Moving into a new era

A lot of water has passed under the bridge since the then president of the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers, Terry Wyatt, in a landmark presidential address warned the building-services industry that it had no long-term future unless it responded quickly to the pressure for change. It was just three years ago in 2003 that Terry Wyatt warned that the traditional work of calculations, sizing, positioning and co-ordination, specification, costing, manufacturing and the construction and fitting out of a building was shrinking. His view was that either side of that traditional work were the opportunities for the future — the briefing, footprint design, concepts and budgets for the building at the start of the project programme and operation and maintenance work to keep the building functioning well into the future. Against that background, the address of David Hughes, CIBSE’s new president, shows just how far we have gone. The driving forces have been legislation to replace fossil fuels as an energy source and to reduce the carbon footprint of buildings through the medium of the Building Regulations. As David Hughes says, the new targets for buildings require innovative and not easy solutions. Rote methods will no longer be adequate to comply with the requirements of the Building Regulations. More innovation and clear thinking is required. The necessary skills and expertise certainly exist, but not among Building Control Officers. Not only has CIBSE been instrumental in developing the new legislative framework within which its members operate, but the institution has been steadily working towards making them arbiters of the new standards. CIBSE must be applauded for developing strategies to build up a register of 3000 trained engineers who are competent to carry out low-carbon design and operation of buildings. Those registered engineers do not have to be CIBSE members, but it likely that very many will and that they will make up a high proportion of CIBSE’s 17 000-plus members. The CIBSE vision is both wide and long. Engineers on the low-carbon register will be able to assure Building Control Officers that their own plans fully meet the provisions of Part L. Not only will they be able to sign off their own work, but also that of others. Looking further ahead, registered engineers will be expected to go beyond regulation in reducing the carbon footprint of buildings. We do not expect the pace of change to slow down, so keeping ahead of regulations will be an ongoing process. The future surely belongs to innovative engineers who can not just keep up with the pace of change but also set it.

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