HVAC Industry heads discuss new strategies

HVAC Industry heads discuss new strategies

FETA Chairman Graham Wright and HPA President Mike Nankivell were panellists at the latest HVAC Advisory panel, hosted by HVAC 2016 as part of UK Construction Week.


Attended by industry professionals and heads of major manufacturers and trade associations across the HVAC industry, the roundtable was chaired by Dennis Flower, Editor of Premises & Facilities Management magazine. The strategic discussion addressed some of the biggest challenges and opportunities in the sector.


One such opportunity discussed was the exciting potential of BIM in the sector but Alexandra Logan, Mechanical Engineer at Cundall, expressed her frustration that this potential is not yet being fully realised, pointing out that it is only really being used at the design stage. Alexandra argued that BIM needs to be more about managing the building right through to its end of life.


The continuity of the sectors’ offering was further raised by Graham Wright, FETA Chairman and President of HEVAC, who wondered whether the industry might move towards a ‘HVAC as a service’ model – following the likes of aerospace, whereby many companies are paid for on-going maintenance.


The discussion progressed to the issue of skills in the sector and Alan Siggins, Managing Director of Airflow Developments felt that it was becoming increasingly difficult to find competent installers to fit systems and products to a high standard. The result of which is that manufacturers have had to take the initiative and invest heavily in their own training programmes to ensure their products are sold and installed correctly.


The wider group agreed and highlighted that, particularly in the residential market, the sector is suffering from a skills gap. Roger Webb, Director of External Affairs at CIPHE made the suggestion that, although it would not likely get government backing, an extension of statutory accreditation schemes across the industry as a whole could be a way forward. He also said that it could be an effective means of improving the image of the sector, as the professionalism of installers would be improved as well. Graham Wright felt that many installers would actually welcome this.


Talking about maintaining high standards, Graham Wright continued to explain that the commercial market has a much better model in place that encourages a more comprehensive commissioning and handover process. The soft landings approach he said is a key driver in upping standards. Carl Davidson, Technical Services Manager at Kingspan added to this sentiment by recommending that investing in a highly skilled commissioning professional will go a long way to eliminate some of the problems caused by the performance gap.


The problem of the lack of accountability at the commissioning phase was highlighted further by Mike Nankivell, President of the Heat Pump Association. He said that new regulations in the AC sector that state all AC systems must be inspected every five years, are showing that the most common failings are down to the initial control set up itself, which are found to be completely inappropriate for the building.


However, to raise standards even further, Alan Yates, Technical Director, Sustainability at BRE and Emma Clancy, CEO of Certsure LLP raised the point that much broader training in the sector was needed to see a real impact, warning that statutory accreditation can only protect you so far.  Referencing the comparative successes of the Gas Safety Register and the electrical industry’s own voluntary compliance scheme, Emma argued that installers also needed to be trained on consumer rights and how to effectively run a business, to ensure customers were fully protected.


Nathan Garnett, Event Director for HVAC 2016, commented: “The HVAC industry is one of the broadest and most innovative in all of construction. New legislation and customer behaviours continually drive technological change and it remains to be one of the most exciting industries to be a part of.


“This continual change, however, means it can be difficult to keep up to date, which is why events such as HVAC 2016 are so important.  The show will provide a valuable platform to showcase the latest solutions and a forum to debate the most pressing issues, such as those that were covered today. If you operate within the HVAC industry, you really can’t afford to miss out.”


HVAC 2016 is fully supported by industry leaders including HEVAC, CIPHE, the BESA, FETA, BIFM and ADE. As part of UK Construction Week (UKCW), HVAC 2016 will take place at Birmingham’s NEC on the 18-20 October 2016.


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