Unintended consequences in building services
It was another jam-packed CIBSE Technical Symposium with a theme this year on 'Engineering the built environment for a new normal'. And no surprise in the current climate that ventilation and air quality dominated the conversations! But a theme that stood out to us was the need to consider all building services together, as a change in one area can have unintended consequences in another.
The event was kicked off by the CIBSE President, Kevin Kelly, with a reminder of the importance of collaboration so we can get nearer to closing the performance gap (this was a hot topic in 2020, also). Kevin praised the event for the sharing of research papers and encouraged CIBSE members to share knowledge so that we can all learn from each other’s successes and failures.
Lessons from history
A topical presentation came from Professor Cath Noakes, OBE, in her slot titled Buildings and Disease: learning the lessons from COVID. She talked about learning from history, but that it’s time to think about moving forward. Some key points from her talk included:
- Risk factors were in two categories; Environmental and Human. Buildings set baseline conditions and enable interactions but buildings can’t manage the human factors
- We moved quickly and put in some good temporary measures to manage the risk of Covid. But we now must look at the longer-term changes needed to our buildings
- We need to use data to make the case for better buildings – quantify the health effects (i.e. productivity) of poor indoor air quality
Let’s not forget we should always start with reducing energy usage
Session 3 continued the theme of health and buildings with papers on ‘Assessing building performance for health, productivity, and efficiency.'
Robert Cohen from Verco made a good point in the Q&A about something we at Hamworthy have always banged the drum about: ‘Reducing energy usage is the first thing you should be doing’. We’ve talked about this recently and it is echoed by Mike Foster, Chief Executive of the Energy and Utilities Alliance (EUA) with his blog titled: ‘Is a cliche I know, but a great way to decarbonise is to use less energy’. We know we need to make big changes to decarbonise our heat but we mustn’t forget the continual need to implement measures to reduce our energy usage. And controls are a big part of this.
Sara Mohamed a PhD Researcher at the University of Nottingham discussed her paper titled ‘Indoor Environment Quality Analysis of a New-Build UK School: In the context of COVID-19’. The research considered Indoor Air Quality and overheating in newly built primary schools that are naturally ventilated using data collected during both the heating and non-heating season. Some interesting findings from the study that showed building design focusing primarily on energy usage can have unintended consequences. The research showed spaces were overheating for more than 60% of the occupied time. This could be explained by the newly constructed schools having better insulation and increased airtightness.
The refurb challenge
Session 7 explored ‘Adaptation and refurbishment for improved, and healthier, built environments.’ We know that 80% of the buildings that will exist in 2050 already exist. So refurbishments always have, and always will be the bulk of our work and challenges. Duncan Grassie from UCL Institute of Environmental Design and Engineering gave ‘Insights from within the school walls’ – making the case for contextual data crowdsourcing. Feedback from the interviews they made concluded:
- Aesthetics - major driver to school improvement, although energy wastage and comfort tracking desired
- Life cycle analysis – justification required for maintaining degrading systems not covered by current funding
Man Ying’s paper talked to the FM sector to find out what their KPIs were for holistic performance evaluation of commercial building retrofits. From the study, the key environmental performance indicators were related to energy consumption and saving, energy payback, and green building label.
This is just a small flavour of what was covered over the two days. If you have a ticket you can get access to all the papers up until October: https://cibse.insightmobile-cms.co.uk/splash