Neville S Billington OBE, MSc Hon, FCIBSE, PPIHVE was one of the giants of the Building Engineering Services industry during the 20th century. He was not a practising engineer but a scientist, educator, author, researcher and communicator. During his career he was a Principal Scientific Officer at the Building Research Station (BRE), Head of the National College for Heating, Ventilating, Refrigeration & Fan Engineering, and Director of The Building Services Research and Information Association (BSRIA).
He was perhaps the UK’s leading authority on heat transmission in buildings, a subject on which he wrote numerous papers and several textbooks. He developed the theories of unsteady heat flow and intermittent heating and was one of the first authors to write extensively about vapour transfer and condensation in buildings.
Neville was a native of Crewe which may explain his interest in the heating and cooling of passenger trains as demonstrated by his paper “Travelling in Comfort” for the Newcomen Society. He had a passionate interest in the history of the industry. He admired the pioneering work of Thomas Tredgold (1788-1829) and wrote wide-ranging articles from the evolution of lighthouses to showing how the 70 degF isotherm spurred the development of the Ancient Civilisations of Egypt, Arabia and Persia.
He was a familiar face at both national and international conferences and read and spoke French, some German and a smattering of Russian. In 1969 he was awarded the Gold Medal of the French Sciences of Artificial Climate. He helped establish and was later President of the Representatives of European Heating and Ventilating Associations (REHVA). He served as President of the Institution of Heating & Ventilating Engineers for 1970-71 and was awarded their Gold Medal in 1976.
Neville was a founding member of the IHVE Archaeology Working Party, later the CIBSE Heritage Group, serving from 1973 until 1991, where he often saw the broader picture or never hesitated to raise a contentious view. In 1982, he co-authored “Building Engineering Services: a Review of its Development,” an important record of the history of the industry.
He was a keen member of the Rumford Club (a Dining Club for members of the industry) and served as its Secretary. He was interested in art and was an accomplished painter of landscapes in water colours. In later years his services were recognised by the award of the CIBSE Gold Medal, Honorary Membership of REHVA and the granting of Honorary Fellow of CIBSE.