The first insights from H&V News’ spring summit includes discussions on the role of updated standards and better monitoring to make buildings safer, more efficient and ultimately nicer to be in

The full video of the H&V News 2022 Better Buildings Summit can now be watched online.

The overall theme of the full day event, which took place on 29 March, considered how industry can move towards delivering holistic improvements in our buildings with regards to providing more efficient cleaner heat, along with high levels of safety, air quality and wellness for occupants.

You can watch the whole summit in the player below.

Peter Rankin, head of energy and environmental standards at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, opened the event with a keynote presentation about the significant effort needed from industry to meet new standards for IAQ, ventilation and energy efficiency.

Mr Rankin said that the uplift in the Building Regulations that comes into effect from June for new buildings seeks to curb carbon emissions from new build homes by 75 per cent of current levels. This will be followed by the Future Homes Standard in 2025.

A fundamental principle of the Future Homes Standard is to create ‘net zero’ homes that will not require any significant retrofit work to have fully reduced or offset carbon emissions by 2050.

Mr Rankin added that this would have a particular impact on the HVAC sector and the types of technologies being used in properties.

He said, “Heat pumps will be far, far more common in new build. In fact, we expect them to be the most common route to compliance for new build properties and effectively see the end of gas connections [for new homes] from 2025.

The amendments would be “mirrored” by sister regulations in the form of the Future Buildings Standard that will apply to non-domestic buildings over a similar timeframe, Mr Rankin added.

Responding to a question from the summit audience, Mr Rankin noted that UK government was now actively considering the merits and value of potentially introducing minimum standards for embodied carbon.

Watch the full session below

The value of data

Among the day’s other sessions was a panel discussion on the operational value of data and monitoring building systems. This looked specifically at how best to have different building systems more effectively responding to each other.

Anni Folan-White, a partner and building services engineer at Ingleton Wood, said there a prevailing view in industry that data monitoring was a costly hindrance, as opposed to being a vital aspect of moving to safer and more efficient buildings.

She was joined on the panel by Fiona Hughes, principal consultant for Element Energy, who noted that financial drivers focused on sustainability were expected to see much greater scrutiny and interest in suing monitoring systems to guarantee building performance.

She said, “There will be new funding parties suddenly interested in seeing operational data and understanding the emissions from a building before they are prepared to invest in it.”

“So I think that will be quite a shift that we are just really starting to see going forward. People who haven’t been interested in these sort of things before are going to start taking an interest.

Graeme Rees, president of the Building Controls Industry Association (BCIA), argued that building controls were too often being introduced at the tail end of a project, rather than at the critical design stage.

This more rushed approach was too often resulting from major mistakes in understanding the full life needs of a building and occupants, he said.

Mr Rees added that the challenges for better monitoring and building controls were less about the availability of technology and more in understanding the value and worth of controls for better buildings.

He said, “A lot of the technology is now quite mature, it’s relatively inexpensive and it’s more a case of that value proposition being understood.”

“You put this equipment in. There is a value over the entire lifecycle of a building that keeps delivering. And to those questions about ‘do we need this?’  Well if we didn’t put an electricity meter in.  Would clients just be happy to receive a bill and take it as read that’s what they have used?”

You can watch the full session below

The overarching theme of creating better buildings at the summit included a focus on fire safety and how the industry was looking to implement positive changes as a result of the Grenfell Tower Fire in 2017 and the ongoing inquiry into the disaster.

Rebeca Crosland, head of health and safety for industry body BESA, said she hoped to see a wider culture change to safety that would encourage a more collaborative approach to responsibility and information sharing between building engineers, designers and the construction sector.

She said, “We’ve got to look at collaborating in the industry. So basically, if you’re going to go into the fabric of a building for any reason whatsoever, everybody needs to know about that. Every individual that is responsible for that building.”

The creation of an updated, readily available and thorough safety file for each building was an example of the level of change needed for current and future buildings, Ms Crosland argued.

She said, “Years ago as a consultant, when I went round to do my health and safety inspections, I’d always be given this big shiny ‘fire file’.  It had all the different things in it regarding fire; any dangerous areas for the fire brigade;  Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEPS) for people that needed that help, and that has all disappeared.”

“Some buildings still have them – high risks buildings of course still have them – but for the general building that is not done anymore, and I think that is one of the failings here.”

A better means of assigning accountability for duty holders working on a building and its systems was seen as being in vital need for improving building and safety, said Ms Crosland.

Adam Eaton, technical director of construction engineering group Hydrock, said efforts were underway across the industry to look at introducing digital platforms that can securely hold and then give access to data on all changes and work undertaken on a building across its total life.

These systems are being designed to address a need for a so-called ‘Golden Thread’ of information called for by Dame Judith Hackitt in response to the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety that she oversaw and published in 2018.

Mr Eaton argued that some form of digital solution, ideally built to some form of consistent standard to ensure widespread industry uptake and support, was arguably best suited to creating a consistent and transparent Golden Thread.

He said, “Say for example, thinking of HVAC, there are some building services changes in that building, so we need to puncture a fire wall. If the HVAC team haven’t been shared the original documents from that Golden Thread, they don’t know how the fire strategy of that building is supposed to operate.”

“How then are they supposed to get it right when they are actually doing that work?”

You can watch the full session below


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