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Spring/Summer 2020

July 25, 2020

Wow what a six months that's been!  Who could have guessed it, just when some of the more influential countries in the world were thinking of going it alone...along comes a tiny virus to show us just how dependant we all are on each other.  COVID19 has been the wake up call to get us all thinking about what really matters in life and how dependent we are on each other for our very existence.


The choices we face as a society will be stark and uncompromising. This is an innately covert virus and we will treat it lightly at our peril.  Despite the optimism of a quick vaccine cure, it's clear the climate we are operating in now will be with us for at least the next 12 to18 months. Forcing each of us to ask how deeply embedded the changes we have made to our way of working will become?  Have the good things that have happened, like more quality time, less commuting, deeper thinking changed us and our view of how we should live our lives and conduct our business?  All questions we will answer together as a common humanity around the globe. 

Meanwhile, because our culture at Ollio is embedded in analysis and innovation, it provides us with the confidence that we can see our way through this challenging COVID19 situation.  A confidence that is built on considering our opportunities as greater than our threats.  Being able, if necessary, to pivot as the emergent opportunities that present themselves.  An example of this is our ShieldED project which came to us as an idea in the white-heat of the March 2020 COVID19 lockdown.



SheildED happened after Innovate UK launched a £20 million competition to fund proof-of-concept testing of ideas that could help to mitigate the worst impacts of COVID19.  IUK dangled the prospect of a £50k deposit straight into the bank accounts of the successful teams in advance of work commencing. This has been unheard in any pre-COVID19 IUK call.

It was our IUK moderator on the Agile Project who had been thinking why not use our VR expertise to solve the huge problems that schools and home schooling parents were having in keeping the education of children going that formed the kernel of the idea for our bid to IUK.  We thought, when lockdown happens why not move the school to a virtual copy of itself online and then have teachers teach pupils there instead of endless Zoom.  Unshackled from the physical confines, but still needing the security, of the school and classroom - the opportunity to change how education could be delivered in a VR world becomes immense.

With that, we got our Agile in Buildings team of DLA-Design, Playwerks, Copper Candle, HippoDigital and Stakeholder Design back together to see if it was feasible to produce a working fully functional virtual replica of any school online; all within the capital funding and digital constraints of UK schools and guess what?  It is -  which set us on course to pull together a bid by the due date in May. 

Sadly, our IUK bid did not get over the line, we scored well, but with over 8300 bids looking for just 600 awards competition was tough.  Nevertheless, secure in the knowledge that the concept was perfectly feasible with a pressing need, we pushed on.  Most of the solution exists already, it's just a case of stitching the particular skill-sets and expertise of our unique team together into a viable product.

Helping us on our journey to test the prototype product we have ClassofYourOwn's proteges King Ecgberts Secondary School led by Helen Vardy with the support of head Paul Haigh in Sheffield. Also the wonderful organisation for young people that is The Element Society led by Programmes Manager Will Earp and online business training school Kaplan led by Linda Chiou.  Added to this wonderful mix are our new clients ISG led by Chris Holmes who are working nationwide on the current PSPB and Free School construction programme (more about this later). 


As I write we have a first working prototype of the King Ecgberts school which is being trialled by Helen and her cohort of pupils and senior leadership team. Over the next two weeks we will conduct a Agile Methods process with them on the premise advocated by the great Steve Jobs that good products  start with users and work back to the technology, not start with technology and then try to find a user 

Watch our twitter and LinkedIn feeds for updates. If you are a school who wants to be part of the testing do get in touch via our website contact page.

Future Homes Consultation

Back in January we took the time to respond to the UK government's Future Homes Standard (FSH) consultation process.  This is the replacement to the UK government's Code for Sustainable Homes which they binned for all of the wrong reasons back in 2016.  FSH is meant to be a mandatory reference point for the new update to Building Regulations Part L.  Deep in the minds of departmental MHCLG authors will be the findings of the ongoing Grenfell Enquiry which is sadly highlighting the dire market failure of the construction industry.


The essence of our consultation comments to MHCLG challenge the ambition and the timing of when the the UK starts to deliver zero energy buildings and when the confidence point of knowing when we say a building will be zero energy that it will be actually be zero energy.  In the bit about making sure zero is zero, FHS is pretty good. Modelling and updating of modelling is a feature of the new standard and this will help.  However, the notion that the global Heat Pump manufacturing industry can't cope with the numbers of units needed as the primary reason to defer zero energy to 2050, not 2030  is in our view absolute nonsense.

The new standard targets 31% improvement by implementation of the new Part L later this year. Followed in 2025 by introduction of progressive improvements moving to 75% to 80% reduction on Part L 2013 emissions by 2030. To think that there are buildings that can still be built from now until 2027 with roughly the same standards of energy efficiency that we have now is absurd. We can't keep kicking this can down the road. We have to start draw-down now, which means zero meaning zero from now. Especially given that it is entirely possible to do now.  By way of example we intend with every client to give them a route map to zero by 2030 as a norm for our service without additional cost, in the expectation that more clients will want to choose zero to put the future risk of obsolescence behind them.  Most clients we talk to want better, future proved property when we present them with the cost versus value metrics. Keep an eye on our project page as we start to roll-out more of our successes over the next six months.

Construction Innovation Hub Consultation

We are pleased to have been contacted by the Construction Innovation Hub about our Agile in Buildings approach to client brief development for user centrist outcomes in building design.  After more than 4 years of intensive research in how to develop design with users at the core, our work is now finding a resonance in the big thinking at government level.  CIH is working as part of the UK Governments Transforming Construction agenda.  The stated strategy is to divide delivery into four themes Value, Assurance, Digital and Manufacturing.   Friday 17th July saw first indications of the agencies thoughts on its Value theme with the publication of the CIH's Value Toolset (which we appreciate but think needs a lot of improvement).  The value theme is the one that has attracted our interest since our inception, it's why we formed.  To be honest with 35 years experience in the construction industry we have never come across a problem with the Assurance, Digital or Manufacturing aspects of the construction industry's product. When allowed to by its clients, it does much of what it needs to do exceptionally well.  Asda were delivering A-frame superstores in 16 weeks from start to keys handover.  No offsite build, just a great client with an exceptional team. It did it to outstanding quality and in keeping with the template built up by a fully immersed client.   Conversely, we are just concluding a POE on a hotel in central London built n 2016, 80% of it constructed offsite. Quality was great and its a fantastic building but it was still late and tenders were over budget. When the offsite components came to site there major coordination issues still needed to be addressed. It's a fact, what gets built and the quality of it will not of itself improve without a change in the culture of the industry.  A change that cherishes investors less and customers as users more. A culture that encourages clients to retain connectivity with the value and usability creation aspects of the product. For that to happen there needs to be a greater commercial incentive to make value for the customer valuable to the constructor.  Value for the customer means delivery of a built product that creates more value for the customer's post handover business or organisation's growth stack. Imagine if we could say to a client, we want to get deeper under the skin of your operation so we can give you a building that allows you to use your people more productively, thereby increasing the bottom line profitability of your business and lowering the overhead of your organisation. That is where we have to get to. Then the worst excesses of buildings as mere portfolio commodities will be balanced by buildings as fulcrums for improved business. 

Can it be done? Yes it can,we have been doing it in Agile in Buildings and now ShieldED. Our research suggests it is possible to move to a new building and before the client signs off the design, let them use it in a virtual digital world, test its functionality, feedback the learning for how to improve it, then and only when they are happy with how it works, build it.  And when we do go to build it, do it fast, just like the superstore. And of course, off-site construction should be part of this. The technology is there. What we need is the culture change that says before we build it right, we will first find out what is the right thing to build. If we did more of this the impact on the improving productivity in the economy would be immense. 

All of these are topics that we are talking to CIH about now.  The opportunity to proof of concept test it again, (as we did with IUK Agile in Building) on some government projects is where we hope to get to. I feel sure we can and will have a big contribution to make in delivering that build back better approach that we all crave. More of this is on our website.

COVID19 Building Ventilation

Continuing the theme of research and COVID19, the worry for a lot of businesses as we lift lock-down is how safe is the office.  Reaction from most people is that WFH has been novel and not so bad as they feared.  Being digitally connected means having all of the tools needed close at hand. Zoom and Teams allows us to meet formally without the need for a commute.  All this is great. However,  Now 14 weeks in  and the mood might be changing. We are social beings and most of us are feel the need to get back to meeting friends and colleagues again face to face.  That said, the office of post COVID19 is still not the office it was before.  Not everyone can be in at once, orange and black hazard tape and signage abounds. Kitchens, the usually space for serendipity is out of bounds. Meetings still need to be mostly virtual. Everyone stays 2 meters away, and a pervading air of caution, if not danger, hangs like a dark cloud over the experience.

All of this was the topic of a talk we gave to an ASHRAE UK Midlands back in May.  Running off the back our desktop study for University of Sheffield's Urban Flows Observatory on air quality sensing, we updated it to add air quality for health and wellness in a COVID19 world. ASHRAE global had got together with Dr.Shelly Miller at University of Colorado in the United States to conduct studies on the likelihood of transmission of the virus indoors.  The researchers were requesting that WHO err on the side of caution when it comes to the air transmission path.  All of this has led recently to WHO changing its guidance on the need to wear masks when indoors.  This new WHO stance appears to have found its way into UK scientific guidance promoting a similar u-turn in masks advice here. So good to see that Shelly and our ASHRAE Society led by Bill Bahnfleth have been so influential in this way.  In our presentation we were able to elaborate on the guidance for building owners and users to make buildings safer through good ventilation and hygiene procedures. So the message is do wear your mask indoors. There is real scientific research behind it. A link to the full presentation is here

I feel this post getting a little long so time to wrap things up. Before I close off I would like to say a big thank you to our new clients from the last six months. They include ISG, who we are pleased to be working with as framework POE specialists on the national PSBP Schools framework which will run up to the end of 2021.  Global manufacturer Bucher UK and project managers sbh who we will be conducting a POE for in 2021. Developers Ladal, who we will be working for as Sustainability Champions with on two major hopefully zero energy developments at Hebburn and Southampton.


We were please to see our Lathams Architects Sydnope Hill zero energy off grid home achieve its P79 planning permission and now go forward for full MEP design. Yes folks we are back in the MEP detailed design consultancy.  We are also looking at some MEP consultancy for the Baptist Church and church architect Tom Crooks Architecture, which has led to two further projects at Harrogate and Winster. In September we will commence a POE with a global internet provider based in London, care of our friends at Blackburn&Co. Blackburn&Co are comparatively young compared to the big PM names in London, but already this innovative project management and property consultancy can boast a globally significant client that any would envy.


The rich vein of work that we have tapped into is testament to the very different approach and culture that we bring to our projects. 

Hot off the presses we have just been shortlisted in the Alternatives Innovator category of the Estates Gazette Awards for our work on Agile in Buildings. The award ceremony is online in October so fingers crossed. Maybe something to report on next time to add to lots of exciting things ahead

Stay safe everyone.

Autumn/Winter 2019

January 05, 2020

It's the start of a new year and a new decade. A time to look back on achievements made and make plans for the future, as best we can. This month also marks Ollio's 4th birthday, a milestone that comes with a lot of pride in what has been achieved so far, and excitement at what is yet to come in continuance of the vision to improve building design and in use performance for users of buildings.

One Giant Leap

2019 saw us take some important steps with this as we successfully embarked upon and concluded our Innovate UK Audience of the Future case studies; to see if it was possible to introduce an Agile Methods approach to two live projects. The IUK project was a huge success and demonstrated that the introduction of users into the design process was not only possible, it was essential if buildings are to be cherished by the majority of customers who use them every day.  It proved beyond doubt that current methods of client engagement by architects are grossly inadequate, despite the protestations of most to the contrary, and that augmented reality coupled with new Agile ways to involve users in immersive testing and validation of early decision making is a must if project teams are to close the much talked about performance gap between what they design and have built and what customers expect.

With testing of the concept proven, our objective for 2020 will be to work with fee paying early adopter clients who are willing to embrace the methodology on their projects. To this end we are looking for more forward thinking organisations who are contemplating a move to a new building, or upgrading their existing one. Culturally you will be an enterprise who trusts your workforce and will be comfortable in allowing them to collaborate with our architectural teams to develop a building to propel your business forward and to take ownership over how the building will work for the business into the future. If you can, and only if you can, will you be more confident of getting a building that does what it is supposed to do after handover. For more details and case studies and videos check out our customer centrist design  web-page.

Greta the Great

No one can have failed to notice the increase of popular social conscience in relation to the climate emergency and the destruction of biodiversity.  Nelson Mandela said once "it takes just one voice to change the world". I am not sure he had in mind that such a voice could be so young or appear so vulnerable as she sat outside the Swedish Riksdag, holding a simple handmade sign that read "Skolstrejk för Klimatet".  That was August 2018.  One year later, we have witnessed in protests around the globe, the pent up anxiety of Greta Thunberg's generation at what is being done, or not done, by this generation of world leaders (if leaders is an accurate description)- the fear that is palpable.  Who as a parent cannot also feel anxious when we see the anxiety in our children's eyes at the future that is being created for them. 

It's clear, this year above any other in recent times will be pivotal in formulation of a series of policy directions that will dictate the success or failure of humans as a species to thrive beyond 2050.  The responsibility falls on of all of us of this working generation to make sure that "our one voice" is channelled to become a clarion call of actions on all governments that make some real differences to what happens next.   Included here is a responsibility on building professionals to bring our expertise to bare on the next updates to UK legislation that will guide how buildings will be designed and used for the next decade. The time for "better than nothing", "less bad", "kicking the can further down the road", is over.  Here in 2020, the time has come for our combined action to do our bit to turn the CO2 tanker around. Now is the time all of us as professionals begin by convincing our clients that buildings from here need to be "restorative", to uphold a "do no harm" philosophy. Anything else is futile and will ultimately fail them as clients as well as us as designers. Which is why we are committing from now to provide every client with a zero energy option design proposal.


And this does not mean the need for clients to throw pots of cash at the problem. What it does means however, is improving the quality of our advice and our analysis of the problems in each and every project. We have to stop the tick box compliance led approach to the design of building's energy consuming systems, and start to allow purposeful energy in use strategies to guide the geometry of our buildings. It means stopping so we can take the time to think about what needs to happen to build in as resource efficient way as possible.   Changing the emphasis from tick box mechanics to good thinking done early as a way to achieve more cost effect building, faster and with less mistakes, that you don't have to live with into the future. If we did this we would save 30% carbon without spending an extra penny.

Out-Stanton Success

As if by example of this better thinking discussed above, we were pleased to be part of the team that helped Latham Architects secure planning permission for a rather large family NPPF Paragraph 79 home on the fringe Stanton a conservation village close to Ashbourne in East Staffordshire. 

Stanton means stone town, a reference to the locally quarried material that most of the village is fashioned from so beautifully over two centuries and more. It seemed evident that the new home should be made from the same local materials which could also assume a narrative for our near zero energy philosophy of a passive heavyweight building.  In doing so, we evaluated the thermal ability of the stone facades to capture, store and then release energy by incorporation of a Trombe Wall. However, after exhaustive analysis it was shown that the stored energy available in an otherwise highly insulated, highly airtight building was insignificant in contrast to electrical plug loads from users. For the modern home there is a dynamic issue around when the sun's energy was available, and when users were at home to take advantage of it.  So out went the trombe in favour of increased storage of energy using batteries, or ground thermal stores and heat pumps.

And our big thinking did not stop there. Stanton as well as being a historic conservation town is also located just outside the High Peak District dark skies zone.  Meaning consideration needed to be given to how the home would preserve the dark skies of the village and eliminate impacts on the local ecology of bats, birds and insects.  Further detailed analysis showed that most of the light spill from the new home reaching sensitive bat feeding hedgerows was coming not from external lighting, but from internal lighting that via the large planar glazed elevations. This prompted the need for more sensitive approaches to internal and external low energy lighting design using timed lighting curfew hours of operation coupled with external PC Amber LED sources to limit light pollution, and to minimise impacts on local insect and bat population activity. 

It's these seemingly small, but early and detailed interventions along with close coupled architectural and building services design integration for a simply stunning solution by Simon Chiou at Lathams, that led East Staffordshire Council to permit the scheme when all of the local evidence was that this might otherwise have been a difficult project for them to approve on highly scrutinised P79 applications.

Part L, Part Hell

The work on projects like Stanton and Sydnope (see projects web page) but most especially our recent post occupancy evaluation of the CitizenM Hotel at Shoreditch, tell us that the impending new Building Regulations Part L (Conservation of Fuel in Buildings) needs to take a different approach to regulatory compliance of buildings if they are to hit zero energy in practice rather than in theory. The purpose of the post occupancy evaluation was to look back at the brief and concept designs for the building and to see how this was developed into the citizenM hotel building that stands on Holywell Lane, Shoreditch today. In review of the planning application for citizenM published in October 2014 it was anticipated by the designers that the base build design without any CHP or PV would emit 800 tonnes of CO2 per annum in use. Fast track five years to October 2019, the same building is actually emitting just over 300 tonnes of CO2 without any GLA or Part L intervention such as CHP or PV. (What happens with the CHP and PV in operation is another story for when we publish the final report later this month). The point here being that reducing carbon emissions happened because of the improving carbon intensity of the UK national grid. So we say why not use Part L and NPPF differently to introduce measures that drive the electricity grid carbon intensity down even further. Mandating more PV or a CIL for Offshore Wind could do this.


Of course we must also reduce the base building energy consumption to an optimal, but projects like Sydnope and Stanton where we have used Evolutionary Algorithms to find the optimal insulation and energy use, show that excessive insulation and airtightness (as per Passivehaus) is over engineering the problem, and that current Part L fabric insulation and airtightness levels are not a million miles away from optimal as they stand. One issue we would contest with the new Part L proposal is to specify airtightness at 5 achr/m2@50Pa. We suggest this needs to be 2 not 5. Again, all of this comes from a bit more thinking, and some clever EA (near AI) help to get us to optimal solutions means we get to zero energy within 10 year payback horizons. However, as we said earlier the pips are almost squeezed on fabric so we have to be looking at the totality of the problem which is now about load matching and storage, making sure that grid intensity is driven down to near zero, while also mandating that all new homes are zero energy on a much faster timeline than 2050.

A bit more concerning in the new proposals for Part L (out for consultation as we write) is the aforementioned timeline to zero energy buildings. Current proposals look for a 20% (option 1) or 31% (Option 2) reduction on current Part L 2013 levels in 2020, in the lead up to a new Future Homes Standard in 2025 where reduction will be 70-80% over current levels, hitting 100% at 2050. The delay in getting to 100% or zero energy is cited as due to the fact that the heat pump market is not ready, nor has the research for Future Homes Standard been completed. We say poppy-cock. At the very least the targets set by London Energy Transformation Initiative - LETI  ( a grouping of energy and building design consultancies, of which Ollio is a signatory member - www.leti.London) are advocating 50 to 60% reduction in 2020, most of this already available through electricity grid carbon improvements since 2013 standard publication. From here LETI are mandating all designs at zero energy by 2025 to get to zero in use by 2030. This is all of the most prominent consultancies recognising the feasibility of zero energy if still not as speedy as we think possible. Check out LETIs Net Zero one pager and join the LETI| response to Part L here


So with no technical reason for any delay to net zero energy, neither is there a supply chain constraint. Its inconceivable that world construction supply chains could not easily cope with the demands placed on it by the solitary UK market. In any event, the drive to heat pumps advocated by the proposed Part L (if that's the real worry) is in our view ill-judged. Heat pumps are a long way from the fit and forget technology of current boilers. PV and battery storage is the way to go, and as mentioned above the increasing renewable generation and better battery technology will further assist the grid to lower its carbon contribution to the rest of the economy.   A secondary issue for heat pumps is the damaging impact of extra refrigerant gas leakage to the atmosphere something that seems to have escaped our friends at UK Dept of  HCLG and needs careful attention.

Gonna be exciting.. Its a Gas gas gas

Speaking of refrigerants and the 1 January 2020 introduction of the latest EU and Kigali F gas regulation calling for GWP less than 150 for multi-pack installations over 40kW, we had a good and well debated discussion at the last ASHRAE UK Midlands and London and South East technical evening on 9th December 2019.

I made the point on the adequacy of the proposed new HFC replacement low GWP HFO refrigerants to not do any further harm to environmental species as warned by Greenpeace.  In my personal opinion the Building Services Design community and HVCA community needs to seriously consider whether the new HFO refrigerants are a serious proposition to guide the basis of our solutions into the future.  We are at a time and place where as an industry we cannot afford to get this wrong. It has all sorts of ethical and environmental consequences for our industry moving forward if we have to turn back mid decade due to ecological issues.  I see it as the role of our professional bodies to remain impartial and arbiters on behalf of its members in guiding this debate. As of yet I have seen nothing from CIBSE or ASHRAE that meaningfully contributes to the debate where silence is anything but golden.  For me nothing like enough research has gone into the risks to ecology by TFAs (component gases in HFOs) or indeed the development of natural refrigerants.  The Greenpeace paper is here  . It would be interesting to have the views of others. Respond to the CIBSE or ASHRAE LinkedIn page if you have a view. 

Don't Offset! - Educate

One of the other notable movements since the "Greta effect", has been the number of corporates dashing for the "offset" button.  Scans of Twitter and LinkedIn produce near daily declarations by well respected corporates, consultancies, architects, and others of their commitment to zero carbon business by 2025 some even sooner. The scramble is also to be found in the Local Authority sector where 2030 zero carbon seems to be the new thinking in the wake of a climate emergency.  Lets face it, if you are a business, most of your carbon is going to be in three things. Your buildings and what you do in them, your transportation, and your supply chain. It all comes down to where you get your energy from, how your people travel, and who and where you buy your stuff from. All fundamentals to economic as well as global sustainability. None of this is easy for any one organisation acting alone, so why pretend anything different. If we are honest the real heavy lifting bit needs to be done by governments at national  and international infrastructure levels. For me, while I appreciate the sentiments, and I agree business organisations can and should do more, it seems that most of what we are seeing is nothing more than a re-hash of green-wash. There are only a few that I have seen that are really serious, Interface (who have just achieved mission zero (impact on the planet) a journey they started in 1997) and Patagonia to name the two best examples. Most others are in the trival, saying they are buying their energy from renewable sources, or offsetting all corporate travel. Buying green energy is good, but it's still the same energy coming down the same grid connection as everyone else. Offsetting travel is about the worst thing you can do unless you know that it is making a real difference to offset your carbon emissions now not 20 years in the future. Planting trees is not offsetting, it only defers things to later when it is already too late, and it would be better if you just did nothing now. Take a read of a recent Nature Magazine article for more info on the real harm offsetting can do.

However, if you do want to do something positive what you could do is to invest in two charities that I support who I know do things that help or will help to reduce emissions in the next 1 to 5 years. First up is Ken Dunn's Africa's Gift, and second is Alison Watson's Design Engineer Construct programme. Both help to teach children, particularly girls to put sustainable practice into action. This is completely in keeping with Paul Hawkin's book Drawdown in which he lists the 100 things that we can do now to drawdown carbon to 1.5C levels. The top 6 on the researched list being, 1. Refrigerant Management, 2 Wind Turbines (reduce grid carbon intensity), 3. Reduce Food Waste, 4. Plant Rich Diets, 5 Save Tropical Forests, 6. Educate Girls (Particularly sub-Saharan African girls (as future educators of their children. Could perhaps be better if just education of all young people)). By the way Solar Farms are in eight place and Roof Top solar is 10th. Heat Pumps Mr. HCLG minister are down in 42. So if you are a corporate and really care about the planet, invest in any one of these to make a real difference. Speaking with Alison Watson recently, I know she has plans with Bentley to start a scheme that will allow companies to directly invest in sustainability education for children so they take up careers in sustainability.

Closing Remarks

Well that's as much as I have for now. 2020 is sure to be interesting. As for our immediate future, we are midstream in a number of interesting projects right now, some with high profile clients that I am looking forward to having the permissions to publish details about next time round. Presently, I would like to thank everyone who has worked with Ollio in 2019. A few names to mention include in addition to those above are John at DLA Design in Leeds, Richard at Hippo Digital and Scott at Playwerks. Our friends at the Cemetery Road Baptist Church and at Kollider.  I also want to give a big shout out to Nick Morgan and Adrian Hackett at Kollider for your incredible support this year. Audience of the Future would not have happened without you. The city of Sheffield owes you a great debt of gratitude which I hope is being recognised by the Sheffield City Region and the LA.  Also with Sheffield theme a big thanks to the folks at UoS Urban Flows Observatory, where again some incredibly interesting work is being done under the leadership of Prof. Martin Mayfield, and I am looking forward to adding to in 2020. Finally a big thank you to Donna, Liz, Duncan and Tom at Leeds Beckett  and Yorkshire and Humber Constructing Excellence. Your work in adding to the knowledge base of practising professionals is invaluable. Once again it was a pleasure to judge the CEYH awards and to see so many of them go on to achieve success at the national  CE Awards in November.  Thank you all.

Take care. Happy 2020.

Spring/Summer 2019

May 27, 2019

It's been a while since the last Ollio news post so time to set that right. Lots has been happening since the last update. Where to start?

Agile in Buildings Update

Let's start with where we are up to with our customer centric Agile in Buildings research.  Last time we mentioned that we were on the cusp of winning our funding from Innovate UK to test two case studies. Six months down the track and after some delays we were successful in our bid and have just completed the project. 


We have taken our two clients and their users through a rapid (less than 9 weeks of engaged contact) Agile in Buildings enabled design processes. We wanted to see how the two sets of users would perform when given much greater involvement in the design of their new buildings, and what impact this would have on the overall design outcomes.  


Without compromising the publication of a full dissemination report, I can say that the Agile in Buildings process has exceeded our expectations. Our users have excelled, providing our design teams with unparalleled insight and opportunity at the design table. They brought on the spot validation, reduced the risk that we were designing the wrong thing, defined the opportunity to design just what was needed, no more no less. They brought enthusiasm, new knowledge and new skill sets that were not present in the professional design team, and with this came new opportunities and new innovation. 


We found that designers became braver, more creative, felt validated, more empathetic to clients needs, closer to the problems they needed to solve. Together designers and users became a tight knit team, filled with motivation towards quality, value and total understanding around common objectives that were so much more clearly defined. 

Within the project we brought the full box of tricks, BIM, 3D design, Virtual Reality (VR) where we allowed our users to experience their designs, rapidly building prototypes of what they designed within a few days, to literally allow them to walk through them, test them, and validate them while technically still in RIBA Stage 0 and 1. The most surreal moments came when our users as clients kitted out with VR headsets went on snagging strolls around their new virtual workplaces, providing detailed feedback as they toured. To cap it all the solutions cost no more and one of the case studies, the project cost is less than than of a traditionally procured solution that they had been following prior to our arrival.


But what seems to have mattered more is that we developed two communities of users who know now precisely what they need from their building once they move in. Who can't wait to get it, who feel already that it will be their building made their way. Who feel bonded, closer to our teams and each other, because they have learned who they are what they do, how they do it and what the building they are about to procure needs to do to help them excel beyond handover.  

If design endeavour is about making things better for users, improving the lot of users, Agile in Buildings has just made it possible to make design great ...with remarkable repeatability.  Surely this is what good building and delivery is about!


Check out the video opposite to get a brief flavour of what happened on case study #1.  A similar video will be available for case study two soon.

We have moved offices..again

In October we took up temporary residence in Barkers Pool House with the rest of our Kollider coworking startup colleagues.  Well six months on, the refurbishment of Castle House the old Co-Op building is now complete. The new building is stunning. If you have not been yet its worth checking out what has to be one of the most exciting new venues for the​ City in a long time. 

On ground floor is the new Kommune bar and restaurant. Also there is a new Tamper coffee outlet and some other foodie outlets. First floor is where the new National Videogame Museum is located. Second floor will be a new Music and Media venue and third floor is Barclays Eagle Labs and Kollider coworking, and our new home.  The building is a collision of creativity and entrepreneurial spirit. Hats off to Nick Morgan, Adrian Hackett and the team at Kollider and U+I with Sheffield City Council who have made it all happen. Being a part of it suits exactly who we are as a practice with a modern fresh approach to design, coupled with a new can do technology fuelled mode of operating.  If you fancy a coffee and a look around do get in touch. Details of how to contact us and our full address are here

CIBSE Symposium 2019 comes to Sheffield

The CIBSE Technical Symposium arrived in Sheffield this year. Given its on our doorstep I felt it would be rude not to pull a technical paper together for submission. With that in mind I formed a partnership with Dr. Abigail Hathway at University of Sheffield to pen a paper on Indoor Air Quality in Healthy Buildings. The paper comes off the back of the work Abigail and I did last year for the Urban Flows Observatory.  You will remember we found in our UFO study that indoor air presents some serious issues for designers. who have the protection of occupants health in mind.  Our study highlighted concerns that there is an increased due diligence required for designers in how we mitigate the health impacts of the air users breathe in our buildings.  For example, its possible the fire protective chemicals we spray on furniture and carpets could be doing more harm to our air than is good for us. I say could, because being definitive about any of this is simply not possible, given the complexities of understanding, the lack of accurate indoor air sensor technology, the variability in the degree of exposure we all have, or how it affects our individual genetic make-up over our lifetime.  In all of this there are valid questions of complexity for the building health and wellness certification schemes such as the WELL Building standard to come to grips with.  It seems as an industry we have some way to go to be able to say with certainty that what we build is wholly protective of our indoor health.  An while wellness certification is a welcome addition to the design narrative, one that I believe the industry should embrace for fiduciary reasons, it stands to reason from an ethical standpoint that all buildings should be as healthy as we can make them irrespective of the certification compliance. 

I presented my paper in Session 9 on Thursday 25th at 1.30pm. The CIBSE Technical Symposium ran over two days finishing on 26th at 4pm. Slides from my presentation are here.

The Mind Gap

Continuing the health and wellness theme, I was delighted to be asked to present a paper on the design of buildings for health and wellbeing at Constructing Excellence Yorkshire and Humber Mental Health Awareness Week event held at the offices of Clarion Solicitors in Leeds on 14th May. The attracted a lot of interest with over 80 people in attendance. Subsequently Phil Morrison of Clarion published a Clarion blog to summarise all three presenters points in what turned out to be an interesting and thought provoking event.  After outlining the history of the growth of interest in Wellness certification systems in buildings, it seems to me that health and wellbeing is being brought about by the demands of millennials and Generation Xs who are busy building their personal brands or profiles on social media, want to be seen to be healthy, and want to work in institutions that are build around a "do not harm" ethical construct. To be successful in meeting future demand, the property industry will need to do more embrace the demands of users, who will be demanding healthier buildings that help them to be better at what they do. My Powerpoint is here.

We are WELL 'APpy

I am delighted to confirm that I have received my accreditation as a WELL AP. This means that Ollio can accept commissions from clients, developers and design team who would like to pursue a WELL Build certification for their building. As it happens I am already advising a client who is pursuing a pilot domestic accreditation. Any clients thinking about how to make their buildings healthier, please do get in touch, even if only just considering the incorporation of WELL into your scheme. I am always happy to talk on a no strings basis to begin with.

Looking Forward

Looking forward we are lining up to put Agile Methods into practice again with a revisit to an office project for a client who moved in recently but staff are not happy. Interesting to see what comes from that.

We have just picked up a Post Occupancy Evaluation for a large signature client in the Kings X area of London. Been asked to sign an NDA on this one so hope to get some permissions to tell you more about this later.

Our POE with Bouygues and citizen Hotel Shoreditch is coming to a conclusion. The report looks great, and a cut down version should be available to view here soon.

We are working with Sheffield and Swansea University on the Active Building Centre to research solutions for zero carbon schools and homes as the two first typologies. This should make for interesting outcomes ahead.

Last but by no means least, I am looking forward to attending CEYH awards in Leeds on 14th July. Tickets still available here. Hoping that Liz will be recovered by then to reform her dynamic duo with Donna. Get well soon Liz.

That's it for now. 

Summer/Autumn 2018

September 20, 2018

Goodness what an action packed summer it has been. So much has been happening it's been hard to know where to start.  In between commencements on a number of new projects the main highlights have been;

Augmented and Virtual Agile Testing

We are in the final discussions to secure the funding Ollio needs to undertake a feasibility test of Agile in Buildings.  In what has been a key part of our strategic planning, we expect to be able to start work soon with our partners DLA Architecture, Playwerks, HippoDigital, PhD researcher James Simpson at East London University and Sheffield's newest tech innovation hub Kollider.  The project will see us take two live case study clients through the Agile in Buildings process.  This will allow the end users of the case study buildings to work with our architects and designers to build working prototypes as co-authors of their new built environments. To facilitate the production of the prototypes we will create a Virtual Reality Sandbox Studio within our new offices at Kollider, Sheffield new tech innovation hub.  The Sandbox Studio complete with the latest in VR AR and MR as well as 3D printing capabilities will allow us to create a state of the art collaboration space where end users and designers can work closely, substituting drawings, specifications for show and tell within an immersive virtual reality environment . The process will allow users, with the hands on help of designers, to create a version of their own building designs and to test them months if not years before they eventually move in.  All being well, we kick off in November for a quick three month proof of concept process.  No doubt we will have plenty to say and write about once the proof of concept process is commenced. 

We are moving to new Offices

Yes, the big news is that we are now ready to move the business to the city centre of Sheffield. We will be taking space temporarily in Kollider's current co-working space on the 5th floor of Barkers Pool House. But it will not be long before Ollio along with the rest of the Kollider start-up businesses move to the digital tech explosion that will be our new offices at Castle House on Commercial Street. The refurbishment of Castle House is already well underway in advance of formal opening in the Spring of 2019. Before then a new street facing cafe and the National Gaming Museum will have opened on their ground and first floor spaces.  Once in, we will be co-located with most of Sheffield's bright minds and businesses operating in gamification, AR, VR, MR, 3D printing and software and app development. The synergies and opportunities for us to expand these technologies in favour of building users will be limitless. Click the Contact Us section of the website for our new address and details of how to get in touch.

We are Award Winners

We were thrilled to win our first award for my paper on Agile in Buildings. The win was made more special by the fact that I got to present it at my alma mater college in Dublin.  This year the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) hosted the Leeds Beckett University inspired SEEDS Conference Awards. It gave DIT the opportunity to showcase their exciting new campus facilities at the old Grangegorman Hospital.  The paper which is an explanation for why Agile in Buildings is so important as a positive disruptive force on how we currently design buildings.  The paper which outlines why it is critical to involve users as customers in the design process, took the best paper prize for "Addressing a Developing Need".  Receiving Ollio's first award from Professor Lloyd Scott was a special honour, one that will hopefully be the first of many as we roll out more research findings in the latter part of this year and early 2019. A copy of the paper titled "Reaching the Building Performance Sweet Spot with Certainty" can be downloaded from here

Conference Season 

The end of summer is usually conference season for many Universities. As a board member of both ASHRAE UK Midlands Chapter and IBPSA - England we had our Region XIV Chapters Regional and BSO18  Conferences  at Loughborough and Cambridge Universities respectively.  Both conferences were a striking success and credit goes to our Chairs and their teams for what turned out to be two exceptional events.  That said, it was noted that both conferences were largely attended by local students, academics and those visiting to present papers.   It's a great shame that we don't get that many practicing professionals to attend as there is so much innovation and fresh perspectives to be gained if only they took the time to engage.  More engagement of practitioners would also help to improve the researchers outcomes, as well as improving the quality of our designs on behalf of our clients. So I would say to all architects and design consultancies, if you really are interested in providing a differentiator from your competition - please get involved.  I can not stress more highly how much value more engagement with your professional institutions and local universities would bring to the everyday quality of what you produce.

Urban Flows Air Quality Update

Our report on the current state of air quality sensors market was issued to our client the University of Sheffield Urban Flows Observatory back in June. The objective of the report was to devise a strategy to undertake air quality monitoring inside buildings across Sheffield on behalf of the Urban Flows Observatory.  In summary we found that there are no low cost sensors capable of indoor air quality sampling in real time with anything approaching the degree of accuracy required for research purposes.  There are are number of low cost real time air quality sensors out there that claim to do so, but so far as we are aware they have yet to be properly and scientifically evaluated with results published by independent researchers in the public domain.  All of this poses questions for the health and wellbeing certification industry, who in my view will be constrained in setting air quality standards that are proven to be drawn from and have their basis founded on good science.  If we can't measure exactly what chemicals are present and in real time it is difficult to suggest that buildings as opposed to say, the morning commute to work, are having most impact on health and wellbeing of workers.  We need better indoor sensors, and it maybe that Urban Flows ability to measure the totality of the pollution load on a city wide basis has the information necessary to improve the on board algorithms of the low cost sensor technologies on a room by room basis. We will continue to follow this avenue of enquiry where we expect to publish a paper later in the year summarising our findings on the Urban Flows project.


Empowering Design

In August we joined users of Cemetery Road Baptists Church's (CRBC) for their session with  The Glass House Architecture's, Empowering Design Practice workshop. This five-year collaborative research project is the largest project in the Design and Communities strand of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funded research project. It explores how the direct education of users and operators in design thinking can help empower them to become more informed clients when they comes to upgrading or look after after historic places of worship.  The process also helps to create more open, vibrant and sustainable places that respect and enhance the heritage through improve design outcomes.  Working within this context, the project aims to develop tools, resources and training to support community-led design practice. The project is led by the Open University in partnership with The Glass-House, Historic England, Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic Religious Buildings Alliance, and others.  The session facilitated by CEO Sophia de Sousa and Leo Care verified for us just how intuitive design becomes to most members of the public when they are set free. Also how accepting and enthusiastic users become when invited to become involved with design of their community spaces.  A big thank you goes out to Glass House Architecture and Mike Green of the CRCB for allowing me to participate in the workshop. It really helped validate some of my thinking in advance of our own user case study processes. We expect CRBC will become one of the case study clients in Agile for Building demonstration projects mentioned above.

Smart Sheffield

In September we went along to the latest Smart Sheffield session hosted at Arup Sheffield. The topic for the evening focused a number of large-scale (or potentially large scale) systems that are currently in play in Sheffield.  We heard from organisations who are currently collecting and using digital datasets that are being compiled by other third parties such as government and private sector business.  Putting this data into the public domain via open data platforms allows it to be used to create new mobile applications made available for public and other purposes besides the purpose of their main use. We heard from

A lively exchanged followed where non technical members of the audience felt that the information on Smart Sheffield events was not reaching the ordinary folk on the street in Sheffield.   More engagement could help generate better ideas for apps etc. Also I made a point of caution to developers of these apps; that they need to be in a position to validate the authenticity of the data they are using so that ordinary users understand the difference between  "clean" and "dirty" information being used in the apps.

Think BIM at Doncaster Rail College   

It was great to be back at ThinkBIM this week.  There were three (really four) reasons for attending the latest session for what was a very insightful afternoon. First was the opportunity to visit the fantastic award winning building by architects Bond Bryan Architects and constructor Willmott Dixon. The building has scooped a number of awards this year already, and no doubt there will be one or two more to come. Having seen it in the flesh, its award winning credentials are completely justified and well worth a tour. Second was the always fabulous line-up of speakers that Duncan, Donna and Liz at ThinkBIM manage to pull together.  Of particular interest was Rob Jackson who gave his usual tour de force run through the history of of BIM adoption into what remains a reluctant construction industry for the most part. There are early adopters speeding ahead and gaining the undoubted productivity and information quality gains, but  sadly these are still the vanguard. After a lively discussion it became apparent that the retarding forces are coming from two sources.  First software vendors packages are still making complete integration and authentic transfer of model information difficult. Ask engineers using Revit how they get on when attempting to import an ArchiCad model.  IFC is still not a complete answer. The feeling in the room was that perhaps international standards organisations need to be the ones to develop standard tests and validation of vendors software, all supported by adequately funded research. It's no longer good enough for "passionate" practitioners to be the ones who are faced with this task in the teeth of the immense funding within the vendors organisations who are continually upgrading and changing the goal posts with every new release.

Finally, I was keen to see where the industry has got to in its use of Augmented and Virtually Reality as tools in design and construction. Marianna Kopsida Trimble Product Applications Engineer presented on some of the advanced applications now gaining traction.  From multiple individuals in different locations viewing and interacting in real time with a quarry operation displayed in augmented reality (AR) to Gensler use of Microsoft Hololens to improve and gamify the design process to another application which demonstrated how constructors standing in the concrete shell of a partially complete building can view a virtual installation showing operatives wearing VR enabled DAQRI head gear precisely where the fit out elements should be located without the need to measure or set out.  It all shows how the these visualisation technologies are about to explode into the design studio and construction site. Ollio use of this same technology in the early stage concepts to inform client decision making is arriving just at the right moment in time.

I think you will agree it's been an exciting three months. Watch this space for more developments coming soon.

Spring 2018

April 08, 2018

Its been a busy few months. Workload here at Ollio has been buoyant, and the level of inquiry particularly for Post Occupancy Evaluation (POE) has been high.  BREEAM credits along with Universities' need to satisfy Hefce (or as of end March 2018 the new Office for Students) applications criteria is proving to be a big driver.  In between all of that, there are some other exciting things happening that I can tell you about. 

Designing Ducts wi' Darwin..duck

A few years ago now, I gave a presentation to show how we built a dynamic simulation model of a building to test how much energy it consumes when subjected to a virtual weather year. The model gave us the opportunity to test different interventions in a virtual world before we built the real thing.  We tested different types of glass, vary the thickness of the insulation, tested different types of heating and cooling system etc. All to to find the best solution, where the capital invested could be optimised with the amount of carbon saved, and level of comfort achieved internally.


Afterwards, Dr Jon Wright came up to me to have a word. He asked, "how do you know when when you have found the optimum solution"?  I replied. "I don't". All I know is that we have a better solution than the one we started off with. It might or might not be the best one possible.


Jon said he was working with an old algorithm, actually popularised by Plato’s Socratic dialogues published in 387 AD. Then Charles Darwin used the Socratic thesis as a basis for his "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection" in 1859.  More recently mathematicians began finding uses for these mathematical trial and error based algorithms to solve engineering problems.  They called them evolutionary algorithms (EA) in reference to the work of Darwin.  As with Darwin's theory of evolution, EA works on the principle that if you have a solution and you want to develop a better stronger one, you need to make a copy of the solution by splitting it into two identical copies, then mutate one of them to be slightly different (forming a thesis and antithesis). Test both and keep the one that's best, and kill the weaker one. Repeat the process with the surviving solutions over and over and plot the results of the solutions on a Pareto graph against the two parameters that are being optimised, say carbon emissions against cost.


After a period, the algorithm will find a collection of solutions that will be better than anything that even the best and most experienced engineer could find. Needless to say the process demands immense computing power, which Moore's Law has only recently made accessible at reasonable cost. Within this new paradigm in solution building, there are already some software packages that allow us to use Evolutionary Algorithms on commercial basis to arrive at optimal building solutions. As yet not many engineers are aware of them or the advantages of their use.  The best has EA package to my mind has been developed by Yi Zhang at EnSims based in Loughborough University's Technology Centre.  YI and I have just deployed the J-Plus algorithm on our Healthy Home Project at Bedford.  Already our work is pointing to some solutions that are enabling us to deliver zero carbon in ways that we might not have thought of through conventional approaches.  We hope to publish a case study on the Bedford project soon.


Urban Flows Observatory 

I  am pleased to have been asked to be involved in the research being conducted by the Urban Flows Observatory at the University of Sheffield. The project will monitor how Sheffield as a city uses its energy. The thinking being that using some of our best University minds to understand how the city consumes its energy, we can learn how behaviors and infrastructure can be modified  over time to meet the needs of a more sustainable low carbon future. The project is split into three looking at Energy, Air and Water. I have been asked to look at air initially. Air or should we say the cleanliness and quality of it, which has a huge bearing in governing health and wellbeing.   We will be looking at how the quality of the internal environment of buildings is affected by pollution levels outside, as well as the pollution levels we all generate ourselves by our use of chemicals in everyday things from furniture to carpets to paints, and even personal care products such as perfumes and deodorants. I feel sure that this research will lead to better information on the health of our built environments in the City, as well as the changes in the ventilation standards in buildings, and in the levels of chemical load being permitted in the materials we use to construct our buildings. All of course feeding into our knowledge base for use in Ollio's Health and Wellbeing projects. If the research is of interest do reach out to me.


Making Literate Modellers


In my last news, I mentioned the difficulties of standardising modelling practice. I am pleased to announce that at our IBPSA England board meeting held in January we agreed that a session would be arranged at  BSO18  in September to discuss the issue, intending to put in train some actions to get develop principles for standard approaches to building simulation models across the built environment. Maybe then we can get some confidence in modelling and modellers which is sadly lacking at the moment.  Again if anyone is interested in contributing to this research do reach out.   The BSO18 conference website is already live at here


While I am giving a plug to a simulation and modelling conference, and promoting best practice in the education of modellers, I can add one for my colleague on the ASHRAE UK Midlands board Ljubomir Jankovic who has just published the second edition of his book Designing Zero Carbon Buildings Using Dynamic Simulation Methods. The book has excellent demonstrations of research experiments conducted to validate thermal modelling simulations. Thoroughly recommend it and available on Amazon.


ASHRAE Region XIV CRC comes to Loughborough 

Also in September, the new ASHRAE Region XIV (Europe) Chapter Regional Council (CRC) comes to Loughborough University. It's only the second ever CRC to be held in the UK, but the first to have UK Chapters in attendance. The CRC is bit like a "shareholders meetings" for  ASHRAE  Chapters from all over Europe.  It's where our big strategic lifting happens.  Given its importance, we will also be honored to host again the current 2017/18 President Bjarne Olesen, along with our next 2018/19 ASHRAE President Shelia J Hayter who join us from ASHRAE HQ in Atlanta.

In her day job, Sheila  is a senior research supervisor for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).  Her work there has focused on renewable energy and energy efficiency applications for the buildings industry. Sheila is a seasoned author on topics relating to energy efficient design and renewable energy, particularly PV integration into buildings. 


Running in parallel to CRC business will be a two day technical conference with presentations given by international speakers.  Currently, ASHRAE UK Midlands Chapter is looking for major conference sponsors so do get in touch if you are interested in sponsoring or attending. The ASHRAE Europe website will have more details soon.

CIBSE Technical Symposium 2018

I am looking forward to presenting my paper "Reaching the Building Performance "Sweet Spot" with Certainty" at the CIBSE Technical Symposium being held at London SouthBank University between 12th and 13th April 2018. Details of the programme are here. My paper, one of 200 over the two days will outline the journey which led to the development of Agile for Buildings. Once the presentation is made I will post a copy here on this news bullitin.  I hope paper will spark some increased debate into how we as an industry address the concerns of our customers, and that we begin to develop the kind of buildings that have end users needs at heart so that we hit the performance sweet spot with certainty. The performance sweet spot being that place where value is realised for owners, occupiers and operators, as well as investors.   

GDPR Compliance

The new General data Protection Regulations (GDPR) come into force on 25th May 2018. It means that we will have to be a bit more circumspect and transparent about how we hold others data and what we use it for.  The first step for Ollio is to have our client's permission to hold their details on our contact data base. I will be sending out an email shortly to ask all of our clients for this permission and to have them indicate their preference to stay on our contact data base so that we can keep them up to date with our story, and  the great things we are doing.  Meanwhile if you are not on our data base yet but would like to be, feel free to drop me a message through our Contact Us page. 

That's all for now. Hope you all had a good Easter break and looking forward to the summer.

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Users drawing out their building at Empowering Design session

BPH our temporary home until Castle House opens  in early 2019

ASHRAE Global President Sheila Hayter presents to Region XIV CRC at Loughborough University

Leo Care presents on behalf of Empowering Design to CRBC delegates

Donated TGV at Doncaster Rail College Maintenance Depot

Mariaanna Kopsida demonstrated Tekla advances in AR, VR and MR technologies at Think BIM

Egan Report:
20 year anniversary in 2018

VIDEO : CRBC Agile process

CIBSE Symposium

CE Excellence Metal Health Awareness Week

ASHRAE - BIM Conference
ASHRAE in Europe
Agile Antics Presentation
Health and Well-being Home
Housing White Paper 2017
CIBSE/ASHRAE Symposium 2017