Meet the Member – John Griggs

(Right) Representing SuDS Approval Bodies

John Griggs always wanted to work in the automotive industry. He had a provisional place at British Leyland to do Production Engineering at Aston University, but unfortunately his A level results prevented him from securing his place.

“I visited a careers advisor who suggested I try the Building Research Station (BRS) that was only a few miles away,” recalls John. “I joined the Public Health Engineering Section at BRS (later to become the Building Research Establishment, BRE) and started researching drainage systems, carrying out CCTV surveys.

Academic achievements

Although he wasn’t terribly keen to undertake any more education, the training officer at BRS persuaded John to do a part-time, day-release physics course at the local college in Watford, where he passed all his exams and gained an ONC (Ordinary National Certificate) in Sciences. Following this course, John attended Watford College where he achieved an HNC (Higher National Certificate) in Applied Physics, with distinctions. His section head at BRE was keen for him to learn fluid physics, so he joined the Applied Physics and Engineering Part-time Honours Degree Course at the local polytechnic in Hatfield.

“The stress of doing a day job, night-time learning and homework took its toll, so I was content to finish my education,” says John.

Recording the promotional video for the launch of ‘Building Drainage: An integrated design guide’

Working with the Government

As technical advisors to the Government, John’s Public Health Engineering Section was required to provide technical reports as evidence to support Building Regulations and the various Approved Documents. These would either be direct from BRE or indirectly through British Standards.

“At that time, in the mid 1990s, we were starting to develop European Standards, so the work I was involved in was often being mirrored or complemented by work in other EU countries,” explains John. “There was no one on our team that had any knowledge of wastewater treatment. Although we collaborated with a number of experts we had no ‘in-house’ expertise. So, I started a part-time MSc in Water and Wastewater Treatment Engineering at Cranfield University.”

With all the industry contacts he had from working on the European Standards, John was able to design a full wastewater treatment system for one of the BRE directors that lived near to Cranfield. However, the director decided that his design was too expensive and he withdrew his property for John’s project site, leaving him unable to complete the course.

“A few years later I was selected for a short secondment in London at the Department of the Environment for a couple of weeks, assessing European Projects that had been funded by the Government,” says John. “While there I bumped into the CEO. He looked at me and said, ‘Are we making the most of you, John?’ A couple of days later I was offered a secondment to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).”

The six-month secondment was extended to over three years and John was given a £3k annual budget for personal training, which enabled him to complete his MSc. Previously John’s thesis for his MSc had to be on a water or wastewater treatment system, but now the scope was much broader. John developed a Water Trading Scheme and after eight years he completed the MSc in Water and Wastewater Treatment Technology.

In his role as a CIBSE trainer

Industry roles

Over the years John has held 34 roles with the BRE, culminating in the position of Principal Consultant. He represented the BRE and various government departments at British and European Standards Committees. He has also represented the UK at various international committees such as CIB W62 (water supply and drainage), CEN TC163 (sanitary appliances), and ISO 224 (water reuse for agriculture, stormwater drainage and water efficiency).

John has worked with the CIPHE on joint projects, such as guidance on vacuum drainage systems and the development of European Standards and water efficiency, and acted as a guest speaker at many CIPHE Annual Conferences.

During the DTI secondment, John’s work dealt with F-Gas Regulations, Carbon Emissions and the HSE, briefing ministers and being an advocate for the industry when working with DEFRA. He began working at the CIPHE in 2009 as Principle Technical Officer, running European Projects, on topics including; solar panels (Eagle), recyclable pipes (Greenflex) and integrated renewable heating systems (SmartHeat). When he left the CIPHE in 2014, John set up a consultancy business and worked with many clients, including a plastic pipe manufacturer, a vacuum drainage company, government departments, insurance companies, developers and off-site construction companies.

“Most of my work is forensic plumbing – looking at systems that have gone wrong and working out why,” explains John. “Where there are apparent product failures, discussions with manufacturers’ technical or research departments may be needed along with desk studies of the regulations and standards that were applicable at the times of specification and installation. Sometimes I have been required to attend court as an expert, but normally an out-of-court settlement is agreed.”

Getting stuck into what he knows best...

Sharing knowledge

Currently, John works as a CIBSE trainer and lectures on above-ground building drainage, the fundamentals of drainage, and designing efficient hot and cold water supply systems. He also represents the CIPHE on British Standards Committees. So why has it been important for him to be a member of the CIPHE?

“It has been established, in a number of forms, for well over 100 years,” explains John. “It has a time-earned reputation for providing support to advances and improvements in the plumbing and heating industry, both in the UK and worldwide. The members are recognised by their commitment to good practice and conscientious service. It has been at the forefront of training with new technologies and continues to look to the future for sustainable solutions to everyday situations.”

He has been awarded scholarships to participate in the development of an International Standard (ISO 30500) on non-sewered sanitation systems (NSSS) by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

“This has taken me to locations in Europe, Africa, Asia and South America as part of the ‘Toilet Reinvented’ project that was set up by the foundation to develop next-generation toilets that are sustainable, affordable and desirable for all people – not just those in developed counties,” explains John. “I often represent the UK at European Standards Committees and lead the delegations on topics that include AAVs, gullies, anti-flooding valves, above ground drainage and small wastewater treatment plants.”

John is the author of various BRE information papers and digests, some of which are in association with the CIPHE. He has also co-written a book on drainage design – Building Drainage, An integrated design guide – with Dr Kemi Adeyeye of Bath University. He joined the Sustainable Water Industry Group (SWIG) and became a judge and was given a SWIG Award in 2015 for work on water efficiency.

John is currently working with Paul Harmer, the CIPHE’s lead technical consultant, Adrian Flaherty (John’s CIBSE fellow lecturer on drainage topics) and other experts to update the heating and water system design pages of the CIPHE Engineering Guide.

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