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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alarmingly, less is more

This blog is by Mark Glitherow, Key Account Manager for UK Trend

Trend’s Key Account Manager, Mark Glitherow, explains why the generation of too many individual alarms is deterring end users from configuring a BEMS to undertake the monitoring of their key compliance needs.

When given the choice, most end users with a fully optimised BEMS opt for as many alarms to be configured as possible. On one level this is understandable, as it usually doesn’t cost them anymore and they might think that it’s better to be alerted to a potential issue than not be notified at all.

The reality leads to what can only be described as the ‘boy who cried wolf’ scenario, where so many alarms are generated that they are soon ignored and considered a nuisance. This was recently highlighted to me at a seminar of healthcare professionals, who all felt that in order to mitigate the risk of legionella they would rather manually check temperatures of tank held water than receiving alarm based notifications from a BEMS. The reason for this was purely down to the high levels of alarms that they already receive.

This situation is both worrying and frustrating, given that a BEMS should be a focal point in ensuring delivery of a compliant, resilient and sustainable built environment. A BEMS should support decision making but do so in a way that provides genuine value, rather than allowing generic, worthless alarms to complicate a user experience.

One answer to this conundrum is to reduce the volume of alarms and rationalise the amount that are set, so that the end user can gauge the importance of a notification. Alternatively, a graphical user interface (GUI) such as the Trend 963 Supervisor could be used to improve the presentation of valuable information so that users quickly recognise situations requiring their attention. The 963 Supervisor could create clear, relevant and succinct metrics – the premise being to create indicators that are just as effective as the actions they are intended to instigate.

These visual indicators can be configured to suit the exacting needs of the end user and be based upon an understanding of specific objectives, how they are to be achieved and who is going to action them. They could take the form of dashboards, ‘traffic light’ style devices or graphs.

A BEMS that issues alarms in a more structured, meaningful and discerning way is far more useful that one that simply bombards the end user with notifications that are ignored. Integrators and end users, therefore, need to work together to decide upon levels of importance for different events and configure the BEMS appropriately. It is simply a case of less being more.

For further information please call Trend Marketing on 01403 211888 or email marketing@trendcontrols.com

The Lyncinerator on… Bathroom taps

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

Don’t get me started.  We’ve all been here.  You’re out and about, maybe having a meal, going shopping or visiting offices, and you have to use an unfamiliar bathroom.   You approach the basin to undertake that most basic of human hygiene tasks, washing your hands.  And looking around, you realise you have absolutely no idea how to turn on the tap…  and in many cases, you have absolutely no idea where the tap is.  If you are lucky, there is an obvious spout from which the water should come out.  However in many cases, the detective work starts here – the spout might not actually be in a tap, it might be be under the shelf, or embedded in the granite.  Second detective task:  getting the water to flow.  Sometimes it is a button.  Sometimes a toggle. Sometimes something to turn.  Sometimes a sensor – which sometimes works.  Let’s assume you have managed to actually get some water to use, and you can start on your third detective task – getting the temperature you want.  Often helpful “danger” notices warn you that the hot water is hot (really Sherlock??  – well, I guess putting up a notice is easier than sorting out the supply issue). Clearly many, tap designers are a fan of puzzles, and assume you are too.  No clues to indicate how to adjust temperature, no blue or red symbol to help you out.  You have to eliminate the suspects until you find a way that works.  And after the application of a lot of thought and puzzling, hopefully you get to wash your hands.

Presumably someone thought these taps look great – but ‘clean lines’ are triumphing over clean hands. Whilst this functional obfuscation is frustrating for the average user, it is nigh on impossible for people with learning disabilities, confusion or dementia, something that we can expect to see more of in an aging population. It leads me to wonder what the tap designers and those who chose the bathroom fittings were thinking about.  Probably not the user.

Why should you have to solve a series of problems in order to undertake such a basic operation as washing your hands?

Surely the purpose of designing a functional object is to get it to work, and that requires a combination of form, technology and human behaviour.  The human / technology interface is a critical element of design.  It is irritation with taps that has prompted my thinking, but it led me to wider thinking about the design of buildings and their systems, and a series of questions which maybe we should use as a checklist.

Human error is cited as one of the problems leading to poor building performance, but isn’t it really about design error?  Are we more concerned with what it looks like rather than how it will work?  Are we introducing complexity because we can, rather than because we should?  Why don’t different systems work with each other? Are we thinking about the different potential users?  Do we understand the behaviour and expectations of the people who will use the building or are we expecting them to mould to the needs of the building? Is design that confuses sections of the population acceptable?   Are we seeking to enable intuitive use or are we setting brain teasers? Do we care enough?

We should wash our hands of poor design.  But once we have washed them we have to dry them.  And you should see this hand dryer.  Don’t get me started…

Lynne Ceeney will be contributing a bi-monthly blog on key themes BSRIA is involved in over the next year. If there’s something that ‘gets you started’ let us know and we may be able to draw focus to it in another blog. 

Disparate Calls For Disparate Measures

Mark Glitherow

Key Account Manager at Trend

I’m Mark Glitherow, Key Account Manager at Trend, and in this blog I’ll explain why devising and implementing an energy management strategy across a number of disparate buildings needn’t be as daunting as it first appears.

It is obvious that all organisations should be looking to optimise their energy use in order to reduce their carbon footprints and save money. Yet developing a cohesive strategy that will achieve this objective is usually considered easier said than done, especially when a number of disparate buildings are involved. It can be enough to strike fear into the hearts of those charged with such a task, but I’m convinced that by tackling the issue systematically, immediate savings can be made.

Healthcare estates and educational establishments are two prime examples of environments where it is necessary to monitor and manage energy use across buildings of different shapes, sizes and ages. However, the chances are that each building on an estate will have some kind of Building Energy Management System (BEMS) already installed and one of the best ways to review the way they are being used and identify ways to make improvements is through a comprehensive energy audit.

A thorough and professionally conducted audit should ask probing questions, drill down to the finer details and provide guidance about implementing an appropriate new technologies like variable speed drives (VSDs), for example. It is often the case that adjustments can be made to the BEMS during the audit visit itself that will deliver immediate savings, while component parts can be checked to make sure they are working correctly.

Where having an audit really comes into its own though is in its ability to help construct an energy management plan that features a prioritised summary of activities that should be carried out in the short, medium and long-terms. It will help break the project down into ‘bite sized chunks’ that initially focus on gathering utilities based data, identifying wastage, and then prioritising ways to reduce overall energy consumption.

An energy audit can lead to some outstanding results, such as those experienced by Sidmouth Hospital in Devon. During a Trend engineer’s time on-site, improvements to its BEMS settings were made which included altering heating times in intermittently occupied areas from 24 hours a day to only between 06:00 and 22:00, and reducing heating setpoints to 21°C. These relatively simple actions resulted in an estimated £7,000 of savings per annum and a reduction of over 43 tonnes of CO2.

The ability to control and monitor energy use from a central location makes life much easier and one way that this can be achieved is by using an existing IT network infrastructure. As all buildings on an estate will usually be able to ‘talk to each other’ via a campus area network, it should be possible to for the BEMS to operate over this medium.

Rather than putting it off, get the ball rolling by recognising the need for an energy management plan and configuring targets that are achievable. BEMS are at the forefront of the drive towards greater energy efficiency and the cost savings and environmental benefits that can be experienced as a result of investing in and optimising this technology are considerable. You might find that they are in easier reach than perhaps initially thought!

You can read more BSRIA blogs about BEMS here.  BSRIA’s WMI team also produce a BEMS market report –Building Energy Management Systems (BEMS) in Europe and the USA – which is available to buy from the BSRIA website. 

Should Building Managers worry about scary movies?

threatsBuilding managers thinking of films to see this winter may give some thought to a previously little known comedy largely set in North Korea.

The successful cyber-attacks on Sony, one of the world’s best known corporations, and which lives and breathes digital technology, resulted in the release of reams of sensitive information, and led  Sony to delay the opening of the film. All this may on the face of it have little to do with the nuts and bolts of building automation, but it does fire another warning shot across the industry’s bows.

We have known for some time that buildings are vulnerable to cyber-attack. Not only can they be major targets in themselves, but they often offer an easy “back” door” into an organisation’s wider IT network. The successful attack on Target stores in the USA gained access via the company’s HVAC system which in turn allowed them into the more lucrative customer data records. BSRIA research shows that, in the USA for example, over 90% of all larger buildings (i.e. those with more than half a million square feet of space – or c. 50,000 m2) have some kind of building automation and control system (BACS), and many are to some degree at risk.

What is striking is that in so many successful attacks on buildings or infrastructure the problem had less to do with the cyber-protection systems in place than with the way in which they were being maintained and operated. At Target, alerts were generated but not acted on until after much of the damage was done. The earlier attack on Google’s Australian offices in Sydney were linked to the fact that an older version of the Tridium platform was still in use.

Many organisations lack effective processes and procedures, which in turn is linked to the fact that, even within the same organisation, building services and IT tend still to work in separate, parallel worlds.

All of this is compounded by the fact that BACS systems increasingly have at least one foot in the Cloud, and often several. Almost all major suppliers of BACS and Building Energy Management Systems (BEMS) offer at least the option of cloud based analytics, and the ability to access and manage multiple buildings remotely is seen as almost a “must-have” – outside of industries which have traditionally been hypersensitive about security. The cloud brings huge technical, social and financial benefits, but also greatly increases risk, as does the general spread of IT based functionality through buildings and devices, a process that the ‘internet of things’ is set to expand exponentially.

Major suppliers of BACS systems are talking publically about ways of addressing the challenge, and companies like Lynxspring are establishing a reputation in this area. In the UK the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) issued a Code of Practice for Cyber Security in the Built Environment in November 2014.

This blog was written by BSRIA's Henry Lawson

This blog was written by BSRIA’s Henry Lawson

Cyber-attacks tend to be motivated by political, ideological, or financial motives, or by a combination of mischief and malice. On all these scores, major buildings remain vulnerable especially when they are associated with prominent organisations, whether private or public.

In the latest edition of BSRIA’s market briefing Threats / Opportunities for Building Automation Systems, we look further at the cyber threat and what is being done to counter it. The study also looks at other major trends that are changing the profile and prospects of building automation. These include the development of more intelligent HVAC systems, (whether Direct Expansion or VRF based), the growth of ‘smart homes’ solution which are also snapping at the heels of the BACS market at the “lower end” of commercial buildings, the growing importance of building analytics and big data, and the rise of potential new global players, especially in countries like China and India.

We will be following these and other emerging trends through the course of 2015. It should be as exciting anything that Hollywood has to offer, for rest assured: The cyber threat (and much else) is coming to a building near you soon.

 

Additional Sources:

http://techcrunch.com/2014/08/05/smart-buildings-expose-companies-to-a-new-kind-of-cyber-attack/

The Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) guidelines.

http://www.theiet.org/resources/standards/cyber-cop.cfm

Global BEMS Market set to Approach $7 billion by 2020

This blog was written by BSRIA's Henry Lawson

This blog was written by BSRIA’s Henry Lawson

If I could point to a market which is already worth some $3.5 billion, or 3 billion Euros, and which is growing globally at well over 10% per annum, at a time when growth in building automation is a fraction of that, I suspect that many investors and industrialists would bite my hand off. This is the industry that we explore in BSRIA’s newly updated report BEMS Opportunities.

Even Europe, which currently accounts for almost half the current Building Energy Management Systems (BEMS) market, is growing at around 10%, while North America has been growing faster, and the rest of the world substantially faster still.

BSRIA forecasts that the global BEMS market will almost double, to more than $6.8 billion by the year 2020. This impressive growth is set to occur in spite of numerous obstacles and uncertainties. This is partly because the factors driving this growth differ from one region to another.

In Western Europe, gas prices almost doubled between 2005 and 2013, while at the same time major economies like Germany became increasingly dependent on import of gas from politically sensitive countries like Russia and the Gulf states, raising the spectre of uncertain supplies.

While the rise in electricity prices has been less dramatic, Germany faces the huge task of fulfilling its commitment to

henry dec2shut down all nuclear power generation by 2022, and the UK faces similar challenges as its ageing, coal-consuming and CO2-spewing power stations reach the ends of their lives, with the ghost of Christmas back-outs rising like a Dickensian spectre to haunt the business and political worlds.

This, and increasingly aggressive environmental targets, at national and EU level, mean that even a Europe which has been in or near recession for more than five years continues to invest in energy efficiency. At the same time, there are signs that organisations at all levels are beginning to understand the full potential of BEMS to save money while meeting obligations and improving the brand.

In North America, the pressure of energy prices has been less relentless, especially since fracking of shale gas has got underway. The movement towards environmental regulation has also been patchier – often varying at local and state level, and has faced more opposition. At the same time, the proportion of energy consumed by office buildings has been rising inexorably at a time when energy used in such areas as transport, industry and homes has been either stable or falling, placing office buildings firmly in the sights of those wishing to make savings. North America also benefits from the plethora of firms developing innovative energy management solutions in both the USA and Canada.

In the rest of the world the picture is extremely varied, from developed countries like Japan and Australia with widespread adoption of BEMS, to major emerging economies like China, where energy has hitherto been seen as rather less of a problem but where the pollution associated with fossil fuels is becoming more pressing.

This growth presents huge business opportunities but also as many gauntlets thrown down. The mainstream building automation suppliers are all active, unsurprisingly, given that the two are so genetically interlinked that building automation was originally widely referred to as building energy management. They can offer the benefit of relatively easy integration of energy management into the building’s wider functioning.

Against this, as virtually every device, appliance and component of a building becomes capable of generating and communicating data, the advent of big building data has opened huge opportunities both to enterprise data and IT suppliers and to an army of smaller newer suppliers of advanced analytics, allowing building managers to predict and pre-empt problems that degrade a building’s energy performance.

Some of these new entrants will fall by the wayside, especially given the level of overlap between many of the offerings, others will be ripe for take-over, but a few are likely to emerge as major disruptive players. In our report we identify the leaders and challengers, along with the niche players and some of the most likely acquisitions. As always, there is an implicit conflict between the move towards integration on the one hand and the desire for innovation on the other, and we look at some of the standards that are emerging to address this.

The prize is most likely to go to companies that can combine innovation in new technologies, and understanding of how a building’s occupants interact with the building, with a deep-seated understanding of how buildings function. This report should help to shine a light on who will be left holding a torch for others to follow if and when the lights really do threaten to go out.

This is the industry that we explore in BSRIA’s newly updated report BEMS Opportunities.

Government Soft Landings

This is a blog by Peter Corbett, Principal Quality Inspector at Essex County Council

This is a blog by Peter Corbett, Principal Quality Inspector at Essex County Council

As a Local Authority employee I am well aware of the push for both savings and value for money, it is therefore reassuring to see the importance the Government is affording their version of ‘Soft Landings’.

The Cabinet Office sees soft landings as the ‘golden thread’ of BIM, rather than a delivery tool, and is looking for three key benefits from its implementation, those being; Improved Environmental Performance, Improved Financial Performance and Improved Functionality and Effectiveness.

The Government’s Soft Landings policy drawn up in September 2012 recognised that ‘The ongoing maintenance and operational cost of a building during its lifecycle far outweighs the original capital cost of construction, and GSL identifies the need for this to be recognised through early engagement in the design process.

To help the development of GSL a stewardship group was formed to which all government departments and agencies were invited. This group generally meets quarterly with around twenty department and agencies represented. It seeks to update the GSL implementation progress across departments, develop training ideas and determine ways of measuring the benefits that could be gained from the process.

GSL has been the archetypal snowball, steadily gathering pace as it moves toward 2016 when the Cabinet Office has asked for its adoption by all central government departments and agencies, and gradually increasing in size, as with each stewardship meeting more departments and agencies are in attendance.

I was fortunate enough to receive an invite to the last GSL stewardship meeting through my links with the BSRIA Soft Landings User Group and as a Local Authority representative, and was encouraged to see the enthusiastic approach to soft landings from some of the more engaged departments, they like ourselves see the advantages soft landings could offer (albeit from an FM focussed approach that more considers the ‘In Use’ benefits) and are eager for the evidence of this that case studies and their like could provide. Of course as with most matters concerning Central & indeed Local Government the journey is never straight-forward, and as could probably be expected the speed of soft landings adoption varies greatly both in levels of commitment and of development between each Government department and agency.

So what next for GSL? On Friday 7th November there was a GSL supply chain engagement day, to which all Government departments and agencies were invited and encouraged to extend invites to their design, construction and facilities management partners. Attendees were treated to seminars on what Government Soft Landings actually are, why they should be used and how they should be implemented, as well as what training and ongoing support could be provided.

Soft_Landings_logo-highIt was fairly evident from the nature of the questions from Government department representatives that there remains a lot of work to do to obtain both a participative and consistent approach across all departments, as well as the difficulty in impressing on the supply chain providers that success on a project is not merely about building to budget and programme. As pointed out by one contractors’ representative ‘We know of Soft Landings, but that’s where our knowledge ends’, a better description of what GSL actually is was requested with examples of what ‘success’ actually looks like, and also recognition that there is a clear shift from Capex to Opex in the governments construction expectations. All evidence that there is still much to do to achieve wider engagement in soft landings throughout the industry.

But there remains a high level of commitment to soft landings from the Government as evidenced by this event, and this is likely to soon have an impact on those of us in Local Government. In my own Authority we have been using the principles of soft landings in order to help improve the delivery of our projects in areas that have proved problematic; this has predominantly centred on the handover and defects resolution stages, and also end-user training on their new building. For us the ethos of soft landings has been extremely beneficial, but we have been fortunate enough to get the buy-in from our framework of contractors, again some contractors are more engaged with the practice than others, however with the Governments push for the use of soft landings it should encourage everyone’s participation in the process, and hopefully to the benefit of all involved; commissioner, client and contractor.

 

Blogger profile

My working career began early 1980’s in civil engineering, after taking various qualifications I moved into construction after an acquaintance encouraged me to become a clerk of works at the age of 21.  I joined Essex County Council initially as an assistant clerk of works and have remained with the authority for almost thirty years, latterly as the authorities Principal Quality Inspector. I have more recently acted as the construction performance manager on Essex County Council’s Contractors Framework, for which I am undertaking the role of Soft Landings champion. I am a Fellow of the Institute of Clerks of Works and the Construction Inspectorate having first joined the organisation in the 1990’s.

Emerging themes from Innovate UK’s BPE programme

This blog was written by Peter Tse, Principal Design Consultant for BSRIA's Sustainable Construction Group

This blog was written by Peter Tse, Principal Design Consultant for BSRIA’s Sustainable Construction Group

Back in May 2010, Innovate UK (formally TSB) embarked on four year programme, providing £8m funding to support case study investigations of domestic new build and non-domestic new build and major refurbishment projects.  In total the programme has supported 100 successful projects to provide a significant body of work, that provide insights on the performance of various design strategies, building fabric, target performances, construction methods and occupancy patterns, handover and operational practices.  This work will be shared across the industry providing evidence based information, increasing industry understanding to support closing the loop between theory and practice, ensuring the delivery of zero carbon new buildings is more readily and widely achievable.

Currently project teams are concluding their investigations and collating their findings, and dissemination of the results of the programme will begin in earnest in the first half of 2015.  However, as the programme has progressed, there are some consistent themes that are emerging.  Focussing on the non-domestic projects, I will address a couple of these emerging themes.

The first is around adopting innovative building systems to deliver low energy consumption and comfortable conditions, and unintended consequences associated with these technologies.  This covers a broad spectrum of building technologies including solar thermal, heat pumps, biomass boilers, earth tubes, rainwater harvesting, controls and natural ventilation strategies.  Innovation in its essence will have some inherent teething problems, which is often overlooked in the charge towards reaching our carbon reduction targets.  The obvious default stance is to specify proven and reliable technologies which are delivered by a team that is familiar with the technology, but our journey towards delivering true low carbon building in operation would inevitably be prolonged.

An additional level of complexity can be added with innovative systems; one healthcare facility introduced solar thermal and a combined heat and power (chp) unit, to supplement natural gas fired boilers for heating and hot water requirements. With several sources of heat complexity is added to the control strategy, trying to strike a balance between changing heat demands of the building and optimisation of the system.  This complexity, coupled with a requirement for increased operator understanding often leads to system underperformance.

The practicalities, maintenance and associated costs of innovative systems is seldom fully realised by clients.  An office reported success of the rainwater harvesting system, but were surprised at the frequency of filter changes to mitigate the system being blocked.  Another office had to regulate a fan associated with earth tube ventilation system, as running at a higher speed caused too much noise for occupants.  A school had ingress of water to an underground wood chip store rendering the biomass boiler idle for significant periods.  A hotel employed automatic external blinds which retracted in windy conditions to avoid damage, thus offering no shade to occupants during sunny, windy days.

DC-Innovative-Construction-Services-Building-Maintenance1It is clear a reality checking process is required for design decisions to mitigate such matters.  BSRIA’s Pitstopping guide, which resides within the Soft Landings framework describes a process that allows construction teams to periodically reconsider critical design issues by focusing on the perspective of the end user.  This also provides an opportunity for the client to understand the full ramifications of implementing innovative building systems for a more informed decision, and to align client expectations.

The second theme involves the process in delivering innovative technologies, with a particular a focus on commissioning and handover.  The commissioning period residing at the end of the build process is often susceptible to being squeezed.  When the decision has been taken to adopt an innovative building system, there is increased pressure during commissioning to ensure the system is operating as intended.  With the additional complexity associated with innovative technologies, it is vital the commissioning time is adequate to complete comprehensive scenario based testing; how is hot water delivered if the solar thermal does not provide a contribution, how is the building operator alerted the status of the system, how can the operator diagnose the problem, how long can the system operate without the solar thermal contribution without major detrimental effects etc.  To ease the burden on the commissioning period, it is clear commissioning should not be afterthought, but an integral part of the build process.

The commissioning period also signals a time where many of the stakeholders with tacit knowledge of the innovative building systems have changing responsibilities. It is vital this knowledge is captured for users before the opportunity is lost.  Building manuals, user guides and logbooks need to be completed so users can relate to their building environment, understand control of the environment and capture major alterations.

Figure 1 - South façade showing café, street and incubator office blockMany projects reported that guidance for both users and operators was often lacking, with several BPE teams developing guidance as part of their projects to support users.  Commonly BPE teams have also struggled to find initial design intent and operational strategy associated with innovative technologies, highlighting the importance of handover documentation.  Training of users is another key element to knowledge continuity, but several projects reported changes in staff being a core reason for innovative systems underperforming, as documentation was not kept up to date.  The value of clear concise user guidance is evident; BSRIA’s Building Manual and Building User Guides helps individuals responsible for creating building logbook and user guides.

In this blog, I’ve only addressed a couple of areas in regards to emerging themes, to hear more about findings from the programme, come hear me speak at the Energy Management Exhibition (EMEX), at Excel, London on the 20th November, 2014.  Additionally, join the BPE community at connect.innovateuk.org, and search for Building Performance Evaluation.

Smart Building Conference – The Human Factor

This blog was written by BSRIA's Henry Lawson

This blog was written by BSRIA’s Henry Lawson

On 7th October I attended the SmartBuilding Conference in central London, in the course of which we were treated to the views of a range of industry-experts including BSRIA’s own Jeremy Towler.  Like all worthwhile conferences, it presented a mixture of familiar messages being elaborated and reinforced – such as the all too frequent gap between the vision and the delivery of smart buildings, and the vital role of retrofit in a world where 80% of the buildings we will be using in 2050 have already been built, and some less familiar insights. These are some of the main points that I took away.

While we often talk, rather platitudinously about, buildings, or businesses being “all about people”, we spend less time thinking about what this really means in practice.  An often overlooked fact is that people’s statements of what they want is often a poor guide to how they will actually take to new technology. This is not just because we often lack the understanding and vision of what is possible (as in the famous Henry Ford quote that “What people ‘really wanted’ was not cars, but faster horses.”), but also because (as every psychologist knows) we are much less rational and consistent in our judgements than we like to think we are. This places a premium on observing how people actually use buildings and adapting them and, even more so, future buildings.

Effectively observing and responding to the way people use buildings has wider implications.  One speaker suggested that the general move from a product-based to a serviced-based approach (as exemplified by cloud based solutions and the increasing tendency to lease equipment and facilities) is likely to penetrate from the “easy hits” to the more general areas of building services and smart technology, even potentially to the concept of a “building as a service”, where those who design and construct and configure the building are also those responsible for running it, helping to combat a problem where a building is designed supposedly to be smart, by people who then walk away having handed it to a completely different group, resulting in a loss of understanding, continuity and accountability.

Having buildings that genuinely learn and evolve in response to users’ changing needs over time calls for flexible and adaptable approach to design and construction so that they can cope better with changing needs. One way of achieving this is by using more modular construction techniques, which can at the same time reduce construction costs. Project Frog which has been responsible for a number of modular buildings in the USA was cited as an example of this.

Where an end-to-end approach is lacking, smart technology is too often a late add-on which means that it is not fundamentally designed into the building, and that those implementing it lack a connection with the original concept.

With IT increasingly at the heart of buildings, IT departments need to be involved from the early stages, and if engaged correctly they can help identify and address problems, including some of the most potentially serious challenges such as building cyber security.  Too many organisations still see IT and Facilities Management as separate disciplines to be kept siloed.  This can lead to failures of communication, and worst case, to actual conflicts.
There was also a lot of discussion of the role of more specific types of technology. For example, wireless technology is recognised as a useful backup, and for fixes to problems where the building can’t easily be rewired (historic buildings come to mind here) or where a ‘cheap and cheerful’ solution is sought, but is unlikely to become reliable enough for critical services, owing to fundamental problems of potential interference and obstructions which can arise unpredictably. This reminds us that “You cannae change the laws of physics” is a maxim that extends well beyond grainy back-editions of Star Trek.

There was much discussion of the way in which companies that have not traditionally been thought of as buildings- related, even in the most technological way. BSRIA research has already identified how IT companies like IBM and Microsoft are starting to make an impact in the world of smart buildings, now joined by Google and Apple, especially at the residential end of the market. This raises intriguing questions. On the one hand these companies bring not only deep knowledge of key areas of IT, especially in processing ‘big data’, on the other they  also have massive financial resources and proven commercial acumen, which could help to spearhead and open up  new markets.

However there are also fears that the delivery model typically deployed by companies like Google and Apple may not lend themselves to the more complex demands of building management. Simply buying a “smart home kit” from an Apple or DIY store is unlikely in itself to give you the hoped-for results in terms of improved energy efficiency, comfort and security. This could even lead to a consumer backlash that sets back the technology. There was a consensus that consumers will need experts who can provide advice and also ensure that systems are properly implemented. This in turn requires a range of skills broader than the “traditional” electrician, plumber, heating engineer or security engineer.

We were reminded that major disruptive technologies are normally led by new entrants into the field, posing a challenge to the major established players. Indeed it seems quite likely to me that the companies that are leading the field in 20 years’ time could well be ones that most of us haven’t heard of, or which don’t yet exist.

I left the conference slightly haunted by one further thought: We heard a lot about how buildings must learn and adapt to their users’ actual needs and behaviour. This led me to wonder how far this change, if it emerges and it surely will, will in turn change actual human behaviour.

Since our ancestors emerged from the forests and savannah thousands of years ago, humans have gradually been losing the need to be acutely aware of the physical world around them. First there was the loss of contact with the wilderness, and nature “red in tooth and claw”. Then the industrial revolution alienated us increasingly from the basic processes of producing food and the physical manipulation of nature.

Smart conferenceThe electronic revolutions mean that we need to understand less and less about the way that for example, our cars or heating systems or computers operate and indeed we meddle with them at our peril.

If even buildings and cities come to observe, know and “understand” us and anticipate our actions, will humans then become, physically at least, almost wholly reliant on outside intelligence, and end up, in effect almost leading an artificially controlled ‘virtual’ existence, and what role will human intelligence then play as opposed to artificial intelligence?

This might seem far-fetched, but big changes often tend to occur much faster than anticipated, and often, far from being incremental, can depend on sudden tipping points. There are also of course  formidable barriers, not least the public reaction to the prodigious level of data sharing that would be needed to make all of this even remotely possible.

Nonetheless, I for one find it intriguing that the development of the smart building could just be part of the gradual emergence of a new “breed” of human, in terms of what they think and more importantly how they interact with the world.  Could we be seeing the emergence of a kind of “virtual man” where the boundaries between the human and the buildings, vehicles and cities we use and inhabit are hopelessly blurred?

Building services now look more exciting today and indeed  look closer to science fiction than could have been imagined when BSRIA started out 59 years ago.

Think in £s not kWhs and Start Reaping the Rewards

Steve Browning is Marketing Manager of Trend Controls, a BSRIA member company

Steve Browning is Marketing Manager of Trend Controls, a BSRIA member company

Often considered an unwelcome expense, the truth is that investing in energy saving initiatives offers significant financial benefits, as well as enhancing an organisation’s environmental credentials. I’m Steve Browning, marketing manager of Trend Control Systems and in this blog I will explain how a Building Energy Management System (BEMS) can increase the bottom line.

Although better energy management and the need to reduce carbon emissions are both moving to the forefront of the corporate agenda, they are doing so far too slowly. Rising prices, combined with the increasing scarcity of resources and a growing raft of environmental legislation, means that addressing the issue of how energy is used is no longer just an option, but something that requires serious attention by all businesses.

To put the issue into perspective, the long-term framework outlined by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) sets out plans for achieving the reductions stated in the Climate Change Act 2008. When compared to 1990 levels, this equates to a reduction of at least 34 per cent by 2020 and at least 80 per cent by 2050. As they are responsible for 17 per cent of the UK’s carbon emissions, the nation’s 1.8 million non-domestic buildings are at the very heart of meeting this challenge.

The government is also ramping up the pressure to comply. In addition to the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme, the Climate Change Levy (CCL), Air Conditioning Assessments, Display Energy Certificates (DECs) and Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs), earlier this year the Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS) was introduced to address the requirements laid out in Article 8 of the European Union (EU) Energy Efficiency Directive.

It means that ‘large enterprises’ employing 250 or more staff, or that have an annual turnover of in excess of around £42m and an annual balance sheet total of around £36m, must complete regular energy audits. The first must be undertaken by 5th December 2015, and then at least every four years.

The government hopes that ESOS will drive the take-up of energy efficiency measures amongst businesses, enhancing their competitiveness and contributing to the wider growth agenda. Furthermore, for organisations wishing to comply with increasingly popular international standards such as ISO 50001, a certified energy management system (EnMS) must be in place.

It is therefore a constant source of bemusement and irritation to me that some organisations aren’t making the obvious correlation between investing in technology that can reduce energy use and saving money. By failing to ensure that energy is being used as well as it could be they are, quite literally, paying the price.

One reason for this could be that for energy bills are often low compared to items such as wages, research and development, and property rental. However, companies must consider other issues such as brand reputation, employee expectations and competitive positioning, while customers expect them to play an active role in reducing the carbon footprint of their operations and products.

Even more frustrating is that in many circumstances it doesn’t even involve a vast capital outlay on new technology – for example, by simply maximising the potential of an existing BEMS energy savings of 10-20 per cent are easily achievable. This could equate to a 0.1-0.4 per cent saving on a company’s total cost base, instantly increasing profitability.

When a BEMS is first commissioned it is configured around an existing building layout and occupancy patterns. These can change over time and incorrectly configured time clocks and setpoints, new layouts, and repartitioning can all lead to poor control and energy wastage.

Failure to maintain a BEMS on an ongoing basis will result in degradation of the building’s energy performance. In order to rectify this, it is advisable to undertake an audit that ascertains what can be achieved and identify any energy saving opportunities. While items such as boilers, chillers, air conditioning, and pumps can be checked to make sure they are working correctly, any maintenance issues to do with the BEMS itself or the building services equipment use can also be addressed.

BEMS providers will be able to offer expert advice on how to enhance the operation of plant by installing items such as variable speed drives. The investment can pay for itself in a matter of months – for instance a centrifugal pump or fan running at 80 per cent speed consumes only half of the energy compared to one running at full speed.

It is critical to achieve stakeholder buy-in for any business enhancement programme and by using a standard Internet browser, software based packages are available that act as a window to a BEMS. It is also possible to access utility meter readings from a BEMS and present a continually updated record of a building’s energy consumption and carbon emissions – showing employees and visitors whether they are on, below or above performance targets.

Hopefully, I have demonstrated that reducing carbon emissions and lowering energy expenditure are closely linked. The savings that can be made through the use of a correctly specified and maintained BEMS are considerable and will help achieve compliance with environmental legislation. My advice is to take action before it is no longer a choice!Trend_RGB SMALL

For further information please call Trend Marketing on 01403 211888 or email marketing@trendcontrols.com. Trend are the main sponsors of this year’s BSRIA Briefing – Smarter ways to better buildings.

You can read more BSRIA blogs about BEMS here.  BSRIA’s WMI team also produce a BEMS market report –Building Energy Management Systems (BEMS) in Europe and the USA – which is available to buy from the BSRIA website. 

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