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Last edited 17 Jul 2018
Building services are the systems installed in buildings to make them comfortable, functional, efficient and safe.
Building services might include:
- Building control systems.
- Energy distribution.
- Energy supply (gas, electricity and renewable sources such as solar, wind, geothermal and biomass).
- Escalators and lifts.
- Facade engineering (such as building shading requirements).
- Fire safety, detection and protection.
- Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC).
- Information and communications technology (ICT) networks.
- Lighting (natural and artificial).
- Lightning protection.
- Security and alarm systems.
- Water, drainage and plumbing (including sustainable urban drainage systems (SUDS)).
- Carbon emissions calculations and reduction.
For more information, see Types of building services.
Specialist building services might also include systems for bacteria and humidity control, specialist lighting and security, emergency power, specialist gas distribution, fume cupboards, operating theatres, and so on.
Building services play a central role in contributing to the design of a building, not only in terms of overall strategies and standards to be achieved, but also in façade engineering, the weights, sizes and location of major plant and equipment, the position of vertical service risers, routes for the distribution of horizontal services, drainage, energy sources, sustainability, and so on.
This means that building services design must be integrated into the overall building design from a very early stage, particularly on complex building projects such as hospitals. Whilst it is usual for a building design team to be led by an architect, on buildings with very complex building services requirements a building services engineer might be appointed as the lead designer.
The detection of clashes between building services and other building components is a significant cause of delays and variations on site, not just in terms of the physical services themselves, but also access to allow the builders work in connection with those services. The use of 3D computer aided design (CAD) systems and building information modelling (BIM) should help reduce the occurrence of such problems.
Increasingly, building services engineers are central to the design and assessment of sustainable systems, assessing the life cycle of buildings and their component services to minimise the resources consumed and the impact on the environment during fabrication, construction, operation and dismantling.
As a consequence, many aspects of building services design are regulated (the building regulations, the energy related products regulations, and so on), and clients may impose their own standards on top of these regulations or seek certification under schemes such the Building Research Establishment’s (BRE) Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM).
Ensuring that building services meet the standards set can involve the use of sophisticated simulation tools to predict the likely performance of buildings during the design stages (including the assessment and comparison of different options), as well as monitoring actual performance in use.
However, clients and designers are becoming increasingly aware of a disparity between the predicted and actual performance of buildings, with many buildings using considerably more energy than had been expected (up to 5 times as much according to the Carbon Trust‘s Low Carbon Buildings Accelerator and the Low Carbon Buildings Programme).
This may be as a result of the following:
- A lack of proper understanding of building design and the interaction between components.
- Poor prediction tools.
- Inadequate detailing.
- Discrepancies between specifications and actual construction.
- Poor build quality.
- The use of idealised performance data for products.
- Improper user behaviour or operation.
- Unexpected power loads (such as additional ICT equipment, external lighting, and so on).
NB: Building services will have to be upgraded and equipment replaced a number of times in the life of most buildings, building services engineers should consider this throughout design development as well as ease of maintenance and running costs.
 Find out more
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Air conditioning.
- Air handling unit.
- BSRIA blue book.
- Building Automation and Control System BACS.
- Building management systems.
- Building services compliance with the building regulations.
- Building services engineer.
- Chilled beam.
- Cooling systems for buildings.
- Concept services design.
- Domestic building services compliance guide.
- Electrical control systems.
- Fan coil unit.
- Heat transfer.
- Insulation specification.
- Lightning protection system.
- Mechanical and electrical.
- Mechanical, electrical and plumbing MEP.
- Mechanical ventilation.
- Model Format for Building Services Specifications BG56 2016.
- Natural ventilation.
- Non-domestic building services compliance guide.
- Passive building design.
- Performance gap.
- Plant room.
- Rules of Thumb - Guidelines for building services.
- The importance of building services.
- Thermal comfort.
- Types of building services.
- Types of heating system.
- Vertical riser.
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