New name, new job spec
B&ES president Bob Shelley looks at the issues behind the decision to change the association's name after almost 50 years.
The profession of mechanical and electrical engineering has changed beyond all recognition in the last 20 years. Our industry faces totally different technical challenges and project processes to our predecessors.
For example, contractors have the task of integrating renewable technologies into the widest possible range of buildings. We find ourselves discussing the potential of community heating schemes; combined heat and power; smart controls and smart grids. Things that would have been considered the domain of the design ‘professionals’ in the past are now part of everyday discussion among contractors in partnership with our design colleagues.
The modern contractor has a direct involvement in attempts to improve the thermal performance of the building envelope; he looks at the role mechanical ventilation with heat recovery must play in new housing built to 21st century standards of air tightness with the accompanying threat of airborne pollutants on occupant health; and he is expected to understand how natural ventilation allied to night-time cooling of the thermal mass will affect heating and air conditioning loads in complex buildings.
This broad involvement and depth of technical understanding represents a revolution in how contractors go about their business. Of course, specialists in key areas continue to play a crucial role, but their specialism is firmly part of a broader building strategy.
Many ventilation hygiene specialists, for example, now cover water systems too and also regard their health and safety role as in integral part of the energy performance strategy.
B&ES members must be familiar with modern methods of construction, such as Building Information Modelling (BIM), which is widely regarded as the technology platform for collaboration. BIM will be mandatory on all public sector projects from 2016 and it is not just a design and construction tool.
Client expectations are rising as modern methods become more widespread. Commercial building owners are looking for a return on their investment and they expect us to be sophisticated and multi-talented enough to help achieve their goals. They expect to employ fully fledged building engineering firms who understand how buildings work in a holistic way and are able to look at engineering challenges with lifecycle performance in mind.
Sustainability and the low carbon agenda are driving integration and multi-skilling; so are the new generation of young engineers who can’t imagine any other way of working.
It was against this rapidly evolving backdrop that the HVCA changed its name on March 1 to the Building & Engineering Services Association (B&ES) to better reflect the depth and breadth of its membership. We were the HVCA for nearly 50 years – but heating and ventilating no longer comes anywhere close to describing what our members are capable of.
The first president of the Building & Engineering Services Association - Bob Shelley.