Autumn/Winter 2021/22

Sun Jan 02 2022 12:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

Autumn/Winter 2021/22

It's been a busy period since our last newsletter in August. The period has seen the closeout of more Building Performance Evaluations (BPE) on our ISG schools framework as part of our busiest trading year to date.

Building Performance Evaluations
After seven BPE completions, some common themes are beginning to emerge. We suspect they will be common to all of the new DfE PSBP schools as the important learning coming back from these studies continues. Like everyone else, schools are grappling with Covid19. The advice from the government (more released today) has been to ventilate as much as possible. Keep windows open. The abnormal ventilation conditions have skewed annual energy and comfort data. In the main, schools heating, energy is considerably higher than baseline targets. Some will be due to Covid, but there is a trend that suggests some is also due to other causes.

The specified requirement is for classrooms to achieve carbon dioxide levels of less than 1000 ppm at all occupied times. In the main, this is working well under auto control of in the new mechanical classroom ventilation control unit. The in-class controller display shows CO2 levels and temperatures for feedback to users. It has a user interface button to allow teachers to boost the ventilation when the room is warm or stuffy, and also an LED indicator light to tell teachers when to open the windows. A few problems are thrown up by the valuable BPE, first, not all teachers or FM teams are in place when the Contractor's training days are being rolled out. Schools recruitment can lead to big lags in FM and Teachers coming into the new buildings, meaning understanding on how to get the most from the new important features is lost over time. There needs to be a way to preserve training and hand it on to later recruits so classroom systems are operated optimally.

Then when as sometimes happened during Covid winter conditions, the heating in the room is struggled to get to temperature. Teachers went to the ventilation control to try to increase the room heating setpoint, thus disturbing the room ventilation set points, which unknown to them have no connection with heating. In the absence of the training, it's all hugely confusing for them.

Next in summer, when the in-classroom mechanical ventilation unit is no longer able to cool, this is when the LED indicator alerts teachers to open windows for added ventilation. However, because the constricted classroom window openings are Part F compliant and not really designed for bulk summer ventilation cooling, the windows are unable to ventilate the classroom as well as they need to. The result is the LED comes on, the teacher's open windows, but CO2 and temperatures are continuing to rise. The problem only happens on warm days, but it's still an issue leading to uncomfortable teaching periods. It carries added cost implications to overcome it, but this does not get away from the obvious design disconnect when warmer weather outside happens.

And while all of the above seems incidental, we expect it will be adding to the energy overrun issue. Included in training, FM teams learn how to maintain a dead band between heating in rooms and the cooling effect of fresh air systems in use. The feeling is more training continuity may be required to ensure FM teams continue to manage and preserve the energy-saving dead-band between optimal heating and cooling ventilation scenarios.

It's tempting to say its all in the building log book, but they never go there. It would be better if it could be accessed via a mobile phone at any time. The solution to the training issue would be for specifications to contractors that the heating and ventilation system should come with a link or QR code to a brief video showing them how all classroom systems work.

The problem is not just with heating and ventilation, it also happens with lighting. Teachers are expected to know how to scene set for various internal and external lighting conditions. With this there is a case for complete overhaul of the training requirements specifications to make training of users effective and continuously updatable in use. In the next few weeks, I expect to pull together a blog on just how useful the DfE BPE process is in informing improved existing and future schools operation in use, so look out for that.

University of Sheffield COVID 19 Research
Speaking of ventilation and Covid19, we are working with Dr. Abigail Hathway's team at the University of Sheffield and the Sheffield City Council Public Health team on a Covid19 research project to understand ventilation impacts on Covid19 transmission across live venues in Sheffield. We are about a quarter of the way through the project now. Researchers have left logging CO2 sensors in several venues to see how the air quality in each varies over the measurement period.

The process is already pointing to some interesting findings in helping Sheffield Public Health to target messaging and resources. It would be wrong to say too much more ahead of the report. Watch out for that in the Spring of 2022.

Upcoming Webinar
Speaking of healthy buildings. a brief mention for this year's Elemental webinar in the Spring. I will be speaking on the topic of Creating and Maintaining Healthy Buildings. It all happens at 10.30 am on 24th February 2022. It's a topic related to some of the research coming out of our Sheffield Covid ventilation work and our school Building Performance Evaluation. Also, the knowledge gained as a WELL AP and the WELL Health Safety Seal.
It also follows my webinar slot back in October 2021 at the Health Executives Facilities Managers Association conference. Links to it are provided below.

Ollio is Constructing Excellence Winner
November saw us retain our Constructing Excellence Yorkshire and Humber Awards in the Innovation category. I was pleased to win again this year with a completely different innovation (Evolutionary Algorithms) to the one we won last year (Agile in Buildings). Innovation is the bedrock of what we do, in being obsessive about customer outcomes.
I am looking forward to the end of January when the National Awards take place.

More UKRI Research
In 2022, there are a few exciting things on the horizon. Fitting in around a bustling workload, we are mid-preparations for a funding bid to UKRI and the Arts and Humanities Research Council to extend the research into Agile in Buildings. Up to £200,000 is available to fund an architectural researcher to develop the connectivity of Agile into Architecture and Building Services. The key objective will be to create an application that connects the development of the brief of a project with the operation and ownership of the built fabric and systems. And to do this with more reliability and certainty that the planned operation at the outset is closer to the actual function in use. More on this later.

Community Energy Trusts
Next, which has some connectivity to our UKRI research, is connecting to a funding stream that allows us to work with our third faith sector clients to set up community energy trusts. As an aside, I become the Diocesan Heating Advisor for the Church of England Sheffield Diocese. The Church General Synod passed a motion to be zero carbon in all operations by 2030. Our faith clients, Mike Green at Cemetery Road Baptist Church, have lots of land, roofs, and connectivity to volunteers on the ground. All are willing participants in the drive to act on climate change. What they don't have much of is funding. However, many organisations will now be wondering how to get the offsets they need to get to zero carbon and have budgets set aside to do it. The research with Mike, CRBC, and some of our other CoE church clients will explore the financial case to set up a not-for-profit business or co-operative around a faith model that could channel funds from business into local communities as a means to mutually drive down carbon for both.

Part of the problem is government resistance to Community Energy Trusts being allowed to use the National Grid at reasonable costs. The Electricity Bill going through parliament would assist this enormously, but as I say, Ofgem or the National Grid are not happy with the idea. It's still doable now, but the economics could be more attractive with the Bill passed. We will know the fate of the Bill later in 2022.

Nottingham City Council
We have been working with a panel of advisors and the Nottingham City council to develop a zero-carbon planning guide for homes. An informal guide is already online titled "The Reduction of Carbon in New Residential and Commercial Development", search it out on Google. It is an informal guide as it is Government policy that the National Planning Policy Framework still takes precedence. And with the new Part L not active till later this year and the Future Homes Standard not operational until 2025, all of this will come too late for a city with a target Nottingham by 2028. The document's core will see NCC ask for an Energy and carbon reduction statement with all Planning Applications. It is a shame that central government policy is still not aligned with the enthusiasm and capability of some of our local authorities.
Nevertheless, the guide is out there. It's not perfect, and it has by necessity had to work within current development and planning constraints. It's a start that can be built upon as the pressure for zero builts in the wake of COP 26 and the yearly COPs that will follow, all of which will be expected to ratchet the need for radical change over the next half-decade.
That's as much as I have for now. I wish all of our great customers and friends a happy and safe new year. Hopefully, this year sees us transition successfully to a more mindful, purposeful, and climate aware future. Stay safe.

Elemental Webinar Link