Embrace digital and AI for safety and sustainability, says BESA president

Claire Curran, the President of the Building Engineering Services Association, has called on the building services sector to improve its use of digital tools and systems.

Speaking at the annual BESA President’s Lunch, Curran, who is MD of HVAC firm Linaker, said better use of digital systems would help meet the high standards of safety required by the Building Safety Act and speed up progress towards net zero emissions. She said:

You can’t make buildings safer if you keep working in the same broken way. Time is running out for those companies who still think this will quietly go away. It won’t. They need to act. We all know there is no construction, installation, or maintenance without safety.

She added that artificial intelligence (AI) was not something that should be feared – or ignored – by those working with buildings:

AI is out of its box and is not going back in, so, like it or not, we must embrace it. We must be aware of the potential negatives but grasp the positives. Harnessing AI to some of the digital improvements we have already made like 4D modelling, APIs and data mining will make us more efficient and productive.

She added that sustainability would also benefit from a more digitised approach, unlocking the potential to “ace net zero, even across difficult retrofit and refurbishment areas of our industry”. The data would naturally also help inform and update technical standards and competency frameworks, she said. She stressed that this would not lessen the need to invest in people, but that this would need new skillsets. She said:

The digital takeover means we need completely new skills…but this also creates an amazing opportunity to reach out to a whole new generation and state our case for being their career of choice, so they can contribute to a better, greener future. Rather than protesting and campaigning for environmental change, let’s encourage a younger and more diverse audience to join an industry that can actually make change happen and is using the latest technologies to do it.