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Most worthwhile books are the product of a long period of reflection, often spanning many years. I can trace the journey that led to this work, which seeks to make a small contribution to bridging the gap between the wider issues of sustainability and the key role of sustainable building services engineering, back to my childhood. For many, the environmental and energy performance of the built environment and many of the services crucial to this process; such as pumps, fans and ductwork systems; is less well understood, and the immediate connections are not made to wider environmental and sustainability considerations.
What often gets priority is finance and cost factors, which are important and are the primary drivers for many. For me, this attempt to bring together approaches to building services engineering with sustainability – without doubt, the most pressing challenge to face present and future generations – is the culmination of an eclectic range of interests which has shaped my career and life to date. Given the importance of the subject matter, it seems strange to me that so little has so far been written with a holistic view of both the wider environmental links and sustainable building services engineering.
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Much has been written about ‘green issues’ and there is a veritable library of handbooks and texts on building services, but to the best of my knowledge this is the first full-length work devoted solely to bringing these important subjects together. There are many environmentalists, ecologists and ‘new sustainability experts’ as well as, of course, many building services engineers, but there are very few who cross the divide and work with both disciplines. Therefore, this process has been largely about bridging a chasm to make new connections, and the journey that brought me to do this started long ago. It began with an early interest in earth sciences. Anything in, or under and above, the earth was a source of fascination to me.
As a child, I would seize any opportunity to dig holes, explore new sites of interest or discover more about the world around me. This interest was always eclectic. I was as intrigued by soil composition – and the invertebrates that inhabited it – as I was by the constellations above us. Microscopic organisms were as absorbing as oak trees, and pebbles as intriguing as the stars. Geology and cosmology held equal sway. In 1969, at the age of eight, I found my first fossil. This was during an age of rapid and radical social change, but my personal epiphany at that time was all about the past. How did that shell get ‘frozen’ forever in that piece of ancient limestone? What kind of world had it once inhabited? I started collecting rocks and fossils, and the discovery also fostered a wider engagement with history.
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The prehistoric, geologically captured world of fossils held my imagination, and I also benefitted from the teaching of a great-aunt who, in those far-off days when we were largely innocent of the strictures of health and safety, would take me on trips to explore quarries. I still have many of the rocks and fossils we found. It all fired my enthusiasm for learning about the natural world. My aunt also encouraged a parallel interest in the more recent past, as revealed by the archaeological record, and I participated in a number of archaeological rescue digs from the age of 12. Was there no limit to what the earth could teach us?
Accordingly, my interests at school were centred around history, geography biology and what was then craft, design and technology, and as these were the subjects that engrossed me, these were the areas where I did well. The wider world was also brought home to me as my Dad had served in the Royal Navy in WWII and had covered half the globe travelling to many exotic places. His stories and recollections inspired me to find out more about the geography and history connected to these events. At the same time as my aunt was risking life and limb to help m extract ammonites from abandoned quarries, I was also influenced by my older brother’s nascent career in electronic engineering.
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