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Keeping a step ahead of compliancy issues

On top of the raft of regulations covering gas, electricity and water, the HVAC sector is coming to terms with the various requirements of delivering renewable energy safely and effectively.

While the technical aspects are seen as relatively easy for engineers qualified in the installation and maintenance of traditional technology, there is also the need to gain the appropriate accreditation to tap into the opportunities surrounding the Feed-in Tariff, Renewable Heat Incentive and the Green Deal.

There are also updates and changes to existing regulations to consider, such as the Combustion Performance Analysis (CPA1). From 1 April 2012, failure to hold CPA1 means an engineers’ Gas Safe registration for domestic boilers and fires will not be valid.

This applies to all registered engineers holding CEN1 (central heating boilers), CENWAT and/or HTR1 (gas fires). Anyone renewing their core CCN1 will also have to undertake assessment in combustion analysis (CPA1), as a part of the assessment.

Among those providing courses, the NICEIC is offering a 15 per cent discount on its CPA1 certification fee through its network of Approved Assessment Centres before the looming 31 March deadline.

Last year saw a great deal of discussion about the Building Engineering Services National Agreement (BESNA), developed on behalf of some of the sector’s largest employers by the HVCA.

BESNA progress

HVCA president Bob Shelley (pictured) says many have already signed up to the agreement, which is designed to harmonise operatives’ pay and terms and conditions of employment for mechanical, electrical and plumbing operatives.

“It is also all about establishing a framework for the future of our industry and is designed to reflect the new modern, multi-skilled and multi-disciplinary industry in which we all work,” he says.

“The recent protests against a new, single working agreement were politically orchestrated by the radical arm of trade unions and it is still a minority of workers who are unhappy about the proposed changes.”

The old agreements were drawn when the demarcation lines between traditional trades were clear and relevant - those days are gone, he explains.

Most firms are now trying to work in a more collaborative way and most employees are already multi-skilled. Also, the growth of modern methods of construction, such as building information modelling (BIM), is creating an environment that encourages collaboration.

Mr Shelley says clients are running out of patience with a sector that cannot organise itself to produce the improved quality and cost savings that are key to cohesive project teams. They are frustrated by delays and quality issues, particularly when they know there is a better way of doing things.

“Our business environment is extremely tough and we have at least another year of this to get through. We have to modernise and move forward so that we can survive and then thrive in the future,” says Mr Shelley.

Ductwork has also seen changes to relevant legislation, with the launch of the new BS EN 15780:2011 Ventilation for buildings - Ductwork - Cleanliness of ventilation systems. This has been hailed by many as providing improved cleanliness levels and ending a source of confusion in the industry by clearly defining what is considered acceptably clean in newly installed ductwork.

Levels of cleanliness in ductwork systems are clarified according to the building use, including a new vacuum test that can apply to circular duct as well as rectangular ductwork.

Clean ductwork is key

“It is crucially important to clean ductwork in new buildings,” says Systems Hygienics director Darren Ling. “You would not expect a new car to be covered in a thick layer of dust when handed over to you.

“However, many new ductwork systems are handed over in this state due to the current confusion and ambiguity about acceptable cleanliness levels.

“The new British Standard has been produced by taking the great and the good from across Europe and provides clear levels of cleanliness for new ductwork, removing any confusion over just how clean newly installed ductwork should be.”

The standard also has newly defined limits set against trigger levels for cleaning existing ductwork, which differ from the current guidelines set out in the HVCA’s TR/19.

The values it recommends for existing ductwork are Low <4.5g/sq m, Medium <3.0g/sq m and High <0.6g/sq m, and for re-circulation and secondary ductwork it specifies Low <6.0g/sq m, Medium <4.5g/sq m and High <3.0g/sq m.

Swiftclean environmental managing director Gary Nicholls also welcomes the new British Standard: “Not only does it clear up the issue regarding the cleanliness criteria for new ductwork, it has also defined trigger levels that are usage specific for cleaning existing ductwork.

“The British Standard recognises that different systems represent different risk - a system serving an operating theatre should have a higher standard of cleanliness than a factory store room, for example,” he says.

The new standard is seen as enabling industry practitioners to provide clear advice to clients on how to comply with health and safety and other regulations.

Mr Nicholls says his company has been involved in the development of most of the leading industry bodies’ technical advice and standards. He explains that ultimately the client will be the main beneficiary, with cleaner, safer ductwork and improved air quality in ventilation systems.

Green Deal focus

The Green Deal, due for launch this autumn, will be a major focus of the InstallerLive exhibition’s education programme, says commercial director Fiona Davies, and opens up opportunities for competent installers.

“The Green Deal will establish a framework for private firms to offer consumers energy efficiency improvements to their homes, community spaces and businesses at no upfront cost, and recoup payments through a charge in installments on their energy bill,” she says.

It will also create new work for installers who hold the right qualifications and accreditations, connected to the right providers and advisers. While the Green Deal is a huge opportunity, the current skills gap threatens its success, says Ms Davies.

A sufficient number of competent, well-trained and qualified installers are essential if the shift to renewable heating technologies is going to work.

“It is important that installers are prepared, where proving individual competence in the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) and Competent Persons Schemes will be significant,” she says.

“Thanks to our partnerships with the National Skills Academy, the Micropower Council and others, InstallerLive will provide a valuable training platform for installers to learn new skills in fitting technologies, such as solar PV and solar thermal heating, air-source and ground-source heat pumps, biomass units, micro-CHP (Combined Heat and Power) and wind turbines.”

Boosting representation

In line with schemes announced last year to encourage more women to enter the building services sector, awarding organisation for industry qualifications EAL is launching a new qualification to help women progress in typically male-dominated sectors.

Working in partnership with Semta, the sector skills council for science, engineering and manufacturing technologies, the qualification was developed in support of the Career Investment and Progression programme.

The programme has benefitted more than 1,000 female employees in companies such as BAE Systems, Atkins and Johnson Controls Automotive Experience.

The initiative runs until March 2012 and is jointly funded by employers and Semta, through the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) Employer Investment Fund.

EAL’s Level 3 Award in Career Advancement and Progression (QCF) aims to help individuals manage themselves and have a proactive approach to their career development.

The qualification teaches better time management, goal setting and achieving targets, effective communication skills to different business audiences and the importance of managing a positive personal reputation and image.