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The origins of CIBSE can be traced back to 1896 when a few members of what was then the Institute of Sanitary Engineers became more interested in hot water distribution (heating) rather than cold water discharge (sanitation).

Around September 1897 a number of engineers decided to share their knowledge and formed a professional institution with the aim of improving the comfort of mankind. They would do this by openly discussing topics of uncertainty, by sharing professional knowledge and by spreading this knowledge through publications and lectures. They would train others to follow the best practices and examine them to ensure competence.

There were about 20 who agreed to form initially a board of directors (which was in effect a company) but around the time of Queen Victoria 's Diamond Jubilee it was quickly and more respectfully reorganised into the Institution of Heating and Ventilation Engineers. Its first office opened in Ludgate Hill.