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“design COMPASS” The CIBSE Design Framework

The CIBSE “Design Compass” is an online tool to assist professionals involved in building design to incorporate weather/climate related information into a clearly defined framework. It provides a common methodology and a frequently updated database where professionals can find information to help them deal with the extra layers of complexity that have been added to the design process in recent years. Most challenging of these is the changing climate and the associated and increasing needs for both adapting to it and mitigating against it.

The CIBSE “Design Compass” provides a consistent pathway linked to a recognized design process, which guides the user on the use and selection of present and future weather/climate information, as well as links to existing CIBSE guidance and to other useful sources of information. Also included are suggestions to CIBSE for the development of further guidance, wherever the need has been identified, and a preview of future developments in the area under consideration. The tool provides the opportunity for users to input their suggestions for future CIBSE guidance and to provide references to other information they believe could be beneficial to others.

The CIBSE “Design Compass” does not yet provide comprehensive guidance for all building design issues but rather for weather related information. Links to resources are given for each task of the design process, while links as well as further guidance are provided in relation to the selection and use of weather data in building design.

Although weather/climate information is provided to assist in considering future conditions in building design, ready-made design options for adapting buildings to the impacts of climate change are not yet available.

Sustainability issues are ingrained in the framework in the way that CIBSE advocates they should be ingrained in the everyday practices of its members (see CIBSE policy statement on Sustainability). Links to Sustainability Guide L and other resources provide users with access to related information in every step of the CIBSE “Design Compass”.

Using the “design COMPASS”

The Home page of the site features the design areas (Heating, Cooling, Ventilation etc.) where weather information is relevant. Once the area for consideration has been chosen the user is guided to a series of design tasks and the information to assist in the completion of each task within a framework defined by a generic design process.

There are three levels to the CIBSE Design Framework. For each design area:
• the building services design process (level 1), composed of 6 design stages (based on the design framework presented in the BSRIA publication: “A Design Framework for Building Services: Design Activities and Drawing Definitions”, David Churcher, BG 6/2006);
• the tasks associated with each design stage;
• links to CIBSE guidance, to weather information and to other links

Although the CIBSE “Design Compass” identifies specific steps in a prescriptive design process, experienced professionals have the choice to either follow it or access the information provided according to their own methodology. At the same time it offers assistance to new designers to achieve best practice by following a recognisable and structured methodology. Building in flexibility to access information by any route (i.e. without necessarily following the design process sequentially) leads to a need for significant repetition. This has been deliberately built in to facilitate the flexibility. Notwithstanding that deliberation, in part the repetition of the available weather/climate information throughout the framework also underlines the relative paucity of current information and hence the importance of developing the new and appropriate information for each design area in order to assist sustainable design decisions.


This resource is the result of a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (http://www.ktponline.org.uk). The KTP project was a collaboration between CIBSE and UK Climate Impacts Programme (http://www.ukcip.org.uk) and was co-funded by Technology Strategy Board (http://www.innovateuk.org), CIBSE and EPSRC (http://www.epsrc.ac.uk).

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