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German lessons should inspire UK net zero action

The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) has urged the UK government to follow the example of Germany, which has announced plans to spend €177.5bn on climate action, including €56bn on a huge programme of building renovations.  Germany’s Climate and Transformation Fund aims to reduce the 30% of the country’s total

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Safety checklist launched to help firms cope with new laws

A checklist of key actions has been published to help building owners and operators prepare for the radical health and safety changes contained in the Building Safety Act.  New legislation, which came into force last month, is set to transform the current culture across construction and introduce the most dramatic

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BESA celebrates women pioneers and innovators

The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) marked this year’s International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) by celebrating the important role played by women in the past, present and future of building services.  It featured a series of ‘guest blogs’ during the week of the 9th annual INWED that reflected the

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BESA and BSRIA refrigerant guide published ‘at crucial time’

The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) has joined forces with the sector’s leading research body BSRIA to produce a comprehensive free guide for the use of refrigerant gases in building services.  The new publication has been written by BESA’s head of technical Graeme Fox and is available now for free

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BESA welcomes flexible thinking in net zero ‘playbook’

The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) has welcomed new guidance from the Cabinet Office aimed at decarbonising the UK’s largest property estate. In its ‘Net Zero Estate Playbook’, the government has set out advice for public sector organisations and procurers about how they can substantially lower their carbon footprint in

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Skills crunch keeping contractors awake at night

Rising costs and a shortage of skilled people are giving building services contractors sleepless nights, according to a new business survey. Members of the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) said they were facing “major challenges” due to a combination of rising labour and material costs, growing lead times, shortage of

Read More »

BESA backs unions’ demand for ventilation in schools

The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) has put its weight behind a call from six trade unions to take urgent action over ventilation in schools. In a letter to the Education Secretary, the unions have warned that there will be a steep rise in Covid-19 cases when children return to

Read More »

Vallance only getting part of the ventilation picture

A report commissioned by the government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance has highlighted the crucial role played by building ventilation in reducing the risk of Covid-19 and other infections, but it misses some crucial practicalities, according to the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA). The report, which was produced by the National Engineering Policy Centre (NEPC)

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BESA guidance opens door to air quality ‘safe havens’

The removal of most Covid restrictions in the UK has increased calls for clearer practical guidance and the setting of specific indoor air quality (IAQ) contaminant targets to support the health and wellbeing of building occupants. The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) has, therefore, produced a concise guide to good

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Trade bodies call for caution after ‘Freedom Day’

Two engineering services bodies have stepped up their health & safety advice in time for a return to more regular working conditions after ‘Freedom Day’ on July 19. The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) and ECA, the engineering and electrotechnical services body, have joined forces to produce free guidance notes

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Latest Issue

BDC 317 : Jun 2024

BESA

German lessons should inspire UK net zero action

The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) has urged the UK government to follow the example of Germany, which has announced plans to spend €177.5bn on climate action, including €56bn on a huge programme of building renovations.  Germany’s Climate and Transformation Fund aims to reduce the 30% of the country’s total energy consumption that is used to generate space and water heating and is particularly focused on improving buildings in the bottom 25% of energy performance.  This also represents a dramatic shift in government priorities from supporting the construction of new homes to renovating more existing ones with one government official saying: “One euro spent on renovation is ten times more efficient than if it was spent on a new home.”  Other European countries are expected to announce similar plans with the EU intensifying the focus on retrofit in its planned revisions to the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive.   “This looks like a comprehensive plan for retrofitting buildings with both net zero and reduced energy costs for consumers in mind,” said BESA’s head of technical Graeme Fox. “We have long been calling for something similar in the UK and I would urge our officials to look at this closely.  Productivity “The built environment is responsible for more than 40% of total carbon emissions so upgrading our building stock could have a major impact on our net zero targets while improving health, well-being, and productivity at the same time by creating better indoor conditions,” he added.  “It is also the quickest and most cost-effective way to drive down gas and electricity consumption in homes, schools, offices and industrial buildings when we are facing an unprecedented energy crisis.”  Germany is grappling with the impact the Russian invasion of Ukraine has had on its gas supplies and has pledged to invest €35.5bn in its renewable levy to lower electricity prices with another €20bn going towards decarbonising industry and developing the hydrogen industry.  German consumers no longer pay the renewables levy that helps to finance the expansion of wind and solar power. Instead, the government has stepped in as part of efforts to cut electricity bills, but without reducing its investment in renewable infrastructure.  The Green Building Council calculates that around 70% of UK non-residential buildings were built before 2000 and says most will need to be substantially retrofitted to improve energy efficiency and reduce embodied carbon before 2050. www.theBESA.com

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Safety checklist launched to help firms cope with new laws

A checklist of key actions has been published to help building owners and operators prepare for the radical health and safety changes contained in the Building Safety Act.  New legislation, which came into force last month, is set to transform the current culture across construction and introduce the most dramatic change to building safety in almost half a century, according to the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA).  While much of the national publicity around the Act focused on fire safety and standards of new building work, the implications for all aspects of safe operation of existing buildings are significant. This prompted the Association to prepare a simple five-point checklist that addresses the key responsibilities of those likely to be affected by the legislation.   The Act requires a named individual for each in scope building who can be held legally accountable for actions and omissions in planning, procurement, and operation. The ‘accountable person’ must be competent to “plan, monitor and manage” work, according to the legislation.  SFG20, part of the BESA group, produces the industry’s standard for planned service and maintenance work, and has examined the detail of the legislation and identified the specific implications for those responsible for maintenance. The checklist will help building operators prepare for the digital ‘golden thread’ of information needed to satisfy their new legal obligations.  The new Building Safety Regulator, supported by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), will be carrying out in-depth reviews of 12,500 ‘high risk’ buildings over the next five years to look for safety breaches. He has the power to retrospectively punish past poor quality work making it important for those responsible to have clear records of all work already complete or currently underway – not just future projects. 

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BESA celebrates women pioneers and innovators

The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) marked this year’s International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) by celebrating the important role played by women in the past, present and future of building services.  It featured a series of ‘guest blogs’ during the week of the 9th annual INWED that reflected the initiative’s 2022 theme of highlighting the inspirational work of women engineers globally to support “lives and livelihoods”.  “The profile provided by INWED is as vital as ever because women remain hugely under-represented in many engineering professions – including ours,” said BESA vice president Claire Curran.  “As the only platform of its kind, it plays an important role in encouraging more young women and girls to take up engineering careers.  “Overall numbers of women coming into engineering are on the up, but progress is still slow. Our work around INWED highlighted the key part played by role models and mentors in the recruitment and retention of women.”  BESA also promoted the importance of women in engineering through its special Women in Building Services Award, which was set up to recognise outstanding women working in the sector – with particular emphasis on their contribution to sustainability and innovation.    Entries The Association called for entries from across the industry so it could celebrate “a truly inspiring person who champions the sector and drives positive change” at its National Awards event on October 20th in London.   That evening will also see the presentation of BESA’s first ever award for Diversity and Inclusion. This has been established to reward those companies who have shown the greatest commitment to recruiting, advancing, and supporting all employees regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion, or disability.  BESA’s guest blogs for INWED were provided by several prominent women in engineering to help promote the range of exciting careers open to women in building services.   Curran provided the first where she encouraged other women to follow in her footsteps. “It is a colourful and varied industry with lots of diverse opportunities; where you can be anything you want to be.”  She said it was important for the industry to present a more positive image: “We are not very good at shouting about the great stuff we do, the cool stuff. As a result, many women have a negative image of the sector – yet my career in engineering has allowed me to travel the world and get involved in some amazing, exciting projects.”  Andi Connelly Horsley, mechanical engineer and technical publications lead at BESA, said women were good at challenging the status quo and bringing a fresh perspective to engineering challenges.  “Why do we engineer things? Why do we do it like that? Is it because we have always done it that way? Why not try this instead?” she wrote. “The client is interested in the outcome so ‘why’ should always be the first question – then you look at the how and the what.”  CIBSE Graduate of the Year Award winner Lucy Sherburn also highlighted the importance of mentors who could help young women feel comfortable and reach their full potential.  “I love the fact that I am constantly learning and discovering new things,” she wrote. “This means I am making a real difference and having an impact on the decarbonisation of heat, which is one of the biggest challenges we face as a country.  “Women have so much to offer to this industry and often they don’t realise that their skills are just what we need,” added Sherburn. “There are amazing opportunities opening up thanks to the net zero agenda and the push to make buildings healthier and more sustainable.”  Alexandra Knight, the founder of Stemamazing – the initiative created to promote greater diversity in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths – provided the BESA blog on the day of INWED itself. She claimed that people working in STEM were “the hidden heroes of humanity” who get very little credit for “keeping society functioning”.  Innovation “As we evolve through the 4th Industrial Revolution and beyond, the need for innovation in STEM will continue to increase at pace. Innovation in STEM is key to solving some of our biggest global challenges – and a key ingredient for innovation is diversity,” she wrote.  The week ended with a retrospective blog about how female pioneers had been responsible for many of the innovations that had paved the way for renewables in buildings.   Jarne Veronica wrote that people might be surprised that women were so influential in this vital industry because they are so under-represented in careers linked to engineering and building services.   “However, this is just more evidence that women have been playing a crucial (and often unsung) role in our sector for decades and, as representation improves, that influence will surely grow.”  For more information about INWED click here and to enter for one of the BESA National Awards click here. www.theBESA.com

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BESA and BSRIA refrigerant guide published ‘at crucial time’

The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) has joined forces with the sector’s leading research body BSRIA to produce a comprehensive free guide for the use of refrigerant gases in building services.  The new publication has been written by BESA’s head of technical Graeme Fox and is available now for free download from the BSRIA Bookshop.  It has been prepared to help consultants, specifiers, facilities and project managers, installers and end users deal with a period of considerable change for the industry as legislation and tightening environmental and performance targets combine to increase restrictions on how refrigerants are used and what gases will be allowed in the future.  The increased use of heat pumps and greater focus on climate change mitigation, including the need to address overheating in buildings, means industry professionals are faced with greater design and installation challenges and opportunities to adopt new practices, which are covered in the guide.  ‘Refrigerants in Building Services’ (TG 21/2022) includes information and advice on:  * Current environmental and health and safety legislation affecting refrigerants  * Forthcoming changes to legislation  * Energy efficiency issues  * Commonly used refrigerants  * Applications including DX coils, chillers, split systems, VRF/VRV systems and heat pumps  * Sources of further information.  The two bodies were keen to work together to promote best practice across the sector and to fully explain the implications of stringent cuts to the use of HFCs and other bans as part of proposals to strengthen the European F-Gas regulation.  The UK continues to ‘mirror’ the regulation, despite its departure from the EU, and the latest proposals from the European Commission include an acceleration of the current phase down process in 2024. This could be followed by a ban on the use of HFCs with global warming potential (GWP) of 150 and above in many split systems and heat pumps from 2027.  “The timing of this guide is crucial,” said Fox. “There is so much change going on in the industry and there is a danger that people will be bamboozled by all the current and proposed legislative changes. If people are confused, they can end up simply ignoring their obligations with extremely unfortunate consequences.  “We were, therefore, very keen to work with BSRIA on a document that would be both informative, practical and relevant to building engineering systems designers.”  Fox added that the new guide reinforced the importance of people being properly trained and holding up-to-date technical and health & safety qualifications to work with both traditional and alternative refrigerants. This is particularly important because many HFC replacement refrigerants are mildly flammable, he pointed out.  It also reminds end users that they should only employ F-Gas registered firms to remain legally compliant and to achieve their environmental goals.  BESA manages the UK’s primary F-Gas register REFCOM and offers F-Gas Awareness training via its online Academy.  BESA and BSRIA will also be jointly presenting a webinar on May 3rd featuring Graeme Fox and BSRIA publications manager, David Bleicher. This will be an opportunity to learn more about the new guidance, understand its wider context and why it is such a timely and important publication.  To book your webinar place click here www.theBESA.com

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BESA welcomes flexible thinking in net zero ‘playbook’

The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) has welcomed new guidance from the Cabinet Office aimed at decarbonising the UK’s largest property estate. In its ‘Net Zero Estate Playbook’, the government has set out advice for public sector organisations and procurers about how they can substantially lower their carbon footprint in line with its policy to deliver a 78% reduction in emissions from government buildings by 2035. The public sector accounts for 9% of the country’s total building-related carbon emissions and, as the largest built environment client, steps taken by the government can also have a profound knock-on effect throughout the sector. Its guidance for improving the performance of schools, hospitals, prisons, offices, and other public buildings, including listed and historic structures, provides advice on how to update energy and emissions audits, monitor in use performance and how to secure the necessary funding for building upgrades. The Playbook takes a technology neutral approach because it notes that different buildings need different solutions. Therefore, it provides advice on a wide range of building engineering options including heat pumps, solar, low carbon heating, energy efficiency, LED lighting etc. It also urges developers to carry out detailed assessments to ensure they use the right solution for the building in question, including whether they can be connected to heat networks and the potential for alternative energy sources like renewables, hydrogen, and biofuels. Crucial Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Steve Barclay said decarbonising public buildings was “absolutely crucial if we’re going to meet our environmental targets”. “Property professionals should use the Playbook to turn best practice into standard practice. It will put the public estate in a stronger position to deliver a 78% reduction in emissions by 2035, and be fully net zero by 2050,” added Barclay, who is the Cabinet Office Minister overseeing the net zero strategy. The Playbook also outlines how project teams can meet the Future Buildings Standard for new developments, which will come into effect from 2025. The guidance will be updated at regular intervals as information and knowledge improves, the Minister added. “The clarity of purpose set out in this new Playbook is extremely helpful,” said BESA’s head of technical Graeme Fox. “Setting down some of the technical detail needed to deliver the government’s net zero ambitions is the best way to focus effort in the right direction and drive practical action.” At the recent BESA National Conference, architect and TV personality George Clarke called for a “global retrofit revolution” for buildings to help rapidly decarbonise the built environment and make it more resilient to the impact of climate change. He urged the government abolish VAT on building restorations and renovations to speed up the decarbonisation of existing buildings – pointing out that 80% of the buildings we will be using in 2050 have already been built. “Hopefully, the new Playbook with its detailed plan for upgrading and retrofitting the UK’s largest property estate will provide welcome impetus for a truly nationwide programme of building upgrades that put energy efficiency, low carbon heating and cooling, and improved building fabric at its heart,” said Fox. He added that a “technology agnostic approach” was sensible to discourage people from ‘championing’ particular solutions when many, including most of the technologies the building engineering sector is already using, still have their place. “The difficult bit is working out which solution is the right one for the task in hand so updating assessments and audits is the crucial first step. Flexibility is key and engineers need to be given the freedom to engineer,” said Fox. “For example, there is more than one type of heat pump, which means it is a technology that can be widely applied, but equally it is not always the right choice. The contents of the Playbook suggest that the Cabinet Office, at least, is starting to understand some of the nuances of built environment engineering.” The BESA Academy has developed a Heat Pump Installer course in collaboration with the Home Builders Federation and Worcester Bosch. It is designed to upskill qualified plumbing, heating and RAC engineers to correctly specify, install and maintain domestic heat pumps. You can find out more about the course here.www.theBESA.com

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Skills crunch keeping contractors awake at night

Rising costs and a shortage of skilled people are giving building services contractors sleepless nights, according to a new business survey. Members of the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) said they were facing “major challenges” due to a combination of rising labour and material costs, growing lead times, shortage of equipment and delivery delays. Many respondents said they expected the situation to get worse before it gets better, although 80% said they expected to see growing or stable turnover levels through to the end of the year. There is a particular shortage of m&e engineers, pipe fitters, plumbers, and service technicians, according to BESA members responding to the quarterly survey, which is carried out in partnership with the Electrical Contractors Association (ECA), the Scottish Electrical Trade Body (SELECT) and the Scottish and Northern Ireland Plumbing Employer’s Federation (SNIPEF). The survey, which covered the three months from April to June and asked business owners to look ahead at their prospects for the rest of the year, found that small firms are facing particular challenges. Recruiting 41% reported problems recruiting the staff they needed to keep projects going. 66% expected the situation to deteriorate during the current quarter and 13% expected the situation to remain the same. However, 32% of survey respondents did say they expected to see some improvement before the end of the year. One fallout from the current crisis is that many businesses will employ fewer direct staff, agency workers and apprentices over the next six months despite the urgent need to increase the flow of skilled people into the industry. “That is probably the most worrying message from the survey,” said BESA’s director of legal and commercial Debbie Petford. “We already have a serious skills shortage across construction and related sectors like building engineering, but it seems some employers are reacting by pulling in their recruitment horns. “This will only serve to build up longer term shortages. Without a large enough and suitably skilled workforce we will not be able to deliver on the government’s decarbonisation plans or keep the economic recovery on track. This is a global issue and I hope it will be high on the agenda at next month’s COP26 climate conference in Glasgow,” she added. www.theBESA.com

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BESA backs unions’ demand for ventilation in schools

The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) has put its weight behind a call from six trade unions to take urgent action over ventilation in schools. In a letter to the Education Secretary, the unions have warned that there will be a steep rise in Covid-19 cases when children return to school next month without improvements to airflows and filtration in classrooms and communal areas. They say there should be government funding for carbon dioxide monitors to measure the effectiveness of ventilation, and filtration to remove harmful airborne particles. “The benefits of ventilation in the control of airborne diseases are already well understood and accepted,” their letter said. The National Education Union (NEU), NASUWT, the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), GMB, Unison and Unite have joined forces to push for a more strategic approach to school ventilation. “Government action on ventilation in schools and colleges amounts to little more than recommending that windows are kept open,” said ASCL general secretary Geoff Barton. “This is not sustainable in providing a comfortable learning environment in the depths of a British winter. “If the government is serious about bringing to an end the educational disruption of the past 18 months, then it must provide funding for high-quality ventilation systems as a matter of urgency.” The unions also pointed out that many school windows were painted shut and could not be opened. Threats BESA has produced two pieces of guidance this year to help building managers set up indoor air quality (IAQ) strategies and identify the main threats to health and well-being from airborne pollutants. Using mechanical ventilation systems and targeted filtration is recognised as the most effective way to reduce the risk of disease transmission, but no specific government funding has been allocated to help schools address this issue. The CEO of a primary school trust told a recent BESA webinar that lack of funding prevented schools from addressing the problem. Garry Ratcliffe said that despite greater awareness of the risk of transmitting airborne infections during the pandemic, mechanical ventilation remained a low priority for most headteachers. Ratcliffe, who is CEO of Kent-based Galaxy Trust, said current Department for Education (DfE) guidance was inadequate. “Would it be acceptable advice to tell people in a workplace to open their windows and wear warmer clothes?” he asked. He also said he was concerned that opening windows could be “doing more harm than good” because many schools were close to busy roads, so the children were being exposed to high levels of traffic pollution and noise. He said his three schools had already spent over £325,000 on Covid mitigation measures but had only been able to reclaim £57,000 from the government.  Each has an annual capital budget of just £7,000, which is primarily to ensure buildings remain safe and to fix leaking roofs and heating. “If we wanted to free up money to spend on a new ventilation system, we would have to make cuts elsewhere. However, we are judged on the quality of the education we provide…not on the quality of the air.” The BESA guides highlight the fact that opening windows does not provide controlled ventilation. It is not an effective method of managing the direction of airflows to provide the air change rates needed to dilute airborne contaminants and viruses in every part of a room. NEU joint general secretary Kevin Courtney said: “It is shocking that, rather than taking concrete steps now to improve the situation, the Department for Education has only just announced a pilot scheme, involving 30 schools in Bradford, to trial the use of air purifiers, with results not due until the end of the year. “18 months into the pandemic, and given the accumulated knowledge about ventilation, kicking the issue into the long grass in this way is simply not good enough.” BESA’s guidance calls for a mixed approach to ventilation using both mechanical and ‘natural’ systems that can minimise costs for schools, but greatly improve airflows and give teaching staff more control over their indoor environments. “The ventilation industry has a wide range of solutions – many of which can be tailored to schools,” said the Association’s head of technical Graeme Fox. “They are relatively low cost, but they are not free. The government does need to put some level of investment into this and not just to deal with the immediate Covid issue, but to improve indoor conditions for the long-term health and well-being of pupils and staff.” He said BESA members had been flagging up the problems caused by air pollution inside school buildings for many years. “There is a powerful body of evidence linking poor IAQ to rising numbers of children suffering from asthma and other respiratory conditions that have serious long-term implications. BESA applauds the stance taken by the education unions and our industry is standing ready with the solutions they demand,” added Fox.www.theBESA.com/iaq

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Vallance only getting part of the ventilation picture

A report commissioned by the government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance has highlighted the crucial role played by building ventilation in reducing the risk of Covid-19 and other infections, but it misses some crucial practicalities, according to the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA). The report, which was produced by the National Engineering Policy Centre (NEPC) – a group of 43 professional engineering organisations led by the Royal Academy of Engineering – revealed flaws in the design, management, and operation of buildings.  It advised Sir Patrick that, unless these flaws were addressed, they could disrupt the management of this and future pandemics, impose high financial and health costs on society, and constrain the UK’s ability to address other challenges including climate change. However, BESA said the problem was that many buildings were designed in a way that made it very difficult and sometimes cost prohibitive to fit the systems needed to achieve adequate ventilation. It said the government should link its ambitions for climate change mitigation and sustainability to work on ventilation and overheating in buildings and consult with all parts of the engineering and construction sectors to get a joined-up solution. “It is very positive that the government’s top scientist recognises the importance of raising standards of building ventilation to deal with this and future pandemics, but he is only getting part of the picture,” said the Association’s head of technical Graeme Fox. Solutions “The knowledge of professional institutions is hugely valuable, but unless they align their theoretical expertise and design philosophies with industry practitioners who operate at the sharp end and know what it is achievable, we will not be able to deliver the solutions the country needs,” he added. BESA said building designers needed to consider practical measures like allowing enough space in ceiling voids to add or improve mechanical ventilation systems. Enabling access for maintenance purposes, cleaning ventilation ductwork and fitting or renewing air filters were other crucial factors often overlooked during design and fit-out phases. The Association also highlighted the recent report from the Climate Change Committee (CCC), which warned that many new buildings were being developed without adequate adaption measures, which means they would be prone to overheating as our climate warms up. The CCC identified overheating in buildings as a major climate change risk and health emergency in 2016, but since then 570,000 new homes had been built without climate adaption measures and a further 1.5 million were due to be built in the next five years. Fox said there were more than 2,500 heat-related deaths during the 2020 heatwave in England, which was higher than at any time since records began, and that the CCC expected heat related deaths to treble by 2050. “The government needs to understand the concept of a sustainable built environment in the widest sense,” he said. “Sustainability is not just about carbon and energy saving, it is also about ensuring that the facilities we build and refurbish are able to sustain human activity in the long-term while also safeguarding health, well-being, and productivity. “It is highly possible that a huge proportion of the homes and commercial buildings being designed now will no longer be inhabitable in a few years’ time because they are too difficult to cool and ventilate.” BESA has recently released new technical guidance to help contractors deliver indoor air quality (IAQ) solutions to transform existing buildings into ‘safe havens’ for people including how to minimise the risk of transmitting diseases via airborne particulates. “The vast majority of the work needed to create safe and healthy indoor spaces will be retrofit and so we need a strong focus on low cost, practical measures that can actually make a difference to people’s lives,” said Fox. “Professional institutions should not be expected to provide that kind of work on their own. This requires a joined-up approach from the whole construction and building engineering supply chain.” Consistency The RAE report: ‘Infection Resilient Environments: Buildings that keep us healthy and safe’ called for the plugging of skills and knowledge gaps and criticised the lack of building management consistency in healthcare settings. It added that investment in research and development was needed to clarify acceptable minimum standards for ventilation to support regulation by Local Authorities and others. “We welcome the report and agree with many of its findings, but it only goes so far,” said Fox. “We have a big job to do in defining what we mean by the skills required to tackle the major health threat to people posed by buildings that have been designed to trap heat in order to minimise energy use. “If you design tight you have to ventilate right and, unfortunately, our members come across buildings that have locked in air quality and overheating problems on a daily basis. This also needs to be explained to government at the highest level so that investment can be targeted in the right areas.” www.theBESA.com/iaq

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BESA guidance opens door to air quality ‘safe havens’

The removal of most Covid restrictions in the UK has increased calls for clearer practical guidance and the setting of specific indoor air quality (IAQ) contaminant targets to support the health and wellbeing of building occupants. The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) has, therefore, produced a concise guide to good practice: ‘Indoor Air Quality for Health & Well-Being’, which is designed to help building owners, managers and engineers interpret IAQ data and turn it into useful strategies for improving the indoor environment. The UK’s chief scientific officer Sir Patrick Vallance and the British Medical Association (BMA) have emphasised the role of building ventilation and IAQ in helping the country navigate the next stage of the pandemic. The BSI is also fast-tracking a new British Standard that will help to define the UK’s future approach to IAQ. The BMA, which represents all UK doctors, says setting legal standards for ventilation, should be part of the government’s strategy for dealing with the next stage of the pandemic. It added that financial support for businesses and educational settings should be made available “to implement these requirements ahead of the autumn and winter period, when respiratory viruses spread more easily and buildings must be kept warm, limiting options for natural ventilation”. The new BESA guidance, which is part of the Association’s wider Buildings as Safe Havens (BASH) campaign, sets out target limits for a range of airborne contaminants in a variety of indoor spaces. It explains how air quality data gathered during specialist surveys or from the wide range of low cost real-time and continuous IAQ monitoring devices, can be interpreted and acted upon. Achievable The advice it provides is also based on the experience of practitioners in the field who see what is possible and achievable in the real world.  It is designed as a follow-up to the BESA publication H&W001: A Beginners Guide to Indoor Air Quality published in March in collaboration with Mitsubishi Electric. Public Health England estimates the annual death toll in the UK from air pollution at between 24,000 and 36,000 with associated healthcare costs as high as £20bn. The role played by indoor air both in transmission of disease and the general health and wellbeing of building occupants became headline news during the pandemic and has prompted unprecedented interest in how buildings are ventilated. The BESA Guide has also been produced in the wake of a report commissioned by the government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, which highlighted the importance of building ventilation in reducing the risk of Covid-19 and other infections. The report was published by the National Engineering Policy Centre (NEPC), which is a group of 43 professional engineering organisations representing 450,000 engineers. It found that ventilation was often neglected, and that the Covid-19 crisis had revealed flaws in the design, management, and operation of buildings.  It advised Sir Patrick that, unless these flaws were addressed, they could disrupt the management of this and future pandemics and impose high financial and health costs on society. Nathan Wood, chair of the BESA Health & Wellbeing in Buildings group, said this was a significant moment for anyone working to improve the indoor environment. “The very fact that such a senior adviser is taking a close interest in how the engineering profession can be deployed to tackle a health and wellbeing issue shows just how high this has risen up the political agenda,” he said.  “People now need reassurance that buildings are being adequately ventilated, and the air monitored to minimise the threat from contaminants and viruses. This new BESA Guide aims to do just that, but it also goes further. “Rather than purely focusing on preventing infection and death, which is often the approach of academic and regulatory work, it also promotes a positive approach to setting IAQ standards that will give people a healthier, more comfortable, and more productive experience inside buildings.” He pointed to research carried out by Harvard University in the US that showed a 61% improvement in cognitive function for students in a well-ventilated, clean environment. “The outdoor, ambient air pollution guidance levels adopted by governments are usually based on mortality and morbidity, tempered by what is regarded as economically feasible. That compromise reduces investment in the health and wellbeing benefits,” added Wood. Enjoyment “By contrast, a health and wellbeing approach considers how good IAQ can improve productivity and enjoyment of a space and supports the principle that people should be able to inhabit ‘safe havens’ where the indoor air is better than the polluted outdoors. Unfortunately, in too many cases, the opposite is currently true.” The BESA Guide refers to established guidelines including those provided by the World Health Organisation (WHO), which are due to be updated later this year. It also signposts other sources of authoritative advice on volatile organic compounds, formaldehyde, nitrogen dioxide/oxides, ozone, radon, and airborne micro-organisms. It also recommends monitoring CO2 and a range of IAQ factors to balance good air quality with reduction of internally and externally sourced contaminants. Its guidance will also be offered to the BSI to help shape the draft BS40101 ‘Building performance evaluation of occupied and operational buildings’, which is due to be published in November and is currently the subject of a public consultation. “I would like to thank the amazing people who contributed so much of their time and expertise to the preparation of this guidance, particularly Douglas Booker, Craig Booth, Peter Dyment, and Shaun Hill; supported by the wider membership and staff of BESA,” said Wood. The guidance can be downloaded for free here.

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Trade bodies call for caution after ‘Freedom Day’

Two engineering services bodies have stepped up their health & safety advice in time for a return to more regular working conditions after ‘Freedom Day’ on July 19. The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) and ECA, the engineering and electrotechnical services body, have joined forces to produce free guidance notes for members and the wider industry alongside a warning that the pandemic has still not relaxed its grip on the industry. This updated advice draws on the expertise of more than 30 health and safety practitioners from the construction and related sectors combined with the latest government guidelines to help employers keep their operatives and members of the public safe. Although the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) has announced that its Site Operating Procedures (SOPs) will no longer be mandatory from July 19, BESA and the ECA are still urging caution. “Removing legal requirements does not mean it makes sense to immediately drop all the measures that have kept people safe over the past year,” said BESA’s head of health and safety Becky Crosland. “Common sense should prevail, and we expect most sites will choose to retain a number of voluntary measures including risk assessment, the wearing of face coverings and social distancing wherever possible.” Paul Reeve, ECA’s Director or CSR and Public Affairs added: “Many in construction and wider services sectors are increasingly looking beyond 19 July to 16 August. The government announced that, from that date, double vaccination will begin to provide exemption from having to self-isolate. Implications “Many in the industry would like the 16 August date brought forward, even in the face of the practical difficulties. These range from how to encourage workers to achieve double vaccination, to the implications of government advice that workers should take a PCR test following a ‘COVID positive ping,” he added. The new publication ‘BESA/ECA Health and Safety Guidance Notes and Support for COVID 19’ will help employers navigate the next few months, according to the two bodies. It contains nine separate pieces of guidance designed to reduce the spread of the coronavirus in workplaces. It covers travel arrangements, working on-site and continues to reflect the latest version of the SOPs. “Although we are seeing a gradual return to something like normal life, this actually increases the risk of another surge in infections in many workplaces,” said Crosland. “That is why it is more important than ever to have robust safety regimes in place and to be aware of the latest guidance on reducing exposure and the possibility of transmission. “The industry has done an amazing job over the past 16 months to keep operating under the most difficult of conditions and still managing health and safety, but we absolutely must not relax now, or we risk another lockdown,” she added. “That is why we are urging everyone across the sector to take advantage of this free guidance and of the expertise both associations can provide on a daily basis.” The notes, which are downloadable for free from the BESA and ECA websites, provide advice on social distancing, hand washing/ sanitising, cleaning of all contactable surfaces and equipment etc. There is also guidance on how employers should plan activities to avoid unnecessary proximity (less than 2m) and carry out risk assessments. Communication is a key part of this planning with employers urged to consult their workforces and remind them of their responsibilities to themselves, colleagues, and the public. BESA was also the first training provider to fully integrate Site Operating Procedures (SOPs) into its health and safety courses. The online BESA Academy embedded a series of mandatory SOP questions into the SKILLcard application process making it a requirement for anyone wanting to work on site. The Academy also developed an online SOP training module which leads to a certificate proving the individual worker understands the requirements and has been trained to work safely on site. This standalone module is freely available to all and can be completed online in 15 minutes. “There has been and continues to be a fantastic collaborative effort to ensure members of both associations and the wider industry are kept updated on the latest safe operating procedures,” said Reeve. “We are extremely grateful to everyone who has given up their time to help with this effort, in particular, members of the BESA Covid-19 Panel, ECA’s Covid Business Recovery team, and the sector’s Construction Industry Coronavirus (CICV) Forum, which has done a fantastic job of co-ordinating all of our effort,” added Crosland. To access the new free guidance visit here and for a wide range of other Covid-19 resources go to: www.theBESA.com/covid19 and www.eca.co.uk/business-industry-support/coronavirus-back-to-work

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