Delivering carbon-reduction targets
The industry has only 40 years left to reduce carbon emissions by 80%. Rob Manning, CIBSE’s new president, has been thinking deeply about how to deliver.
The chain of office had hardly been received by the president of the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers for 2010/11, Rob Manning, before he embarked on a presidential address* that looked forward to achieving the task of reducing the UK’s carbon emissions by 80% by 2050.
But this was not an address that concerned itself with technical issues.
Rather, it was an address that considered in depth how teamwork through all stages of project conception, delivery and subsequent operation will be vital to achieve low-energy buildings.
It was also an address that considered the need contracts to incentivise team behaviour rather than encourage adversarial behaviour.
A key part of meeting the 2050 target is the refurbishment of up to 18 million buildings by 2050. Rob Manning’s arithmetic put the rate at close to half a million a year for 40 years. Put into perspective, that is over 50 buildings an hour.
Rob Manning said, ‘It requires a scale of endeavour which is probably unparalleled in peacetime, and for which we are not prepared. The time and cost needed to turn these aspirations into reality is huge, and you can decide for yourselves if it’s going to happen through building improvement alone.
‘Much of the reduction has to come from greening of the energy supply, but we must be ready to undertake the refurbishment task where building owners require it, either because they are driven by simple economics or they are driven by legislation such as the Carbon Reduction Commitment.’
Meeting the challenge is both an opportunity for and the responsibility of CIBSE members. To quote:
• ‘Long-term building improvement is an opportunity for CIBSE members from all roles and disciplines’
• ‘We need to make carbon-reduction projects our own territory and not allow others to take our natural ground’
Rob Manning acknowledged the importance of all roles in projects teams in delivering our environmental aims — from concept stage, to production designers who develop information for contract use, to specialist contractors who produce drawings for building the fabric and installing engineering systems. The chain continues to the building being constructed and then to operational engineers who have to run and maintain it — not forgetting the essential stage of commissioning to deliver comfort and meet the predicted energy consumption.
As president, he urged CIBSE to promote the roles of client procurement, budget costing, concept design, production design, supply, construction, commissioning and operation as key contributors to delivering real environmental objectives through collaborative working. He wants CIBSE to take a leading role in publicity so that every person involved is recognised for their contribution and knows where they fit into the great plan of delivering sustainable buildings.
With so many buildings needing energy-saving refurbishment, Rob Manning explains that it essential to move away from a building-by-building basis in which every building is a prototype to developing a mass-market delivery model that also provides the operational information needed to deliver low-carbon buildings.
He says, ‘To move towards our 2050 target we need to offer the public a range of standard solutions which they can buy as they would buy any other product. It is a task that has barely started.’
He also points to building information management (BIM) as a tool to make possible the management of long-term information about building performance. Among the benefits are delivering real reductions in carbon-dioxide emissions, water use and energy use through collaborative working between designers, contractors and operators and by retaining clear environmental objectives throughout the building lifetime.
A serious impediment to delivering low-carbon buildings is current forms of contract. To quote Rob Manning, ‘We will not succeed with forms of contract which encourage adversarial behaviour as a means to commercial recovery from low pricing. We need contracts which require us to deliver an asset which meets the operational performance requirements, rather than just delivering a practical completion certificate. Contracts which encourage collaborative working are essential for sustainable buildings.’
His call to CIBSE is to engage with fellow institutions, trade associations, clients and business leaders to identify, enhance and promote the contract forms which offer incentives for the team to collaborate — not only to deliver on time, budget and build quality but also to meet the environmental requirements of the brief.
He also wants CIBSE to seek and promote contracts which make operational measurement of environmental performance an integral part of every project and for the information to be acted on by the designer and contractor for three years after handover — a philosophy embodied in the Soft Landings framework.
In summary, Rob Manning argues, ‘The industry will be much better placed to succeed in meeting its commercial, social and environmental objectives through a team approach enabled by collaborative contracts and appointments.
‘It will need to use new approaches to the design role. It will need to improve the use of building information management.
‘Above all, it needs the education, training and recognition of top-class people in all design, costing, construction and operational roles.’