Author Archives: Pat Lehane

Embrace change but remember, ‘an quán dì yi’

Derek Mowlds, MSc, the Managing Director, PM Group Asia.

Reflecting on the industry since commencing employment as a designer approximately 23 year ago, the biggest change I have encountered is the rapid advances in technology and ICT. The fundamentals of building services design have not changed. However, how we work and communicate has completely transformed in the last two decades

I have seen and been part of this transformation from my humble beginnings in a design office in Mountjoy Square in Dublin (pre- AutoCad!), to VMRA in Dartry Road, then PM Group and onto PM Group’s Shanghai office in China. I am now the Managing Director of our businesses in Asia, and I felt that the best thing I could do for this piece is to share my thoughts on some of the key focus areas to successfully compete in, and deliver, projects in today’s exciting but sometimes unpredictable environment

These are in no particular order, as they may be applicable to various stages of business development and the project execution lifecycle, or to various stages of your own career.

Remain agile and flexible                                                                                             Building services engineers and the supply chain should remain agile and flexible in a very dynamic and changing environment. This may simply mean remaining open to different contracting models such as Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) or working with contractors on design and build projects; it may even mean an openness to travel for international experience, or work on projects with teams from multiple locations, or in a different sector.

Systems thinking                                                                                                                                                        Engineers are best placed to apply a “systems approach” to both engineering design and overall project delivery. Any project can be broken down into a distinct number of systems, many of which will be common from building to building, despite the sector. Focussing on the critical/key systems early can help drive decisions and improve project delivery and efficiency.

The systems approach can also be used to identify key interfaces with other design disciplines and encourage early dialogue and design coordination. Outside of engineering, there is an interesting resource that frequently refer to called the Systems Engineering Body of Knowledge (SEBoK – www.seebok-info.org) which provides key knowledge resources and references of systems engineering, organised and explained to assist a wide variety of users.

Lessons learned                                                                                                                                                             Always strive to capture and transfer lessons from one project to the next. Also refer to lessons captured from other projects in your organisation. Do this early in the project, before you encounter a repeat issue that could have been easily avoided. Without a robust “lessons learned” system in your organisation, valuable knowledge will be lost across projects as the design team will change, and people move on, but the key issues and challenges remain!

Be open-minded                                                                                                                                                        Always remain open to new technologies and innovations, and encourage innovation from all members of your team. Embrace the right technologies and approaches for your business and projects early, including BIM, LEAN, Construction Management IS (Information Systems) etc. However, remember that technology is an enabler, not the answer.

Continuous Professional Development                                                                                                          Stay in touch with your relevant engineering institutions, attend conferences and CPD events. Also, there is a huge volume of on-line CPD available. This raises another issue … for many the challenge now is managing your time as we are now “data rich and time poor”, according to a famous quote from Dr Kevin Kelly. It is also of huge importance to mentor and train the next wave of graduates in our industry. As you progress through your career, share your knowledge and experience to build the competencies of those around you.

Culture and communication                                                                                                                               Our clients, teams and colleagues now consist of a diverse mix of nationalities and cultures. This can actually improve team performance and efficiency based on the differing perspectives of individual team members. However, this requires leadership and mutual respect. Building services engineers also need to integrate into multidisciplinary design teams (often from multiple companies) to deliver projects requiring a huge dependency on soft skills in addition to technical acumen. There is a huge body of knowledge on culture and communications, plus regular seminars and workshops, that might be worth attending if you feel that improvement is needed in this area.

Safety first                                                                                                                                                                   Last, but by no means least, remember to keep safety at the heart of everything that you do. Think of safety in design and safety during construction. Then deliver safe assets and systems for those who will operate them into the future. In China we say “an quán dì yl” … safety first. Stay positive and watch out for signs of stress. I say this to both employers and employees, particularly on demanding projects. Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint.

Health & Well Being of Buildings

Mona Holtkoetter

The building services profession has long moved from pipe, ductwork and equipment sizing to a much broader and more complex role. Topics like sustainability, energy savings, renewable energy and BIM (building information modelling), just to name a few, have become a huge part of building services design, sales, manufacturing and construction. Renewable energy, for example, has been brought back to the top of our priority list through the recent release of Building Regulations Part L 2017 (NZEB), and sustainability rating systems such as BREEAM, LEED and the Home Performance Index are part and parcel of our daily jobs.

A new topic has recently entered the Irish market – building design and operation that focuses on the benefit of health and well-being of people. This “second wave of sustainability” is focused on providing the optimal working environments where people can thrive and fulfil their highest potential.

Why is this important?                                                                                                        There are multiple ways we, as building services professionals, can positively impact the health and well-being of people in buildings through our design and construction practices. Here are a few aspects to consider.

A ventilation system, designed and built for optimal indoor air quality, has the potential to reduce the negative effects attributed to asthma, headaches, hay fever and the flu. Recent studies have also shown that improved indoor air quality has the potential to enhance individual cognition by up to 61%.1 Attention to detail when selecting materials such as paints, ductwork sealants, glues, ceiling tiles, carpets and furniture can reduce the toxic off gassing within the first year of installation and with that, potentially reduce the risk of cancer.

Another aspect is the design of water systems. Legionella has been the key word in the design and construction of water systems within the last 20 years. While this is still an important topic that cannot be neglected, the design of water systems should also take other harmful contaminants into account. Project-based water quality testing and the design of a consequent filtration system that removes  all contaminants and optimises the testing of drinking water, should become part of our scope in the future. Providing employees with access to high-quality and good-tasting drinking water has shown to positively influence hydration and therefore concentration levels.

The lighting environment we design for the people inside our buildings, who spend 90% of their time indoors, can impact their visual, circadian and mental health. Presently, most spaces are fitted with lighting systems that meet the visual needs of individuals, but do not consider the effects of lighting on our internal body clock or mental health. Research and design provides huge opportunities in this area.

A building’s indoor thermal environment not only affects its energy use, but also influences the health, well-being and productivity of the people inside. Thermal comfort is ranked as one of the highest contributing factors that influence our satisfaction with our buildings. While designs typically meet thermal comfort standards on paper, there is limited on-site verification to ensure that the space actually performs as intended.

As landlords and tenants alike increasingly demand healthy workspaces, we would do well to shift the focus towards on-site performance testing when it comes to these design and construction practices. Certification programmes such as the WELL Building Standard™ (WELL) already require testing for air and water quality, thermal and acoustic comfort, as well as lighting levels, propelling the industry to integrate this practice into the commissioning process and the day-to-day working lives of building services professionals.

Companies have already started to investigate the financial value of health and well-being interventions. A recent study by the World Green Building Council outlines The Business Case for Health and Well-being in Green Building. The published study features Cundall’s London office at One Carter Lane, which has claimed £200,000 annual savings based on reduced absenteeism and staff turnover.2 This office is the first space to be WELL Certifiedin Europe and has seen huge benefits by focusing on human-centred design, construction and operations.

Arup’s office in Cork, the first WELL Certifiedspace in Ireland, has also generated significant interest in healthy office environments. IPUT’s headquarters at St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin is on track to become the first WELL Certified™ office in the capital.

With these and other exciting developments, building services professionals are now faced with their most important role … supporting the health of the people who use their buildings every day.

References

[1] Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, 2016.

[2] Doing Right by Planet and People: The Business Case for Health and Well-being in Green Building. World Green Business Council, April 2018. www.worldgbc.org/news-media/doingright- planet-and-people-business-case-healthand- wellbeing-green-building.

Enabling the digitisation of architecture, engineering and construction (AEC)

John Keane, Commercial
Director, MMA Consulting Engineers

The reasons for this slow adoption are many but entrenched work practices and the lack of system-wide standards are major contributors. Over the last five years – led by the technical expertise of Dr Shawn O’Keeffe and Shane Brodie – MMA has developed a data-driven philosophy using LEAN management principles to deliver a new approach to design and construction. Shane Brodie is an acknowledged contributor to The Roadmap to Digital Transition for Ireland’s Construction Industry 2018- 2021, while Dr Shawn O’Keeffe sits on the NSAI National Mirror Committee on BIM Standards, as does Shane.

MMA believes in the Open BIM (Building Information Modelling) philosophy. However, big data applications are useless unless they follow a standard that can be verified and validated. MMA projects are delivered verified and validated to meet COBie requirements. Verification and validation of the  model is essential to ensure that the same asset within the same facility (or any other facility) is recorded in the same way, therefore allowing the facilities management team to know that they have the same pump in different locations, etc.

“COBie (Construction-Operations Building information exchange) is simply the setup and delivery of digital facilities management data during normal design and construction practises. It is a LEAN methodology for capturing data and is a ‘contracted information exchange’ for building projects, designed to help get a facility up and running right away, at handover or occupation,” explains Dr Shawn O’Keeffe.

One major piece of research work MMA recently completed was the much-acclaimed book Delivering COBie using Autodesk Revit. This book was a collaboration between Dr Shawn O’Keeffe and Richard McKenna with the inventor of COBie, Dr Bill East.

MMA has put its own research into practice delivering a recent 6D BIM model that is fully interoperable with the clients facilities management system (which in this case was Maximo). This facility (Figure 1) was fully designed in BIM using Revit. All the asset information is contained within the model. Any pump, valve, motor etc can be selected and all the relevant COBie data will be shown, including asset specifications, maintenance details and warranty details (see Figure 2). The verified and validated COBie IFC output seamlessly interfaces with the facilities management system.

The Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) data model (ISO 16739:2013) describes building and construction industry data. It is a platform-neutral, open-file format specification that is not controlled by a single vendor or group of vendors. It is an object-based file format developed by  buildingSmart to facilitate interoperability.

MMA acted as the BIM model integrator for this project, as well as taking on its traditional role as M&E designer. Acting as BIM model integrator allowed MMA to drive LEAN management principles throughout the design and construction phases. Highly-efficient construction scheduling was enabled by full BIM implementation.

On the completion of the civil works, MMA’s in-house 3D scanning team, led by Dr Conor Dore, carried out a scan of the facility. This 3D scan was then compared to the CSA (Civil Structural Architectural) BIM design model using BIM & Scan AutoCorrTM cloud-based software (Figure 3). MMA carries out its own 3D scan work as it forms the basis of its designs and is too critical to leave to a third party with the associated interface risks.

The BIM & Scan AutoCorrTM software highlights any areas that are out of tolerance with the design model. The tolerance can be set according to the designer’s requirements. Areas that were out of tolerance with the design model were highlighted. Figure 4 and Figure 5 outline how clashes and variations between the “as built” point cloud (the output from the 3D scan) and the design BIM model were identified. The M&E designers reviewed all highlighted areas and the M&E BIM model was adjusted accordingly to ensure there were no clashes, or re-work required, during the M&E installation.

Having certainty regarding the “as built” environment allowed the M&E designers to develop full tender packages with detailed bills of quantities through the BIM model (Figure 6). This in turn allowed for offsite fabrication of piping and duct work. The detailed tender packages and extensive offsite fabrication generated significant cost savings. The elimination of clashes and onsite fabrication allowed for the construction schedule to be implemented as planned with no variations.

Advances in processing capability and the “big data” revolution is allowing MMA to cost-effectively process gigabytes of information to deliver better designs, more cost-effective construction and lifecycle solutions for clients. As an industry we are on the cusp of a revolution. The recently-published The Roadmap to Digital Transition for Ireland’s Construction Industry 2018-2021 attempts to plan out the digital transition. When has a revolution ever followed a plan? “All failure is failure to adapt, all success is successful adaptation.” – Max McKeown, Adaptability: The Art of Winning in an Age of Uncertainty. 

See the full article in pdf format by clicking on the Cover of the latest issue (right).

Source: Engineering consultants Melbourne.

The importance of getting emergency lighting right

Richard Caple, immediate
past President of the Society of Light &
Lighting (SLL), and Lighting Applications
Manager, Thorlux Lighting.

While not a significant factor in this particular event, emergency lighting has become a focus of attention for many building owners, occupiers and employers. An event of this scale highlights and reminds everyone of the importance of providing, testing and maintaining effective life safety systems. Emergency lighting is a critical life safety system but providing a compliant solution is often time-consuming, complex and expensive. To quote a colleague: “often just enough is done.” But is “just enough” enough? Emergency lighting must follow a process of consultation, collaborative design and rigorous maintenance and testing.

Consultation
One of the most important parts of emergency lighting is consultation. Without communication between all of the relevant parties, those responsible for the design of a system stand very little chance of producing a compliant scheme. The consultation phase creates the forum for key stakeholders to engage and develop a better understanding of the type of building, its intended use, the type of people using it, periods of use, risks and emergency strategies.

These are all important factors and are identified in IS3217:2013 + A1:2017. Often, however, these consultations do not take place. This leads to assumptions and estimates, which in my experience are often never reviewed or questioned, potentially leading to an ineffective system.

The type and number of stakeholders involved in the consultation will depend on the nature of the project. For example, if it is a new building or the refurbishment of an existing one, the size and scale of the building will also dictate those who should be involved. At the very least the building owner, occupier/employer, building services engineers, architects, electrical engineers and lighting designers should be communicating to deliver an affective and appropriate emergency lighting solution.

The role of emergency lighting has also become more complex, which further increases the importance of consultation. Not only is emergency lighting required to facilitate the safe exit of people from a building, high risk emergency lighting is needed in areas where potentially-dangerous equipment is being used, or a process needs to be made safe before evacuation.

A new consideration on the horizon is safety lighting or “stay put” as it is also known. In some situations there may be a greater danger from evacuating people out of the building or there may be situations where mains power fails to the building but this poses no danger to the occupants. Therefore, certain tasks might be carried on, but a sufficient amount of light needs to be provided, which may be much higher than normal emergency lighting levels. System design then becomes very important. Safety lighting also needs rigorous consultation between all parties to produce a policy and to ensure that the system is sufficient and safe.

Design
Once all of the impacting factors have been identified within the consultation, the design process can start. Aside from the requirements of escape lighting to routes and anti-panic lighting to open areas, illumination is needed at the points of emphasis, such as changes in direction or level, as well as the highlighting of fire alarm call points, firefighting equipment, first aid points and fire alarm panels. The requirements can become more complex for large buildings, high-rise buildings or buildings where the mobility of people may be impaired, such as hospitals or care homes.

The level of potential complexity that the designer needs to consider highlights the importance of not only ensuring the competency of the lighting designer, but that they also have access to the relevant information. It must also be remembered that emergency lighting is covered in an array of different standards, which from time to time are updated. Is the designer conversant with the latest requirements? How do they prove that they are? Is it time for professional competency recognition for emergency lighting designers? These are some of the questions that are starting to be asked by many within the lighting industry.

Maintenance and testing
One of the most costly elements of emergency lighting is the testing and upkeep of a system. I have seldom come across buildings that have records demonstrating proper testing, and also important, records of maintenance being carried out showing rectification of failed or faulty emergency luminaires. To fully test and log emergency lighting in compliance with the standards is expensive, with labour time being the significant factor.

Quarterly short duration tests are required to prove the system is operational with a full rated duration test being required every year. The full rated duration test is often the most costly and problematic, as consideration is needed as to what happens after the luminaire has been fully discharged. Most manufacturers will recommend a full 24-hour charge before the luminaire is effective again and at full capacity. Therefore, managing these tests – while still keeping a building operational and safe – can be a challenge. Often to do this involves testing alternate luminaires at different points through the year, meaning multiple visits to a site. This raises costs further. However, one thing is clear, not testing and maintaining emergency lighting is a sure way of contributing to the system not functioning correctly when it is really needed.

Technology
Advances in technology are helping to overcome some of the problems associated with emergency lighting compliance. LED technology, for example, has been hugely beneficial. Emergency lighting products have become much smaller and more discreet, while the output and optical performance has improved significantly. These improvements allow for much wider spacings and consequently a reduction in the number of emergency luminaires required. Better lamp and battery life is also reducing maintenance costs.

Another significant advancement in emergency lighting is self-test, communication and reporting systems. In fact, Autotest systems, where the luminaire tests itself to the requirements of the standards, have been around for a few decades.

However, today’s communicating and reporting technologies, which provide enhanced status and condition information, make the management of emergency luminaires much simpler, as well as lowering life costs. Building owners/maintenance managers now have the facility to see the status of all of their emergency luminaires within a building, or even multiple buildings, on their computers, or mobile devices.

Importantly, these systems can also be proactive, providing instant details of any fault. Through manual testing a problem may develop with a luminaire shortly after test, meaning it could be a whole month before the fault is identified at the next test. Today’s systems also have the ability to tell you what has failed, for example a battery or lamp, and to display where the fitting is in the building. This reduces labour
time for remedial works.

With battery replacements typically being required every three to six years, this is the most common regular maintenance needed. A proactive system can not only tell you when a battery has failed, but also identify batteries that are about to fail, again reducing the overall call out rate and maintenance cost for a building.

A further advantage of these automatic systems is the ability to schedule tests. Either random testing can be carried out, ensuring that no one area will be completely without emergency lighting due to depleted charge in the batteries, or it can be scheduled for the whole building to be tested at once, for example on Christmas Day when the building is not being used. Batteries then have time to charge. This ensures full capacity when the building is re-occupied, thus mitigating risk to the occupants.

Conclusion
Emergency lighting is a life safety system, and it must be taken seriously. Getting it right is important, and involves a process of consultation, competent design, careful consideration of system type and robust maintenance and upkeep. It remains to be seen as to what will happen to building regulations following the events at Grenfell Tower. However, we all have a part to play, and it is up to us to ensure that our buildings are safe for people to live, work and play in.

Entry deadline looming for CIBSE Ireland inaugural awards

Pictured at the announcement of the
CIBSE Ireland Awards were (front row):
David Doherty, T Bourke and CIBSE Ireland
Committee; Paul Martin, SEAI and CIBSE
Ireland Chair; Michael O’Herlihy, Wilo Ireland;
and Damien Flynn, Axiseng and Vice-Chair,
CIBSE Ireland; (second row): Pat Lehane,
CIBSE Ireland Committee and Publisher/
Editor, Building Services News; Derek Elton,
Wilo Ireland and Kieran McCarthy, Daikin
Ireland; (third row) Karl Carrick and Garrett
White, Hevac; (back row): Richard Sherlock,
Mitsubishi Electric, John Valentine, Daikin
Ireland and Fergus Daly, Mitsubishi Electric.

This is a reminder that the entry deadline for these new awards is fast-approaching so log on to www.cibseireland.org/awards2018/  now if you don’t miss out. These awards are open to the design consultant and mechanical or electrical contractor, and submissions must be a joint entry by both the consultant and contractor. Buildings that are eligible for submission include – hospitality, leisure, health, commercial, industrial, retail, pharmaceutical, educational facilities and office buildings.

There are three categories for the CIBSE Ireland Awards, and they are sponsored respectively by Daikin, Hevac and Wilo. These are – Up to €2 million; Between €2 million and €5 million; Over €5 million. Applicants may enter only one project per category.

Projects can be located anywhere in the Republic of Ireland and entries must be submitted by the design consultant/project engineer on behalf of the design and contracting teams. Projects must be “practical completed” by 31 December 2017 (i.e. available for client use in January 2018) to be eligible for inclusion. Log on to www.cibseireland.org to enter and complete as directed.

Hard copy completed submissions must be returned to CIBSE Ireland Awards, c/o Building Services News, Carraig Court, George’s Avenue, Blackrock, Co Dublin, no later than 2pm on Friday, 27 July 2018.

The awards will be presented as part of the CIBSE Ireland 50th dinner celebrations in the Clayton Hotel, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4 on Friday, 30 November, 2018.

Photometrics the key to best lighting design

Photometrics key to best lighting design

The historical significance of the church and ruins, and the prominent elevated site they occupy overlooking the town, made for an ideal lighting project. However, it was also a challenging one in that it called for a customised lighting solution that would offer all the possibilities of modern-day lighting technology but one that was sensitive and sympathetic to the architecture and history of the site, and especially to the fact that it also incorporates a graveyard.

Having considered their options, Wexford County Council appointed Al Reid Electrical, who has extensive experience in this area, to carry out the project. They in turn partnered with Gay Byrne, Chairman of Lighting Association Ireland and Managing Director of Enlighten (part of the Fantasy Lights Group) to come up with the final solution that has won many accolades since it was switched on.

The design process began with an exhaustive site survey that included photography, extensive and very detailed measurements of the various building ruins, the use of old images and Google technologies. These were then used to create a 3D recreation of the whole site and one that took into account how the lighting would impact not just from the town, but also from the sea.

Once the 3D process was completed by means of density measuring devices this data was then computerised by way of an advanced programme to create the photometrics. These are essential in ensuring that the light levels achieved are correct and appropriate for the sensitivity of the site itself, and the surrounding area. It was not like lighting a football stadium to levels suitable for TV broadcast of field games, but rather delivering a solution that was in keeping with the fact that it houses centuries-old ruins and an operational church of unique architectural heritage.

The use of the photometrics was essential in devising and indeed visually demonstrating (see images, right) the different light levels required for the various buildings on the site, and to test and visualise the different optics that were required. They also facilitated visualisation of the varying effects that can be achieved by setting the fittings at different angles and mounting positions. For instance, some of the façade fittings are mounted on poles.

The light fittings chosen were high-quality Griven units incorporating RGBW technology. In addition to an RGB chip, they also feature an individual white light chip which is the only way to achieve pure white. This was essential in delivering the final desired effect. Griven is one of the market-leading manufacturers in the architectural lighting sector, featuring a comprehensive catalogue of proven quality, high reliability and fully weather-proofed lighting fixtures that offer innovative and alternative colour-changing solutions. A mix of different Griven luminaires were used on the project.

The overall lighting solution is controlled by a DMX management system that can be accessed and operated from a computer through to an ipad and mobile telephone. This role is delivered off site by Al Reid Electrical but, for the most part, the colour-changing is pre-programmed to coincide with various dates, festivals, events, national holidays, etc.

That the final solution provided is perfect and fit-for-purpose is evident for all to see. However, the importance of the detailed site survey, research and accumulation of all manner of data to create the 3D imagery which in turn leads to the computerised photometrics cannot be overstated.

Excellent presentations at SDAR Awards 2018

Back Row: Michael McDonald (DIT) with Charles Dunn (CIBSE/RPS), Dr Avril Behan (DIT) and Gerry Farrelly (DIT)
Front Row : Padraic O’Connor (SISK) with Thomas Shannon, Mona Holtkotter, Camila Dbastiani and Dr Kevin Kelly (DIT)

The SDAR awards promote collaboration between industry and academic institutions. The idea is to encourage applied research and ensure quality and value in innovation projects. The more research papers and post-occupancy evaluations undertaken, the more sustainable design and energy efficacy in future and existing buildings can be encouraged.

The role of CIBSE in this regard is to facilitate this process and disseminate the findings. The event was opened by Dr Kevin Kelly,Head of the School of Multidisciplinary Technologies and Vice-President, CIBSE, and Michael McDonald. Michael is the event organiser, a member of the CIBSE Ireland Committee and alecturer at the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering.

The expert judging panel consisted of Gerry Farrelly and Dr Avril Behan, DIT and Charles Dunn, RPS and CIBSE Committee. First prize went to Mona Holtkötter of the International WELL Building Institute and Secretary of CIBSE Ireland. Mona’s research on the potential impact of the updated Building Regulations Part L on current building design strategies, using a Dublin city centre office building as an example, was a narrow but deserved winner following her excellent presentation. The title of the paper was The new Irish Building Regulations Part L 2017: the impact on city centre developments. Padraic O’Connor, Building Services Department Manager at Sisk & Son, presented her with a cheque for €1000.

The two runners up (in no particular order) were as follows.

— Influence of the biogas generated on the mixing of UASB bioreactors: Comparison of CFD and experiential results by Camila D’Bastiani of DIT (Ph.D. Researcher);

— A case study into the integration of technological and engineering innovations in a manufacturing/distribution facility to support a sustainable future by Tommy Shannon of Excel Industries.

They each received €250 courtesy of CIBSE Ireland, the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering and the School of Multidisciplinary Technologies.

Lighter/Young Lighter competition                                                                                                                     The second upcoming major event is the CIBSE Irish Lighter/Young Lighter competition. This is well established as a premier national and international lighting competition, and will be accepting abstracts from mid-June.

Contact michael.mcdonald@dit.ie or kevin.kelly@dit.ie

IRI dinner, awards and expo success

Seamus Kerr pictured at the IRI Dinner and Awards night with Derek Byrne.

The venue was the Grand Hotel, Malahide. After the inaugural delegate registration and exposition, approximately 200 industry personnel, and their guests, enjoyed an excellent meal, the presentation of the awards, and music and dancing into the early hours. Details of the awards, winners and sponsors follow.

Apprentice of the Year Award                                                                                                This award is for apprentices who have excelled in their final SOLAS assessments in refrigeration and air conditioning and was sponsored by Solas. There were two presentations, covering 2017 and 2018. Michael Farrell, Anglo Irish Refrigeration received the 2017 award from Martin O’Brien of CIT while Jim Ffrench, DIT presented the 2018 award to John Levins, also of Anglo Irish Refrigeration.

Energy & Environmental Award                                                                                            This award is for companies who show a track record of reducing their environmental impact and gaining significant energy savings. It was sponsored by Danfoss with Stephen Molloy making the presentations. Results were as follows:

Highly Commended – Sirus Engineering Systems for the Mitsubishi Electric HVRF air conditioning system installed on a major project;

Winner – Daikin for its R32 Sky Air system.

Training Award                                                                                                                                                       This is for companies who have excelled in the provision of training for their staff and customers. It is sponsored by Carel Ireland and the presentations were made by Dave Killalea. Results were as follows.

Highly commended – Musgraves;

Winner – Anglo Irish Refrigeration.

Innovation Award                                                                                                                                                  This is for companies, or Individuals, who have contributed most to new technologies and ideas applied to the RAC and HV industry applications environment. It was sponsored by Daikin. Results were as follows.

Highly Commended – Crystal Air;

Winner – Higgins Refrigeration.

Contribution to Industry Award                                                                                                                        This is for individuals who have promoted and supported the RAC industry over a prolonged period of time. It was sponsored by Mitsubishi Electric and the winner was John Sampsom.

Heat pump grant details explained

Why heat pumps?                                                                                                                            Primarily to accelerate the move away from fossil fuels towards renewable forms of heating. Hence the discontinuation of the grant for oil/gas boilers with controls, and the introduction of a single higher grant for heating controls only. The addition of a heat pump grant arises from the ongoing review of the programme and the objective of supporting more renewable heating options, on top of the solar

Heat pumps are very efficient electrical devices that convert energy from the outside of the home into useful heat in the home, in the same way a fridge extracts heat from its inside. They even work in Ireland’s cold winters. This extracted heat can then be used to heat the home and hot water. The beauty of a heat pump is that every unit of electricity used in the process yields about four units of heat. In well-insulated houses they are very economical to run and are an extremely efficient alternative to fossil fuel-based heating systems. There are different types of heat pumps including air-to-water, ground source to water, exhaust air-to-water, water-to-water and air-to-air heat pumps.

Why the focus on “fabric first” for heat pumps?                                                                  For optimum efficiency, heat pumps should only be installed in well-insulated homes. If the home is not properly insulated it is highly likely that it will not be heated properly and the homeowner’s electricity bills will be higher than expected. To address this, SEAI has introduced a process to ensure that the homes are suitable for a heat pump based on a “fabric first” approach.

The minimum requirement will be based on the total heat loss for the dwelling, which includes the fabric and ventilation heat loss. The Heat Loss Indicator, or HLI, is the Total Heat Loss per m2 of dwelling floor area. This can be calculated using the Dwelling Energy Assessment Procedure or DEAP software used to determine a home’s Building Energy Rating. The HLI will be used to determine the energy performance of the dwelling for the purpose of the Better Energy Homes grants for heat pump systems and must be no more than 2W/K m2..

Central to determining this calculation will be the role of an independent SEAI registered Technical Advisor who will carry out the required technical assessment to determine the suitability of a home for a heat pump system.

How can the Heat Loss Indicator (HLI) of a poorly-performing home be improved?                          The Technical Assessment report will set out the specifics for each individual home. It is likely to include recommendations to improve the insulation of the walls, attic and possibly floor. It may also require the installation of high-performance double or triple-glazed windows and doors. Doing this will generally make a home more airtight. This is good but will necessitate a ventilation strategy for occupant health and to protect against condensation effects. That might sound like a contradiction, but ventilation is extremely important.

SEAI already offers grants for three types of wall insulation (external wall insulation, internal dry lining and cavity wall insulation) as well as attic insulation.

Who is the Technical Advisor and what does he/she do?                                                                         An independent SEAI registered Technical Advisor will be an engineer, architect, quantity surveyor or relevant construction professional who is also a registered Domestic BER Assessor and who has attended an SEAI Technical Advisor workshop.

(S)he will use the DEAP software to determine the Heat Loss Indicator and thus the home’s suitability for a heat pump. This information may already be available from a current valid BER for the property. If no current BER exists then the advisor will publish an up-to-date BER, a prerequisite for a heat pump grant. The Technical Advisor will produce a Technical Assessment which will indicate that either the home is already heat pump ready or, if not, what upgrades are necessary to make it so.

At the time of applying for a heat pump grant the homeowner is required to upload the Technical Assessment document attesting to the home’s eligibility or what needs to be done to achieve eligibility. Where upgrade works are necessary then the Technical Assessment document can be used by the homeowner to get quotes from contractors for these works. Homeowners who successfully proceed with a grant-aided heat pump system installation will receive a €200 grant towards the cost of the Technical Advisor.

The introduction of the independent SEAI registered Technical Advisor role is a further step to help professionalise residential retrofitting. SEAI will soon publish a list of independent SEAI-registered Technical Advisors on its website. To be eligible for registration candidates must be a registered Domestic BER Assessor and have a FETAC Level 7 in engineering/architecture/quantity surveying/construction or equivalent (must demonstrate adequate experience and full membership of relevant professional associations).

What are the requirements to register as a heat pump installer?                                                            To be eligible to register as a heat pump installer for the Better Energy Homes programme, candidates must have:

— Fetac Level 6 Plumbing Certificate with minor in electrics;

— A Certificate of Competency from the manufacturer(s) of the appliance(s) they intend to install;

— From 1 January 2019 Fetac Level 6 in Heat Pump Installation, or registration on SEAI’s Register of Renewables Installers.

As with all other registered contractors under the programme, heat pump installers will also be required to abide by the Better Energy Homes Terms and Conditions, including requirements to be tax compliant and properly insured. They must complete the installation in full accordance with the Code of Practice. They will also be subject to SEAI’s quality assurance and disciplinary procedure. The heat pump section in the Code of Practice is now being updated.

Are there any differences to other Better Energy Homes grant eligibility terms?                              Aside from the requirement for the Technical Assessment report, only one eligibility term is different for the heat pump system grant. The year of construction and first occupation for the home in question must be before 2011. This eligibility criteria has also been extended to the solar thermal grant. Homes built after this date were subject to Building Regulations which mandated a minimum level of renewables.

[For insulation grants and heating control grants under the Better Energy Homes programme, the requirement remains unchanged where construction and first occupation must be before 2006].

A Tribute to Sean Mulcahy

Sean Mulcahy’s impressive
engineering career spanned almost the
entire second half of the 20th century,
from the post-war years right up to the
early dawn of the Celtic Tiger era.

Over that long period the practice and science of building services engineering in Ireland developed from its very humble beginnings to embrace a myriad of highly-sophisticated engineering applications. Seán played a major role in that transformation through his belief in providing sound engineering advice, embodying both a sense of design excellence and a spirit of innovation.

To gain some insight into the influences that moulded this belief, it is necessary to factor in Seán’s family history and his early career experiences. Seán was born in 1926 into an Ireland that was still emerging from a turbulent decade of social upheaval, armed revolt and a highly-divisive civil war. Seán’s father was very active in these events and continued in a prominent political role for many years.

Seán was the youngest of six siblings. While not blessed with robust health, as a child he had already begun to exhibit the characteristics of gentleness and creativity that would endear him to so many of his acquaintances in his later life.

He decided on a career in building services engineering as it seemed to him, back in 1947, that building services engineering might well be a rapidly-expanding field. Fatefully, his interest was drawn to a Danish building services consultancy practice, J Varming & Company, which had just opened a design office in Dublin. Seán’s decision to accept a position with this company was one which was to shape his engineering career for the following five decades.

Jørgen Varming became Seán’s first “boss”, his mentor, business partner and a life-long friend. They went on to discover that they shared the same vision and values, not only for buildings and engineering, but also for art and music.

Jørgen Varming shared offices with Michael Scott and Ove Arup in Scott’s Merrion Square Building in those early years and the newly-appointed young graduate was assigned some minor engineering design for the  Busáras office building. However, he soon realised that his university education had taught him little about building services engineering and nothing about architecture. To develop the fundamentals of these skills,

Varming sent Seán to Copenhagen for a year, his first time out of Ireland, to work for a Danish electrical contractor. Seán returned to Dublin from Copenhagen in June 1949 a committed building designer and an architect, albeit one specialising in the limited field of building engineering systems. The design of the mechanical and electrical installations in Busáras offered opportunities for innovation and so it should not come as a total surprise that the fire-fighting installation included a basic sprinkler system.

As the years went by, the complement of local Irish engineers increased and gradually the Danish engineers returned to the Copenhagen Office. Seán was appointed partner in charge of the Dublin Office, resulting in a change of name to J Varming & S Mulcahy. Seán persuaded Brian Reilly, a college friend, to return from England and join him in the new set-up. This was another key relationship that endured for  the remainder of their professional working lives.

Ireland in the 1950s was not in a good economic state and the prospects for maintaining their small consulting engineering practice were becoming daunting for Seán and Brian. However, rather than consider retrenching, Seán’s reaction was to expand. With such a plan in mind, he approached Jørgen Varming in Copenhagen and, in 1957, on Ove Arup’s recommendation, they set up in London, styled as Steensen Varming Mulcahy. A second SVM office was opened in Edinburgh in 1959.

Having been based essentially in London and Edinburgh for over 10 years, Seán returned to the Dublin Office in the late 1960s, a decade which had seen a strong revival of the fortunes of the Dublin practice now styled as Varming Mulcahy Reilly Associates.

In a talk recorded in 1982, Seán gave his views on how engineering services enable modern architecture. He related enthusiastically to the definition of Henry Wooton that “the qualities of a building are those of commodity, firmness and delight. The structural engineer identifies his particular role with firmness. The building services engineer, his with commodity or performance, and both engineers believe with some justification that the architect’s concern is often with delight”.

Seán admired how Reiner Banham – in his book, published in 1969, Architecture of the Well-Tempered Environment – set out the truly essential role of engineering services in modern building design. Banham pointed out that the functioning of all large or tall buildings is utterly dependent on ventilation, on lifts, on plumbing and on communications. Banham hypothesised that the single unique distinction of success of modern architecture design resides in the performance of its engineering services.

Jørgen Varming passed to his eternal reward in September 1996. At his funeral in Gentofte outside Copenhagen, the pastor began his homily with the striking words “The light of a most shining person has been extinguished very quietly, having burned for a long, long time, and we are all left so very strangely in the dark.”

Many of us with Varming roots can relate to these words and will have experienced the same sensation on the occasion of Seán’s recent passing.

Happily, the torch lit by Jørgen Varming in Dublin in 1946 is enduring and has been carried forward by successive generations of Irish Varming engineers. Seán Mulcahy will always be recognised, and remembered, as the main torch bearer.