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It’s all in the planning

The long-term operational efficiency of buildings and how it can be achieved was the focus for the 10-80-10 Building Services Summit, says Julian Milnes

A noticeable shift in thinking has been evident in the past few years in respect to building efficiency. You could blame it on the rise of Building Information Modelling (BIM), but the idea of joined up thinking between a building’s design, construction and operation has continued to gather pace.

And this theme, of coming together in the quest for operational efficiency, was at the heart of the Building Services Summit, held in London last month.

The first speaker of the day was Barbican engineering manager Michael Dick. He spoke about the choices that engineers make about buildings: “We have to consider how our choices impact on buildings in the long-term.”

Up next was David Frise from the Building and Engineering Services Association, who focused on the six P’s in BIM – bluntly put, these were “Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance”.

 He stressed that the language of BIM needs to be learnt, as to this point “everybody is just nodding along, with no real focus”. This outlook also applied to clients, who may ask for the incorporation of BIM, “but have no real idea of what it entails”.

Mr Frise also highlighted the issue of people being governed by the cheapest price, which may allow for the required plans to be drawn up on paper, but the reality of the design in the flesh will be completely different, and unable to attain the energy targets initially set.

“Most buildings are significantly out in terms of energy targets. If you veer even a half degree away from the plans, and many people do it, then you find it’s very difficult to commission it to standard. You even have BREEAM buildings that fail to match their ratings as they’re not operated properly.”

So how do we succeed as a group when the contract puts the blame for a particular fault at the door of a specific contractor, asked Mr Frise. “This approach stops the idea of having cohesive partnerships within the project,” he said.
“The blame game helps avoid responsibility for failure. BIM is a process that requires all parties on board and pulling in the same direction.”

The role of the facilities manager was also a key topic of discussion. Geoff Prudence, head of CIBSE’s FM group, reminded delegates that operational efficiency is not only about energy: “It’s about maintenance, asset performance and prioritising work.”

“You need joined-up thinking to make things work. For example, bring in maintenance at the design stage, and at the handover don’t just push it over the fence and assume it’ll all be fine. Think ‘proper landings’, not ‘soft landings’.”

Mr Prudence admitted that there’s still a long way to go before we adopt the ‘a building is for life’ philosophy and added that the controls industry is in a fantastic position to take advantage of the need for efficient buildings.

“We need to tackle the subject of controls. It can be too complicated in some cases, for example, when you have three floors with two sets of controls. It’s not a commodity spend, it’s about knowing your requirements and demands, then ensuring they’re matched accordingly.

“Operational expertise and system thinking in design is the mantra for success. The CIBSE Guide M publication provides a platform for preparation.”

Outdated metrics

Getting commissioning right from the start is key, according to speaker Glenn Hawkins from Clear Construction/CSA. Furthermore, traditional performance metrics are claimed to be outdated. “The client now wants it ready at the handover, to take safe and effective ownership.

“The handover should include familiarisation with the systems and controls, and to check all documentation for training is present beforehand.”

Mr Hawkins also highlighted that a quarter of buildings properly commissioned saved 30 per cent in energy and the more thorough the process, the better the savings. Heathrow’s Terminal 5 was given as an example of a poor handover, with British Airways boss Willie Walsh going on record at the time to admit that the key issue for failure was a lack of sufficient building commissioning.

“This approach can represent the overall weakness of the project and determine ultimate success,” said Mr Hawkins.

Ministry of Justice head of property asset management Deborah Rowland called on the construction industry to remember: “The FM has to run the building once you have left. If we as a business buy a poor building, we firstly cost what needs to be done to bring it up to efficiency standards, then assess the price from there, so getting it right not only impacts on the cost of running it, but also selling it.”

All of the clients said that controls and BEMS were crucial for monitoring, measuring and targeting savings. They all used information from the BEMS to track progress and pinpoint areas for further improvement.

BCIA president Steve Harrison said: “The summit was the BCIA’s first London-based conference and it was a great success. The message about working with other parts of the industry is one that we will take on board, and I hope that we can build on what has been achieved with B&ES, CSA and CIBSE.”

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