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8 October 2014: The Presidential Debate

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HCNW extends its warm thanks to Peter Kinsella CIBSE President, Nick Mead CIBSE President Elect, George Adams CIBSE Past President and Charlotte Juhl Koch for an exciting HCNW Debate at the Swedenborg Society, Holborn.

Home Counties North West also welcomed regional colleagues Richard Davies (HCSE) and James Bourne (HCNE), also Terry Giles, David Stevens and Geoff Prudence from CIBSE FM. Beejal from the Corinthian Trust provided our catering.


Chris Jones opened with a question about the drive for growth on a finite planet – when do we re-prioritise and how can the professions influence and change Business-as-Usual ? Changing the priorities of how we invest resources was also about understanding the human condition said George. Emissions and Climate Change featured strongly in the discussions. We've long known about many challenges - for example, urban heat islands. Showing urban planting as part of a solution, George focused on the dominance of cities – saying that though they have a footprint of only 2% land area, they consume 75% of world energy and issue 75% of all waste. 


So improving existing buildings in cities featured strongly. We were in a valuable and venerable existing building appropriate to the occasion, with an unexpected change of room - and the heating was on as Nick highlighted. As CIBSE has pointed out 80% of the existing stock will remain by 2050.


But Mike Smith highlighted the sheer scale of the task in refurbishing the stock, let alone the economics. So should the ‘Manhattan Project’ be about the search for cleaner energy rather than tinkering with building regulations ? Mike Goodwin reiterated those difficulties and how we were effectively blocked from using taxation, but how there were some starring examples among developers.


Peter Kinsella pointed to the long-term returns from refurbishment – and what about ever-rising energy costs. Peter gave us his perspective from ANZ. As Nick Mead said, there was much work to be done in simply managing energy use. There was much, very welcome, representation of FM at our evening – how can FM’s wide skillsets and heavy management responsibilities gain a higher profile in the institutions ? George argued strongly for a Chartered Facilities Manager within CIBSE.


Charlotte set out with another London theme. Even though energy is a small proportion of business costs in the city, energy prices are becoming a real concern. We couldn’t wait for regulation, we needed to act now and roof gardens weren’t enough. Charlotte asked us to think about five groups that we needed to involve to transform professional practice.

For some of us concerned about oil depletion and an era of diminishing returns, the trend of rapid rises in energy costs is no surprise. Nick pointed out that energy should cost or be taxed more to change behaviour and how gas and electricity infrastructure are becoming serious limitations in London.


The well-established issue of collaboration between built environment specialisms - a feature of CIBSE Presidential Addresses for many years now - returned again. Almost revisiting the NEF economics at our April Conference, the brief spin cycles of politics, appeal to voters and the way today's economic models don’t value sustainability highly enough came into the spotlight. Nick suggested there were many aspects - population, economics - that we can't influence much. Institutions needed to unite and make themselves heard - and that started with the membership. As our audience ventured, all professionals needed a ‘helicopter view’ to see where we’re heading and bring about behavioural change. We rounded off with a strong call for much greater engagement with CIBSE - that started with CIBSE members in the Regions and events like this one.


It was a great evening of debate, stirring up some very important issues, reflecting the social voice of the institutions. Perhaps the most important question that emerged was whether we pursue massive investment in energy efficiency, or cleaner - or even clean - energy ? Both have their resource costs and until the whole economy is zero carbon, every pound that is spent or gained is not carbon-free.


The evening has had some very good reviews. HCNW extends its thanks to our inspiring speakers, the Swedenborg Society, Beejal from the Corinthian Trust and to Richard Davies of HCSE.