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Energy efficiency guide

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A new cibse Guide, Energy Efficiency in Buildings*, goes beyond cibse's conventional focus on building services. It addresses the total scope of building design for thermal efficiency, involving all the professional specialisations, writes Peter Burberry.

It identifies two main issues. One is an understanding of the resources available, both the active mechanical systems and the passive systems provided by the fabric of the building. The other is the interdisciplinary design process required to deploy these resources in achieving comfort, energy conservation and economy.

So mechanical and electrical systems are not addressed in engineering detail. The types of systems and controls available and the nature of their operation are briefly, but very clearly, described and the critical design decisions required are identified. Management and maintenance of efficiency are also described. This gives a basis of understanding for any member of the building design professions. There is a comparatively brief treatment of the energy-significance of the building form, fabric and fenestration of the building. The overall result is very successful and these sections of the guide should be required reading for all members and students of the building professions.

Perhaps the most important contribution is to make very clear the limitations which current professional divisions, fee structures and procedures impose upon the design process and to suggest an alternative. 'The multi-disciplinary design team should be appointed at inception, prior to the conceptual stage of design and comprise generally an architect, building services engineer, quantity surveyor, structural engineer and client representative. Each member should consider the energy implication of each design decision . . . Fee structures based entirely on the capital cost . . . may not encourage energy efficiency.' There are successful examples of this approach, though no proposals are offered for phasing in such a change to the generality of design practice. And the costs involved might not be appropriate to small-scale developments.

Surprisingly, the composition of the team of authors does not follow its own recommendations. Professions other than building services are not well-represented. The authors clearly deserve great credit for the breadth of their views, but their mix does call attention to the difficulties which may have to be overcome in putting the approach into practice.

There are some omissions. The discipline of building is not mentioned. In what is perhaps the best-known example of this type of approach, for the GlaxoWellcome Laboratories (see page 59), a construction team was involved as well as a design team. It is likely that the full application of that method would apply mainly to larger, more complex buildings. And in these cases the complexity of functional planning may require skills in facilities management.

Energy Efficiency in Buildings. cibse, tel: 0181 675 5211. £72.

Peter Burberry is professor emeritus of building engineering at umist

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