Spring/Summer 2021

Sun Sep 05 2021 19:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

Spring/Summer 2021

It's been a while since our last news column, and there is such a lot to report from the first eight months of 2021. Where to start?

Covid 19 Mitigation of Long-Range Risks
The pandemic is still lingering. Most of us are double jabbed; the UK government has cut loose and relaxed most of the last year and a half restrictions. If there is still any regulation in place, it has defaulted back to the law of the land, particularly in the Health and Safety at Work Act and the Factories Act. These statutes impose a duty of care on business owners and employers to keep staff and patrons safe while on their premises. Enforcement also falls back from the national level to Local Authority Environmental Health Officer teams. In keeping with this responsibility, we are currently working with the University of Sheffield and Sheffield City Council to develop some technical guidance for the EHO teams to inspect known hot spot venues in the City.

We have drawn heavily on the work of CIBSE and ASHRAE and the fantastic Dr Shelley Miller at Colorado University [1] [See internet links below]. All have been hard at work developing the guidance to help business owners open back up safely and to undertake the necessary ventilation risk assessments. There is a duty of care to ensure they are doing as much as possible to keep employees and patrons safe from long-range transmission. Keeping people well apart from each other and wearing masks deals with short-range transmission, and copious ventilation helps to mitigate the long-range transmission. Having been through it in detail, it's tricky and certainly worth involving a professional to provide some advice on optimising what you have and plan to incorporate what might need to happen to improve things further.

For those businesses who want to prove that they are doing all they can, it might be worth looking at the WELL Build Health Safety Seal [2]. It's an online certification system that provides actions to be done. Then through desktop and photographic evidence, an independent audit is conducted by the WELL team that leads to a certificate and a visible seal that can be placed on shopfront doors and windows to alert customers and employees to the measures taken to keep them safe. Worth a look, and do get in touch if you want to know more.

ASHRAE Decarbonisation
The mention of ASHRAE reminds me that we are just coming up to the ASHRAE Region XIV Europe Chapters Regional Council. This is a week-long event where all of the member chapters in Europe come together to set the strategy for the next two years. Members from Spain, Portugal, Greece, Danube, Israel, Turkey, Belgium, Ireland and the UK, all building services engineers, all volunteers, all working together to improve the science and practice of building services across the Society membership.
The following two years will be critical for the profession and the world at large. Climate change is now knocking on all of our doors and is still looking for answers. COP 26 in November needs to be a turning point. Replicating the great work of the Covid19 Task Force, ASHRAE has pulled together all of its best talents from around the globe to develop a Building Decarbonisation Task Force.

ASHRAE's Task Force for Building Decarbonisation (TFBD) [3] was formed in Spring 2021 by President Chuck Gulledge and President-Elect Mick Schwedler. Jurisdictions globally are confronting climate change and recognising that building decarbonisation is an essential component in their efforts. The worldwide building sector accounts for about 40% of energy-related carbon emissions, and buildings remain a significant sector lacking sufficient mitigation policies. As the standards authority for energy usage in buildings in the US and a good portion of the globe, ASHRAE recognises it must expand its activities to embrace urgent building decarbonisation. It's an initiative that I will be sure to contribute to and report on updates here.

Building Performance Network (BPN) [4]
Another important initiative has been the proposed development of a new British Standard for Post Occupancy Evaluations. BS 40101 [5] is out for consultation at the moment, closing on 10th September.
The BPN realises that an influential building performance evaluation industry requires standardised methodologies, techniques and equipment. In response, the BPN has now received funding to support the development of a British Standard for Building Performance Evaluation. Ollio were able to respond to the call for consultation comments on the new draft standard.

Essentially we were disappointed that the standard has not included a means to allow clients to customise the brief for a POE to suit a bespoke project requirement. The new BS follows the largely failed RIBA POE Primer. The Primer has three formats of POE, namely Short, Medium and Long. Clients have voted with their pockets, and we don't see much call for RIBA format from our clients. This is why I was surprised that BPN did not adopt the BREEAM POE format or something close to it as a core yet customisable service. I would also like the new BS to have an approach similar to the ASHRAE Performance Measurements Protocols (PMP- available from ASHRAE Bookshop). The PMP format creates a menu that allows the client to select the features to be included in the PMP, keeping with the value that will be extracted for the level of fee to be paid. More details about it and other BPE methodologies that BPN could have looked at are in my presentation [6] that I gave some years ago. It will be interesting to see how the consultation informs the debate and the new standard all pans out.

Community Energy Trusts
We have been collaborating once again with Mike Green at the Cemetery Road Baptist Church. It's not gone unnoticed that churches and religious communities are not alone in needing to prepare for the oncoming tsunami of boiler conversions and electricity supply decarbonisation as they move into the next decade and beyond. Where is the funding coming from for all of the necessary investment in the new heating plant? In addition, much of the Church estate is heritage listed which reduces further the options for upgrades to the building fabric.

Looking at the positives, churches have benevolent communities that care deeply about the church's future and the planet. There is an opportunity to join the community with business organisations that will also be looking for ways to decarbonise through offsetting. The churches problem is a big offsetting problem waiting to be harnessed. We are mightily impressed by a new Community Energy Company called Ripple [7]. They have been crowdsourcing the funding to build wind turbines for homeowners, allowing the homeowner to invest in the turbine's cost, then take advantage o the power generated through lower electricity bills. The investments are feasible and will provide a return, but they could be better. Better would come if parliament passed The Electricity Bill [8]going through parliament as we write. The Bill is at its second reading stage with the support of 257MPs. If you haven't already, it's a good idea to check that your MP supports it and lobby them to push it through to accession in the next parliamentary year. It's a vital instrument to allow community energy trusts to buy and sell electricity on the open market at wholesale market prices, which can be half retail prices. This will make the investment in renewables so much more profitable, thus releasing capital for further investment in more renewables and strengthening the business case for CETs.

The other great thing about CETs is that they involve local people in doing great things on behalf of the environment and the planet. Building membership also benefits educating the community in the things that matter, like having efficient homes, reducing plastic, recycling, and taking up grants to improve home and energy efficiency. Working with a group of students from Sheffield Hallam, it was clear from surveys that most of the public have no idea how they will decarbonise or even where to start. CETs could help with this. Mike Green involved another team of Architectural students at the University of Sheffield in developing ways to get the message out there. There were a collection of 10 ideas that included the plans and marketing information for an Energy Café. In this place, people can meet to receive news in a relaxed setting. The team also designed a touring display stand called the Porter Mobile (see photo); after the Porter Brook, the local brook runs through southwest Sheffield.

Currently, we are looking for funding to set a business case for the set-up and administration of the CET. We have some excellent discussions happening at the moment on this, but if anyone thinks they might help with funding, do get in touch with me.

UKRI Scholars Design & Architecture Workshop / CIBSE Symposium 2021 [9]
Two weeks ago, I attended a UKRO workshop on education for architects and designers in UK universities. It's a subject close to my own heart, given that I have been teaching the zero energy design module to Architectural Engineering students at the University of Sheffield. Additionally, judging the Constructing Excellence awards gives me an insight into what other practices are doing regarding zero energy, zero carbon design. Despite the climate emergency and the IPCC's latest code red for humanity, design in today's built environment is not much different from 20 years ago. Most practices are still doing the same old less bad stuff like BREEAM Very Good. Sorry to get on my soapbox once again, but LESS BAD is NOT GOOD ENOUGH. It's time to stop the less bad and start doing what is necessary for buildings to be zero, then for zero to mean zero at the meter. To do this means architects need to pay more attention to the massing and geometry of the building. It has to keep the sun out, let daylight in, allow the building to be naturally and effectively ventilated. Then present enough area to locate PV panels, and heat the building without burning fossil fuels. This requires new thinking and a new way but not necessarily a more expensive method of doing things. Incorporate thermal models that live with the building and help to reduce both energy and bills. Look around today at the sheer volume of building going on, a good proportion of it sub-specification, no chain of custody or responsibility for the product's performance. It's shocking to think of the built legacy we are leaving to future generations. We are in trouble. The world is burning, and so too is our industry. Somewhere somehow, someone needs to get a grip.

I, along with many people at Bricks in France, Petcem in Turkey and Agile Scrum enabled construction companies on the west coast of the US, are trying. I hope we can switch some of the larger contractors we are working with here to follow their example. Some might say the Construction Innovation Hub and the Value Toolkit will offer some hope. I think the jury is out on that one. Will, the Value Toolkit, get any more traction than Soft Landings did? I remain to be convinced. We need a methodology to help construction be more profitable and do things quicker and with more repeatability of the outcome. Until the industry gets better, it simply does not have the financial headroom to drive a zero carbon agenda, let alone embrace the delivery of cheaper, healthier even covid mitigating homes and other typologies of buildings. We simply need a better way to define value and control delivery so it's faster and more self-assured.

Agile Scrum delivers this, which is why it is the main focus of my paper delivered to the CIBSE Symposium 2021 back in April. Take a look at the 18-minute video [10] presentation to CIBSE to find out more. I will be reprising the paper with some additional content for the HEFMA virtual conference on 14th September. So check that one out if you can [11].

That's about it for now. I will try not to leave it so long to the next. Stay safe out there.

Links to all the above references are here. Copy and paste to your browser of choice.

1 Shelly Miller website: https://shellym80304.com/
2 Well Health Safety Seal: https://www.wellcertified.com/health-safety/
3 Ashrae Decarbonisation Task Force: https://www.ashrae.org/about/ashrae-task-force-for-building-decarbonization
4 Building Performance Network: https://building-performance.network/
5 British Standard 40101: https://shop.bsigroup.com/products/bs-40101-building-performance-evaluation-of-occupied-and-operational-buildings-specification?pid=000000000030431027&creative=538150419001&keyword=bs%2040101&matchtype=b&network=g&device=c&gclsrc=aw.ds&gclid=CjwKCAjwyvaJBhBpEiwA8d38vP5Xth-JmN5bIPwHyxt8HSOrNqraqTLBI5krGsqMoHeWVdS3DvduexoCIHIQAvD_BwE
6 Edward Murphy POE Presentation https://prezi.com/fzc7h6gtuke3/post-occupancy-who-cares/?present=1
7 Ripple Energy https://rippleenergy.com/?gclid=CjwKCAjwvuGJBhB1EiwACU1AiTYjyqtaU8t2BmkJNzNkB5_ASleBKK_i6vTZxI_cWwytHvMkyXdHdRoCrcEQAvD_BwE
8 UK Parliament Local Electricity Bill https://bills.parliament.uk/bills/2747
9 UKRI Innovation Scholars : Watch this space
10 CIBSE Symposium Presentation Video: https://www.dropbox.com/s/hjayy0ihpcp8arp/Paper-131.mp4?dl=0
11 HEFMA Virtual Series: https://www.hefma.co.uk/virtual-series