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George Clarke leads growing cast at BESA Conference

The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) has confirmed a series of top speakers for its 2021 National Conference taking place online on 3 and 4 November.

Structured around an overall theme of ‘Building Back Better, Safer, Greener’ the virtual event will have a strong focus on the detailed technical elements of rebuilding from the pandemic, delivering the requirements of new building safety legislation, modernising the sector’s workforce, and pushing on towards a net zero emissions future.

Mitsubishi Electric is headline sponsor, and the Conference will be opened by TV personality and architect George Clarke. He is best known for Channel 4 programmes The Home Show, The Restoration Man and George Clarke's Amazing Spaces.

Clarke will give an opening keynote and discuss a range of industry topics in conversation with BESA chief executive David Frise.

“The building engineering sector is in a fascinating place right now,” said Mr Clarke. “There is huge demand for specialist services that can deliver healthier, safer and more comfortable indoor spaces. The pandemic has thrust this industry into the public eye as people have become much more conscious of the role buildings play in their health and wellbeing.

“I am really looking forward to sharing my thoughts and ideas with BESA, its members and the conference delegates. I am also hoping to gain greater insight myself into some of the exciting technologies and new working practices that will transform building engineering in the coming years as we all take on the massive net zero challenge.”

Learning curve
Last year’s conference had 1,200 registered delegates and BESA is returning to a similar format, but with an even stronger technical focus. It will reflect on the steep learning curve experienced by building engineering contractors during 2020 as they answered the call from essential services like hospitals, schools, and supermarkets for critical building services support.

Speakers from a wide range of backgrounds have already been confirmed including former chief construction adviser Paul Morrell OBE. He will look back on the 10 years since the government mandated the use of BIM, debating whether the industry rose to the challenge and where it goes from here.

Anna Leech, deputy chief economist at the CBI, will update delegates on the ‘new normal economy’ including business opportunities and barriers to recovery for the construction and engineering sectors.

The importance of building safety in the wake of the Grenfell tragedy will be highlighted in a session led by Tim Galloway, the HSE’s deputy director Building Safety Programme. He will consider how the new regulatory regime can help to transform building safety culture and the crucial role to be played by competence and compliance. 

Fergus Harradence, deputy director Infrastructure & Construction at the department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) will explain how the government’s Construction Playbook is raising standards in public sector projects. He will outline how it is transforming procurement and what building engineering firms must do to meet government expectations. 

Mark Enzer, head of the government’s National Digital Twin Programme, will outline a digital vision for the built environment and explain how making good decisions now will create a better future for the industry and its clients.

CIBSE president-elect Kevin Mitchell is also chairing a session setting the scene for this year’s COP26 climate conference in Glasgow. He will discuss with a panel of young engineers how we can hold our politicians to account and set out a series of long-term challenges for the building services industry.

The BESA Conference will also feature a wide-ranging section covering the sector’s present and future skills needs. This will include discussion about employment issues such as modern slavery and how to tackle this growing problem for many supply chains led by leading sustainability consultant Helen Carter.

“We are delighted to be the headline sponsor for this prestigious and ambitious event,” said Rachel Lekman, marketing manager at Mitsubishi Electric. “We have built up a very productive partnership with BESA in recent years and have already collaborated on a number of important projects not least the widely acclaimed ‘Beginners’ Guide to Indoor Air Quality’ and the rapidly developing BESA Academy.

“The focus of the Conference on technical competence and compliance to ensure healthier and more efficient buildings is exactly in tune with our own priorities for this year and beyond; and we are excited to see the development of such a wide-ranging and in-depth programme.”

Key technical sessions at the BESA National Conference 2021 will also include:

  • Ventilation solutions for healthier and more productive buildings
  • Fire and smoke safety
  • Heat pumps, alternative refrigerants, and other opportunities
  • Giving young engineers the tools to succeed
  • Getting back to the fundamentals of energy efficiency
  • Repair not replace to tackle embodied carbon
  • Decarbonising heat.

Go to for more details and to register.


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