We’ve been speaking exclusively with S I Sealy – a partner at our recent Liverpool event. We’ve been discussing their impressive portfolio of past and ongoing projects, their commitment to helping tackle the climate crisis and more…

Q. S I Sealy are a specialist building services engineering design consultancy. Tell us a little about the work you do and the sectors you work across?

We offer Building Services Design Consultancy, Electrical Engineering Design, Mechanical Engineering Design, Building Information Modelling, Building and Energy Modelling, Digital Design Engineering and Environmental and Sustainability Solutions across all sectors – commercial, education, healthcare, retirement living, residential and industrial.

We are the largest specialist building services design consultancy in the Northwest, with over 30 engineers.  We are an owner-managed business with three company Directors, all of whom are practising engineers.  Our Directors are very close to every project, ensuring everything that comes from our office is of the highest quality.

Q. The company has recently turned 70 – what are some of the biggest accomplishments you’ve made during that time?

During our 70 years, we have provided MEP to many developments, whilst providing services at all levels, from a £500 report to detailed designs for £100 million developments. One of our biggest accomplishments was providing the detailed designs for the £120 million Co-operative Group’s Headquarter Building at Angel Square in Manchester City Centre. The building is iconic on the Manchester skyline and received one of the highest ever BREEAM ratings for any commercial building in Europe at the time. The project reflects a growing awareness of sustainability and incorporates innovative double-skin façade and ventilation system, alongside other green features, and low carbon technologies.

Q. One of the schemes you’re currently working is on the £33m #DestinationBootle project – the UK’s largest community-led development transforming Bootle’s stretch of the Leeds-Liverpool canal. Tell us a little more about the work you’re doing here?

We are delivering the MEP design for the £33 million regeneration project that sits on the Leeds-Liverpool canal. The development includes community-led housing and the refurbishment of the Lock & Quay, as well as new work units, leisure facilities, a canal-side eatery, guest accommodation and boat moorings and water-based heritage tours of the canal. The plans aim to provide a range of creative activities and services for the new neighbourhood and surrounding areas.

The design for the development includes high-performance fabric and systems, along with low energy LED and solar power generation throughout. The local community hub will achieve a 65% improvement on Notional Building CO2 emissions with the aspiration to achieve EPC A rating for all the dwellings.

Q. You’re helping to reduce the energy bills for residents as part of this project by 20% – how’re you achieving such a great saving for residents?

The plans for the development include both ground source heating to provide sustainable energy along with solar photovoltaics. Combined, these will meet 99% of the site’s energy requirements along with a 20% reduction of energy bills for residents.

Q. One of the areas you’re working heavily within is energy modelling which shows your commitment to adopting new technology and solutions. Do you think the industry is quick enough to adopt new tech or is there still some way to go?

The industry is well-positioned for technological advancement, but with the lack of existing use cases, the industry tends to favour more established and market-tested technologies. Building regulations partially resolve the problem by forcing the industry to adopt new technology, but these regulations often cannot keep up with the rate of technological advancements.

Given the imminent digital transformation within the industry and the skills it will require, there is also a training and skills gap for what is technically possible and the skills that are needed to operate the systems. The industry has a way to go in the rate of technology adoption, and for it to get better, incentives for adoption are needed.

Q. How can energy modelling help in the fight against climate change?

Energy modelling allows the design team to understand the energy balance within the building before it is built. It produces data that allows the team to make critical judgements and improvements at the design stage. It also allows optioneering studies to find the best fitting and most efficient solution. All these factors lead to better energy performance and lower carbon emissions, which helps in the fight against climate change.

Q. What other improvements can be made in building design to improve efficiency?

Consideration of design and specification at an early stage and the early appointment of building services design engineers can provide significant savings compared with an ad hoc approach. Along with the appointment of building services and energy modelling which can help with the passive energy efficiency of the building.

Issues are needed to be addressed at early design stages of a project to ensure that the building’s sustainability and efficiency can be fully optimised.

Q. How has progress in BIM improved the capacity for efficiency in building design, and should BIM be utilised as a mandatory tool for all developments?

We recognise that BIM has become a basic client and interdisciplinary requirement and is seen as a core expertise within building services design. BIM delivers a more coordinated and integrated final design solution by allowing better and more informed design decisions much earlier on. This results in a reduced number of technical queries, on-site errors and other factors that can lead to delays and overheads.

The BIM process for us is focused around enhancing project collaboration, using a 3D model as the basis for intelligent design and coordination, as well as drawing, document, and schedule production. We are currently delivering several BIM projects across the UK, all with varying degrees of complexity, using multiple authorising platforms. Our use of BIM on these projects has ensured a level of design coordination that would have been impossible using traditional 2D drawing production methods. In our opinion, BIM should be mandatory for all developments as all projects can and should benefit from the available certainty.

Q. You’re one of the leading firms across the North West, an area that’s been attracting a lot of developer and investor attention of late. Why do you think the region is thriving?

There are many reasons the Northwest is gathering a lot of developer and investor traction. Manchester alone has seen some major investments such as Airport City Manchester which will develop 5million sqft of offices, logistics, hotels, and manufacturing space over the next 10-15 years. Manchester benefits from one of the largest student populations in the whole of Europe, with over 90,000 full-time students, and around 17,500 overseas students, many of whom settle in the city after graduation.

Liverpool has seen the major investment to its waterfront with the £5.5 billion 30-year regeneration plan, which is the biggest single regeneration project in the history of Liverpool. Its population was the fastest growing in the UK between 2002 and 2015, with this growth, Liverpool has been marked as one of the leading cities in the UK for investment.

For the past few years, large corporate organisations have been relocating to the Northwest, stimulating both the residential and commercial sectors, as well as significant overseas inward investment and institutional investment in the property sector. The returns and yields on both residential and commercial developments are significantly higher here in the Northwest than in London.