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A Meeting of Minds

In this week’s #Build2Perform blog, we’re getting a bonus word from CIBSE President John Field. As well as his regular Presidential blog, he’s written for us about his thoughts ahead of the 3rd Building Performance Conference and Exhibition on 17th and 18th November – how it’s relevant, how it ties into the future of building services, and why it’s exciting!

As CIBSE President one of the biggest and most exciting honours that we get in the job is to preside over a CIBSE Conference. Now in its third year, the Conference is an opportunity to mingle with and hear from some of the biggest names in our industry and grapple with the big issues of the next few years. This year I’m also chairing the second day, in which we’ll be looking at some of the major organisational challenges within the industry such as collaboration and new technology.

The most interesting thing about the Conference is that, while it obviously has a big industry focus, we’re also directly engaging with some of the most significant challenges that the whole world faces over the next hundred years. Climate change, overpopulation, energy security, health and quality of life are all well within our remit, and it’s at events like this that you can truly see how important a position building services engineers occupy in society. We make the modern world work, and this is where we look at how to make it better.

Our key theme this year is ‘Inspiration’, which is hard to pin down but crucial to the future of the way we work. Given all I’ve said about engineers’ place in the world, we still don’t occupy as central a place as we ought to in positions of power – contributing to planning and policy making in the many areas to which we contribute. Unlike lawyers and bankers, engineers don’t have much representation in the UK Government. Our voices often go unheard and our advice unheeded, and we need to change that. We need to fight for influence and be prepared to challenge other engineers, other professions, politicians and the media in order to make sure sustainable and sensible policies in the built environment are top of the agenda.

With that in mind, we’ll be looking into both the past and the future on our first day. Celebrating anniversaries at their own companies and in the 40th year since the creation of CIBSE in its current form, Patrick Bellew of Atelier Ten and Max Fordham will be looking back at how the traditional role of the building services engineer has changed in the last 50 years. Then we’ll be looking forwards – why have warnings about building performance been ignored by Governments past, what can we do to change that, and what is coming up in the legislation pipeline that will affect our industry in future?

We’re also getting to the bottom of a couple of burning issues in the industry. Air quality will be the subject of a number of talks, ranging from external air quality’s effect on the indoor environment to the ways in which indoor air quality can be improved in homes and schools. We’ll also be re-visiting the theme of collaboration from last year’s Conference, looking at what we’ve learned since then and examining the role that individual sectors have to play in the industry as a whole – from the supply chain to facilities managers.

As well as looking at the nuts and bolts of building performance, the Conference is a great chance to debate the big ideas as well. Talking about grander themes and longer-term ambitions is a great way to focus our minds on the potential of our industry, and the differences we can make to the world. We’ll be taking a look at the perfect world: What society would look like if all buildings achieved their best engineering outcomes. We’ll be looking at the imperfect world: What are the true health impacts of air pollution? And we’ll be looking at a better world: How can we ‘turn old into gold’ and make the most of the UK’s current building stock through retrofit.

It is this combination of the practical and the aspirational that makes the Conference so exciting, and the interaction of the two is at the heart of what is going to drive our industry forwards. We know that our industry represents some of the most knowledgeable technical experts in the world, and that we can do amazing things when we bring this knowledge to bear. We aim to create an environment where we can marry the two, and use our skill to make our vision happen. With a gallery of top experts here to speak, as well as over 500 people from across the industry, the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre is going to be an inspiring place for those two days in November, and we hope to see you there!

The CIBSE Building Performance Conference and Exhibition will be held on 17th and 18th November at the Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre in Westminster. For more info see the CIBSE Conference website.

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