Rising to the challenge

Shortlist shows focus on designing and operating high-performing buildings that will help governments meet stringent carbon- reduction targets.

Covid-19 brought many challenges to the industry in 2020, but judging by the quality of the shortlist for the CIBSE 2021 Building Performance Awards, companies have still been able to focus on designing and operating high-performing buildings that will help governments meet stringent carbon- reduction targets. Alex Smith reports from the virtual judging session.

This has been a year like no other but, despite the challenges brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been another impressive number of entries for the CIBSE Building Performance Awards 2021.

Last month, industry judges gathered (virtually) to determine which entries would make the shortlist of building services’ most prestigious awards. The day-long judging resulted in a set of strong shortlists that reflect the diversity of the industry by sector and region (see www.cibse.org/bpa for full shortlist).

It was no surprise to see entries with increased focus on health, safety and wellbeing – and, particularly, ventilation. In the Product or Innovation of the Year – Wellbeing category, judges said there was a ‘trend towards air-quality improvements’.

To mark the industry’s contribution to minimising the impact of the virus on people and buildings, there will be a CIBSE Covid-19 Achievement Award at the 2021 virtual ceremony, which will be held on 25 February.

Judges noted a more holistic approach in the entries with the comfort and health of occupants being considered alongside the energy efficiency of buildings. They were also pleased to see a focus on reducing embodied energy and the carbon produced during a buildings’ operation.

Consultants are embracing the net-zero carbon agenda, even if it isn’t part of a client’s initial brief

The big engineering beasts leading the charge with the most shortlisted entries are: BuroHappold, with seven; Aecom, with five; and Hoare Lea and Arup, with four apiece.

In the Building Performance Consultancy of the Year (over 300 employees) judges said the shortlisted companies were now focusing on true building performance and net-zero carbon, and were using in-house tools and big data to achieve these goals.

There was also a welcome focus on ‘knowledge sharing and holistic building design’, they said.

The net-zero carbon agenda was prevalent in the Building Performance Consultancy of the Year (51-300 employees). It was, judges  said, ‘being embraced by consultants, who  were taking leadership in the area, even if it wasn’t part of a client’s initial brief’.

There were ‘very strong submissions across all categories, substantial focus on client collaboration, embracing of net-zero carbon, and a  substantial focus on sustainable technologies’

For the Consultancy of the Year (up to 50 employees) the judges saw entries that demonstrated companies – no matter their size – can focus on delivering solutions to target the current global climate crisis.

In the Project of the Year – International, the judges recommended that every entry on the shortlist was worthy of a case study in the CIBSE Journal. ‘There was an excellent

standard of entries – it was very hard to find a winner,’ they said. There were great examples of collaboration in this category, and the judges were pleased to see that occupant feedback was a key consideration, with companies engaging with users on building performance.

The judges were also impressed with the range of solutions covered by projects. ‘All faced particular climates and unique challenges, but all had performance at the heart of their design,’ they said.

The award gave them the opportunity to compare projects across international boundaries, they added, to see different priorities given to different aspects of building performance.

Evidence of occupants learning from building operation to improve performance was also found in the Project of the Year – Public Use. In the Project of the Year – Residential, meanwhile, judges were interested to see how innovations could be replicated to achieve economies of scale, and to lower carbon on a broad scale. They were also pleased to see embodied energy being considered more widely in entries this year.

In the Learning and Development category, the shortlisted entries ‘highlighted the importance of learning from the past as we seek to address the “performance gap” of buildings,’ said the judges.

Project of the Year – Commercial/Industrial is always keenly contested, and this year is no different, with six entries making the shortlist. The judges noted the variety of entries, and  the ‘wide scope of solutions used to deliver exceptional buildings’.

It demonstrated how building design can adapt to specific challenges of the 21st century by using a wide range of solutions. ‘Award submissions showed that to deliver a truly exceptional building requires a wide range of strategies, combining a clear vision with a coherent and collaborative process and the technical capability and skills to match,’ the judges said.

Facilities Management was another  strong category, with six shortlisted entries. Judges were pleased to see ‘clear examples  of operational strategies focused on building performance and change management programmes’, and described seeing a diverse range of highly compelling submissions.

CIBSE Covid-19 Achievement Award 2021
This special award has been created for 2021, to recognise the remarkable work that building services professionals and the supply chain have undertaken to make buildings and people safe from Covid-19.

The award will be presented as part of the Building Performance Awards 2021. It will recognise, and celebrate, the outstanding achievements of individuals, teams, organisations, projects, products and services, by assessing the challenges they have faced and their impact in responding to unprecedented circumstances in 2020.

■ Register for the virtual ceremony at www.cibse.org/bpa