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.

 

This blog was written by Alan Gilbert, General Manager of BSRIA Instrument Solutions department.

 

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

The Lyncinerator on… Failure

Don’t get me started.  Stuck on an interminably delayed flight, I leafed through the airline magazine.  An article on a new Museum of Failure in Sweden caught my eye.  “Only in Scandinavia” I thought, cynically.  But it made interesting reading.  The curator is a psychologist and innovation researcher who got fed up with hearing people talk only about success and not the failures that lay behind it, his view is that development only comes through learning from failure.  The fact that the museum is partly funded by the Swedish governmental department that supports industrial R&D suggests that he is not the only one to think this way.   The museum demonstrates products and services that did not take off, and explains some of the reasons why.  It was a thought provoking and informative article.

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

I talked to some colleagues about the museum and the article, and laughingly said I would write a blog titled “BSRIA is good at failure”.   I’m sure you can imagine the raised eyebrows, and concerns that this could be misconstrued.  And in a world of short tweets and clickbait headlines this is a justified concern.  But for an industry like ours, understanding and learning from failure is really important, and maybe we don’t talk about failure enough.

In-use failure of safety critical components and elements simply should not happen.  That’s what testing and inspection are for, although we know that sadly, these are not fail-safe.  But talking about those failures is imperative.  The causes of these failures are shared openly and quickly, so that future incidents can be prevented.  Public enquiries are one route, but for less public failures, as an industry we need to look at the “no blame” culture that the aviation industry has introduced.  (More correctly perhaps, it’s a “just” culture – where people are rewarded for providing safely related failure information.  Deliberately unsafe actions or decisions are still penalised).  If this type of safety critical failure is declared and investigated, it can and should prevent future incidents.  It seems that litigation and insurance may get in the way of the necessary “no blame / just” culture, and there is a definite need for an industry-wide approach to investigate and remedy this.

But what about failures that only interrupt occupant functioning and are inconvenient?  There is a tendency to patch or fix, or to simply replace, and to move on without capturing learning.  This is one of the points where BSRIA comes into its own.  Our Problem Investigation team get to see multiple failures in different buildings, delivered and managed by different teams.  This has two consequences: (1) we are quick at spotting the cause of problems which cannot be simply identified by front line repair teams because we know where to look with our analytics, so front line teams can fix the problem efficiently, and (2) we are able to upcycle our learning into publications, guidance and training to pass preventative knowledge to the industry.  A good example of this is our work on pipework corrosion, which we have been able to investigate in some depth and include our learnings in guidance for water commissioning.  This helps optimise the performance of existing buildings, but importantly we can also influence the design of the next generation of components and buildings.  To increase our impact, we need to encourage more failures to be reported and investigated so that we can better understand trends and problems, and report back to the industry as to how to remedy them.  This too requires an industry culture that recognises the value of learning from failure.

And of course innovation doesn’t happen without failure.   There are of course degrees of failure (the Museum features frozen pizza marketed under the brand of a toothpaste company, I would have loved to have listened to the strategy meeting for that!).  Controlled failure is useful – in our test laboratories we help establish parameters for new products through testing prototypes, and then we test the end product on behalf of the manufacturer.   We move beyond labs though, and we monitor technologies in the real world, in occupied buildings, to see what happens when expert and non-expert users are let loose on equipment and to see how it performs and what doesn’t work so well.  All useful data for the next iteration of designs, products and systems.

So BSRIA is pretty good at failure – investigation, remedy and recommendation for prevention.  And the industry clearly benefits from reporting, investigating and talking about failure.  So we need to think about how we can encourage this culturally, and how to process and use what we find.

The flight, incidentally, was very delayed.  I read the whole magazine.  And I couldn’t blame the pilot, it was a weather issue.  But the failure to deliver on board food because they had sold out – well that was a failure too far, don’t get me started…

 

The Lyncinerator, September 2017.

 

 

 

How hard can opening a new office be?

As some of you may or may not be aware, the new BSRIA North site is now open for business.

For organisations opening a new office or site, it should be a time of great anticipation and excitement as the company sets out a new path, but for many they approach this process with fear and trepidation and for those tasked with the job of making it happen, it can potentially be an extremely stressful period of time.  As Project Manager for the setting up of BSRIA North, I thought I would share with you my experiences – the very good, the sometimes bad and the occasional ugly!

This blog was written by June Davis, Business manager of BSRIA North

I will be sharing my experiences and tips on:

  • Identifying and interpreting the business requirements
  • How to determine the must have’s versus the nice to haves
  • The importance of establishing an internal project team – you can’t do this alone!

BUSINESS NEEDS

When establishing the business needs, spend time with colleagues from across the organisation to listen and understand what they would like to see from a new base – what is it about the current environment that works, what doesn’t work so well and what would improve their working environment if only it were possible!

Everyone one I spoke to was really keen to give me their wish lists and as I started to jot their ideas down, some similarities started to emerge, but for some their thoughts varied significantly.    Prioritise the must haves and rationalise the nice to haves and a vision of your new building will start to emerge.

TIP don’t lose those more obscure requests. Whilst on this occasion I couldn’t deliver a building that had an on-site wind turbine, I was able to deliver on the overhead gantry crane!

TIP:  to fulfil everyone’s requirements you would most likely need to commission a bespoke building, so make sure to manage expectations!

Internal Project Team

You can’t succeed on your own so it is imperative that you establish an internal project team.  Working with business managers from across the organisation proved a valuable source of knowledge and support.  Individual managers were allocated areas of responsibility spanning right across the project and each were tasked with identifying what needed to be done , this formed the basis of a project plan.

Example project areas:

·         Property

·         Fit out

·         Process/Systems

·         Health & Safety

·         Quality

·         Marketing

·         People

 

Ensuring the team communicated regularly weekly meetings were held and if on occasion some colleagues were unable to attend it ensured that we kept abreast of developments – or on occasion the lack of!

Select a property

It seems obvious, but finding the right property in the right location and that meets the detailed specification your colleagues have challenged you with can at times feel like finding a needle in a haystack. This is where the word compromise well and truly comes in to play!  Give yourself a sizeable geography in which to search for property – like you, everyone wants it all, so make sure you keep an open mind and research those properties that at first glance you would dismiss as not meeting your criteria.   What you think you need and what you finally agree is ‘the one’ may well prove to be completely different – it did for us!

TIP The more sites I visited the more ideas I collected as to what could work and might be achieved!

 TIP:  Draw up a short list of buildings and compare them to your must have list – is there a property that is starting to lead the way?

TIP:  Engage one of your project team to come with you to revisit your top properties – they will bring a new perspective to things.

TIPIf possible, establish a good relationship with the previous tenant, in our experience they were really helpful in providing information about the building, how it operated and its history!

The legal process can take quite some time, it was certainly longer than we had anticipated; but don’t underestimate this vital element of the journey. It is critically important that your future building has the correct legal foundations in place, so ensure you seek good advice.

With the legal aspects complete we gained possession of the building and we all got a much-needed motivation boost! The project team visited the site to design the layout and agree what renovations needed to be made.  The vision was taking shape!

Renovations and installations!

Be ready – This is an extremely busy period.  Obtaining quotes, liaising with contractors, arranging building services are just a handful of the tasks at hand. I found that having someone local to the site with good local knowledge is hugely helpful.  Access can be required at various times of the day and sometimes night but with the building not yet fully functional requires a lot of coming and goings to site.   Ensure the alarm systems are serviced and activated and site security implemented.

TIPTake your readings!  Ensure you capture the utility readings on day one and contact the associated providers to inform them you are the new tenants submitting the readings.  This should be a straightforward exercise I can assure you it isn’t, so be warned!

 

For those who may be undertaking a similar process either now or in the future, I wish you every success.  My recommendation is to ensure you appoint the right person to lead the project, a person who loves to do detail, enjoys multi-taking, doesn’t mind getting their hands (very) dirty, and has the patience of a saint and most importantly a good sense of humour!

BSRIA North is proud of what has been achieved and we forward to welcoming you through our doors – please visit us any time!

TRANSFORMATION OF THE OFFICE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My top 5 tips for young people wanting a career in engineering

With exam results looming, GCSE and A-level students have a range of paths in front of them. The hard part is knowing which path to take. Therefore, I have compiled some advice on what to do in order to pursue a career in engineering:

1) Do an online course as soon as possible.

This blog was written by Vincent Norris, Marketing Coordinator at BSRIA.

I decided to take up an online course during my apprenticeship. Personally, I believe this was the best decision I’ve made as it opened many doors for me when I decided to move on from my apprenticeship. There are plenty of STEM-related online courses to choose from and it’s a great way to spruce up your CV.

2) Be proactive.

At work or university; ask questions, volunteer yourself for projects and suggest new ideas. Occasionally you’ll get things wrong. But if you don’t make mistakes, you’ll never learn from them.

3) Do your research.

Do your research on the university course and look into engineering apprenticeships to ensure you make an informed decision. One thing I would say is that if you do go to university; make sure the course offers a year in industry (placement year).

4) Send your CV to relevant businesses.

Work experience is a brilliant way of gaining the knowledge and skills needed to pursue a career in Engineering. It will also help you talk with the right people – Networking goes a long way. Any good businesses will be keen to hear from young people, so don’t be shy! Also, don’t forget you can do this between university terms.

5) Make your CV as Engineering-orientated as possible.

Start a blog (or even a vlog) to talk about engineering. Employers will love this as it shows you have a genuine passion for the subject.

 

If you’re interested in a BSRIA apprenticeship starting in September, send your CV and cover letter to careers@bsria.co.uk ASAP for consideration.

 

 

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