BESA president John Norfolk.
Mr Norfolk was confirmed in his role at last week’s annual general meeting and takes over from Tim Hopkinson of E Poppleton & Son, who served for two years.
Mr Norfolk is senior project manager at Imtech Engineering Services, was chair of BESA Yorkshire region from 2010 to 2012 and is a long serving member of the Association’s membership and legal and commercial committees.
Mr Norfolk described BESA members as the Association’s greatest asset and pledged to build on the technical legacy of the 115-year-old body to help tackle the modern challenges created by climate change and the need for better buildings to help address social problems.
“Never has our sector’s specialist knowledge been more in demand and more valuable,” said Mr Norfolk in his inaugural speech. “We are in the midst of major technical and philosophical change in this country.
“Part of the political upheaval, which dominates headlines and conversations, are the critical challenges we face around climate change. This will transform the way we work and thrust our industry into the limelight,” he said. “However, this also creates an opportunity to address even more fundamental social issues affected by building performance.”
He paid tribute to Mr Hopkinson and thanked him for taking on the “extra burden and responsibility” of a second year in office in order to “steer the Association through some choppy waters”.
“It is no secret that we went through a tricky period, but Tim managed to steady the ship in his first year before putting in place some crucial building blocks,” added Mr Norfolk. “He set us back on course and, crucially, rejuvenated BESA’s engagement with its membership, which is something I intend to build on as we prepare ourselves for the challenges ahead.”
He described BESA as “an invaluable community”, which had successfully brought building engineering firms together to share expertise, experience and problems since 1904 “and pooling our knowledge for the greater good”.
He said the Association’s role was more relevant than ever thanks to the government’s aim to deliver a net zero carbon economy.
“BESA and its membership are in the vanguard of zero carbon action,” said Mr Norfolk. “We are already delivering low carbon building services systems, energy efficiency and clean energy projects up and down the country.
“Aiming for low and zero carbon development will also have a hugely positive effect on the economy. However, to be successful, we must champion the high technical standards that BESA has always stood for and stress the need for our clients to insist on seeing evidence of competence – as proposed in the Hackitt Review.”
He also urged the industry to see the climate change agenda as an opportunity to address social justice issues.
“A civilised society is founded on how it treats its people – and specifically the most vulnerable,” said Mr Norfolk. “A low carbon built environment will also be a high quality one that can offer a way out of poverty and poor health.
“High quality, low carbon systems can lift thousands of families out of fuel poverty by slashing energy bills, but just as importantly, any substantial retrofit programme should create a wonderful legacy of high quality buildings and facilities supporting social mobility and opportunity. It should also focus on vital health-related issues like indoor air quality.
“Our work as building engineers is, therefore, a way of transforming quality of life for thousands of families as well as being a way to reduce climate change.”