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New BESA president calls on industry to use buildings to solve social challenges

Imtech’s John Norfolk pledges to build on ’technical legacy’ of building services association

Imtech’s John Norfolk used his inaugural speech as BESA president to call on members to address the need for better buildings to help address social problems. He also said BESA members should build on the technical legacy of the 115-year-old body to help to tackle the modern challenges created by climate change.

Mr Norfolk is senior project manager at Imtech Engineering Services. He was chair of BESA Yorkshire region from 2010 to 2012 and is a long serving member of the Association’s membership and legal & commercial committees. He takes over from Tim Hopkinson of E Poppleton & Son, who served as president for two years.

Mr Norfolk said: “Never has our sector’s specialist knowledge been more in demand and more valuable. We are in the midst of major technical and philosophical change in this country. Part of the political upheaval…is the critical challenge we face around climate change.”

He said this would both transform the way the sector works and thrust the industry into the limelight, but would also create an opportunity to address fundamental social issues affected by building performance.”

Mr Norfolk paid tribute to Mr Hopkinson and thanked him for steering BESA through choppy waters: “He set us back on course and, crucially, rejuvenated BESA’s engagement with its membership, which is something I intend to build on as we prepare ourselves for the challenges ahead.”

He added: “BESA and its membership are in the vanguard of zero carbon action. We are already delivering low carbon building services systems; energy efficiency and clean energy projects up and down the country. Aiming for low and zero carbon development will also have a hugely positive effect on the economy. However, to be successful, we must champion the high technical standards that BESA has always stood for and stress the need for our clients to insist on seeing evidence of competence – as proposed in the Hackitt Review.”

He also urged the industry to see the climate change agenda as an opportunity to address social justice issues.

He said: ”A civilised society is founded on how it treats its people – and specifically the most vulnerable. A low carbon built environment will also be a high quality one that can offer a way out of poverty and poor health. High quality, low carbon systems can lift thousands of families out of fuel poverty by slashing energy bills, but just as importantly, any substantial retrofit programme should create a wonderful legacy of high quality buildings and facilities supporting social mobility and opportunity. It should also focus on vital health-related issues like indoor air quality. Our work as building engineers is, therefore, a way of transforming quality of life for thousands of families as well as being a way to reduce climate change.”


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