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HVAC moves higher up the BSF agenda

Industry experts have welcomed the Government’s commitment to engage with HVAC professionals at the design stage of the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme.


But the sector remains sceptical over whether the pledge to create better partnering throughout the procurement process is achievable.


Speaking to H&V News ahead of the preliminary findings of the BSF procurement review, Partnership for Schools (PfS) - the delivery agency for the £45 billion capital investment programme - refuted suggestions that HVAC services remained an ‘add on’ in its build procurement process.


A PfS spokesperson said: “Good design to create environments where young people want to learn and teachers want to teach is at the heart of the BSF programme, and appropriate heating and ventilation is central to this.


“There is a requirement in the output specification that all teaching spaces need to be appropriately ventilated to provide more comfortable and conducive environments, and so early input from HVAC professionals is an important part of the design process.


“Issues around sustainability and the best ways to heat and ventilate schools are increasingly coming to the fore, and therefore the input and experience of HVAC professionals is becoming more important as we look at how we can provide sufficient ventilation which meets sustainability targets.”


Ty Goddard, the director of the British Council for School Environments, a coalition of schools, local authorities, architects and building companies, and the BSF’s fiercest critic, welcomed the comments.


“This statement clearly confirms that BSF sees HVAC as an important part of the build process - I’ve never heard PfS publicly mention HVAC professionals before,” he said. “This is a public emphasis on the importance of this basic vital issue being dealt with early on the design stage, rather than as an add-on,” he said.


Mr Goddard suggested that since the issues surrounding sustainability and the environment were being more becoming significant - schools are responsible for 14 per cent of all public sector emissions - HVAC was now being taken seriously by the Government.


John Miller, the president of HVCA, too welcomed the comments. “I think this is very laudable, and its tremendous news,” he said. “This is a great start because you’ve got an organisation with tremendous clout, and BSF is a big programme.”


However, he expressed concern over whether the partnering arrangements in place would ensure that HVAC professionals played were consulted at the design stage. “This goes back to trust and lack of trust,' he said.

'In terms of design, particularly with sustainability, the main contractor feels exposed because they don’t understand what it the specialist is doing and therefore they don’t quite feel in control.”


A key recommendation of the review, made public last week, was for a more comprehensive pre-qualification of bidding consortia – the implication being that contractors with poor partnering records could be denied access to contracts.


A PfS spokesperson explained that PfS would place more stress on resolving the “effective partnering issues throughout the procurement process” in the Wave 5 of the programme. “In order for BFS to work, all parties must have a common understanding of what they want to achieve.

“Effective partnering is about ensuring that those working in consortia work with the same agenda from the outset and, subject to ministerial approval which we hope to receive later this month, we aim to focus on ensuring that this is achieved,” the spokesperson warned.