Kevin Mitchell reflects on his year as CIBSE President

I am nearing the end of my year as CIBSE President, and what a year it’s been. I have received so much encouragement from CIBSE members, and I would like to take a moment to reflect on all of your brilliant work and support over the last year.

This year we have been celebrating CIBSE’s 125th anniversary, remembering our rich and inspiring history. When I was thinking about my aims for my year as CIBSE President, I wanted to make sure that we celebrated this significant milestone appropriately. But this hasn’t all been about celebrating past achievements, and we have focussed significantly in looking ahead to our future.

CIBSE’s impressive legacy and continued success wouldn’t be possible without the ongoing dedication of our members and volunteers who work collaboratively to pay forward the support we have received, and to share how we, as building services engineers, are key to the transition to net zero, two aims which are central to the theme I set at the start of the year, to inspire the next generation.

So, with 1 goal and 2 aims, it seemed fitting to bring the 1-2-5 together and set 5 challenges, to Celebrate, Inspire, Boost, Share, and Engage.

We have had an incredible response from the building services engineering community, reaching over 1.3 million people with the CIBSE 125 Challenges #tag over the past 12 months!

29% of CIBSE members are based outside of the UK and the support from members around the world has been incredible. Senior CIBSE members and leaders within our industry have shared their building services icons, and apprentices and graduates have shared their experience as early career engineers, to name just two examples. The response has been fantastic.

We heard from CIBSE Vice-President, Fiona Cousins, Arup America’s Chair who celebrated her building services icon, Mike Holmes. Fiona shared her journey and the support she received from Mike during the early stages of her career.

“Over the years I came to realize how much energy and effort he put into improving building physics understanding across the industry, arguing every technical point with peers and collaborators, inside and outside the firm, and contributing to the relevant CIBSE guides that form the underpinnings of UK technical practice.” Fiona Cousins

After setting the Challenges, I was eager to hear from members as to what they thought. I had the pleasure of chairing a CIBSE Exchange session online, where I was joined by Gemma Taylor, Global Chair for the CIBSE Young Engineers Network (YEN); Jennifer Cox, CIBSE Graduate of the Year 2020; Jon Belfield, Managing Director of InTandem - CIBSE Employer of the Year 2017 and 2020; and Joey Aoun, winner of the 2020 CIBSE Ken Dale Bursary and Net Zero Implementation Lead for Savills. They shared their journey into building services engineering, united by the drive to make a positive impact on the world around them.

“The built environment industry has the ability to touch upon the integral parts of a person’s’s more than building services engineering, it’s more like people services engineering. We’re here to have a positive impact on the world.” Joey Aoun

During the last year, CIBSE has been a leading voice in terms of net zero carbon policy and the development of the UK Net Zero CarbonBuilding Standard. The cross industry coalition that is currently developing the standard demonstrates a model for the type of collaboration needed to tackle the problems that we, as a society, are faced with.

Along with the overwhelming support and engagement from CIBSE members, I have had the pleasure of building on relationships with other professional engineering institutions. This included meeting with ASHRAE President, Mick Schwedler and discussing how the two institutions can continue to work together to achieve shared goals and to support members internationally.  

As part of my pledge to strengthen CIBSE’s growth outside of the UK, I have visited several CIBSE regions, including trips to the United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, and Ireland.

Site visit to One Za'Abeel, Dubai

In the UAE, I signed agreements on behalf of CIBSE, with De Montfort University Dubai and Manipal University Dubai to launch CIBSE Student Groups at each university. I also met with Masdar City to discuss their journey to Net Zero, and with the Emirates Green Building Council to discuss collaborating in the future.

Left to right: Gary Chiang, Ruth Carter, Kevin Mitchell, Hywel Davies - at CIBSE Hong Kong Region AGM

In Hong Kong, we welcomed in the new regional chair, Gary Chiang. It was fantastic to meet Gary and to be able to thank the outgoing regional chair, T C Chan in person. Within his address, Gary Chiang highlighted the important role of the CIBSE Young Engineers Network – Hong Kong in supporting, representing, and recruiting early career engineers. It was truly encouraging to hear and see how aligned our goals are.

Left to right: Mark Crawford, Hywel Davies, Ruth Carter, Kevin Mitchell after arriving in New Zealand

In New Zealand we met with the outgoing ANZ regional chair, Mark Crawford. Understanding the role that CIBSE can play in supporting members in Australia and New Zealand gain professional recognition was high on the CIBSE leadership teams’ agenda for the trip. It was great to hear this echoed by the regional committee.

Aluwaine Manyonga, recipient of the 2022 Ken Dale Bursary

We’ve had an outpouring from members based outside the UK, sharing their stories and experiences in response to the 125 Challenges. I was particularly inspired by Aluwaine Manyonga, recipient of the 2022 Ken Dale Travel Bursary and winner of the Society of Light and Lighting’s Young Lighter award in 2020. Aluwaine’s research aims to help assess the feasibility of implementing solar DC LED lighting systems in educational, health, residential and commercial buildings within rural, often off-grid communities in Southern Africa. Aluwaine continues to inspire by sharing updates on the project, illustrating the impact and power that engineering can have in improving people’s lives.

In August, CIBSE published an update to the Climate ActionPlan. Led by Julie Godefroy, head of net zero policy, the updated CIBSE Climate Action Plan maps current progress and identifies further action and development areas. This is essential to deliver outcomes which are technically robust, trusted, and have cross-industry backing.

CIBSE’s commitment to supporting its members in the transition to net zero is demonstrated in the technical guidance that we produce. It was fantastic to see the expansion of the embodied carbon calculation methodology, TM65, to make it adaptable outside the UK. By creating the means for locally specific versions of the methodology to be created, it lays the ground for a globally consistent approach to sharing and reporting on embodied carbon for building services products.

Awards provide a great opportunity for us to recognise excellence within our industry and raise the profile of the work that we do. As I said within my Presidential Address, when we celebrate our collective achievements and demonstrate, publicly, the real-world impact of our work it helps to broaden the appeal of our profession.

As you know, the Young Engineers Awards hold a very special place in my heart It was a real honour getting to judge the 2022 awards and to meet the shortlisted graduates, apprentices, and employers.

Sana Hafsa was named CIBSE ASHRAE Graduate of the Year 2022, after her engaging presentation on inspiring engineers to work collaboratively and holistically to deliver high performance buildings. The Apprentice of the Year Degree (level 5-7) went to Louis Kimber, with Harvey Hudson scooping the corresponding award for Apprentice of the Year Technician (level 3-4).

It is certainly my experience that recognition at the early stages of your career can act as a motivator, contributing to a feeling of being valued, inspired, and supported within your field. My employer provided me with opportunities, just as the CIBSE Employer of the Year 2022, Fairheat is making a difference to their graduates and early career engineers.

As the only industry awards that focus on actual, measured performance outcomes, and not just design intent or performance specifications, the CIBSE Building Performance Awards (BPAs) illustrate what can be achieved in practice. They showcase the building services professionals who are developing strategies for refurbishment and energy-efficient operation of existing buildings, designing new buildings that operate more effectively and developing the products and systems that support them.


At this year’s BPAs, we were joined by guest speaker, the Rt. Honourable Chris Skidmore MP, chair of the Independent Review and author of the resulting report, Mission Zero.

“We need to prioritise the role of the engineering profession … recognising that you hold the answers, that you hold the solutions, and that you are the future when it comes to delivering on net zero for us all.” Chris Skidmore MP

Mr. Skidmore emphasised his personal commitment to the zero carbon target: identifying it as an urgent challenge, but also as an opportunity for the UK to capitalise on its world-leading position on climate change.

This year’s Awards demonstrated an inspiring range of solutions to the challenge of slowing climate change.

CIBSE Build2Perform Live 2022

As with industry awards, having opportunities for sharing the latest research, debate, and collaboration are crucial to driving the net zero agenda. This was evident within the programme, atmosphere, and audience response at Build2Perform Live 2022, in November. In the opening session, we heard from those developing the Net Zero Carbon Building Standard. I was honoured to be able to chair this session and engage with the people that are leading the effort to create a standardised approach and vocabulary to facilitate the transition to net zero carbon in the built environment.

Kevin Mitchell delivers opening address at the CIBSE ASHRAE Technical Symposium 2023

Similarly, this year’s CIBSE Technical Symposium, which took place last month in Glasgow, featured a packed programme of presentations and panel discussions, focused on the theme of "Delivering Safe, Sustainable, and Healthy Buildings for a Net Zero Future."

The programme included presentations on heat decarbonisation; the potential for reducing energy usage through recommissioning buildings through retrofit; the drivers and barriers for increased uptake for the large-scale construction of low cost, low carbon homes; and the challenges faced in tackling the urgent need for large-scale retrofit, with the prominence of conservation areas; among many other important topics.

Of course, the goal of inspiring the next generation of engineers stretches beyond my presidency, but I am heartened by the way CIBSE members, and the building service engineering community have embraced the challenges and continue to demonstrate their passion, drive, and determination to deliver a safe, healthy and more sustainable built environment. As with the CIBSE Climate Action Plan, let this be the line that marks the start. I look forward to continuing to work with my fellow CIBSE members, collaborating and engaging others in the work that we do, and supporting and developing those considering entering, or at the early stages of their career in building services engineering.




Popular posts from this blog

Too much information

Celebrating early career engineers and exceptional employers at the CIBSE Young Engineers Awards 2022