are not a drop-in replacement for gas boilers.

Whilst the technology is developing at an incredible rate, heat pumps are relatively complex in how they integrate with a building.

IRC: I hope this guide provides the readers with the technical knowledge and confidence they need for embracing more sustainable residential buildings designs.
 
IM: I think it’s great to hear how invested in delivering a great asset for professionals you have been and, are even now, after finishing the publication and wanting to hear from its readers.

Could you share some of this passion with our readers, and give them some advice on what to expect if they want to become an author or contributor?

ME: I think it is important to remain focused on the intent of the document. When authoring such documents I think it can be tempting to go into great detail about particular topics, because as engineers we find them interesting!

Fortunately, we had a pretty clear brief from CIBSE.

We were able to add our own ideas and we really benefitted from the input of our steering group and the conversations we had with industry stakeholders.



IN: I think it’s important to speak to a wide range of people around the topic.

The conversations will help narrow your focus, as you learn what is important to different collaborators.

JB: It is certainly one of the most rewarding experiences of my career. It both broadens your knowledge of a subject and tests your understanding of the fundamentals.

Authoring any paper or guidance is also a fantastic opportunity to network - both in the production of the document but also after publication. You will find the material and yourself become a magnet for like-minded thinkers.


IRC:
I would recommend engaging with a wide and diversified range of people from different areas and backgrounds to deeply understand the subject from different angles.
This is an opportunity to develop your knowledge independently and expand your network in the industry!
IM: Thank you to all for the great insights shared today and for making time to share them with us. All the best with your future projects!
 
Download Heat pump installations for multi-unit residential buildings (AM16)

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