Engineering the (low carbon) future
Last night I was the speaker at the Chartered Institute of Building Service Engineers (CIBSE) North East branch. Doing a last minute piece of homework on CIBSE yesterday afternoon, I found the above on the CIBSE website – not hidden in some obscure page that I had to dig out, but the third point on the ‘About Us’ page.
It makes me smile, as when my own Engineering Institute, the MIET, launched an ‘Engineering for a Sustainable Future’ network about 15 years ago, a section of the old guard got out their quills and wrote spluttering letters that environmental issues were for politicians, not engineers.
I’m glad to see how far our profession has come. Engineers are fundamentally problem solvers and the current sustainability problem is arguably the biggest problem humanity has ever faced (save the occasional plague). CIBSE have clearly taken this fully on board (although I think their 50% figure above is a little high, I quoted a figure of 37% from Government stats).
I ran a highly interactive session – the flip chart pages filled outnumbered the Powerpoint slides I used. We teased out a number of key challenges for building service engineers, including:
- Immature/expensive technologies;
- Distorted incentives – the developer isn’t responsible for paying the bills in use;
- Behavioural change of users/influencing behaviour through design;
- Retrofitting existing building stock;
- Integrating heating/cooling systems with the building design to optimise performance.
These are not trivial problems to overcome and we did some chewing over possible solutions.
I finished the session by returning to the CIBSE graphic above and telling the delegates, semi-tongue in cheek, that the future of humanity was in their hands. I’m sure I heard a collective gulp.