Autumn/Winter 2017

Tue Dec 19 2017 00:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

Autumn/Winter 2017

As we come up to the end of 2017 and our second birthday, it seems a good time to review the significant progress made these last few months. 

Agile limbering up

I suppose Ollio News would not be complete without a word first of all on where we have got to with the development of Agile Methods. 

Probably because of Brexit uncertainty, perhaps a bit of good old construction industry conservatism, whatever, I have to be honest in saying we are finding the opportunities to secure the inclusion of Agile for Buildings into new build projects continues to be difficult going.

Besides there being a general slowdown and deferral in planned project starts, there is also evidence from market testing that we might need to come at the reticence problem from another angle. Taking account of this, we have changed things around.  I am much happier with the new approach involving a larger team of collaborators.  We are definitely on to something, and the Agile Methods rationale for use is a lot more coherent for a better-targeted market sector with which to begin the rollout of trials in 2018.

In hindsight,  the main observations from two years of development have been just how entrenched the construction industry is in wanting to stick to "what it knows" best, and just how resistant it is to anything that looks like a change to the status quo.  That's not a moan; it is in its purest form just a statement of fact that we need to tackle head-on.

All of this seems counter-intuitive when one observes the number of column inches devoted to how the badly the industry is failing to deliver quality to customers. Change is needed. Yet no one seems any the wiser on how we should begin to improve things. The Egan Report "Rethinking Construction" will be 20 years old next year. Have we changed much in that time? No, I hear you say, and so I rest my case.  The Farmer Review last year titled "Modernise or Die" was a call to arms.  However, if the pace of progress since Egan is anything to go by, I don't suppose Farmer's refrain will cut much ice, seeing as R&D, learning and development, or customer care has never seemed high on the industry's priority list up to now. 

Maybe this is because, despite all of the criticisms on the comparable state of the industry to the super efficient customer savvy digital technology, aeronautics, or automotive industries, most of what gets built in construction is a product that most global investors are still more than happy to put their trillions of dollars into. No complaints whatsoever here so all is okay. 

And so this is where the problem lies for the beleaguered end user.   Buildings are built to create assets for the financial markets.  If coincidentally the people who use them every day also happen to like them, well that's a bonus for the markets in terms of more security of yield.

It's this conundrum for the user, which has tasked us with looking at Agile for Buildings as a "user-centric building design quality control" tool.   We know most of the problems for users originate not in the quality of the construction, but in the clarity of the thinking and information management processes that occurred in the early stages of the design process.  A time when decisions were taken to build the designer's and developer's version of the building, rather than user's or the client's version.

If end users or anybody for that matter, wants to disrupt the highly conservative, risk-averse, PRINCE2 loving, un-value engineered, commodity generating aspects of the property,  they need to prioritise one thing.  Clients need to interrupt and closely police the quality of the design process from its earliest days.  End users of buildings should seek to limit the "asset generating compunction" from gaining the upper hand in the balance of where the quality and cost lands.  So if you haven't already had a look at Agile for Buildings, you might want to look again. It really can help unlock the value that you the user or the designer are looking for. First, you have to believe you want to start from a position of wanting the highest quality at an affordable cost, and that quality is best defined by those who will use the product.  In the knowledge that the lowest cost version is just a race to the bottom for all of us.  Also look out for my new blog piece coming soon with more on this and why it is so important.

If you want to be a trailblazer in Agile Methods  to improve user outcomes in construction and you want to join our small assembled team to help you achieve a user-centric outcome for buildings with better business outcomes, do get in touch.

Are Modellers Literate?

Some of you may have seen the storm caused by the Daily Telegraph article which likened the energy performance gap in buildings to that of the VW emissions scandal. Link here . The article puts the blame for the failure of buildings to use energy as predicted, squarely on the shoulders of the energy simulation and modelling community which was said to be "not fit for purpose."

The article was based on the work of researchers at Bath University, who on the face of it, may well have been equally as surprised at how their paper was interpreted, in this rather tabloid piece of Telegraph reporting. 

However, putting the whys and wherefores of the performance gap to one side (which it has to be said is more complex than can be explained by an errant model or modellers alone), the article does prompt some pertinent questions around the lack of standardisation of dynamic simulation modelling methodologies, or uniformity of the education of its practitioners.  It also asks questions of the standardisation between software packages, of how each of the vendor's software applications handles the building geometry of buildings differently, with different standards of input data and of presentation of output results. All questions for the software vendors, universities, and the technical institutions to gather around.

To kick things off, I helped the England Chapter of the international Building Simulation and Performance Association (IBPSA England) to publish an open letter to the academic journal BSERT, who originally published the Bath paper in question.  The intention to put our points into the public domain of researchers and suggested that a conference of all interested parties be held to begin the work needed to discuss and frame the issue of energy and carbon dynamic simulation consistency of approach.  

We still await a response. A copy of the open letter to BSERT is here.

Is there a DEC in da' House?

I know, I know, I keep banging on about it, and to be honest, it's going to be pretty hard to stop me.  In the arena of education for the real world, there is nothing like the Design Engineer Construct curriculum anywhere. To have Alison Watson and ClassofYourOwn (COYO) as a shining light and advocate of the great careers in our industry is something we should be celebrating. COYO is nearly nine years old now. The stuff the industry needs to do to secure its future should be second nature by now. The construction industry should have taken COYO and DEC to its heart and be running with it by now, without the constant need for badgering and cajoling to have it embedded it in the industry's DNA.

In all of this, there are exceptions and my old employers Mott MacDonald, and notably, Keith Howells and David Webster stand out. 

Last month, I was invited as a guest of  ClassofYourOwn down to the Houses of Parliment for an event hosted by Lord Knight of Weymouth. The event was arranged to celebrate the achievements of the COYO. The opening keynote speech given by Lord Desai, was followed by a most eloquent speech from Keith Howells on the importance of engineering and engineers in society. "Look around you," he said, "everything from the stability of our buildings, lighting, heating, water, drainage, communications, rail, bridges, oil, gas, roads, none of it could exist without the knowledge of a degree qualified engineer somewhere behind it".  It is an absolute imperative for the wellbeing of our economy and our civilisations that we encourage the very finest of our talented young people to be informed of the immensely satisfying opportunities engineering in construction provides for a lifelong career. 

As it turned out, Keith's words were just the preamble. He was followed by an array young men and women, each a DEC graduate, who only blew the audience of 200 away with their maturity, knowledge of subject, confidence, and enthusiasm for the built environment. Speaking as a professional who has been a part of this legacy building, passing on my skills to kickstart a future generation, I know there is nothing better that I will ever do in my career that will be more important.  Suffice to say, if you're an architectural or built environment practice or contractor who has not got at least one of these schools in your talent supply chain, you are seriously missing out.  Check them out here. Soapbox away! 

An ASHRAE of light

ASHRAE in the UK continues to grow from strength to strength. In October we received a visit from Bjarne Olesen the new Global president of ASHRAE, and the first European to hold the post since Richard Rooley held the post in 2002/2003. Bjarne, a Dane and a protege of Olf Fanger is up there with the most academically and technically distinguished Presidents in the history of the Society.  He continues the ethos towards modernisation of the Society to meet the challenges of a changing world, as well as extending the reach of ASHRAE beyond its traditional heartland of the United States. 

Earlier this year I was privileged to be involved in the formation of the UK Midlands Chapter.  The first Chapter in the UK since the establishment of ASHRAE in 1959. This was quickly followed by the creation of the UK London and South East, UK Northern, and last but not least Ireland Chapter to become part of the new European Region, bringing under one umbrella practising mechanical building services professionals across the continent. The first European Chapter Regional Conference was held in Belgrade last week where members from the US and Europe came together to do the heavy strategy lifting and planning for the European Regions continued rollout.  The opportunities created by these new alliances are nothing short of immense. 

This is not to say that those of us who are also CIBSE members are now turning our backs on it. Nothing could be further from the truth. I find my membership of both professional organisations provides me with double the value to my career, and to my clients. It's not a case of which one, its a case of doubling up the value and the knowledge that you can bring to the table from networks that span both local and global spectra. Which has become even more important in an information age where the world is shrinking every day.

To put words into action, I am in conversation with CIBSE Yorkshire Chair Simon Owen and YEN Rep Paul Binns to look at what we might do to set up a joint  CIBSE/ASHRAE Yorkshire Student Group. Any interested students or lead academics out there in the region, do get in touch with me via the contact details on this site. 

To join ASHRAE click the link here .

That's it for now. It just remains to wish all of Ollio supporters and clients a Happy Christmas and Prosperous New Year.  Take care, be safe. - Eddie