Building CIBSE for future challenges

Promoting CIBSE’s growing role as a learned society — the institution’s new president Professor John Swaffield.
CIBSE’s new president believes it is time for the institution to position itself as the leading authority on the built environment.The new president of the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers, Professor John Swaffield, is an academic rather than a practising engineer. He leads the School of the Built Environment and the Drainage Research Group at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. As an academic his perspective is different from that of engineers involved in consultancy and contracting, and a key thread of his presidential address was the importance of CIBSE improving its performance as a learned society to enable it to move into a position to become the natural forum for partner groups sharing its commitment to improving the built and sustainable environment. Prof. Swaffield says in his presidential address,* ‘If CIBSE is to become the recognised professional institution dealing with both the carbon and water aspects of climate-change response, we need to enhance our research involvement so that our input to the design process and our contribution to legislation and policy is based on research-based foundations.’ He sees CIBSE having a potentially central role in linking the building-services industry, national and local government, and dedicated research providers to deliver the research needed to take forward innovative solutions. He explains, ‘Traditionally, research funded by the Government through the research councils has evolved from submissions made by university staff for particular funding. CIBSE has not in the past been overactive in this area and has therefore not benefited fully from the outputs from EPSRC [Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council] research. His vision is that CIBSE can act as a vehicle to connect the proposing researcher with those in industry that could both support a successful application and benefit from its outcomes. By this means, CIBSE’s access to research findings and the quality of its publications would be enhanced. ‘It would also raise CIBSE’s profile as a stakeholder in the research arena and lead to improved interaction with the research councils and other funders of research relevant to the built and sustainable environment.’ Prof. Swaffield explains, ‘Currently, a more common and favoured mode of operation is for the research council to call for proposals to address a particular topic or range of topics chosen by the research council in consultation with key stakeholders. Again, CIBSE has a potentially central role in disseminating these calls and interpreting their content so that both industry and academia can be made aware of the possibilities for research funding.’ CIBSE already has capabilities in both these modes of operation, but he wants to see them further developed. ‘The appointment of a technical director has allowed CIBSE to become very active in these areas, and we need to enhance this capability and ensure that stakeholders are aware of CIBSE’s capability to link organisations and to help make the vital connections necessary to generate award-winning consortia.’ While praising CIBSE’s historic emphasis on providing design guidance, he argues, ‘There is also a need to disseminate research and to fulfil the charter’s stipulations that we do more to deliver the services expected of a learned society.’ John Swaffield believes that his proposals for enhanced interaction with the research councils in defining the research needed to mitigate climate change will contribute to CIBSE’s learned-society status and improve the level of material available for supporting the design publications. CIBSE publishes two research journals — Building Services Engineering Research & Technology and Lighting Research & Technology. In the last year, both have achieved major recognition though their inclusion in the Citation Index, reflecting the high quality of the papers submitted to them over the 3-year scrutiny period that precedes acceptance onto the Citation Index. Inclusion in the Citation Index confirms the status of research in building-services engineering and, more importantly, will underpin the continuation of relevant academic activity in universities in the UK and elsewhere — notably Hong Kong. He says, ‘No vice chancellor will champion an activity that is not rated by the research assessment exercise, and hence the institution has a vested interest in providing a publication route. ‘It is an excellent result that in future both these journals will be available online to all 19 000 CIBSE members, thus making it an attractive publication route to academics in our discipline and providing a further means of stakeholder identification and interaction to support our research efforts.’ Aside from stimulating research and disseminating its results, John Swaffield sees CIBSE’s role as a learned society as including the responsibility to provide a forum for all partner groups with an interest in the preservation and development of a built and sustainable environment. ‘This is a longer-term aspiration worth pursuing vigorously,’ he asserts. ‘CIBSE is well placed to undertake this role due to its current structure that allows groups to develop into societies within the institution. ‘We should encourage this diversity, while at the same time recognising that it may well bring a need for internal scrutiny. I believe that we should project our institution as the home for all those engineers and built-environment professionals concerned with the issues facing our discipline. That CIBSE is ready for such a role is, he believes, demonstrated by the way it maintained its own position in the recent carbon initiative and was not overwhelmed by the presence of other providers. ‘Indeed, we may rightly claim to be a centre for innovation and alternative approaches — bypassing other long-established monopolies.’ --possibly the best quote.. “If CIBSE is to become the recognised professional institution dealing with both the carbon and water aspects of climate-change response, we need to enhance our research involvement so that our input to the design process and our contribution to legislation and policy is based on research-based foundations”
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