Engineering a way forward

By Neil Fordham, Johns Slater and Haward

With evidence that the climate change emergency is seemingly escalating on all fronts, the need for action is more urgent than ever.

Published in Suffolk Director Magazine Summer | Autumn 2023
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Professional Competence: Johns Slater and Haward

At the forefront of this challenge is the worldwide, UK-based engineering institution, Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE). At its AGM held recently at The Royal Society in London, Chairman of Johns Slater and Haward (JSH), Adrian Catchpole, was installed as President.

“We have never before needed more engineers, more urgently, to provide creative solutions to the challenges we face,” Adrian said in his presidential address, outlining the threat posed by climate change and building safety considerations.

In his warmly received speech, Adrian focused on issues such as leadership, competency, driving innovation, collaboration and finding the next generation of engineers. He challenged members to rise to the occasion and help deliver the changes across many fronts that are needed.

It is testament to Adrian’s commitment and enthusiasm for the CIBSE over many years that the institution has chosen him to be its President for 2023/24; a great achievement for Adrian and a regional consultancy like ours, based in Ipswich.

We have played an active role in the CIBSE for some time; Director, Eric Benton, and Associate Director, Colin Bowen, are former East Anglia Regional Chairs, while I’m the current Chair. Along with several members of staff, Eric and I, together with fellow director, Neil Rutherford, travelled to the event in London to show our support.

At JSH, we have always looked to train the next generation of engineers, taking on apprentices and supporting them for the duration of their courses. Two of our current directors joined the company straight from school, before leaving and then returning later on in their careers. We also have associate directors, engineers and technicians who have followed a similar path, joining from school or college and remaining with the practice.

Delivering change

We specialise in designing electrical and mechanical installations for buildings, and also provide expertise and advice on energy use and utilisation within the built environment. With nearly 550 years of building services design experience between our team of 30, JSH is well placed to help deliver the changes needed.

Furthermore, we provide consultancy services relating to compliance under ‘Part L’ of the Building Regulations, which covers energy for non-domestic buildings via the SBEM procedure and domestic buildings via SAP. The new 2021 regulations, which took effect last summer, reduce the allowable carbon emissions from new buildings by 31 per cent over the 2013 regulations.  

Using dynamic thermal modelling with weather data, JSH’s skilled technical staff are able to analyse building performance against predicted climate changes in future years, analyse energy usage and potential problems due to overheating. This has been recognised as a significant issue with the introduction in 2021 of the new ‘Part O’ of Building Regulations to assess dwellings for the likelihood of overheating.

We are well versed in all renewable technologies. For example, the practice installed two commercial ASHP heat pumps in the conversion and refurbishment of the former maltings building next to the Custom House in the late 1980’s, to provide a new headquarters for Contship that has become such an iconic building on the Ipswich waterfront.

In a couple of years, it is expected that the Future Homes legislation will be introduced, reducing carbon emissions still further as the next step in achieving Net Zero for all new buildings. Whilst we must reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, there are significant challenges and hurdles to overcome, particularly the economics of capital and running costs along with the practicalities of replacing traditional boilers with renewable systems in existing dwellings.

Time to adapt

The construction industry has historically been reluctant to change. However, we must adapt. It is currently possible to construct a home or any building with a very low or even positive energy balance. However, to achieve this requires solutions that are not currently the norm and generally attract additional cost, often coupled with operational limitations requiring buy-in from stakeholders.

Yet, with collaboration between the client and all of the design team, including constructors, we can build a better world.

All renewable technology will work in the right application, providing that: the product is selected correctly; design and construction of the building and services are correct; installations are sound; systems are commissioned properly and maintained, and also operated properly. Being generally a lower source of energy, renewable technologies are much less tolerant of issues and deviations than traditional fossil-fuelled, boiler-fired systems for heating and hot water delivery.

Unfortunately, and unhelpfully, there is a great amount of misinformation around relating to renewable technology, both from bodies who should know better and commercial organisations seeking to jump on the bandwagon. It’s important that high-quality, independent advice is taken as there are many pitfalls for the unwary.

A wealth of expertise and experience

At JSH, we have the necessary expertise, experience and design tools to enable our clients to make informed decisions and guide them through some difficult decisions. Having worked on projects of various sizes up to and including large, multi-million pound schemes, we have a wealth of experience across the construction industry, from new-build projects to restoration, adaptation, and refurbishment of existing buildings.

Much of our work takes place in the healthcare sector, where we provide MEP consultancy as part of a multidisciplinary design team. Clients in this sector include: Ipswich and Colchester hospitals, West Suffolk, James Paget, Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth, Hinchingbrooke and Addenbrooke’s hospitals.  

We have an extensive portfolio of projects in the education sector, including junior and infant schools, secondary schools, SEN schools, as well as colleges and universities; many of which have been procured by either contractor-led or consultancy framework agreements.

Over the years we’ve worked on a number of listed buildings, including churches, public and commercial buildings and houses. Work in the residential sector includes schemes for flats and houses for both developers and local authorities including currently various schemes for IBC’s Hanford Homes. Our work also extends to large residential properties for private clients, both refurbishment and extensions, as well as new build.

A particularly challenging sector where we have considerable experience is the conversion and refurbishment of office accommodation originally built 20 to 40 years ago which no longer meets market expectations.

We believe that systematic analysis of the client’s needs and the achievement of cost, quality and time targets are paramount in importance and key to success, and we aim to ensure these requirements are met by providing personal, flexible and professional services at competitive rates. Also, a director is assigned to every commission and is personally responsible for the delivery of all aspects of that project.

We are passionate about our business and our role in decarbonising the built environment and embrace the challenges that lie ahead.

Picture shows from left to right: Adrian Catchpole, JSH Chairman and President of CIBSE, with JSH Directors, Eric Benton, Neil Fordham and Neil Rutherford

Engineering a way forward 1

Neil Fordham (pictured 2nd from right) is Director of Johns Slater and Haward

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Chartered Designers of Mechanical and Electrical Systems

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