Get buildings performing better

After chairing a discussion at CIBSE’s Build2Perform Live digital event in November, Jon Belfield reflects on some interesting points raised by the panellists.

Whilst representing the BCIA in recent times as part of the Management Committee, it has been great to be involved with the CIBSE Build2Perform over the past three years. These CIBSE events bring together a very diverse group of people with very different backgrounds, roles, opinions and experience, but they all unite under the Build2Perform banner to do just that – get buildings performing better.

In 2018 we touched on ‘Commissioning and the Supply Chain’ as part of the Fellows debate and in 2019 we discussed the topic ‘Are we in control?’, which was great fun with a Q&A that could have run for another session! We know that 2020 had to be different and by the time it came round on 25thNovember, Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Webinars were all a little more familiar to us and had become almost normal. With the growing IT & Controls Group within CIBSE, we were given another platform to discuss the topic of ‘Smart Buildings: Using technology you already have’. I was joined on the panel by Peter McDermott from Mott MacDonald, Tom Hopton from Buro Happold and Kate Rotheram from Honeywell. So we had representation from a BMS System Integrator, two large Building Consultants and a BMS Manufacturer – this in itself was terrific and set the scene for a diverse set of views.

The session itself focused on how we can encourage relatively ‘quick wins’ by using what is installed. You might think that the BMS Manufacturer might push back on this with the objective perhaps being to promote newer and shinier BMS equipment. Not so; the answers were to get installed equipment operating as close to optimum as possible and to gather data. Data is the key, whether it is a new system or an old one. The recurring theme was find ways to gather data so improvements can be monitored and measured. You might think that the consultants would have little interest in working on or with existing systems. Again, this couldn’t be further from the truth and, controversial as it might sound, there are a lot of systems out there that aren’t working as they were designed because they weren’t installed or commissioned to that same design. This in itself is a great opportunity and one that many companies are taking advantage of as they review what is actually installed in their building and look to improve how it works for them.

And so we are left with the System Integrator, and how does that fit with their objectives and business strategies? Well, the same arguments apply and, with relationships at all levels becoming increasingly more professional, the focus on doing the right thing is becoming the norm as opposed to sticking to ploughing the contractual furrow that might not actually deliver what is wanted or needed. Delivering performance is what we are continuing to move towards and being part of that professional ambition will get System Integrators further up the supply chain and closer to collaborating with consultants and clients to get the best outcomes for all.

So, it was a great session and we still have to provide answers to a long list of questions that were posted during the session that we didn’t have time for so one of the benefits of the online format is that the conversation can go on afterwards. That said, I very much look forward to the pre-2020 format as there is just something about the presentations, the discussions and debates that is hard to replicate online. I suspect the real answer is to deliver a combination of both so the online access is greater and the live content is livelier?