Designing for Adaptable Building Services

The Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) is leading a project to develop guidance for clients and designers on ways of designing buildings with flexible and adaptable building services that can better meet clients’ long term needs. Sponsored by the DETR Partners In Innovation Scheme, with support from the BIFM, CIBSE staff and leading practitioners, the project work is being undertaken by ABS Consulting and the Building Research Establishment (BRE).

The project will produce:

  • Guidance for clients on appropriate briefing mechanisms to enable designers to deliver flexible solutions which serve the organisation’s requirements in terms of both current and future work practices.
  • Guidance for designers on responding to the needs of clients in a cost and time effective as well as sustainable and energy efficient manner.
  • A contribution towards the next revision of the British Council for Offices (BCO) Best Practice Specification.

The project covers the broad scope of services from mechanical systems to fire protection. Both the CIBSE Public Health and Electrical Groups are supporting the project.

Whether the flexibility be simply to relocate partitions to meet changing team structures or something more radical such as increasing occupancy by 30% to reduce rental costs, the building services play a key part in facilitating or restricting such change. In a survey recently undertaken by the project team over 75% of facilities managers stated that flexibility is of major or vital importance to them, yet in a parallel survey 60% of designers said that clients had problems in clarifying their requirements in this area. It is this mismatch that the project is aimed at overcoming.

The project team would welcome input from anyone who is interested in our work. We will be interviewing practitioners and manufacturers over the course of the year, and would be happy to include your opinions in the formation of the guidance. Equally if you were involved in a project where flexibility and adaptability were key issues, and think it could be featured as a case study, please contact us.

Anyone who took part in our postal survey will be receiving a copy of the full results (provided that they enclosed contact details). Summary results will shortly be published in the construction press. As the project progresses we will be posting results and drafts for comment on this site. We look forward to hearing what you think.

The leading practitioners are:
Argyle Management Services
Buro Happold
Ove Arup & Partners
Oscar Faber
CIBSE Electrical Group
CIBSE Public Health Group
Roger Preston & Partners
British Institution of Facilities Managers

For more information or if you can contribute, contact

More details on the project can also be found at CIBSE’s website (

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