Every day we bombarded with images of government leaders and C suite executives swanning around the globe attending events, conferences, summits, Davos, and the like, demonstrating that the idea of trying to lower carbon emissions is just an idea for the great unwashed, they must have a shelf granted exemption right?
Sustainability strategists happily jet setting across the planet to tackle climate change, is not their problem, it is our problem, the masses need to saving the planet.
Look at this great piece on QZ.com (link) tracking helicopter flights into and out of Davos during the world economic forum.
While surveys indicate people want to act or are willing to act more sustainability, the man on the street is busying learning visually.
When the boss leaves the lights on, he is signaling to everyone else, it is perfectly fine to leave the lights on and waste energy, for the masses it is easier to follow the norm rather than try to break the rule. If you ask why, people are unaware, they follow their intuition but given time some rational explanations emerge.
I see it every day, you probably see it too, more and more examples, of government officials and C suite executives chauffeured and helicoptered around Davos at great environmental cost.
We see groups and leaders ignoring sustainability choosing single-use plastic water bottles at “Green” conferences, people will say they want to act sustainably but don’t, they don’t because we can all see the real message and we learn from the C suite world examples.
Don’t listen to what people say, watch what they do
The Khaleej Times is covering the blaze of the 49 story Abbco Tower in Sharjah, UAE, it comprises 36 levels of residential accommodation and 20 levels of parking, the Khaleej Times newspaper reports. Here is the link:
On that webpage, video recorded during the night of fire shows burning debris showered on the streets below, a recognizable pattern of destruction. Thankfully, no fatalities reported.
Once again, the impossible has occurred, the building fire was not contained within one fire compartment, the whole tower was gutted in less than three (3) hours.
From the video limited coverage, it appears to be another combustible cladding fire, the video shows the initial fire spread with defined vertical progression, before expanding laterally fire capturing the floor. Check out this video:
It is a scary time in Hong Kong, covid19 has closed schools, so all the kids at home studying on Zoom, and an increasing number of people are also working at home to maintain social distancing. But the majority are living in high rise buildings, most without any sprinklers, many older buildings are just high rise death traps.
Government’s across the planet have amazing hindsight, AFTER a major disaster has occurred, after lives have been lost, then months of wrangling ensure to update the building codes or governing regulations, that price is too high in my view.
Well, it seems I have to wait, I have to wait for the news media to report a disastrous number of unnecessary deaths before Governmental hindsight kicks into action.
In the United Kingdom, you might have heard about the Grenfell Tower fire disaster, more than 70 people tragically died, and they had better fire doors than the door in photo recorded in April 2020.
How does this happen is a developed economy, it is a result of Hong Kong’s laissez-faire mantra, passing every possible responsibility to anyone except government, individuals, or private companies, with little, if any oversight.
For building fire safety that means the owner (or hired corporation) is wholly responsible for compliance with the regulations covering fire safety, since nobody checks residential buildings, there is no incentive to comply.
Passive fire safety measures (materials and fire escape routes) are governed by the HKSAR Development Bureau, and its subordinate Building Department (BD), essentially they cover the construction code and regulations, and they conduct site checks before allowing a new building to open.
Active fire safety measures (fire alarms, hose reels, sprinklers, etc) are governed by the HKSAR Security Bureau, and its subordinate Fire Services Department (FSD), essentially they cover code and regulations for the active systems, they conduct site checks before opening a new building, reporting the result to BD.
Why Residential Sprinklers
Fire sprinklers buy time, precious time. In the absence of any immediate occupants to raise the fire alarm, modern sprinklers when activated by fire automatically sound the fire alarm, but more importantly, they immediately put water on the fire.
That immediate water slows the progress allowing time for people to escape, it helps control the smoke and while the water is full, keeps putting water on the fire while the fire bridge are travelling to the site. Often a fire sprinkler system can prevent a fire from becoming a disaster while waiting for the firefighters to tackle the blaze.
The Body Shop (in the UK) originally started the idea for a store offering refills for customers’ containers. For example, if you need moisture, you take empty bottle/containers to Body Shop they refill it, avoiding excessive packaging, and the resulting negative impacts on the environmental.
If the Government had tightly regulated waste, more businesses would have embraced that model, and I am willing to bet that the Plastic Sea films and videos wouldn’t exist today. Alas its too late now.
Then The Body Shop dropped the whole eco-friendly model, it changed to selling products in single-use plastic containers, the same as every other store.
So what is the point, you’re thinking, it seems that the refillable container concept is making a comeback. We even have an ecostore in Hong Kong with refill station!
I also read that a new type of store opened in Birmingham (UK), the Cleankilo, it is taking the concept farther than cosmetics, it is an entire supermarket, with a range of products following the refillable concept, it is worth visiting their website https://www.thecleankilo.co.uk/
I have said it a million times, and it bears repeating Prevention is better than the cure.
Preventing companies from creating plastic waste, and preventing consumers (that’s you and me) from dumping plastic waste avoids bits of plastic in the ocean and in fish and chips supper will be plastic-free too.
It is far cheaper to prevent pollution than paying the environmental and social costs for cleaning up afterward.
These funds can be used to replace or upgrade the existing lifts, escalators, water pumps, air conditioning, and lighting in the common areas of residential and commercial buildings.
It is a no brainer, a part of the capital cost is provided as a rebate to the building owner/management after the work is completed, then tenants enjoy a capital cost savings and lower energy bills going forward. You know that small business energy supply usave to create a more environment friendly workplace.
The scheme documentation is somewhat obtuse (HEC smart power fund) and (CLP Eco building fund) require the building owner/management to hire Registered Energy Assessor (REA) to submit the energy saving calculations for “committee” review, but there is no obvious energy-saving target, would 2% PA energy-saving qualify or do they require 10% energy saving? its unclear. In addition, the HEC website also offers opportunities to obtain a loan too!
Improving the energy efficiency of the existing building stock is a priority, excluding government buildings, there are approx. 42,000 buildings in Hong Kong that desperately need energy efficiency improvement.
These funds subsidise part of the capital cost (CapEx) and simultaneously lowering the long term energy bills and lower operating expenses (OPex) for tenant/owner of the building.
These funds do not subsidise the whole capital cost, only a part of it, but that’s better than no subsidy.
Yes, it does have tougher criteria but at the end of the day it’s still just a list of technical requirements, if you own the best chiller in the world, but operate it badly, it will still comply with the building energy code. read my latest energy audit PPT
The above photo shows a Hong Kong shopping mall on 7 July 2019 with a large plastic bottle recycling vending machine on the right and smaller containers for collection and recycling on the left.
But compare that with Shanghai, China, where a compulsory separation of waste law commenced on 1 July 2019, essentially requiring residents to separate all domestic waste, with fines for non-compliance [SCMP report]. At least initially it’s apparent that this new regulation will be rigidly enforced, and that could be just enough for behavior change and changing habits.
Although it does mean, that once again, Hong Kong finds itself lagging behind.
It is increasingly apparent that administrators across the globe have the same playbook, in the event of a potential crisis, the first step is denial denial denial, event’s in Flint Michigan and closer to home in Hong Kong Public Housing estates exposed us to water contaminated with Lead (Pb) , and both authorities denied it. Private citizens were forced to present laboratory reports to officials, and some still denied the obvious fact.
In Hong Kong, the conservative water authority (WSD) started issuing bulletin after bulletin, but ultimately missing the point I fear. After completion, WSD will never willingly step inside the estate, as they often remind us, their responsibility ends at the site boundary. And inside the boundary, yes the works must comply with the regulations, but its down to the developer. So back to Public Housing, the flat is handed over to the new tenant, with what can only be described as bog-standard fittings, and a visit to the local hardware store is in order, to buy new taps and fittings, and without any import restrictions, every type and model is on display whether certified or not.
With years of experience behind us, have we learnt from the past, not really, the difference is that even your kids know it. Young adults globally have been vocal expressing alarm unhappy with the administrator’s response to climate change. And recent warnings that we have 10-12 years left has not shaken the establishment.
Certainly, some countries are moving forward, but remember the hole in the ozone layer, it needed everyone to be involved, and fully committed, but here are, mid-2019, and there is still no plan. In the United Kingdom authorities are under pressure to recognize the issue and declare a state of emergency, but really that does not help, in a world where China and USA are not on-board. The people, it seems are seriously concerned about sustainability, but not their politicians. Therefore businesses react to the loudest consumers, with often token efforts. the Plastic tonnage in your oceans will not be impacted because a few plastic straws were taken off the counter, look at the scale of plastic pollution and it becomes apparent. Government inaction has also sparked communities to act, with city mayors trying to coordinate their efforts to tackle to climate change, and has that delivered deep carbon emission cuts required? Probably not.
In Hong Kong, the carbon emissions from buildings continue to increase, the latest EMSD data (latest data is 2016) reported building carbon emissions are still increasing, that was caused by us, you and me, using more energy, not the Government. Equally, it’s unsurprising, every year the number of buildings increases, using more energy.
Do nothing and wait is one strategy, waiting for the authorities to finally bite the bullet, create a plan, and implement it might be the ideal, but by then maybe too little too late.
In Hong Kong, within the site or lot boundary, the responsibility for the water service, water piping and water tanks falls on the developer (who may no longer exist), the Incorporated Owners Corporate (who may not exist) or Building Owner, Yet on 3-12-2018 (Monday) the body of a female was found in the water tank of a residential Mandarin Court building, Ho Man TIn RTHK reports.
World Meteorological Office is reporting that the last four years are among hottest on record, not good news, but it gets worse, its reported that Carbon Dioxide levels have increased for the first time in the last four years.
Given the whole planet needs to co-operate, it seems the climate change framework is failing, it’s failing to deliver the necessary management, with some climate scientists now saying the target, to limit the impact to 2 degrees, is already surpassed. One of the core problems is that we are only human, and very easily distracted. News from the UK seems obsessed with Brexit, so UK and EU will be tied up for years working out that, we have tension between Ukraine and Russia, we have oceans full of plastic, We have the USA backing away from climate science, we have the UN environmental head resigned after he spent USD 500,000 on air travel & hotels, etc. etc.
In the meantime, carbon emissions are still rising, the UN’s emission gap report shows some countries, for example, China seems to be have planned carbon reductions on target, whilst other countries like the UK are falling short.
We have the skill and technologies to lower energy consumption and thereby lower emissions, and at the same time we have Governments targeting growth as the key metric, and as GDP rises so do emissions.
For occupancy, a new building must be complete, including water fixtures, taps, etc. and WSD will not provide the water meter to a premises where unapproved fittings are installed.
So to get around this problem, Hong Kong Public Housing flats are provided with a very basic type of water tap, to gain the necessary government approvals. Then when the tenants take over the property, and many new tenants immediately pay for replacing taps and fixtures with more stylish models.
This wasteful practice is not limited to public housing projects. Some Interiors designers will choose exotic water fixtures, including taps, showers, washbasins, and toilets that have not undergone the WSD approved the process, therefore brand new “temporary” taps and basic white basins are installed until receipt of WSD approval.
Then after WSD approval, the new washbasins are ripped out, replaced with exotic basins and taps specified. Its no secret, the industry is well-aware, yet this incredibly wasteful practice persists.
Recycling glass is a no-brainer, it’s not quite reversible, broken glass, known as culet is used for making glass, and paving blocks. HK government is trying to apply a levy to encourage recycling but the detail, as RTHK reports, is still under debate in LEGCO RTHK LINK
Bottles including milk and beer bottles were collected, cleaned, and re-used, 300 ml beer bottles in Europe are designed to be re-used 50 times, not 5 times as the HK government states.
Reuse is the sustainable solution, therefore should be incentivized, a solution in the UK for aggregate – to encourage the use of recycled aggregate is purely financial, the recycled aggregate is cheaper. Financial tools are simple, with a proven track record in Hong Kong, simply tip the balance in favour of recycled materials.
Of course, industry lobbyists scream it will never work! But look at the UK sugar tax, almost overnight products appeared with significantly less sugar.
In Hong Kong the insignifcant and marginal extra charge to pay for plastic shopping bags changed the whole concept and demand within a week when supermarket reported the reduced use of plastic bags for shopping.
Lead-tainted water found at new housing estate RTHK LINK
Lead (Pb) 10 times higher than WHO standard has been identified in the water supply of a unit in the brand new Kwai Tsui public housing estate in Kwai Fong. Two other units were found slightly over the WHO limit. So it seems a repeat of the 2015 lead in water scandal is on the cards.
MTR Express rail station may open with leaky roof RTHK LINK
The leaking roof of the MTR express rail building can’t be fixed before it opens, so take your umbrella.
Hong Kong’s Highways Department admits there were water leakage problems with building at mega bridge but says they have been fixed SCMP LINK
Apparently, the vital electrical switchgear is located in the basement of the new Passenger Clearance Building (PCB) on the HongKong/Zhuhai/Macau bridge project. If the artificial island floods, or a water pipe breaks, water will inevitably fill the electrical equipment in the basement. #resilence
Lawmakers urge govt to explain arts hub payments RTHK LINK
Apparently, the Ming Pao newspaper reported that the Hong Kong Government, aka the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, is directly paying 14 sub-contractors working at the West Kowloon M+ visual culture museum. And I hear you say, wait a minute, isn’t that exactly the job the Management Contractor to paid to do. Indeed.
Lead in Drinking Water Update:
19-7-2018 – WSD is dispatching Water trucks to the news Kwai Tsui public housing estate in Kwai Fong on Thursday 19-7-2018, due to concerns over the reports of possible lead content. The key point it’s another new estate, only opened in April 2018 [RTHK]
An online survey by SCMP tells the whole 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 and green.
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.