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CIBSE Office BUS Survey

The BUS Survey at CIBSE 2023

CIBSE head offices have been homed in Balham for over 45 years and there have been a number of discussions over the years regarding a CIBSE move to Central London. It has only been in recent years that the focus of these discussions has shifted to include the premises and not just the location.

Does the CIBSE office reflect the Institutions’ vision, is it a suitable building for employees to work and for the use of members?

To assess needs and understand how the building works for these needs, CIBSE commissioned Arup to conduct a BUS survey.

The BUS methodology provides advanced insight into building use through assessing and tracking occupant well-being in buildings. The survey delivers both qualitative and quantitative results of the data. The data is presented as a histogram on a sliding scale, marked against a percentile plot that shows how the building compares to the benchmark result for that question. An example of how the quantitative results are presented is shown below:

Example data output:

CIBSE Bus Survey Graphic

These benchmarks incorporate 1,300 responses worldwide, representing 80,000 individuals and over 30 years of industry best practice. This allows us to look beyond a single point in time, such as the height of summer to gain a truly reflective analysis of the overall performance of the building in key areas, including;

  • Safety and Accessibility
  • Comfort and Ambience
  • Modern infrastructure
  • Office Layout
  • Image to visitors.

The summary for each group consists of questions on subgroups, such as noise, lighting, heating, cooling, summer and winter conditions and control of the building services/building design.

The Results

The BUS survey was completed in late 2023 with a 75% response rate, which is considered excellent.

The CIBSE Balham office's summary index is in the bottom 10% of our data set when compared against the BUS 2023 UK non-domestic benchmark. The results show that the building does not meet modern expectations for office working space. There is a clear desire for updates in many areas, such as heating, cooling, ventilation, lighting, decoration, furniture, fire safety, layout, and sustainability.

The office’s dated appearance, lack of inspirational elements, and visible signs of wear contrast with employees' expectations for CIBSE Head Office. Respondents expressed a need for an environment that motivates and inspires, which clearly shows a significant gap between the current state of the workspace and the ideal. The substandard results across a broad range of areas, alongside multiple safety concerns, highlights the pressing need for improvements to CIBSE's office environment, which can be achieved by improving the existing building, or by procuring new premises.

A summary of the key areas of concern and positive elements for the existing CIBSE Head Office and the implications of these findings for the future workspace can be found below:

Location & Accessibility:

Convenient location, proximity to public transportation, and availability of free car parking are valued.

Team Collaboration & Space Management:

Despite small room sizes, colleagues enjoy being near each other, with the arrangement creating positive collaboration and beneficial conversations among team members (note the contrast with cross-team collaboration noted opposite in the negative comments).

Desk Infrastructure:

Employees value the large desk sizes that allow for personalisation and contain adequate plug/electrical access to provide a functional workspace.

Indoor Environmental Quality:

The respondents noted poor summer and winter conditions, with overheating in summer and cold conditions in winter, where heating systems can be ineffective and unreliable. These sub-optimal conditions affect employees' comfort, well-being, and productivity. The lack of adequate ventilation results in a stuffy work environment throughout the year.

Technological & Connectivity Issues:

Several respondents emphasise persistent problems with IT infrastructure, including unreliable internet connectivity, laptop issues, and technology-related challenges in meeting rooms.

Impractical and Outdated Structure:

The building was frequently described as impractical, outdated, and unsuitable for modern work. The layout is not intuitive, and the design does not facilitate cross-team collaboration due to many small and disconnected workspaces. It is not viewed as a space conducive to providing incidental interactions between different departments, which can be beneficial for forming relationships.

It's extremely important to understand why the survey was done and the results will influence the decision-making on what building we should be looking for and will help inform the design team on the building services element of the new building, using the information as the foundations for the design of these systems.

The requirements of the building today are very different from 3 years ago as we embrace a more modern, hybrid working arrangement. This style of working has fundamentally changed the use of office buildings such as quiet places for teams calls, more meeting rooms and break-out areas for collaboration. Yet, it was interesting to understand that employees still prefer a certain level of individual control, on heating and lighting for example.

It is recommended to conduct the survey again after the move to assess the impact. CIBSE are currently in the process of reviewing and appointing a design team to consider the design requirements and how these can be incorporated.

The construction industry, moving forward, needs more genuine collaboration between designers and contractors. Within CIBSE, this can showcase how the different design elements should collaborate from the client's requirements to the design, how the new premises work for staff and membership. One of the key parts of this is ensuring that individuals such as facilities managers are part of the process.

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