Sustainability more than just talk?

As HAESCO (http://www.haesco.org) was a supporting organisation for the SustainaBuild conference in Hong Kong last Wednesday, I decided to attend, a decision I would regret later. The pitch for the event was sustainable design of buildings, but shouldn’t such events that tout sustainability do more than just talk?

There were some great speakers, and bad powerpoints – it was bullet point city (they should have read Garr Reynolds book Presentation Zen).

Most of the speakers started laying out the current dire situation, some even used stats from USA. Yet as the day dragged on,  nobody had mentioned the elephant in the room, she had been strangely silent.  So in the final open forum, I had to ask the obvious question:

Considering all the disastrous predictions that we had heard during the day,  shouldn’t green building assessments, whether using Hong Kong BEAM, or another system be compulsory?

Honestly, I was expecting the long winded non-committal answers comprised of the usual arguments for delaying regulation, I am sure you have heard them before, you know the ones, they extol additional stakeholder engagement while engaging possible future policy initiatives etc and so forth.  It was a great surprise, one speaker after another respond with an fairly unequivocal affirmative answer.

It was an interesting event, in my view marred by refreshments provided with disposal paper cups, paper plates littering the breakout area.  You would think that the organisers The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) to do better, wouldn’t you?

Time is running out, we all agree, yet sustainability proponents and organisers of these events are not leading by example, and should not be serving up even more material for our the overburdened landfill sites.

John Herbert
Consultant
Kelcroft E&M Limited

Carbon Reporting with only one catch.

Really the Hong Kong the government is so far behind the curve in environmental matters I am surprised that it is not a serious concern for business, or are they blind to the risk? Instead of leading Asia, we lag behind the so called developing countries, and it is our economy that will suffer. I think nobody would want to try and predict the outcome from the Copenhagen summit but as a Chinese city we can expect some impact.

I have previously reported that the writing is on the wall for voluntarily carbon reporting.  And that prediction is one step closer to reality since the EPA (USA) has grasped the opportunity of the new 2009 presidency and signalling intentions for compulsory carbon reporting for US factories.

Global Carbon
Since Carbon is a global phenomena it does not require a vivid imagine to see where all this could lead.  Let’s assume for a moment that China continues to claim “developing country” status and does not require compulsory carbon reporting for manufacturing facilities. Importing countries, like the USA could demand it. You might think I am stretching the US EPA’s jurisdiction, perhaps, perhaps not. Consider the considerable power wielded by US trade negotiators, and the political pressures recently demonstrated by the “Buy American Only” stimulus package! It seems clear to me that any factories or business exporting to foreign markets will need to report their local carbon emissions.

Indeed it could be argued that the China is already heading in this direction (China wants importers to cover some emission costs) has already laid the groundwork, with Chinese official’s arguing that the cost of Chinese emissions for products exported to US markets are the responsibility of US market. In the future US importers may be required to bare an extra cost, the carbon cost, for emissions within China, but wait China is not the only exporter to the US.  Surely India, Thailand, Vietnam, etc. will have equally valid reasons to claim equal rights?

While US business might be quietly smarting over the idea, extra costs that are never welcomed, another surprise could be around the corner because the distant carbon emitted, and hence its cost, will surely give them further reason for pause.

China Energy Efficiency
If your report card was based on China’s energy efficiency, its one that you’d probably like to hide. The power generation sector is predominately coal based that is well known, lacks modern boilers and the latest controls technology. The risk from the resultant emissions could cause a nasty surprise. How this will play out is unclear, it is really a political trade issue more than a technical Carbon issue, undoubtedly there is an unseen business risk.

John Herbert
Consultant
Kelcroft E&M Limited

Cleaner Factory Production in China

Kelcroft, cleaner production consultant china, factory, cp3What does Cleaner Production mean? All manufacturing operations require energy for operations and or create air pollution.  An independent audit of the energy consumption and processes in a production facility will identify areas for improvement of the energy efficiency.

If the facility owner implements the corrective measures the operating cost will be lower, and environmental impact of the facility will be reduced, so we have cleaner production.  Shameless plug for my firm Kelcroft is a registered consultant for the Hong Kong Cleaner Production Programme called CP3 (refer image).

Need an example to clarify? Right let’s take a look at the injection moulding process. Like many processes the press creates heat energy therefore to cool the machine moulds cooling water is needed. It circulated through the injection moulding machine, and the heat rejected outside the building typically using a cooling tower.  However, often the cooling towers are out of sight (and out of mind) they are not properly designed and not regularly maintained. Therefore the effectiveness of the whole process deteriorates causing excessive energy consumption.

This deterioration process does not occur overnight!  No, it is a slow steady process.  These apparently insignificant efficiency losses combine lowering the cooling capacity of the cooling tower installation until one day the injection moulding machine malfunctions, and the facility manager then replaces the whole cooling tower. An energy auditor familiar with cooling tower operation could identify the fix before a minor problem becomes a catastrophe.

John Herbert
Consultant
Kelcroft E&M Limited

Green Building in Asia: It’s more advanced than you think

I feel the author of this blog article should have conducted a little more research before gushing over yet another green building conference in Asia, that event is certainly not the first green building event in Asia, and I am sure it will not be the last.  In fact that reminds me, yet another green building conference will be held in here in Hong Kong on 25th March 2009.

In terms of green building standards Asia is ahead of the game too, BEAM (Hong Kong’s Building Environmental Assessment Method) http://www.hk-beam.org.hk is the defacto green building rating standard in Hong Kong, with more than 100 buildings already registered covering millions of square feet.

Here I must confess that I am member of the BEAM executive committee, so have some insight in this area. To date, BEAM is the most successful in Asia, on per capita basis, well ahead of USGBC’s LEED, and is making headway in China.

If you are interested BEAM has already developed three versions, New Build, Existing Buildings, and Interiors. BEAM New build and Existing Building standards are published, and can be download free of charge from the BEAM website.  The third in the series BEAM Interiors is complete, and the pilot study is underway. Hopefully it will be launched 2009.


Looking forward, certainly the outlook and opportunities for green building in Asia will continue to grow steadily. I constantly advocate for better buildings, to avoid repeating the past mistakes.  Officials are only now just begininng to realise what engineers have known for many years, buildings consume the lion share of our energy budget. We can’t continue to create inefficent homes, offices, hotels, and other buildings, it is not sustainable.

The recent uproar in USA regaridng LEED (Henry Gifford’s video) is only part of the whole, future buildings must be sustainable, and that includes energy efficient irrespective of the brand.

I attended a Sino-German green building conference last year, one presentation noted that two office buildings, one designed by Sir Norman Foster was a “Green Building” it consumed more than 400w/sqm/year, yet a local design, not branded green, consumed 123w/sqm/year. Now, if you pay the energy bill which one do you want to own?

However, we can’t just create energy efficient buildings, and ignore sustainble building methods and materials,  we need both and we need them now.

John Herbert
Consultant
Kelcroft E&M Limited

LEED Green Building is not leading

This great presentation, worth the nine minutes, it raises the discussion about LEED, and green building rating systems by Mr Henry Gifford. It reminds us that LEED is a great marketing system, yet the study shows that LEED rated buildings actually use more energy than non-rated buildings.

So where do we go from here? Could LEED, or for that matter any green rating system, be the driving force for more energy efficient buildings, perhaps that is the future intention? LEED O&M is the building operating rating system, however if your building is already certified as a LEED Gold building, why would you consider another certification process?

What is needed measurement, and publication of the annual resource consumption (not only electricity and fuel, but water consumption too because cooling towers are widely used).  Once the information is in the public domain the market has the opportunity to choose the lower cost, and reduced environment impact buildings. Building responsibly choosing recycled materials, and those from sustainable resources is a key part of green building, but it is not the only metric.

John Herbert
Consultant
Kelcroft E&M Limited

A Systems Approach for Total Cooling Design

I have long advocated for the “Whole Building Design” approach, it has been an uphill struggle without a doubt. The renewed interest in green building has certainly increased awareness of this important skill. Now more help is at hand the Whole Building Design Guide (http://www.wbdg.org). It is published by the National Institute of Building Sciences (USA) so is naturally it is biased towards the USA market, however it will save us acolytes tremendous effort in the longer term.

The whole building design approach is really simple. If designers conceptualise buildings without considering energy costs from day one, that building will surely become an energy hog. The WBD (Whole Building Design) approach means thinking about the whole building impacts simultaneously.  A simple example, if a west facing glazing is shaded, reduce or eliminated, both the initial capital cost, and operating cost for the cooling plant will be reduced.  Since 63% of Hong Kong’s carbon footprint, and 90% of all the electricity generated is attributed to buildings, the opportunities for improvement are obvious.

The hidden beauty is that the principle is equally applicable to other sectors, including process, industry, and even cooling systems. And the latter is one area where the WBDG has overlooked an opportunity to apply whole system design approach for cooling systems.

Too often, building codes and energy codes only specify COP (coefficient of performance) for chiller plant, yet it is one part of the cooling system cycle. In the diagram below, each circle represents a heat exchange process.

kelcroft designConsider all the electrical power consumed for every heat exchange process, and divide by the total cooling capacity gives us a common metric kilowatts per ton (Kw/Ton) defining the whole cooling system efficiency.

The whole system includes all the electrical power used by:

  1. motors driving fans in the AHU (Air Handling Units) and other air moving equipment
  2. motors driving the chilled water pumps
  3. motors powering the chiller compressor
  4. motors driving the condenser water pumps
  5. motors driving fans in the cooling tower

With the focus elsewhere many cooling systems operate inefficiency in a range between 1.0-1.2 Kw/TR, whereas an efficient system would operate nearer 0.6-0.70 Kw/TR.

energyLAB limited Hong Kong

The question is where is your system operating?  If your cooling system is operating in the red, the good news is you have opportunities for improvement.

John A. Herbert
Consultant
Kelcroft E&M Limited

helping lower the cost of doing business in Asia

a global green building standard?

Well not quite. Green Building Councils from the UK, USA, Australia, and the BRE in the United Kingdom (BRE is the owner of BREEAM) have signed an agreement to prepare a common methodology for calculating carbon emissions from buildings (here is the report from Building Magazine).

I would have thought that perhaps the World Green Building Council would be a certain driver for global standardisation, but did they not receive a mention? I feel the idea stemming from the increasing internationalisation of the LEED system.  The USGBC, operates the LEED system and they have more than 18,000 members organisations worldwide, and whilst the US leads the planet in terms of carbon emissions, the marketing of the LEED has been masterful, Seth Godin would be proud.

They built a system, a system where every member markets LEED spreading the green word, whilst simultaneously marketing themselves as a green professional. LEED has now spread across the globe, with many projects outside the US, including the Middle East, Europe, and here in Asia. Indeed the local AIA chapter will host LEED training courses here in Hong Kong and Shanghai, China. Also as LEED is being widely adopted, many professional firms now demand LEED AP as a minimum qualification adding to the marketing effort.

BEAM which is Hong Kong’s defacto sustainable rating and assessment tool is currently owned by the BEAM Society, and is still struggling to keep up with times, the long awaited BEAM Interiors (LEED CI equivalent ) is under development with no launch date set. When this this global building emssion protocol is developed, to remain credible BEAM will need to change to incorporate this protocol within its system.

John Herbert
Kelcroft E&M Limited

helping lower the cost and impact of doing business in Asia

Wasting energy with incandescent lighting

Incandescent lamps wasting energy

Business as usual is not an option

I rarely follow the advice of so called “business gurus”, perhaps I should. But I do read Seth Godin’s blog. If you have never heard of Seth, he is the author of several best selling business books in the USA. And he still inspires me today. He recently remarked on this blog that to grow a business you need three elements:

1. A group of possible customers you can identify and reach
2. A group with a problem they want to solve using your solution
3. A group with the desire and ability to spend money to solve that problem

Item 3 is particularly interesting for energy professionals – How can the energy industry persuade new customers to part with their hard earned money to lower their operating costs and lower their carbon footprint.

Potential customers offer a range of reasons not to buy, ranging from the obvious to to the sublime, and the often cited cost is just one obstacle. I sure this is a question is vexing the minds of many. Perhaps the energy industry should offer more guarantees – a cost saving guarantee, using the Energy Performance Contracting (EPC) model.  However, an EPC is not a silver bullet solution, it is not for everyone, and some facilities can’t take advantage of EPC’s due to the high transaction cost.

As living standards here in Asia has increased, the demand for electricity has sky rocketed, mainly generated by from coal burning, with areas of south China and PRD region consistently suffered power shortages over the last few years is evidence of that.  However, it is often difficult to gain sufficient traction for big issues let me give you an example, a recent report stated that many emanate financial experts predicted the financial crisis but the problem was too hard for government to take preventative action, same applies to climate change. It is hard for organisations to deal with big issues period.

I think energy professionals need to help, we need to help advise and educate businesses, and stakeholders to create a demand before thinking about the sale.