Connecting Buildings to the Future
Grosvenor Engineering Group’s Iain Robinson reveals how he is building an internal BMS team that is redefining outcomes for clients and their buildings.
Iain Robinson has come a long way since securing his first job as a ‘fridgie’ at 17, after an interview at his local surf club.
“After completing my trade, I was 21 and I was given a company car with air conditioning and a CD player. I thought I was killing it at the time,” he laughs.
An air-conditioning and refrigeration mechanic by trade, Iain has worked his way to the top of the Building Management Systems (BMS) industry, through his years on the tools in the worlds of HVAC and building automation.
Iain joined Grosvenor Engineering Group in 2020, but the company had been a long-time client across his various roles. He was attracted by both the company’s values and the chance to start up a dedicated internal BMS team.
A month after he started though, the COVID-19 lockdown hit.
“Grosvenor handled it really well,” says Iain. “They restricted hours for everyone, from apprentices to the executives, and it was only a short period of time before we were back full-time.”
Started in 1994 by three enthusiastic engineering students, Grosvenor Engineering Group now employs more than 800 staff. Iain says the COVID-19 response indicates the strong role the directors still play in the business.
“The directors are active within the business – they’re supportive, approachable and available,” he says. “It really helps that they’re still so heavily invested in the business, driving it forward.”
Iain joined Grosvenor to help build a national internal BMS team, a function that was previously outsourced to contractors. Although some of those trusted subcontractor relationships have existed for two decades, the internal shift will allow Grosvenor greater control and opportunities.
“We can own the client relationships end-to-end now, and it gives us more control to deliver the full range of services we offer,” he explains.
“We offer pretty much everything: electrical team, mechanical team, hygiene, fire services, essential services.”
That diversity means that Iain wears a range of hats at any given time.
“My day varies from doing a webinar, to a client meeting, to being on a construction site, he says.
“The most satisfying part is finding a solution for the customer, though. Then your partnership or relationship grows from there.”
Iain says one of the best examples of that so far has been a national rollout for a large supermarket chain.
“We went from doing their work through the HVAC team and subbing out to other BMS contractors, to delivering that internally, and now being selected as only one of two system integrators to work on their new job sites,” he reveals.
“It’s an interesting trial because we’re integrating multiple services across the whole site,” he continues. “Not just HVAC. Instead, we’re talking energy meters, solar power, refrigeration, security and lighting – bringing them all into one network. “We refer to this as a building services network or integrated controls network,” Iain explains.
And it’s that multi-level technological integration that separates Grosvenor Engineering Group from its competitors.
“For another client with a large property portfolio, we’re conducting an energy-metering project. We’re giving them visibility on how much energy their tenants are consuming,” he says.
“We’ve given them a full new network within the building, connecting them up, and then we’ll put them on a web portal so they can see all their data and automate their reports. It’s what’s known as an EMS – Energy Management System.”
It’s not widely known that Building Management Systems have reached this level of complexity, so creating awareness is one of the obstacles Iain and his team need to overcome, as they look for the growth that is expected in their area.
“We have to get out amongst our customers to share that,” he says. “In the past, we haven’t been known as a BMS provider.
“It’s a bit more evolved than people in the market would probably perceive,” he continues. “I didn’t realise until I got here that we already had a cyber offering in place. One of my counterparts in cyber is doing amazing things in that space for our customers.
“In the past, you might’ve had the old dial-up modem for a BMS, if you were lucky, but other than that, you had to go to the site all the time. Now I can do it on the phone.”
One of the other advantages that Grosvenor’s new BMS team has over competitors that are OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers), such as Schneider or Siemens, is that they’re not tied to any one product or service offering. When a client asks for automation or better efficiency for their building, Iain’s team can be flexible to find them a solution.
“We see if we can help with the product that’s already in place, or we can suggest other options for them,” he says.
Flexible, efficient and technologically advanced, the future is definitely bright for Iain and his team at Grosvenor – and even more so for the clients whose buildings they manage.