It’s goodbye from me…

As he prepares to hand over the reins to Graeme Rees, Terry Sharp reflects on his two years as BCIA President.

If you had told me when I took over from Jon Belfield as President in March 2020 that in just a matter of weeks we would all be shut up in our homes unable to go anywhere, I would have thought you had gone slightly mad. A few months later I was standing alone in a room in front of a camera delivering my speech for the first ever BCIA Virtual Awards – again, not something I’m sure any of us forecast earlier in the year. However, it is only when we are presented with an unexpected challenge that we really discover what we are capable of, and as the world in general got used to the idea of lockdowns, working from home, online meetings, social distancing, self-isolation, track-and-trace and everything else that Covid brought with it, we at the BCIA also learned what we could do in testing circumstances.

Moving online

Something that will always be of utmost importance to the BCIA is providing a training pathway for the engineers of the future. It was imperative therefore that we found a way to deliver our training programmes even after our Training Centre in Peterborough was closed at the outset of the pandemic. Within weeks we had launched a full programme of online training so that we could continue running our courses as normal. This was difficult at first for those used to learning together in a classroom, but in the months that followed students all over the country, whether at primary school or college, showed their ability to adapt to new ways of learning. In addition to training, our Working Group meetings were also moved online so that the vital work that they do could carry on as normal.

Doing our bit to help parents out with their children bouncing off the walls at home, in the summer of 2020 we launched our ‘Schoolz Out’ competition, designed to encourage young people to get their thinking caps on and devise an idea that could help reduce the energy consumption of their schools. The ideas that were submitted not only brought a smile to my face with their imagination, but also got me thinking that the spark for innovative building design had already been lit inside the minds of some of those youngsters.

Virtual reality

And so to the aforementioned Virtual Awards. The BCIA Awards is of course the highlight in the BCIA calendar and not being able to hold a live event was disappointing not just for me but for any individual or company nominated for an award. That said, the enthusiasm and determination to still make it a night to remember from everybody who attended the event virtually showed the building controls industry in a really positive light.

After a brief period of hope in mid to late 2020 we were plunged back into lockdown at the beginning of 2021, and with so many commercial buildings being left largely unoccupied, it really gave an insight into how unprepared many businesses were in terms of managing their premises efficiently during these periods and in general. Many buildings still had all of their lights on despite there being nobody inside. Hopefully some lessons have been learnt from this as it has underlined the importance of good communication between facilities managers and controls specialists to ensure a building is performing to its maximum efficiency as well as serving the needs of its occupants.

Back to life

Eventually the world returned to some sort of normality and we were able to start attending live events again. This meant a return for the BCIA to the Smart Buildings Show at ExCeL in October, and in September I am sure you were as excited as I was when the BCIA Awards returned to the Hilton Birmingham Metropole. I was able to deliver my President’s speech in person for the first time, while comedian Lucy Porter did a terrific job as host. Most of all though it was fantastic to see everybody there and in such high spirits.

Last year was of course the 30th anniversary year of the BCIA and to help mark the occasion Roger Woodward and George Belfield took part in an insightful interview that described how the BCIA has evolved since 1991. We also said goodbye to Roger Borer as Executive Officer after four years in the role and welcomed George Lee as his replacement.

A bright future

My proudest moment as President is probably the long-awaited arrival of the Level 4 Building Energy Management Systems (BEMS) Controls Engineer Apprenticeship. Its official launch in April 2021 was the result of more than four years of hard work by the Trailblazer Employer Group, which included a number of BCIA members. With some very positive feedback from the first two cohorts, and the third cohort now underway, I believe this apprenticeship programme will go a long way in responding to the sector’s skills shortage and heralds a bright future for the industry.

Finally, I would like to thank everybody for their hard work and assistance during what has been an unpredictable two years for reasons outside of our control. Your continued efforts have played a big part in enabling the BEMS sector to continue to thrive and it has been a tremendous honour to serve as President. All that remains for me to do now is introduce Graeme Rees, who will begin his tenure as BCIA President in March. Graeme is not only a great friend, he is also a hard-working and very knowledgeable colleague. I am extremely grateful for the help and support he has provided in his two years as Vice-President and I wish him the very best of luck in taking the BCIA forward.

Thank you