Are Building Services a necessary evil?

Are Building Services a necessary evil?

as part of this series of Arab talks of building engineering I’ve chosen to talk about a subject very close to me building services design and its influence on our buildings my title our building services are necessary evil provoked different responses trying to get rid of them for years was the most popular response from architects and developers but it reminded me of something an architect colleague said he said structural engineers always start with bad news but it tends to get better whereas services engineers start with good news and then it just gets worse made me think that building services engineers need to say more about building services and not less so others understand their challenges but also the potential value of good design and installation I initially rejected the title a suggestion from my structural engineer boss but on reflection it was a very insightful view because it has an underlying theme around all of design so although I focus on building services today we can also ask is design a necessary evil the last 10 years have been very successful in driving out inefficiencies in construction and the industry in the UK has been transformed but as this approach squeezed design down in order to get a fixed price and have designed as responded well to this are we now homogenizing design in a rush to get things built and reduce risk the relevance for building services is to question whether we are building for ease of construction or for better performance so my talk starts with my studies I studied building services engineering at Reading University it was a new course that was set up to acknowledge the coming-of-age of this discipline of building design and it was ambitious in what it wanted as you would expect we studied mechanical and electrical engineering the design of systems to provide heating power cooling lighting and water in building but we also studied architecture and in particular the history of architecture how buildings have historically dealt with providing light and comfort and how this was always an integral part of building we took courses in weather patterns and climate so not only understanding internal environments but the climate around buildings and cities we also studied the design of simple agricultural buildings these buildings are driven by necessity and minimal cost to build and operate they are naturally lit and ventilated to meet a very precise function lastly we studied psychology the way people behave and interact with their environment and how design can influence our behavior what makes us happy or otherwise with our buildings down to the colors we see and how we respond to controls or a lack of controls the Reading University course recognized that building services was more than just the system’s inside buildings it was about integrating architecture building physics and the science for buildings the mechanical and electrical engineering in buildings and the people so I will start with architecture building services originated from machine engineering but the business of incorporating services in buildings was always with architects you can see this in windows and overhangs and chimneys service stairs around buildings these are always inherent in the architecture but when it comes to modern building services very little has been written and yet it’s so fundamental to architecture unless there is some very obvious visible feature it is not usually discussed in this context the exception to this is architectural historian Rana bannon’s book the architecture of the world tempered environment which is really the only architectural academic text dedicated to modern building services in architecture he said in a world more humanely arranged this book need never have been written because those services in buildings that provide the comfort and well-being of humans would always have been part of the history of architecture the birth of modern building services starts with air-conditioning and a block of ice to keep auditoria comfortable in the late 19th century a block of ice was melted next to a fan one ton of ice gave enough cooling to last the one performance this is still the common metric of cooling in the u.s. they started the development of air conditioning and the idea that cooling could be transferred mechanically around a building but these services were still in the early years seen as a supplement to the fundamental control of climate otherwise provided by the mass of the building and by regulating the opening sizes this is the Milan building completed in 1929 in Houston it’s considered the first air-conditioned building by Willis carrier but even with air conditioning there is still full access to light and opening windows these buildings grew in scale and number and with technology and familiarity they allowed the freedom for design to focus on maximizing the floor area and minimizing construction cost and later allowed more transparency very much advocated by modernist architecture advances in structure weren’t the only reason for taller buildings in fact tall structures already existed it was the services technology the lifts the artificial lighting and the air conditioning that made building tall habitable space as possible as the facade became less of an environmental regulator buildings became wholly reliant on building services to even be occupied today building services make up around 30% of the construction costs and 10% of the floor area however this area in cost was always previously built in as part of the architecture and not singled out it’s been taken to its ultimate in terms of expressing architecture this is Lloyd’s of London completed in the 1980s these buildings are highly reliant on complex control systems but can be separated from the surroundings that they’re in and the occupiers they serve and we as building services engineers are highly skilled in delivering these sorts of buildings this is inside Lloyds of London this building had one of the first fluid dynamic models built which demonstrated that for smoke and normal ventilation there was no need for additional fans or separation of space you can also note from this image the level of detail in the integration between engineers and architects this model for architecture has become normal and it is now embedded in our training education as well as the standards that go with modern buildings any shortfalls in buildings as climate regulators are then corrected by the building services this building in the city has a very large atrium and lift shaft on the entrance which faces southwest we demonstrated through very detailed analysis that this would be much better as a naturally ventilated space it has a 50 meter tall chimney above the entrance so no cooling equipment was required and it would have been cheaper to run however in the negotiations with the tenants engineer we ended up having to air-condition it the default standards for officers left us no room for sensible discussions I’m not discounting the glass box it keeps improving and has evolved at the Siemens crystal building the facades are sleek elevations but our combination of solid and glazed curtain walling panels which are angled to reflect the Sun and tuned to orientation the building has low-energy air-conditioning systems as a result and can also be naturally ventilated this is very much the designers working with tried and tested products and materials but in a different way so to close this section on architecture a summary of where we are high-tech buildings evolving over time and adapting their facades and M&E; systems for greater efficiency the Gherkin has an inner facade layer and buffer atria spaces the crystal has a very simple facade which is tuned to its orientation and the latest one The Shard has a fully glazed double facade with automated shading but how far does this way of building take us to answer this I go to my next topic bat of building science the physics and behavior of the building envelope the structure the form and heights of spaces and the materials that make up buildings our basic modern assumption is that services are separate to the other building components if there is enough space it is the most simple solution to completely separate out layers to make more efficient use of space services and structure can start to be physically integrated the Lloyds images earlier Illustrated this however the question of building science is how can structure architecture and services share function to save material and improve performance this goes back to earlier examples where buildings provided environmental control one thing it does which is almost the opposite of how modern construction works is to blur the edges between disciplines and force much closer working and less packaging which is another challenge for designers and builders when it is easier to deal with minimized and simple interfaces examples of buildings that rely on science or building physics tend to be smaller bespoke buildings in this example the necessity for using local materials and achieving natural ventilation and light as the only form of temperature control meant using the height and orientation of the building and its form to create the right environment the entire facade opens up and is entirely shaded to make this classroom work and of course there are plenty of other small-scale examples of building physics at work on a much larger scale and particularly in our cities there are only a few examples portcullis house is one which although considered bespoke and one-off it is an exemplar of integration of building physics and building services systems with architecture designed in 1994 you can read the systems and the structure in the facade which allowed clear open space inside and takes the services directly to the space as they serve the facade is tuned to the system with clerestory glazing to get light deep into rooms but a shaded triple glazed unit which is also the return air path to keep the windows cool the chimneys and the air handling units are the roof using the roof form they catch wind at lower level and then expel it through wind driven chimneys above a second more recent example shows that similar levels of integrated thinking can be achieved for more speculative officers the concrete structure is exposed for thermal mass and works with an underfloor air system conditioned air is circulated through central structural columns again for the most efficient way of distributing air to the floors this is a project that I worked on and I learned that the test of whether a design team has worked closely enough together is when everybody thinks it is their design and this is what integration looks like it is also about build services working with architectural form at the London Aquatic Center the building services work with the physics of the space air conditioning is only where there are people at low level so the rest of the space isn’t conditioned the facades allow the whole space to be naturally lit and give passive solar gains to reduce energy consumption the level of integrating performance of a system is at its best even though actual services cannot be read other buildings on the Olympic 2012 park have similar levels of performance integration this is something that isn’t so common outside of the UK and it shows the UK leading in holistic design thinking with the lure of BIM homogenizing design for construction again we need to hold on to this level of design thinking and integration of architecture and engineering the third of my four topics is mechanical and electrical engineering I’m going to talk about it in the context of building performance and the systems that use energy firstly why do buildings consistently under perform on their prediction at the design stage there is always a detailed estimate of energy consumption for a typical year for buildings operation and then almost without exception when actual metered data is taken it can be double that original prediction some of this is down to assumptions about operating hours and different functions but it is also about design and systems Arab have a team that works on building performance helping facilities managers understand the designs they’ve been handed this team will carry out checks of systems in operation against the design their findings show the fundamental problem with our way of commissioning and handing over buildings where typically systems are set up too quickly and squeezed into the end of a construction program but that never really get tested and adjusted before being occupied in one example the team saved 120 thousand pounds a year for a client by reviewing and adjusting the building management system set points and finding issues that could only be found once the building had been allowed to operate for a while in carbon terms this is the equivalent to 1300 flights to New York but also a step closer to the original and prediction most importantly this approach puts the facility’s team in a stronger position to make changes and fine-tune the building because of their improved understanding so let’s assume the building is now performing and the systems are working where is the energy used it varies from building to building but this is a typical split for an office a third of the energy demand is for artificial lighting around ten percent is for cooling and refrigeration almost 30 percent is on electricity to drive fans and pumps which are part of the air conditioning another 10% is on heating energy which is usually supplied by gas in the UK and then although this number does vary greatly there is a base load of 10% for computer equipment as I have already mentioned the performance of the facade is the first step to getting it right the facade design determines the system choice and the installed capacity and vice versa the more climatic control achieved by the facade the simpler and lower the energy used this is the Macmillan Center for UCLH completed last year the facade uses a standard system which is triple glazed with integral shading blinds with a very low air tightness the air conditioning systems choice is then focused on clinical needs and not trying to deal with large load variations from the facade related to facade is lighting energy which has the most significant impact on the energy consumption of all the elements the biggest influence on this number after the depth of the floor is lighting control by using controls for daylight occupancy or even introducing task lights lighting energy can be reduced by half the other part of the energy demand pie chart is fan and pump energy the location of ventilation plant in relation to space serves is very important but equally the ability to switch off fans when they are not needed can make a significant impact providing windows that open can mean being able to shutdown ventilation fans for as much as 50% of the year finally there is the computer equipment in buildings that generates heat buildings are still designed for everyone to have a desktop computer with large processing power when in reality there is a whole mix of lower energy devices with more people using mobile devices and moving processing power to central locations so a design could allow for a base load and then extra capacity for localized areas for larger processors or multiple screens but only when needed finally unlike a window which can be seen and controlled directly modern building services are partly considered a necessary evil because they are hidden and bear no direct relevance to the users exposing services does have its downsides but if services are visible both the people who maintain them and the users can see and understand their function in this refurbishment in Tokyo the old ceilings and equipment came out and were replaced by a simple air conditioning system pipes can easily be traced to their source and new cables can be installed without having to carry out major works systems do not have to get more complicated to meet increasing demands on energy and comfort thinking about simple measures in the context of building users will have the biggest impact it brings me to my last theme of building services I’ve talked about architecture building science and building systems this last theme is people how we interact with buildings where we spend most of our time of course many things affect us and our productivity how we might feel any particular morning to the spaces themselves our access to light and the building location but comfort stands out as one of the main issues in most occupancy satisfaction surveys so I’m going to focus on comfort and control if building services as a whole doesn’t get enough air time on projects then the controls of services get almost nothing and yet it is the controls by the building meets the user the freedom that building services allows architecture of which I’ve spoken about already means that these systems aren’t only fine-tuning but also doing the bulk of environmental control so have become completely critical to having a usable occupiable building and this is very much led to centralizing control systems with some aspects like fire alarms and security the benefits of central control are obvious but I would question whether temperature ventilation should be reso remotely and automatically controlled from returning to buildings and obtaining feedback from occupants over the last 20 years there are three things that people repeatedly want more of from their buildings we want direct control of our environment we want a quick response and we want to understand how the building works we’re more likely to accept variations in temperature if we understand why and what we might be able to do about it so rather than this model of control we’re an operator has to be a single point of contact for say a thousand users which usually means days before receiving a response to a simple complaint is there a more intelligent way to use our controls knowledge and the technology to go back to a more direct control for both occupants and building managers so imagine if you could see immediately all the relevant data personalized to you your energy use the temperature in your space for example clearly we don’t need or want occupants to control everything but coming back to the three feedback points of more control click a response and better understanding there is a benefit to all of us to devolve control and provide more information to occupants of course the technology already exists in most smartphones and this idea also recognizes that most of the devices we install have intelligence and an easy means of extracting data even at a domestic level equipment now has intelligence in the form of a processor there are temperature sensors that collect data and will download the latest weather to know what to do the following day so like a series of web pages it is a series of physical devices it is the Internet of Things concept applied to buildings so rather than individual system interfaces for say lighting heating meeting rooms access all of these can communicate through one device it’s not about adding complexity but about making information more available for example an office worker may want to know the best time to open the window to save energy or just be more comfortable and they can see this for themselves on their own device this also helps operators again not with more complexity but by making the interfaces with controls much to use we are trying in our own office a system that takes building managers out onto the floors so they can interrogate problems directly and speak to users directly this all contributes to a sense of control for both parties quicker responses and more understanding as a result of thinking differently about building services I’ve tried to demonstrate that there are a number of different aspects to services and not only the mechanical and electrical engineering ones and all these aspects need to be engaged by engineers and their project teams to get a better quality solution so knowing the technical part of mechanical and electrical engineering alone is not going to achieve this there needs to be integration of architecture structure and services using building science using the knowledge from existing buildings and their performance and understanding people as for my original question is Building Services design and necessary evil that is for you to decide for now I’ll leave you with a project which I’m working on at the moment it is called the white collar Factory this is a photograph of the working prototype for it it’s an office building which is a result of looking at the future offices and posing some fundamental questions about how we design them it touches on all the aspects I’ve spoken about the working solution is a simple cooling system as part of the structure a facade that is tailored to this to provide daylight but minimize solar gains there are no ceilings giving the volume back to the space with simple exposed services but more importantly than this solution the team are thinking together learning from this mock-up and measuring its performance testing the space so that we can feed this back into the main project it is my particular example of applying integrated thinking and it has shown me that there is room for innovation on all projects and for a more holistic approach to engineering and architectural design thank you well first of all I thought is a really really interesting talk by Mike it’s really really good to understand where Mike’s coming from and his background and secondly I suppose you know it’s it’s good for us to see the broader thinking involved and in terms of the white collar factory which you know we’re we’re passionate about we have been working on for years layers in terms of the thinking the model and now at last we’re actually putting that into into reality it’s it’s for us it’s it’s good to see that actually all that thinking does make perfect sense really for and we’ve always thought that and we we believe actually that you know most enlightened intelligent providers of buildings and space should also come round to that way of thinking because I think especially today’s day and age you know in terms of looking at the triple bottom line or it is it’s not just about pounds and pennies you know if you’re investing in something that is there for the longer term you have to you have to look at them obsolescence and longevity and actually this this thinking for this new type of office building is the way forward because it is about simplifying it’s about being more intelligent with less using our materials to do no to their full extent and and giving focusing more on people rather than construction it’s actually you know the the people and the MD is in the occupier actually changing changing or giving them the tools to change their behavior and then actually everything then the flywheels from there as long as as long as you got a building that is actually set up to provide all those efficiencies actually it starts to work because you’re you’re bringing you know people’s people’s behavior what people want to do you’ll bring that together without the building candy and you have the have a much better product and a hands in it a much more sustainable future that actually costs less money burns less carbon hopefully zero government so it’s it’s it’s inspiring to see it obviously we set out in very kind of simple ways in the slides and then actually we hope that the industry moves that that way

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