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Improving society through a better built environment

01 October 2019

David Frise highlights the needs for facilities to be built and maintained to the highest standards to comply with safety, health and societal requirements in an exclusive interview with PFM.

Members of the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) are increasingly involved in the FM sector, either as providers of hard services or as designers and installers of HVAC systems within the renovation of existing or construction of new facilities.

When speaking with BESA chief executive David Frise, it is immediately obvious that there are numerous common issues shared between his association’s members and FMs with long experience in maintaining comfort levels, while also managing the plant and equipment essential for the task.

“There is too little realisation of the effect of not maintaining systems correctly,” Mr Frise tells PFM. “This is often because they’re fairly invisible and can’t be seen or heard, and they are often well down the list of priorities for many people.

"For example, car parking charges provide a more emotive subject and there’s often a number of others that will be seen as more important than servicing plant and equipment correctly.”

Although the advances made within numerous areas of HVAC technology have seen them become far more sophisticated in recent years, offering accurate monitoring and generating data that can be viewed and interpreted more easily, there continues to be a reluctance by some to invest in effective maintenance procedures.

Those that have experienced the difficulties caused by lack of investment in this area are usually more receptive and understanding of the need to avoid this in future, he continues.

“It is generally more helpful to have a client who’s had something happen after failing to make sure that their system has been properly serviced and maintained,” says Mr Frise.

“They’re usually keen to avoid making the same mistake in the future, so will be more willing to discuss the options to keep them running and also comply with legislation.”

Another shared concern of BESA, its members and FMs – particularly those tasked with delivering workplaces that provide the best environment for staff to work as productively as possible – is that of indoor air quality (IAQ).

Having moved to its new office in the St Katherine Docks area of London last year, it is reassuring to hear that the association made the necessary investment to provide a healthy working environment.

“We’re near a very busy road that often has standing traffic and resulting in high levels of emissions, so it made sense for BESA to invest in plant that delivers a high level of IAQ, although we were told that we would have to constantly change the filters, but that’s just part of the high investment in staff that every company makes. When you pay your staff good wages and invest in further training, it makes good sense to look after them.

“We all know that people work better if they feel healthy and happy, although there are very few definitive studies in this area that show the evidence of this,” says Mr Frise.

“We’re all competing for talent and I think it would support more investment in improving workspaces if there was more research to show how this can benefit companies.”

He believes there is not enough appreciation of the options available to raise IAQ levels and there is a need to publicise the best examples of successful projects in this area more widely to show how low carbon technology can be effectively implemented.

Although increased focus on delivering sustainability on a number of levels was seen to have made a positive impact in the understanding and development of improved controls and the need for more use of renewable energy options, he feels that “things went off the boil” after a time, particularly when the former Labour government’s Zero Carbon Homes policy was scrapped a few years ago.

“But sustainability is now back on the agenda as part of the renewed interest in the need to address climate change mitigation,” he continues.

“Although the discussion is not quite the same as the energy efficiency drive we saw 10 years ago, there are now too many signs to ignore.”

Change is also being driven by the Hackitt Review, following the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy, and Mr Frise believes this will result in buildings becoming much safer and healthier to live and work in.

“Great things will come from a great built environment and if we build better buildings these will then deliver improved health outcomes with the potential to provide massive gains for society.

“The tax payer currently pays for a poor built environment, either through NHS costs or the effect of higher crime levels and any society is either enhanced or detrimented by its built environment,” says Mr Frise.

“Another benefit of the Hackitt Review is that there will be more checks on companies to make sure they can actually do what they say they can.”

He further states that the culture that resulted in the Grenfell Tower tragedy is “not unfamiliar” in a number of areas: “We’ve all seen PQQs that stretch for pages and pages, but they don’t really ask if the company can do the job,” he says.

“I’m more optimistic that things will change following the publication of the Hackitt Review and this will drive the necessary changes for companies to show they are compliant. This will benefit the companies that work to higher standards, such as BESA members, and will also drive the provision of a better built environment, and the good companies are an exemplar of the best standards,” says Mr Frise.

Improving standards within the built environment will also assist with the further development of smart grids and cities, allowing a higher degree of connectivity that will assist in reducing energy demand and consumption while positively impact on issues such as air quality and others essential for establishing healthy working and living environments.

“This is why the BESA is continuing to work with other industry bodies such as CIBSE, BSRIA, the ECA and others to see that all our members are working to the best levels and encouraging the adoption of the most effective examples of new technology.

"It’s difficult for engineers to see everything that’s coming in the pipeline, so it’s vital that we continue to fulfil this role,” Mr Frise concludes.

His comments will be seen by PFM readers to reflect many of those continuing to emerge within the FM sector and provide further emphasis on the need for facilities to be constructed and maintained to the highest standards to provide prolonged and sustainable benefits for clients, their staff and society in general.

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