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Construction must focus on outcomes to achieve targets, hears CIBSE Symposium

The building services industry needs to give more attention to what it is trying to achieve, and how to manage people, projects and processes to deliver buildings that perform as the clients require, said Richard Rooley, speaking on the second day of the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) Technical Symposium.

The former ASHRAE President challenged delegates at the second day of the annual Symposium, held at Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University, to learn from research into Chaos Theory in order to prevent the failures of communication that cause projects to end late, off specification and unable to perform as the clients want and expect.

Citing the Teambuild competition as inspiration, Richard reminded delegates that construction isn’t a linear process, and suggested that current ways of working do not allow for the necessary exchange of ideas between stakeholders in the building process. In order to avoid current issues with underperforming buildings, we must create models which allow proper collaboration and information sharing between stakeholders and outside influences, rather than rely on a linear model which discourages dialogue.

We must focus less on strict processes and more on the product – making sure to analyse the consequences of decisions made during the project and how these affect the finished building, with the input of all stakeholders, rather than allowing these changes to derail the project from its original targets.

Richard’s presentation joined a number of others throughout the day which urged a focus on positive outcomes, rather than merely working towards sustainability for compliance’s sake. This theme was carried on by former CIBSE President George Adams, who stressed that the outcome should be buildings that perform, use resources efficiently and are also flexible enough to last for decades, and not have a mere 30 year shelf-life.

Focusing on the opportunities and responsibilities facing engineers, the second day of the Symposium featured over 20 sessions on how to optimise buildings to perform at their best; including a session on retrofitting by Alexander Zhivov, the effect of workplace design on well-being by Gary Middlehurst of Reading University, and the use of heat pipes for enhanced dehumidification by Richard Meskimmon.

Nick Mead, President of CIBSE, said: “Today’s sessions presented an exciting and intriguing range of solutions to everyday problems in building services, and serve as a reminder that building performance isn’t all about new technology – it’s also about the way we work.

“We have a chance now to connect the dots and engage in real collaborative work that encourages dialogue and problem solving during projects to create the best performing building for a client, but we need to break out of the siloed mind-set that inhibits collaboration, and ensures nobody gets what they want.”

As well as the sessions listed, the Symposium also included the following highlights:

·         Phil Jones of CIBSE gave a presentation on the opportunities surrounding surface water source heat pumps, and provided an introduction to the new CIBSE/HPA/GSHPA Code of Practice on the technology.

·         Stuart Allison, Joshua Bird and Alper Ozmumcu of Arup presented an assessment of the carbon performance of gas fired CHP led district heating over its entire lifetime, comparing it with other low-carbon solutions such as ground source heat pumps.

·         Ove Mørke of Cenergia Energy Consultants presented a series of case studies on deep energy retrofit in Europe and the USA, demonstrating the importance of well-being by revealing that poor working conditions are one of the main reasons companies decide to retrofit buildings.

Selected papers from the Symposium are available to download from and you can follow day two live on Twitter through @CIBSE and #CIBSEsymposium