An online survey by SCMP tells the story, we don’t believe you, we don’t believe those flashy slogans corporations are selling. It’s part of the endless assault, trying to persuade us that corporations, particularly large corporations are great.
82% (so far) believe corporate sustainability is just a slogan, that’s a shocking indictment of Hong Kong’s corporates in the sustainability stakes. But why? Perhaps there is a simple answer, the Hong Kong public are not so gullible, they do not believe the hype, or those glossy awards, from the trenches we see the real world every day.
We see and believe, and all the hype, is just hype.
I deal with “Standards” almost daily, normally ISO or British Standard varieties, each one has a technical committee, BS 88 is a favorite, when you could buy it for pence, but outside its more like the wild west, perhaps we assume too much, so products like water bottled and sunscreen escape close scrutiny.
A bottled drinking water study found plastic pieces in nearly all the samples, it gets worse, there is no standard, it was widely reported in the media. So the plastic content in your healthy drinking water has never been checked.
Water Resistant sunscreen isn’t reports the BBC citing a study by Which? found water-resistant sunscreen wasn’t really water resistant at the seaside, the report explains that manufacturers test for water resistance uses tap water, but tested with seawater gives different results. And you might wonder how is that possible surely it passed Britsh Standard technical committee, it didn’t, its a trade association standard.
A related testing issue is the so-called Golden Sample. If you make and sell an electrical cabling compliant with a certain BS standard, the manufacturer submits samples to a laboratory to obtain the test report. And that test report is used to demonstrate to buyers that the cabling is compliant with that standard.
It is argued that the manufacturer sends their best quality cable for testing, not the typical cabling from the production line. And typically there is no requirement for expensive periodic re-testing, so that test golden test report might be 10 years old and might not reflect the current production.
To me, these examples mean that society doth trust too much or perhaps it’s just me. I guessed those firms producing drinks and skin products had followed a list of rigorous standards, whether ISO or British Standard variety, before a bottle left the factory or sunscreen hit the shelf. Now that illusion is truly quashed, I wonder what other products escape testing because no “Standard” exists. As designers become more innovative who will be checking? We should all be more careful.
Prevention is better than cure, we know it, but too often ignore it until it is too late. Over the last year or so, increasing evidence of plastic polluting the oceans has made global headlines, and now the plastic story is hitting home. A local study demonstrated that a popular local fish have been found having ingested plastic (RTHK) the study reports 60% of flat head grey mullet had ingested plastic. Granted it was a small study, but that does necessarily mean the results can be ignored.
Even bottled drinking water, sold on the basis of safer water, is under scrutiny revealing it is not just fish enjoying plastic diet. A study found plastic in the majority of bottled drinking water (BBC report), to which, the manufacturers responded there is no Standard, implying measurement, monitoring, controlling or limiting the quantity of plastic in drinking water is not needed. It’s a problem, standards are created retrospectively, we can’t create a new Standard for products that do not yet exist, in the case of bottled drinking water nobody, and that really means Govt., has been watching the store.
Abroad, some countries have started, somewhat belatedly, to act, and that will impact the thousands of manufacturers involved in the plastics business. In the UK outright bans are threatened for certain plastic products, an attempt to prevent further damage, but no word how the existing pollution in the environment will be removed from the oceans.
What is interesting, the key motivator has not been green groups, the news reporting in the mainstream media has been instrumental, and highlighted these environmental issues, with shocking photos and videos circulated through social media. Justin Hoffman’s photo below is a good example.
It’s a new era, striking video and images, that have been circulated widely and easily through social media have motivated the public, in turn, pressured politicians into action.
On 18 April 2018, the UK Govt. announced its intention to ban plastic straws, plastic stirrers, and cotton buds using plastic, the latter because of the seahorse image, we might never know.
Banning single-use plastic is undoubtedly a step in the right direction, and avoids difficult waste management questions, how did that drinking straw or cotton bud leap from the consumer into the ocean. We know there are islands of floating garbage in worlds ocean, has seafill taken over the role of landfill?
A shocking example must be the 2017 Floating Trash ‘Island’ Spotted in the Caribbean Sea Near Roatan #seafill (there is a video on youtube (https://youtu.be/GSMGKwZBaWM) Caroline Power’s video and images shocked the world showing the floating rubbish stretching for miles in the once pristine Caribbean waters (Telegraph article). Was this island of waste washed from the Caribbean land islands or seafill?
Floating Trash ‘Island’ Spotted in the Caribbean Sea Near Roatan Credit: Caroline Power and Caroline Power Photography #seafill
Sadly, the fact remains, you have to admit we did it, and the damage is already done, the UK Govt. estimate there are 150 million tonnes of plastic waste already in the world’s oceans, the UK’s ban on micro-beads, single-use plastics today may help slow the disaster, but its not a cure.
Hong Kong utilities will be paying you for electricity supplied to the grid, the feed in tariff offers RE system owners HK$5 / wwh for small systems (upto 10 kw) , HK$4 / kwh for medium size systems (upto 200 kw) , and HK$3 / kwh for large installations (upto 1 Mw),
And could be attractive compared to the present electricity tariff , approx HK$ 1 / kwh on Kowloon side, and HK$ 1.3 / kwh on Hong Kong Island.
Under this scheme, ALL the power generated from the RE system must be fed into the grid, it’s not for self-use, that means the owner will have two utility accounts, a traditional account for paying electricity used, and this new RE account for the RE installation and any power generated fed into the grid.
It is a u-turn for CLP, its executive director Mr Chow stated in June 2015 ( read SCMP report ) that it was not worth connecting to the utility grid even with a feed in tariff.
Here is an interesting image, the infrared of Hong Kong Island promenade, the sum has been shining all day and the path is absorbing the sun’s energy, the walkway is warmer than its surroundings. At night, that stored energy keeps the area warm, warmer than the air temperature, a good example of the urban heat island effect.
Infra-red is accurate and very sensitive, the image even shows the edges of the manhole covers!
It is not too difficult to avoid this problem (remember white reflective roof post) choose a material with a high solar reflectance index (SRI) say 80 or above, that will reduce the energy absorbed.
Another and some might say, purist video, illustrating the simplicity of the perfect Circular Economy (CE) this one is from EU Environmental department.
The principle is very simple, an old product is the raw materials for the new product, but not necessarily the same product. The steel content from old vehicles has been using this model for decades because steel is expensive, it can be recovered, and processed into new products. Even aircraft, trains are all stripped bare to recover that valuable steel or aluminum to make the next product. Continue reading →
Great news from Beijing, mark your diary, on 20 March 2017, RTHK (www.rthk.org.hk) reported that “….the last large coal-fired power plant in Beijing has suspended operations, with the city’s electricity now generated by natural gas” LINK: http://news.rthk.hk/rthk/en/component/k2/1320043-20170319.htm Meanwhile here in Asia’s World city, burning coal for power generation continues.
It has been argued that the public can’t tell the difference between a building and a green building, from the outside buildings “look” the same. And advocates have argued the improved productivity is the key metric, although measuring that is a really challenge.
The Hong Kong Building Energy Code version 2012 rev1 and 2015 Lighting Power Density (LPD) requirement does NOT apply where the room lighting load does not exceed 100 watt (2012 rev1 page 13) and 70 watt (2015 page 14) respectively.
by implication the target is the TOTAL power (lighting and control gear). So what does that mean? for BEC 2015, it means a store room with total power is less than 70w you are not required to comply with the 9w/sqm LPD or the lighting control requirement.
Autocad 2017 follows the now annoying and traditional model, frequent incremental updates to extract the most money from users as possible. This latest version, takes longer to load than I can bear, and adds little functionality over the 2000 version, it should be better but sadly it is not.
Sure there are some minor incremental improvements, but nothing to write home about. In my world which is essentially 2D drafting, useful features are now hidden, requiring time consuming research for the 2017 version.
If you are a CAD user you know that screen real estate is important for productivity, the more you can see on the screen, the more you can do without wasting time zooming, right! But the new 2017 out of the box, wastes that real estate with enormous icons across the top of the screen. those are valuable pixels we need for work! there must be some way to switch to text, but research is needed to fix it, and I don’t have the time to go hunting for solutions. To me it proves that Autodesk is not serious, beginners will find the huge icon useful I guess, but I have been using Autocad for more than 20 years, I have my own shortcuts, to suit my work and I bet other users have the same set up, But every time Autodesk issue a new version I have to track down and edit the .pgp file.
Soon 2018 version will be issued, an architect somewhere will use it, forcing the rest of the design team to follow suit. Perhaps it is time to add an extra clause in the fee agreement to cover the cost for these incessant and largely unnecessary upgrades. Autocad block handling has never caught up to users real needs, perhaps by version 2020 they will catch up and understand some BASIC drafting needs, but don’t hold your breath.
Since 2000 Hong Kong installed approximately 9000 (wet) cooling towers according to EMSD, these provide heat rejection for comfort air conditioning, it follows the HKSAR Government policy to reduce energy consumption by 1,360 million kWh, and resultant greenhouse gas emissions by 950,000 tonnes annually.
Trying to do the “right thing” can seem somewhat overwhelming, sustainability has countless facets, we face too many issues where to start? You can’t change the whole world overnight right! One approach that works, pick ONE thing.
Focus on that single issue, overtime it will become second nature, once the habit is formed, then you can tackle the next topic. For me switching from canned shaving foam means the metal can, and propellent gas impacts are averted. Pick one thing!
The first time you open the hot tap or your shower you have to wait some time for hot water to arrive, during that waiting time the unwanted cold or tepid water is lost to the drain, obviously this occurs because the water inside the water pipe, between the water heater and tap is cold (the deadleg).
To reduce that waste water, the length of dead leg (green) should be as short as possible, for a 22 mm pipe, every linear metre of pipe contains about 0.32 litres of cold water.
In extreme cases the dead leg could be 10 metres in length, that equates to approx. 3.2 litres of waste water every day, or 1168 litres per year wasted.
Now that might not seem to be huge amount of water, but if you multiply that by 3,000,000 households in Hong Kong, you get the idea.
In Hong Kong apartments the length of hot water dead leg pipe is typically quite short because individual water heaters are mainly used, but not always. Presently there is no legislation in Hong Kong governing the maximum length of the hot water dead leg, whereas overseas in United kingdom for example, it is specified.
This photo nicely demonstrates the position of two water mains underground exposed by construction, the deepest water main is barely 250 mm below grade. Because it is shallow, close to the surface, that means 1) it can be easily damaged, and 2) cold water is not kept cold, due to warm soil temperatures in summer.
The most sustainable option for our buildings would be to make use of existing building stock, we find (thanks to the Hong Kong audit department) a gift – Hong Kong has schools which have been vacated, some vacated for many years, that have not been returned to Government, idle they serve no purpose, but they are an invaluable resource. the work has been done they have been built, they have infrastructure (water/drainage/power) and often very good links to public transport.
Sustainable Thinking Today
These vacant idle buildings can immediately be opened and put to good use, I can imagine several solutions, that could meet societies needs today:
Small Business Incubator, think PMQ++ there countless classrooms available, offer low rent office/workshops (lower density than classrooms). Common rooms to be used as collaboration space, think tank spaces, like the common areas at Google. If the school has metal workshop, craftsmen can create, or teach. Learning from PMQ businesses that merely sell imported products and add no value, would be excluded.
The Hong Kong Government has created an Innovation fund, but there is little affordable space to innovate, launch appLAB – a building provide low rent space for firms creating software applications (apps), games, etc. a real innovation laboratory for Hong Kong residents. Firms surely face common problems, whether it is business administration, HR, accounting, finance, etc. collaboration areas help and allow sharing ideas and finding solutions to common problems.
Schools are often located far from the CBD, and community space is rare, these building can be used with little alteration for yoga, dance, creating a truly community space for drama, the arts, these are necessary.
If a building has been abandoned for so long that it needs repair use it as training ground ground have CITA trainees, giving them real world experience.
These would be short term plans, no long leases, this does not need to be lifetime commitment, these existing buildings can be used today! and contribute to society and sustainability, over the short term, because Government will need time to figure out how to deal the land over the long term. Of course, Government being government they will immediately say No, I can imagine the countless excuses, but they might, just might, say Yes.