Servitisation, Smart Systems and Connectivity – What’s next for instrumentation?

There are many buzzwords associated with the multitude of new developments in today’s technological world, and the use of terms like Smart Instrumentation, The Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data, and Servitisation are becoming increasingly common. Whilst we may think that we are familiar with these descriptors there is sometimes a disconnect with what they mean to the industries where they apply.

BSRIA is uniquely placed to be at the forefront of the use and application of technological innovation especially within the building services industry. BSRIA’s vision is to be leaders for information, knowledge and improvement for the built environment; with an aim of ‘making buildings better’, so concepts such as the BSRIA Business-Focused Maintenance (BFM) methodology fit this remit and have become increasingly relevant as technology has advanced.

Today’s engineers can now use a wide variety of instrumentation that can be considered ‘smart’. However not all smart instruments are created equal and to be truly smart the monitoring data must be connected to the Internet of Things (IoT), generating data that is uploaded and analysed either by a human operative or a software application. This can be used in preventative maintenance planning, helping to move away from planned scheduled maintenance schedules which are often expensive and unreliable in identifying faults and potential failures. Some of the most widely used monitoring methods include ultrasonic flow meters, temperature monitors, humidity monitors, power meters and process emissions analysers. These instruments and others are indispensable tools for engineers, they provide a non-invasive, user-friendly and cost-effective solution to maintenance testing which can be used as part of a smart system of monitoring.

A smart IoT instrument must be linked to the internet through a hub or router. The continuing development of smart technology and the IoT in the instrumentation sector means that something called servitisation is becoming increasingly relevant in the way that today’s building services sector customer offerings are created and marketed.

The concept of servitisation was first discussed by Vandermerwe & Rada in their 1988 paper; ‘Servitisation of business: Adding value by adding services’, published in the European Management Journal. The Servitisation of products involves a strategy of adding value by adding services to products or even replacing a product with a service package. For example, supplying an HVAC system and adding various levels of service, additional features and product support. Customers can be offered a choice of options for a product ranging from supply of the basic physical parts of the system, right up to a complete turnkey solution including all support, monitoring, maintenance and repair. For instrumentation the basic physical unit can be supplied, with additional services including accessories, software, service & calibration and data management being sold as additional options. Data management services are a relatively recent addition to the instrumentation sector, this can include mobile apps, data portals, warehousing & storage and data processing.

The way that servitisation is offered to a customer can be business or even product specific, for example there could be an initial capital expense payment, or the entire cost could be fully included in a subscription or lease type agreement. This helps the customer to manage capital expenditure and the seller to manage their finances by making income streams more consistent and aiding cash flow management. However, it is important to supply products that add value to the performance or create cost savings for a customer, over-specification or ‘over-servitisation’ of smart systems can be pointless, expensive and can lead to loss of customer goodwill.

With the user-friendliness and wealth of applications for smart instruments, you don’t need to be an expert, employ a consultant or have large budgets to get the data you need. We work closely but independently with a wide range of equipment suppliers which means we can provide solutions to meet our customer’s specific needs. We can supply a wide range of smart instruments from entry level units up to state-of-the-art professional cameras and all at an affordable price.

We recognise our client’s needs are time critical and we have equipment available for hire and sale direct from stock or with short lead times. In processes where plant failure can cause down-time that can potentially cost millions of pounds in lost income it is imperative that critical building services must never be disrupted by failure. We pride ourselves on providing fit-for-purpose, user friendly and cost-effective equipment.

At a basic level, an IoT instrument takes a measurement, this data is uploaded to a processing system, the data is analysed and any potential risks or failures are highlighted – this can result in an automated system response (e.g. process change or shut down) and/or an alert to an engineer (email, text, etc.) to highlight the issue for action (e.g. schedule specific maintenance or equipment replacement). The data analysis process is key to effective system operation, it can use Big Data processes to highlight potential problems (i.e. using software to analyse very high volumes of data to identify patterns consistent with potential problems). Artificial Intelligence (AI) software is one of the most recent developments in building control and monitoring technology and is an ideal fit for smart systems, it has the potential to deal with huge volumes of data and identify problems more effectively than human or traditional digital algorithm analysis. AI is a relatively new field and advances in this area are likely to increase at pace over the coming years and impact all aspects of the sector.

The development of smart IoT instrument systems is also driving servitisation by moving the point of value from physical instruments towards the software and data handling. There are many ways in which the building services sector has opportunities to use big data to create value for the customer, including improved information security and enhance physical comfort to increase worker performance. These trends are discussed in detail in the BSRIA publication BG75/2018 Building Services Analytics.

IoT instruments can also be linked to or part of a Building Management System (BMS) and it also fits with the BSRIA Business-Focused Maintenance (BFM) methodology first published in 2004 and updated in 2016 (BFM Guide BG53/2016). BFM plant maintenance requirements can utilise smart instrumentational monitoring and data processing. An aim of BFM is to provide engineers with a methodology for utilising maintenance budgets more effectively, this aligns with the design of smart instrumentation systems and the creation of service offerings. Assets critical to the business are maintained, while other less critical assets are managed as well as possible within the available budget. By assessing and prioritising plant maintenance needs for risks and criticality to the business, engineers and managers can ensure their maintenance effort is resource efficient, focused, cost-effective and increase their resilience to engineering risk.

The way that BMS data is managed and processed is as important as the instrumentation itself, it must be generated and analysed in a format that can be used to create plans and actions that add value, generate efficiencies and create cost savings for the customer. Some of the first digital breakthroughs have been in predictive asset maintenance and real-time monitoring. Digital twin systems where a virtual model of a physical asset is created allow predictive analysis to be performed and can highlight potential failure points more effectively than routine planned monitoring work. However, focus must always be on the key aim of smart systems to simplify processes for the end user, systems should work for the user not the other way around, this applies to the instruments, their control systems and product support.

Technological developments are likely to continue increasing in pace in the coming years and this will impact everyone involved in the sector from operators to supply chain suppliers. BSRIA Instrument Solutions is ideally placed to provide its customers with the latest developments in smart instrumentation as it supplies product from a comprehensive range of leading suppliers. For further details of the Instrument Solutions equipment hire, sales and calibration capabilities visit www.bsria.co.uk/instruments or call our team on freephone 0800 254 5566 (UK only ) or +44 (0) 1344 459314.

What elements do you need to consider when specifying a weather louvre?

A weather louvre is a passive device, essentially a grille fixed over an opening, designed to let air through and keep water out. It is designed to perform both these functions simultaneously, and its suitability for a particular application is determined by how effectively it achieves these functions in combination.

Failure to understand and clearly express the performance requirement at the design or procurement stage increases the risk of the product not being fit for purpose. The end user may experience unwanted water penetration or wasted energy.

To achieve optimum performance, system designers and specifiers of weather louvres must have an appreciation of:
•    How to understand weather louvre requirements
•    How to minimise whole-life costs through system design and louvre selection
•    Which terms to use to ensure that performance data are consistently stated when sourcing products from suppliers
•    How to minimise risks associated with overstated performance claims

Performance Testing

The standard performance tests for weather louvres are described in BS EN 13030 and BS EN 13181. The test methods are designed to simulate real-life operating conditions the louvre will undergo when installed.  The rejection performance can be established for a range of ventilation rates while subjected to windblown rain or sand.
BSRIA operates a specialist weather louvre test facility, which offers clients independent performance testing of weather louvres to these standards.

Specifying a Weather Louvre

To specify a weather louvre usefully requires the following elements:

•    Understanding of the required volume flow rate, louvre face area and subsequent face velocity
•    Understanding of the permissible water penetration for the application, based on the classes provided by the standard test (A-D)
•    Understanding of the standard test classes for discharge or entry loss coefficient (1-4) and that a higher Cd means lower energy usage.

It must be noted that other factors can affect the performance of a weather louvre which is not accounted for by the standard test.
If you are looking for further information visit http://www.bsria.co.uk where you can download BSRIA’s Weather Louvre Specification Guide (BG 36/2012) for FREE or for louvre testing enquiries either contact 01772 754381 or email: bsrianorth@bsria.co.uk

Thermal Imaging Camera Applications in Business Focused Maintenance

Today the modern built environment faces many challenges with organisations expecting the reliability of services to continuously improve with cost savings being made due to reducing maintenance regimes. Down-time can be extremely costly to a business in lost income, therefore mission critical services must not be disrupted by failure. Historically businesses have used generic planned preventative maintenance schedules, maintaining plant in the same way regardless of its level of use and value to the business.

 

Identifying that there was clearly a smarter risk-based approach to maintenance BSRIA published its Business Focused Maintenance (BFM) methodology back in 2004, this was updated in 2016 with the BFM Guide (BG53/2016) which is available from the BSRIA bookshop. BFM provides engineers with a methodology for utilising maintenance budgets more effectively. Assets critical to the business are maintained, while other less critical assets are managed as well as possible within the available budget. By assessing and prioritising plant maintenance needs for risks and criticality to the business, engineers and managers can ensure their maintenance effort is focused, cost-effective and increase their resilience to engineering risk.

 

Typical thermal images of engineering plant used to identify and monitor potential failures

 

BFM plant maintenance requirements will require instrumentational monitoring and one of the most widely used monitoring methods is thermal imaging. This has many applications including showing faults in thermal insulation, electrical installations and mechanical plant. Thermal imaging cameras are indispensable tools for engineers, they provide a non-invasive, user-friendly and cost-effective solution to maintenance testing.

“with the user-friendliness and wealth of applications for modern thermal imaging cameras, you don’t need to be an expert, employ a consultant or have large budgets to get the instant images you need. We work closely but independently with a wide range of equipment suppliers which means we can provide solutions to meet our customer’s specific needs. We can supply a wide range of thermal imagers from entry level units up to state-of-the-art professional cameras and all at an affordable price.

We recognise our client’s needs are time critical and we have equipment available for hire and sale direct from stock or with short lead times. In processes where plant failure can cause down-time that can potentially cost millions of pounds in lost income it is imperative that critical building services must never be disrupted by failure. We pride ourselves on providing fit-for-purpose, user friendly and cost-effective equipment”.

BSRIA Instrument Solutions is a leading supplier of specialist test and measurement instruments since 1990 and can assist engineers from all industries in selecting instruments that meet and exceed their expectations. It has built its reputation by providing the most reliable and advanced test equipment from leading manufacturers supporting it with a high level of customer service they can offer a choice of thermal imaging solutions with products from the leading instrument manufacturers.

For further details of the Instrument Solutions equipment hire, sales and calibration capabilities visit www.bsria.co.uk/instruments or call our team on Freephone 0800 254 5566 (UK) or +44 (0) 1344 459314.

Instrumentation for critical healthcare environments

Today’s hospitals contain many critical environments where building services play an important role in the wellbeing of patients, staff and visitors. Even the best-designed and built facility will need initial commissioning and constant monitoring to ensure peak performance throughout its lifecycle.  Accurate, fit-for-purpose fixed and portable measurement instruments are required in most departments of a hospital, from the boiler room to the pharmacy to ensure that all areas are functioning correctly.

In the wards and operating theatres it is imperative there can be no spread of infections or exposure to potentially hazardous materials.  Providing this effectively in terms of equipment ease of use and efficiently both in terms of the cost of instruments and the cost of staff presents challenges to the building services engineer, laboratory or medical personnel.  In an isolation facility, for example, staff need to monitor the pressure between rooms (positive or negative) to stop the spread of infections either to or from the patient, the temperature within the protected space, supply or extract ventilation rates, the quality of the air in terms of particulate concentration, as well as the flow-rates of medical gasses. Where, all of theses parameters can be measured with fixed (built-in) devices or portable (hand held) instruments.  Measurements of surface contamination may also need to be ascertained for infection control, but these are normally undertaken using standard laboratory techniques.

A number of medical facilities have incinerators on site to dispose of locally generated clinical waste; many different types of fixed measurement instrumentation are used on every aspect of the incineration process from the temperature thermocouples within the primary incinerator, through to the gas and particulate emissions measurement at the end of the process.  To compliment the fixed instrumentation, a selection of portable instruments are also often maintained to crosscheck and temporarily replace the fixed range of measurement equipment should a problem occur.

The boilers that supply steam to the hospital require various types of instrumentation to run correctly, hydrometers for example are used to measure the total dissolved solids (TDS) within the boiler water.  If the TDS level rises too high then this can cause foaming and carryover to the steam main leading to contamination of control valves, heat exchangers and steam traps.

There are also water supplies that have to be considered, and the need to combat the possibility of Legionnaires’ disease by chlorine dosing the systems to ensure all of the water pipes are disinfected.  The water quality then has to be sampled periodically with the appropriate instrumentation to ensure the water is fit for use.

BSRIA has been working on solving building services design, installation, commissioning and operating problems in hospitals for many years and is only too well aware of the importance of correct measurement. Most of the published work however concerns the facilities themselves rather than the instrumentation used for measuring performance.  A well designed facility that has been built and commissioned correctly should be a safe environment to work or visit from day one of its operation.  But, if the wrong instruments are used during commissioning or routine monitoring it could have life and death consequences, as there is the risk of spreading potentially infectious or hazardous agents.  In the field of pressure measurement there is a large array of instruments that measure this physical parameter, but if an instrument is used with an accuracy based on its full scale deflection, not on the indicated value, at low pressures it is impossible to establish if a system is operating correctly.  In a surgical suite it may be required to operate at a pressure differential between rooms of 10 Pa.  If an instrument with a range of 2000 Pa is used with a manufacturer’s claimed accuracy of ± 0.5% fsd (full scale deflection), there can be an error of some ±10 Pa. This errors being almost double the required measurement.  Similarly, when measuring air flow rates in a biological flow cabinet, instruments with a typical accuracy of ± 1.5% mv, +0.2 m/s (measured value) can be used.  But if the target measurement value is only 0.5 m/s, this accuracy equates to a possible reading as low as 0.29 m/s being accepted which could be very problematic in a critical environment and potentially expose an operator to hazardous materials.

Understanding manufacturers’ claimed instrument accuracies is only part of the problem in the correct selection of pieces of instrumentation; the correct calibration of the equipment is equally vital to ensuring reliable data.  For measuring pressures as low as 10 Pa in the surgical suite, the hospital engineer or laboratory staff needs calibrations with an uncertainty of no more than 0.1Pa, which often exceeds what manufacturers are offering.  The building services engineer must look beyond the simple requirement of measuring pressure, and understand the details of the complete process.  Understanding the real technical merit of an instrument therefore must have a greater significance in the future as services in healthcare facilities become more critical.

When buying, or hiring, instruments the engineer now has a global choice as to which product will meet today’s challenging testing environments.  Calibration of this instrumentation is, and always will be, of paramount importance to users, but keeping up-to-date of what is available especially in changes of technology and the scope of instrumentation available must also be considered during the selection process.  Tests that often took hours to conduct can now be undertaken easier, faster, and more accurately than those taken years ago.  For example there are pieces of instrumentation that can fit test N95 respirators and masks to protect workers against airborne biohazards such as TB or even SARS.  Likewise there are new types of ultrafine particle counters that can be used to trace air pollutants in operating theatres, as well as being used for the checking of the integrity of filter seals within laboratory fume cabinets.

With such a wide range of instruments available to today’s healthcare professionals they need to look beyond any procurement source that is tied to an individual manufacturer to obtain the best pieces of instrumentation within the marketplace.   Equally staff at the suppliers have to understand the finer points of the instruments they offering including calibrations at the ranges to be used.  Equipment can, where applicable, include data damping, backlit displays, self calibration check tools, data logging, keypad lock out to unauthorised users and long life battery operation to name just a few options that can also influence a final purchasing decision. BSRIA Instrument Solutions is a leading supplier of specialist test and measurement instruments to Industry since 1990. It has built its reputation by providing the most reliable and advanced test equipment from leading manufacturers supporting it with a high level of customer service and technical support to meet with its client’s requirements and expectations.  They are able to offer a choice of test equipment solutions with products from many leading instrument manufacturers.

 

Face fit testing a nurse to ensure the correct fitting face mask is used.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Simple to use fume hood controller.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hospital isolation suite room pressure monitor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Particle counting in a clean room facility

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Calibration of an anemometer in the BSRIA laboratory.

The  Smart Building in the Smart City – The Ultimate Convergence?

Some Thoughts from Qingdao

If smart cities are to meet the needs of the people living and working in them then they will benefit from expanding on the experience gained in managing complex buildings – and then up their game further…  

Qingdao, China – a Vibrant and Growing City focussing Minds on Smart Buildings and Smart Cities

In September I had the chance to speak at the 5th Annual Global Congress of Knowledge Economy-2018,  held in Qingdao, China.

As well as giving me the chance to set out BSRIA’s vision of smart homes and their wider impact on smart buildings, I was able to enjoy the opinions and insights of a wide range of fellow conference speakers drawn from more than a dozen countries, spread across Asia, Europe and North America.

The central focus of the conference was on the state of the smart city and its future.  For an organisation like BSRIA, whose expertise lies above all in buildings, the relationship between the smart building and the smart city is an interesting, subtle and increasingly strategic  one.

On the one hand, buildings are the most obvious and important elements making up any town or city. Think of a town or city and you probably think of prominent buildings and how they relate to each other and the landscape. In developed societies, buildings account for the largest share of energy use, ahead of industrial production or transport. Urban humans also spend most of our lives within the confines of buildings. In that sense they dominate our world.

Buildings and Cities – From a Technical Challenge to a Social One

Until recently, building services have been directly predominantly at addressing tangible technical challenges, such as how to reduce energy consumption while maintaining physically acceptable temperatures, ventilation, lighting levels and physical safety and security. Recently the emphasis has started to include more intangible, social and human objectives such as comfort, wellbeing and social cohesion. Such “humanistic” values are increasingly seen as being both valuable in themselves and having an economic value. A building where people feel happy is likely to be more profitable.

Such goals and outcomes are of course much harder to measure, but advances in the collection and analysis of data make it increasingly possible to measure human emotions and outputs, to the point where the question increasingly moves from “Can we do this?” to one of “Is it socially or ethically acceptable to be collecting and analysing such sensitive information about people’s inner states and information?”

This development in turn strengthens the links between the smart building and the smart city. Cities have always been close to the very essence of what it is to be human. It is no accident that the word civilisation is related to the Latin ‘civitas’ or town.  One of the strongest messages to come out of the conference is that some early smart city ‘solutions’ suffer from the fact that they purport to offer a ‘technical’ answer without considering all of the very human social needs of a city.

We heard from mayors, city managers and academics from cities ranging from around 5,000 inhabitants to ones with several million. Clearly there were big issues and divergencies with resources and with priorities. A larger city is likely to experience greater challenges in areas such as transportation. In a small city with more limited resources, focussing of effort needs to be more precise, concentrating on issues that will bring a quick and noticeable return.

Towards “City Management Systems”

As with standards in general, there is a natural tension between the benefits of experimentation and adopting a tailored approach which is focussed on a particular community’s needs on the one hand, and having solutions that can be adapted and rolled out by a wide range of different cities on the other, ensuring that systems can communicate and avoiding the temptation to “reinvent the wheel” every time. Two cities may have different detailed needs when it comes to tackling crime, or transport or urban places, but it doesn’t usually make sense to invent something completely different.

One possible answer to this dilemma is to produce smart city “platforms” which accommodate the key aspects likely to be found in a smart city project, including education, transport, security, energy management, health, governance etc. but which can then be configured to meet the different needs of different communities. This could be seen as something almost akin to a Building Automation System (or BACS).

If you think Building management is Complex, Try Cities..

At present there are obviously limits to how far this coordinated approach can advance. Even within a building, there are big challenges to resolve when integrating services such as HVAC, lighting, room booking, security or fire protection. For a start, these may well be the responsibility of different departments.

In a city, these divisions are likely to be multiplied many times. Most cities will have numerous ‘stakeholders’. Even where there is an enthusiastic, well informed and pro-active Mayor – like the people I met in Qingdao, they will need to accommodate political colleagues and rivals, public officials, services, utilities and businesses and media. In many cities, such as London, the Mayor has limited political power and budgeting resources and needs to cooperate not just with a council representing numerous parties, but with more than 30 London Borough’s each with their own powers and agenda, not to mention the UK national government.

Issues such as cyber security and data protection, which already loom large for building managers, are substantially more complex at a city level, and with much more potentially at stake.

Beyond city leaders in democratic countries have to court public opinion to secure re-election, and this opinion can be fickle if smart city initiatives are seen as ineffective, representing poor value, or are simply misunderstood.

Projects can easily go wrong, particularly where technology is used to plug a gap in a poorly thought out policy. To take an example related to buildings and energy, if policy encourages buildings to generate energy, store it and return it to the grid, then the investments will only work if there is an adequate infrastructure and pricing system in place to remunerate contributors and make efficient use of the energy.

Similarly, while district energy schemes can be extremely efficient, and can benefit from smart technology such as monitoring and analytics, the basic design needs to be properly balanced and they need to be supported with appropriate expertise.

This may encourage excess caution. While there are ample opportunities to spread risks and benefit from the expertise of the private sector, this is unlikely to be effective if the city managers lack the necessary knowledge and understanding.

The Way Forward

So what can the building services community specifically take away from this? Firstly, a confirmation that the boundaries between the building on the one hand, and what goes on both inside and outside of it are becoming increasingly blurred. Both building systems and city-wide systems need to be able to communicate and exchange information in a controlled and appropriate way.

Most obviously, buildings can contribute both positively and negatively towards the immediate environment, and via their consumption and production of greenhouse gasses, to the wider global environment. The conference heard of some interesting examples of projects for buildings forming “vertical cities”, including not just social amenities but also “sky gardens”.

In highly dense cities such as Hong Kong this approach could yet take off. And even in European cities like London, buildings meeting environmental and social needs look set to become a key element in the smart city of the future.

Open standards will also be essential for the world of the smart building and the smart city. ISO standards such as ISO 37106:2018 Sustainable cities and communities — Guidance on establishing smart city operating models for sustainable communities and ISO/IEC 30182:2017 Smart city concept model — Guidance for establishing a model for data interoperability will play an important role.

However, there is a real opportunity for companies which already have solutions for the management of complex buildings and campuses, including everything from services to physical and cyber security, to extend their offering in a way that allows for the integration, analysis and management of wider smart city services.

Beyond the Immediate Future, a More Unexpected Twist?

I came away from the conference convinced that smart technology is quite likely to change the whole structure of cities, and even, to some extent challenge the need for mega-conurbations. Large cities have arisen in the past 150 years mainly because industrial production and then service delivery required the concentration of large “armies” of people in a limited and accessible area.

If most routine production and most services come to be provided mainly by a combination robotics and by AI as now looks increasingly feasible, and humans are needed mainly the more specialised and abstract roles that sit above this, then is there really a need for millions of humans to be concentrated in a limited area?

It would be ironic if the same processes that usher in the smart city were to lead eventually to a kind of “post urbanised” world reversing the trend seen in modern history.

But that is a much bigger question for another article. For now, the opportunity lies with companies who can help meld the elements of the smart city – with buildings as a key component – into a robust and workable system.

 

Author: Henry Lawson, BSRIA

International trends and the circular economy

Following on from the last edition of the Business Bulletin when I discussed international building trends and energy efficiency, one major trend that is gaining traction and deserves a closer look is the circular economy.

My observation is that the subject of circular economy is increasingly reported in the news and has long had a compelling case to be on the international agenda due to the urgency to respond to climate change and reduce carbon emissions. There are many cases of active programmes but to give a few examples:

  • The K’s Industrial Strategy Whitepaper1 came out on 27th November 2017, and outlined the U.K’s commitment to a circular economy as part of its clean growth strategy.
  • The E.U.’s 2018 Circular Economy Package2 comprises of an ambitious agenda to reduce plastic waste and has also devised a programme of introducing circular economy projects overseas to countries such as India, Japan and Indonesia.
  • On an international level, the World Economic Forum in conjunction with the renowned Ellen MacArthur Foundation3 has developed an international acceleration programme for businesses to embrace circular economy concepts.

So what is the relevance of the circular economy for us in the construction industry?  Well, it is not such a new subject: the earlier work of William McDonough and Michael Braungart and their Cradle to Cradle Design Framework4 was a forerunner along with Dame Ellen MacArthur’s original concept of ‘designing out waste’3.

David Chesire, in his very interesting book “Building Revolutions Applying the Circular Economy To The Built Environment5 discusses the rationale for their ideas.  Essentially, both concepts espouse philosophies of total sustainability but the former promotes a “reduce, reuse and recycle” philosophy adopting the ‘cradle to grave” manufacturing model from the Industrial Revolution. Whilst the latter advocates purposely designing projects from the outset to minimise waste or choosing processes and materials that obviate waste in the first place.   I feel both these visions are neatly encapsulated in the analogy Mr Chesire quotes of the cherry blossom tree that ‘makes copious amounts of blossoms and fruit without depleting the environment. It nourishes the soil, provides oxygen, absorbs carbon dioxide and provides habitats for many other organisms.’

infografica-circular-economy

So for us, how can we make ideas such as these more relevant to the international construction community?  How do we nurture the environment at the same time capitalise on this trend? BSRIA has been looking closely at this question and co-hosted an event in 23rd May 2018 to explore ideas.

I’d like to share some of the key messages from BSRIA / ECA event “Engaging the Circular Economy”6:

  • The circular economy has a simple mantra: make – use – return – make, and will impact every element of the built environment
  • Organisations need to have an holistic approach and be agile to change. Industry is not linear, we need to ‘make do’ with less resources.
  • The future of architecture and construction will need to play a key role in the transition to a circular economy: we will need to think of buildings as resource generators (energy, materials services) in their own right.
  • Our attitude to waste needs to change with zero waste to landfill an imperative for all, involving one hundred percent reuse and recycling.
  • Organisations should ensure they are optimising the efficiency of their building services by making the best use of materials, water and energy for the duration of the installed equipment’s lifetime.
  • We need to embrace more resource sharing schemes such as ‘swap shop’ office furniture and make the office ‘circular’ using remanufactured furniture; reusable containers; circular procurement and data.
  • We should capitalise on battery energy storage and other renewable energy resources such as solar PV and wind turbines
  • Organisations should improve understanding of design approaches, especially passive design to help reduce the demand for building services. Also challenging design briefs and materials to be used on projects, selecting best practice design calculations and reusing equipment are advisable.
  • We need to help overcome contractual, logistical, personnel and financial barriers by making better use of newer building methods and tools such as BIM, BREEAM new construction scheme and off-site construction.
  • The construction industry needs to make changes happen through:
    • Legislation on resources
    • Standards
    • Economic incentives
    • Clear national and international strategies
    • Compelling business cases
    • Client demand

So in conclusion: is the circular economy a glorified term for recycling or is this a whole new tool, the next step as it were, for organisations to gain competitive advantage? One interesting observation a colleague made recently is that there are plenty of ideas for creating value through energy efficiency and sustainability initiatives but arguably the real issue is how do you change a culture in an organisation, how do you really make an organisation change the way they do things? And I think that is the key question for all of us to think about and is reflected in Dame Ellen MacArthur’s philosophy of the need for fundamental change in the way we think about building design.

 

References

  1. Industrial Strategy Whitepaper: Building a Britain fit for the future

The U.K. Government, 27th November 2017
https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/664563/industrial-strategy-white-paper-web-ready-version.pdf

  1. European Commission: 2018 Circular Economy Package
    http://ec.europa.eu/environment/circular-economy/index_en.htm
  2. Ellen MacArthur Foundation
    https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/publications
  3. Cradle to Cradle. Remaking the Way We Make Things
    Braungart M, McDonough W
    North Point Press, 2002
  4. Building revolutions applying the circular economy to the built environment
    Chesire D
    Royal Institute of British Architects, 2016
  5. Material resource efficiency in construction. Supporting a circular economy

Adams K, Hobbs G

British Research Establishment, IHS Technology, 2017

  1. Staging engaging the circular economy event – inventiveness mother of necessity

Prosser C

Electrical Contractors Association, BSRIA, May 2018

http://www.bsria.co.uk/news/

  1. TM56 Resource efficiency of building services

Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers, August 2014

  1. The re-use atlas. A designer’s guide towards a circular economy
    Baker-Brown D
    Royal Institute of British Architects, 2017
  2. Planning for circular economy

Environmental Services Association, April 2017

  1. Circle of light

A discussion about lighting technology and sustainability.

Harvey N

Lighting Journal, March 2017, Vol.82(3), 24-25

  1. Whole-life carbon circular economy

This technical article explores approaches for achieving zero energy buildings.

Building (magazine), 2 December 2016, No.48, 44-49, 10 figs

  1. The energy in waste – its place in a circular economy

Cummings A

Energy World, February 2014, No. 423, 14-15

The Lyncinerator on… an unexpected link between onesies and buildings

Don’t get me started. When asked what he wanted for Christmas, our nephew told his aunt he would like a Harry Potter ‘onesie’. Aunt Lil delivered one. “Exactly the right size”, noted Aunt Lil triumphantly, sure that she had delivered what was wanted. However, she had no idea that there are different houses at Hogwarts school and that getting the ‘right’ house Really Matters. “It’s got a slithering snake thing on the hood” she pointed out – anathema to the Gryffindor besotted youngster. He also expected a thick fleecy onesie, not the thin synthetic version chosen. “It’s just right for bed” she said, not realising that he wanted a cosy onesie for day time lounging. The boy reluctantly put on the item leaving a slightly cross aunt murmuring about ungrateful youngsters.

75-16 Lynne Ceeney

This blog was written by Lynne Ceeney, Technical Director at BSRIA

It was an interesting lesson in specification. The situation reminded me of many building projects. Unless requirements are clearly specified, teams usually look for the cheapest way to deliver to the worst permitted standards – building regulations or health and safety minimum standards.

Aunt Lil could say she had met her brief. She delivered a onesie that had a vague connection to Harry Potter, from a legitimate source, which met legal standards. And was low cost. But it wasn’t what the recipient wanted and his performance expectations definitely were not met. Just like many buildings. It isn’t all down to the deliverer. A better conversation was needed between the boy (or his parents acting as agents) and Aunt Lil – to explain his specification.

Increasingly, client specifications for buildings and their services relate to performance outcomes rather than specifying the inputs to be supplied or designs to be built. That is, the client sets out what product or service being supplied is required to do, rather than what should be supplied or how it should be designed. The ‘Design for Performance’ family of ratings standards (including NABERS) rates buildings in accordance with their operational performance over 12 months of auditing. Failure to meet the pre-agreed standard is considered a contractual breach. Ratings systems such as BREEAM encourage operational performance improvement. Government is also considering “shifting” away from EPCs which only measure theoretical design performance.

The increased use of real time monitoring and smart technologies is leading to the servitisation of facilities management and maintenance as reliability of performance and speed of responsiveness to occupier demand is becoming more important to the building owner and their clients. Social influences, such as an increased focus on wellbeing and wearable technologies, build expectations for a real time response to performance variation rather than periodic interventions.

This has considerable implications for the building services industry. Bringing in building services engineers at the end of the design phase won’t work as they need to be involved in overall design so that required outcomes can be achieved. Tools like Soft Landings will be used more widely to maintain the focus on performance targets through design, delivery and operation and to assist in increasing collaboration throughout the supply chain.

The detail in the specification and the degree to which it is input or outcome focused will depend on the context and situation. Drawing up a good specification requires knowledge and experience. It can be determined through dialogue between the client and an appointed deliverer, combining technical expertise with user experience. However, in a pre-tender situation, the client may choose to take professional advice or to use the technical guidance available from BSRIA (and others).

As the boy’s mother will say, good specification saves a lot of awkwardness. She wishes the cheap onesie label had specified its maintenance needs properly. It shrunk in the wash. She is reprocessing it as a cleaning rag and his dad will buy him the onesie the boy wanted in the first place! Mum will supervise his Christmas list this year. Don’t get me started…

Can the UK be a Global Leader in Battery Storage?

In a speech in November 2017, the UK Energy Secretary Greg Clark set out an apparently ambitious vision of UK energy policy in general, and for battery energy storage in particular. What is more, the UK’s Faraday Challenge comes with a promise of £246 million to boost expertise in battery technology.

While the UK has generally been one of the leading advocates of a greener, more sustainable energy policy over the past few decades, it has always been more ambivalent when it comes to committing significant sums of hard public cash. While just under a quarter of a billion pounds is still modest compared to the R&D budgets of some of the world’s leading corporations (Amazon alone is set to invest roughly 50 times that sum in overall R&D in 2017) it nonetheless represents an important step forward.

Henry Lawson, WMI

This blog was written by BSRIA’s Henry Lawson

Battery storage matters of course because, based on current knowledge, it offers the most efficient and practicable way of converting energy into a form where it can be stored safely, and in a limited space (an important factor for buildings, especially for homes), and then be available for instant use ‘on demand’. Given that the key renewable energies, wind and solar, are inherently irregular, this form of storage is crucial to their development.

Clark’s stated aim is no less than “to ensure that the UK is the place in the world where new battery technology especially in combination with the auto sector is not just developed but is commercialised.”

Experience suggests that individual countries can indeed emerge as leaders in innovative green technology in a way that not only helps the environment but makes a major contribution to their economy. Denmark for example has emerged as a global giant in wind-power technology, helped not just by an abundance of wind – which many countries enjoy – but by leadership in the development of the requisite technology.

In 2016, over 32,000 people were employed in the Danish Wind Power industry – which would be proportionately equivalent to over 350,000 jobs in the UK. The industry also generated €5.98 billion in product exports, which equates to over 1,000 euros for every man, woman and child in Denmark.

Looked at today, the UK has its work cut out to become a global leader in battery storage. In a list of “43 Battery Storage Companies To Watch” compiled by cleantechnica in early 2015, only one company (res) was headquartered in the UK, and fewer than one in 5 were European headquartered – with Germany, perhaps not surprisingly having the strongest European base. Two thirds were based in North America and about 1 in 6 in Asia (that is in Japan, China or South Korea).

Bloomberg has projected that China’s share of global lithium-ion battery production will rise from an estimated 55% today, to as much 65% in 2021. The UK, like the rest of Europe, has some reason to be concerned that, with energy storage as with so many other disruptive new technologies, so much of the main action is taking place in other parts of the world, with Europe and the UK potentially sidelined to the ranks of spectators and followers.

However two important caveats should be applied here. The first is that there is a well-established global pattern of R&D being focused in the leading developed economies (such as North America, Western Europe, Japan and South Korea) with mass production being outsourced to countries such as the BRICS economies, especially China, India and Brazil.

The second is of course that an economy that optimises use of energy storage will be about  much more than the design and manufacture of ever more efficient batteries, important though this is. The creation of an energy grid which can make optimal decisions about when to store energy (at national, local and community level), and from which courses will also be critical, as will be the development and implementation of building energy management solutions which can ensure that each building manages its energy, including energy storage in an efficient way.

Efficient support for electric vehicles, and their integration into the wider energy grid where practicable, will be a further key plank.

The UK government’s approach, including promoting initiatives from universities, also makes a lot of sense, given that many of the world’s energy storage leaders started life as offshoots of university research programs.

All of this may or may not propel the UK to the kind of leading role that it aspires to. It is, however, a timely and much needed move to become more proactive in one of the technologies that will be vital in creating a safer and more sustainable future.

Back to the future: digital innovation in the built environment

The construction industry has mostly survived without incorporating computational design or digital
technology into their workflow until very recently, but we’re now at a point where it would be
foolish to ignore the capability that these solutions offer, and are starting to embrace these tools.
Immersive technology is now readily available, cost effective, and being used in design offices and on
building sites; cloud computing is allowing more complex calculations to be carried out in a fraction
of the time; robotics and 3D printing is becoming a reality for making building components; access to
live building data is starting to reveal a new understanding of how people interact with the built
environment… the list goes on.

But is this BIM??? The following ramble‐chat proposes that a lot of the confusion has come from the
welding together of “information management” and “digital technology”. These two things go
together, but they’re not the same thing. BIM is the meticulously structured and organised part;
digital technology is what allows us to innovate and break the mould. Without the structure, the
innovation can’t really flourish, and without the innovation, life is boring.
With the rapid uptake of BIM has come many different definitions and interpretations, and although
the label has been useful for giving traction to a much needed review of our methods, it’s also
grouped many other things under one banner. Perhaps it’s more helpful now to look at the
constituent parts in their own right…

The UK Government’s Level 2 BIM requirements are a very useful framework for how we can
provide consistent structured information (Better Information Management, as many people like to
say). This is great; thanks Government. To make the best use of data, consistent standards are
essential in ensuring that computers can make like‐for‐like comparisons. Of course, artificial
intelligence and image recognition could potentially do away with these standards altogether, but
that’s for another blog… The important thing is that data juggling can be very boring for human
beings to deal with, but it’s exactly what computers are there for. So we have to use computers
properly to help us deliver consistent information and to allow us the time and space to create and
imagine.

Right now, the people in the digital mind‐space are still emerging from the dark corners of the office,
and starting to find their place within project teams, like fish growing legs and joining the human
race. Only in this case, the digital skillset is the natural evolution of the engineering toolbox. But like
a fish out of water, it’s taking time for them to find their feet.
One of the current challenges we’re facing is aligning digital skills with BIM tasks. We have BIM
consultants, BIM coordinators, 3D draftsmen, information managers, Revit technicians, BIM
technicians…. another endless list of people with widely varying skills and different places in the
project team. And many of our traditional project teams are still spinning from when BIM came
flying through the door a few short years ago with cries of “it’s a process”, “it’s a digital revolution”
and “the millennials are taking over”…

So although our understanding is quite spread out along the see‐saw of change, it feels like our
collective mass is now fast approaching the fulcrum, and nobody knows what’s about to appear on
the horizon. We all have an opportunity right now to set that picture; the digital era is only in its
infancy for the built environment, so we can influence and shape how we want to be working in the
near future.

After all, remember the whole reason for doing this: because we can… No, because we need to
better understand buildings to provide healthier, happier places with lower impact on our
environment. The built environment teams of the future will work alongside building owners to
optimise the running of their facility, constantly reviewing occupant wellbeing via wearable
technology and sensors, and energy performance via meters, to assess opportunities for
improvement. Design options will be calculated instantly, the optimised solutions will be presented
for the team to choose their favourite, and the components will be printed and installed overnight
by robots. A futuristic vision from a few years ago that now seems eerily tangible.

With all this in mind, we can see that the skillsets are changing from carrying out detailed
calculations and routing by hand, to focussing on optimising concept designs and operation of
spaces. The most valuable skills in 10 years will be a mixture: those associated with data analytics
and computer programming, and the wider ability to tie all these solutions together.

In 2017, we’re very much in the transition phase, and so our main focus needs to be on preparing
the foundations that will make the above utopia a possibility. And that is BIM: the idea of putting
structured data into a computer model. Once we can all do this, together, collaboratively, as a team,
the possibilities of digital innovation can take seed and grow.

Fit for purpose – Big data reveals the construction knowledge gap

The construction knowledge gap.gif

Big data exposes a widening construction knowledge gap

Analysis of 6 million pieces of data has revealed that the knowledge framework underpinning the construction industry is no longer fit for purpose. Practitioners do not have easy access to critical knowledge, and so it is inevitable that mistakes will be made.

Designing Buildings Wiki, the construction industry knowledge base, has undertaken the first ever comprehensive mapping of construction industry knowledge. The startling results have been published today in a major new report ‘Fit for purpose? Big data reveals the construction knowledge gap’.

Fit for purpose front cover.jpg

The report includes a series of remarkable visual maps giving never-before-seen insights into how construction knowledge works and where it fails.

The key findings of the report are:

  • The industry is lacking the strategic leadership needed to coordinate the creation and dissemination of knowledge.
  • The emergence of the internet has fundamentally changed the way practitioners access knowledge, but the industry has not kept up.
  • Knowledge that is difficult to understand, buried in long documents or locked behind pay walls will not be used – even if it is critically important.
  • Practitioners need accessible, practical, easy-to-use guidance to help them carry out everyday activities.

In the wake of the Edinburgh schools defects and the fallout from the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the report suggests the industry needs to get organised and stop leaving the dissemination of knowledge to chance – or more mistakes will be made.

Designing Buildings Wiki chairman, David Trench CBE FCIOB said:

“A lot of construction knowledge published at the moment is niche research aimed at making the top performing 1% of the industry better. But it is leaving the other 99% to fend for themselves. It is well established that construction performance in the UK lags behind other industries and other countries, this report gives some clues about why this is and what could be done to turn things around.”

Mark Farmer, CEO of Cast Consultancy and author of ‘Modernise or Die’ said:

“The concept of open data networks and the increasing democratisation of data and knowledge were concepts I explicitly referenced in my recent review of the construction industry ‘Modernise or Die’. The findings of this report reaffirm that current knowledge and innovation is not being captured in a way that is broadly and strategically accessible to enable industry at large to benefit. Knowledge & data ‘silos’ are a feature of our industry and we clearly need to break these open through more collaborative forums and platforms that have greater reach into the mainstream of our industry.

“The assertion that much academic work is not influencing industry’s improvement is one that I identify with and we need a step up in the vetting of what research is commissioned that has sufficient applied value for the wider industry rather than specialist interest groups that does not necessarily make it relevant or scalable.”

Andrew Morris, Senior Partner at Rogers Stirk Harbour and Partners said:

“The likely impact of Brexit on the construction industry means it is vitally important to encourage the continued sharing of information and ideas, and ensure there are coordinated programmes of education and research. This timely report offers a number of strategic recommendations that can steer knowledge creation and promote the dissemination of knowledge to help the industry maintain its performance and improve its openness through a period of unprecedented change.”

Julia Evans, BSRIA CEO, said:

“The way information is accessed is changing so the way we disseminate information will need to change. Disseminating information is only part of the story, original authoritative content needs to be produced to ensure the industry continues to develop and deliver the sustainable buildings required now and in the future. There is a need to add value to information including primary research by providing the ‘what does it mean to me?’ angle.

“It is especially interesting to see the report suggests tackling the construction industry as a whole, rather than piecemeal, with strategic leadership to ensure that duplication of effort is avoided and gaps are plugged.”

Nathan Baker, ICE’s Director of Engineering Knowledge, said:

“Digital transformation is affecting every part of construction and it is important that the institutions work with industry and government to ensure that we adapt. Knowledge sharing and collaboration in particular will be vital in overcoming the challenges confronting the industry. This report provides fascinating insights to help steer our collective response to the new risks and opportunities we face, ensuring people at all points in their career have access to the right knowledge.”

Source = Designing Buildings

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