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Interest low in AC training inspections

Thousands of complex air conditioning systems will not receive inspections by the January 2009 deadline because not enough people are interested in training to complete the assessments.

The Chartered Institution of Building Service Engineers (CIBSE) – the only body permitted to deliver accreditation training for complex systems – said potential assessors were put off by a lack of awareness among clients and that most of the workload would be concentrated around the deadline period.

Jacqueline Balian, CIBSE director of information, said: “We have been doing our best to alert people, but the main problems are the lack of client recognition and the slightly lumpy workload. Until there is a really clear demand and people can see there is a workstream they will not start moving on this.

“We believe there are people out there, but they are not coming forward yet. If the demand was there we could double the number of courses, but the demand is not there at the moment.”

Efficient Air Consulting manager Darren Jones was the first to receive official accreditation for complex systems in May and is now training other assessors on behalf of CIBSE. He predicts that only a small percentage of the 20,000-plus buildings needing assessment will receive them by the beginning of next year.

He said: “Our feeling is that only 5 to 10 per cent will attempt to comply with the legislation. It is a dire situation. This is a directive that the Government signed up to and it should be doing more to get inspections completed. There is a massive shortage of trained people and accredited people – that needs to be addressed.”

He added complex inspections involved site visits and extensive document checks: “I would say one inspector can only turn around four inspections a month. A lot of work is involved; you are not just looking at a couple of things.”

The air conditioning inspections are part of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) issued in January 2003, which has already involved the introduction of Energy Performance Certificates and Display Energy Certificates.

The directive said European Union members had to establish a regular inspection of air conditioning systems. Air conditioning systems greater than 250kW will need to have their first inspection by January 4 2009. Existing systems greater than 12kW have until 4 January 2011.

Mr Jones said: “In many ways these inspections are more important than the DECs or EPCs, as air conditioning makes up 40 per cent of the building’s load.”

Graeme Fox, refrigeration and air conditioning group representative on the Heating and Ventilatiing Contractors’ Association council, said: “There is not sufficient time to have enough people trained up for this, but there is a problem with the way the Government is implementing this differently from other European countries.

“The inspection should be undertaken by a fully qualified refrigeration engineer who has the competence to understand all the implications of a system. I do not understand how you can implement the intentions of the EPBD without that.”

Mr Jones insisted CIBSE was striving to maintain standards: “Although there is a need for assessors, CIBSE does not want to reduce the standards of qualifications as they feel these inspections need to be done properly.”