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The Building Services Industry and its Future: An Interview with Andrew Geens

Andrew Geens

Andrew Geens has been Head of Certification at CIBSE for nearly 5 years. He is a Chartered Engineer and a Fellow of CIBSE (FCIBSE) as well as being a registered EPC and DEC assessor. Prior to this Andrew was Professor of Building Services Engineering at the University of Glamorgan and has contributed to many research papers within the industry.

Andrew’s interests in the sector include: indoor air quality, energy efficiency and low energy design in buildings; which have been demonstrated through his teaching, research and consultancy in both the UK and mainland Europe.

Following our interview with Andrew Gardner of 2EA® on the changes in CCL/CHP industry, we interviewed Andrew Geens; head of certification, a subsidiary of the Chartered Institution of Building Service Engineers (CIBSE) on his views of the building service industry.

Q) What is the building services engineering industry?

That is an interesting question. It is the largely invisible element of the Construction Industry. It is involved in the design, manufacture and installation of all of the engineering systems that make the building comfortable, safe and pleasant to be in, and also the systems that use energy. These include heating, lighting, ventilation, air conditioning, hot and cold running water, lifts etc. Their work is integrated into the building so well that most people don’t seem to realise that there is anything there, hence the invisibility.

Unlike the rest of the construction industry, building services engineers continue their involvement with buildings through operation and maintenance ensuring that buildings are operated optimally both in terms of the comfort of the occupants and the energy used by the building.

Q) How did you come to be in the industry?

Another interesting question. On leaving school I joined BP Tanker Co Ltd as a MNTB Engineering Officer Cadet, which gave me a very solid engineering base. You can’t call in a specialist when you are broken down mid-Atlantic, and if you need a spare part that’s not in stock, you have to make it.

The novelty of a life at sea soon wore off and my next job was as a hospital engineer, the link being operating a steam plant. After eight years working for the NHS I moved into academia. The link? Well, as a long-term student, with OND Mechanical Engineering, and OND Supplementary Studies Marine Engineering taking three years full-time as a cadet, followed by two years part-time HNC Plant Engineering and four years part time BEng (Hons) Environmental (Building Services) Engineering, I thought “I could do that job”.

I planned to do it for two years, as a sort of national service before going back to a proper job. Perhaps continuing as a part-time student, two years of PGCE and then six years part-time PhD was instrumental in me staying a little longer. I also developed a CIBSE accredited Building Services Degree and made a successful application as a Professor in what turned out to be a twenty year spell at the University.

Q) Working in CIBSE over the last five years and considering your previous experience, how would you say industry has changed over time, for the better or worse?

The benefits of IT technology in manufacturing, design and operation are self-evident and of a high order of magnitude. The biggest change, and clearly for the better, is the improved gender balance. When I started my teaching period I was confronted with a class of 100 construction students of which 98 were male. My logic applied to this situation was that if the gender split was fifty/fifty I would have the best fifty male students and the best 50 female students instead of the best 50 male students and the 48 next best male students. The construction industry was clearly settling for second best. If you are reading this I’m sure that you are one of the best 50.

I was studying for my PGCE and one of the optional modules was Women in Education. I elected to do that module to investigate why more women were not applying for construction industry courses. It was an interesting proposal as it turned out. The college department had a staff meeting to decide whether a male student should be allowed to take the Women in Education module. They obviously didn’t do irony, but maybe they were concerned about my sensibilities. Some of the lecturers on the module had some strong views. Part of my work included a survey of the upper six in a girl’s school. Main reason for not selecting engineering courses, apart from Maths and Physics being seen as difficult subjects at A Level? Engineering was seen as too dirty and heavy. Preferred alternative? Vet! They couldn’t have watched all creatures great and small.

Q) How does CIBSE contribute to the industry from a legislative point of view?

CIBSE takes an active role in lobbying and consulting, where appropriate, and in my own area of work, CIBSE Certification, we are focussed on facilitating CIBSE member participation in a range of primarily energy-related initiatives, a core area of activity for many CIBSE members.

Q) Where is CIBSE heading in the next few years in regard to service development for its members?

CIBSE is currently implementing new IT systems that will make it easier for members to engage with the services that CIBSE provides and there are some exciting new initiatives such as an online learning facility to help widen access and participation.

Q) With the latest EU Directive on ESOS, how did CIBSE adapt to this scheme and has it been successful for yourselves as an industry body?

This has been a good example of the benefit of CIBSE’s engagement with Government. CIBSE’s Technical Director, Hywel Davies, was on the steering group helping the Department of Energy and Climate Change to develop the UK legislation to implement the Energy Efficiency Directive. This gave us a good insight to what was coming and when. This enabled me to develop our application to operate an ESOS Lead Assessor Register as a subset of the Low Carbon Consultants Register. We are now operating the largest register of ESOS Lead Assessors by some margin, which demonstrates the reputation we have in this field and beyond, given the scope of ESOS. It has not only been successful for us, but many of our LCCs that have engaged with ESOS are reporting that 2015 has been their busiest/best year… ever.

Q) CIBSE Certification has recently been accredited to provide ISO 50001 certification, will you be offering ISO 50001 training to your members?

CIBSE Certification will recognise training or, more specifically, assessment of people’s competence in the same way that we do for other areas of activity. I see this as an opportunity to re-energise our LCC Energy Management Systems register and CIBSE Training and Events will be providing some training in support of this. We also anticipate that we will be assessing competence for Internal Auditors as well.

Q) Has this accreditation improved CIBSE Certification from an accredited body position?

We are certainly very pleased with the speed with which we completed the accreditation process which has encouraged us to continue down this path and we aim to add the rest of the Management System suite, quality, environmental and occupational health and safety. This cements our position as a major certification body able to service the wider needs of the industry as opposed to the niche certification body we were when we were solely a personnel certification body.

Q) Something that the industry is all too familiar with is Display Energy Certificates (DECs) and the lack of them in the private sector. Recently, a scheme called VolDECs (Voluntary DECs) was launched. Have you or CIBSE heard of VolDECs and what is your view on them?

Yes. I think that the choice of name is unfortunate as “Voluntary DEC” is a description of a valid DEC issued (lodged), using Government-approved software, by an assessor who meets a national competency standard for producing a DEC and who is on a register that requires competence to be maintained. This also requires quality assurance checking according to procedures specified by the responsible government department. The use of this term is therefore introducing an opportunity for confusion. I don’t necessarily agree with the detail of the competency standard or the audit regime but the CIBSE position is to operate with the scheme rules and work to make changes from within the system.

Q) Do you think they will take off?

I think that I should broaden this question to unofficial DECs generally as there are others on the market such as eCount. I think that the arrival of ESOS is making this less likely as it appears that quite a few private companies are using DECs with Advisory Report (ARs) to comply with ESOS requirements and these need to be “valid” – i.e. lodged. This is pushing official DECs into the private sector indirectly. I think that the success of these alternatives will depend on how easy it will be to convert an unofficial voluntary DEC into an official voluntary DEC should the need arise.

Q) With a new Conservative government in power and their speedy shaking up of the energy management sector, where do you see this area going in the next five years?

I think that my initial concerns about how that election result would impact on the energy management sector, and in fact how an EU referendum would impact, (you didn’t ask that question), may have been premature. I think the reality is that whichever party is in power, and whatever our relationship with Europe is, no government is going to want to be the one responsible for the lights going out.

Q) Finally, what views do you or CIBSE have on the Government’s consultation on its proposal to reform the business energy efficiency tax landscape?

See my answer to the previous question. It is re-assuring to see that DECC seem keen to use ESOS as a vehicle for streamlining things, given our involvement in that initiative and also that ISO 50001 is being promoted as the best way to ensure organisations are managing their energy use effectively on an on-going basis.

About CIBSE

The Chartered Institution of Building Service Engineers (CIBSE) received its royal charter in 1976 and is considered the authority on building service engineering, in which it publishes guidance and codes of practice which are internationally recognised, setting the standard for best practice in the profession, and is consulted by government on matters relating to construction, engineering and sustainability.

CIBSE Training and Events offer training to help prepare for competency assessment for roles such as Low Carbon Consultant, Low Carbon Energy Assessor and Air Conditioning Assessor to name but a few.

CIBSE Certification operate a Personnel Certification Scheme covering a range of statutory and non-statutory roles. They have recently introduced a Management Systems Certification Scheme starting with ISO 50001 Energy Management Systems.

News article courtesy of: https://www.2ea.co.uk/The-Building-Services-Industry-and-its-Future:-An-Interview-with-Andrew-Geens.html