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CIBSE dinner delivers collaboration call

A dinner debate during the CIBSE Conference showed there exists a growing appetite for collaboration between the professions, but also a sense of frustration that it is not happening, says Ewen Rose
The CIBSE Young Engineers' Network and its chair Morwenna Wilson of Arup brought together a panel of young professionals for an evening debate at the CIBSE National Conference in London.

Having a young architect, QS, developer and building services engineer facing an audience of consulting engineers, manufacturers, journalists and others from the building services sector, created an environment for heated debate.

The subject for the discussion, in the Paramount Club on the 31st floor of the Centrepoint building, was the urgent need for better collaboration between the various members of the construction supply chain.

The subtleties how various vested interests in our sector might be able to set aside decades of hierarchical division to form properly collaborative teams were debated in detail. However, audience member Matthew Dunk of Frese summed up the industry's sense of frustration when he urged professionals to get on and 'Just do it'.

Two days later FETA president Paul Wenden took up the rallying cry during his official address to the associations' annual luncheon, sending a clarion call to action for everyone involved in delivering projects.

During the debate, Richard Meier of developer Argent showed an appetite for this can-do approach when he engaged in hand-to-hand combat with one member of the audience determined to prove his point that specifiers will inevitably select on price rather than long-term sustainability.

The issue of price repeatedly took the discussion back to Paul Kells, the young QS from Davis Langdon, who entered the bear pit to assert that solutions will always have to be cost-effective if they are to be sustainable and clients ultimately must feel they are getting value for money.

Holly Porter from Surface-to-Air architects spoke up for a profession she believes has had its position eroded over the years and should seek to lead the process again. She argued architects need to engage more closely with product suppliers so they can influence the final outcome of a project and have a greater say in the ongoing operation of buildings.

CIBSE/ASHRAE Graduate of the Year Emma Marshall from RPS represented the building services profession and said engineers needed to be involved at the earliest possible point in the design process. A lack of clarity and cohesion about the design intent often undermined the process, said Emma.

Members of the audience took up Matthew Dunk's call for action including CIBSE chief executive Stephen Matthews who vowed to keep working with other professional institutions to deliver a collaborative model for the sector to follow.

David Fitzpatrick of Air Diffusion said suppliers could play a key role if they were invited to the design table early enough and that increased use of high quality standardised solutions could speed up delivery of sustainable systems. Similarly, Peter Chilton from Ormandy Group said he had been repeatedly thwarted in his attempts to debate the benefits of off-site fabrication with architects.

*Ewen Rose chaired the debate and is deputy chairman of the CIBSE Patrons. He is also the organiser of the CIBSE/ASHRAE Graduate of the Year award.

For details of this year's award including how to enter and win a trip to Las Vegas for the ASHRAE Winter Conference visit
5 May 2010


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