data centre energy efficiency

It’s not a secret, my most frequent comment in energy audit work is that a director/senior director takes responsibility for “energy”.  It is clear if you review the processes, energy costs are overlooked, and considered as a fixed expense. When the electricity, oil or town gas demand hits the mat, it is paid with little or no scrutiny.

With the recent introduction of carbon footprint into management vernacular perhaps now energy will finally have a seat in board room. If not through carbon foot-printing then pressure for CSR reporting, and sustainable business practices will provide the needed energy oversight at board room level.

If proof is need, I read that the Uptime Institute (USA) has caught up. They recommend, in a typically flamboyant style it must said, that in the data centre space organisations assign an “Energy Czar” and that’s great news. However, a recent Uptime Institute survey of the executives and IT managers found that although 41% were aware of the recommendation to create an energy Czar position, only 13% had assigned a personnel.

So for the time being I’ll have to keep fighting for an energy Czar’s in the firms here in Asia.

energy efficiency of data
Across the planet bits and bytes sit on hard drives and virtual servers, helping business, why the sudden interest in data centre energy efficiency? It energy consumption became a key issue in initially in USA, when the US EPA issued a report with some startling figures, it focused attention on the infrastructure cost to provide IT services we have all grown to reply upon, including every blog note ever written. It also highlighted the existing inefficiencies found in the data center environment. It sparked new debates if servers should be powered by DC or AC, power supply manufacturers where reminded of the poor conversation efficiencies.

New metrics, include PUE were created by IT consortium with little thought about the real meaning of efficiency or efficacy.

John Herbert
Consultant
Kelcroft E&M Limited

What tune does your building play?

Buildings account for the largest proportion of greenhouse emissions in Hong Kong, currently that is sixty three percent (63%) of Hong Kong’s carbon footprint. Whilst initiatives for new buildings are indeed welcome, the influence of the measures are limited to 500-600 new buildings, a very small proportion of the total 40,000 buildings in Hong Kong.

Building Tuning

Improving the existing building stock is critical issue, and one solution is tuning your building. If you owned a vehicle – would you run it year after year without a regular tune-up? of course not, yet buildings are often run for fifty years or more, without tuning.

Behind the glass façade air-conditioning, lighting and other environmental systems of commercial buildings, hotels, shopping malls are burning electricity contributing to the Hong Kong carbon footprint, for efficient operation the engineering systems need to be tuned and optimised and I would argue that it should be conducted annually.

One interesting point I have noticed, often I find firms have an elaborate ISO 14000 EMS (Environmental Management Systems) protocols in place, seemingly unaware that the building energy consumption is causing a larger, and more significant environmental impact!

Building Tuning means optimising the operation of the energy systems, including the chiller plant, pumps, and other systems to identify opportunities to lower the building carbon footprint based on today’s operating environment.

Changing Times

It is one of those facts of life, things change. For a building it is no different except it doesn’t it complain so loudly. Electrical tariffs, usage, building codes, the neighbourhood is a little more crowded, social pressure, these and other influences occur over the operating life of a building and may impact the building energy consumption.

Other influences include new legislation also play a role. For example the relaxation on the use of water and cooling towers for air conditioning systems in 2000, offers opportunities to lower operating costs for hotels and other commercial buildings in Hong Kong.

One approach is the hindsight method – review all every engineering system as if it was a new project – what would you do differently today?

The electricity tariff for commercial buildings in Hong Kong island is significantly higher than Kowloon.  Is this fact taken into consideration when designing a building for Kowloon side or HK island?  In my experience unfortunately not.  The main reason often cited is the structural disconnect between building developers don’t pay the fuel and electricity bills. All the operating costs are paid by the tenant, including any core services such as air conditioning, which is charged in the form of a management fee, charged by square foot not actual usage.

Industrial Tunes

Building Tuning is not limited to just office buildings, factories and manufacturing facilities are not immune to the influence of change.

When you lead others follow

Presently, any tenant of a grade A building in Hong Kong looking to lower their carbon footprint presently has limited opportunities while the primary cost, the cost of air-conditioning, is charged on a square foot basis irrespective of actual consumption. Now that’s true for the majority. However, some innovative developers have seen the light, and have started to provide a metered service, therefore tenants will only pay for the actual usage.

Buildings don’t have any voice to complain, and let you know where the problems are located. A buildings Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is correlated with its annual energy consumption, over its entire life the OPEX (Operating Expense) is significantly higher than its CAPEX (Capital Expenditure), mortgage, cost of finance, etc.  For single owner buildings its a no brainer, the real challenge is multi-owner buildings.

I talked with a client last week regarding his facility, apparently it emerged that a competitor had already completed some work, and now they needed the same work stat. To remain competitive and distinctive in the market place, you either lead or follow.

John Herbert
Consultant
Kelcroft E&M Limited
helping lower the cost and impact of doing business in Asia

Mandatory green roof

green roof John Herbert Hong Kong Kelcroft

Mandatory green roof?

Alas not in Asia. The green building is still driving built environment innovation, and whilst politicians ponder carbon limits, and building owners ignore operating costs then obviously the next step is regulation. In Canada, the Mayor of the Toronto is poised to implement legislation becoming the first city in North America to impose mandatory green roofing for an area of 5000 square metre and up. In my view It is yet another step in the right direction. JRLIR | J&R Long Island Roofing will offer you best options.

Its not Morse code
Essentially it all boils down to one issue, communication. From within the industry it is clear to see, look at any project brief, it includes those immortal words familiar to every developer, architect, and engineer on the planet “comply with code” or some equally ignominious phrase. This mini brief communicates to all parties the expected standard, covering all aspects of the building including occupancy, building safety, means of escape, fire prevention and protection, mechanical ventilation, etc. Its often used by those who don’t understand the individual legislative requirements, but know a building must comply with the local code to earn the necessary occupancy certificate.

Regulation
The implications are clear, green building is becoming main stream period. Once considered a fringe activity, at the edge of society, the development of green building has slowly entered the lexicon of typical both builders, developers, and regulators.

I don’t see this as a trend as many claim, flares were a trend, green building is not. However, just like consumers goods, some people will want to buy the latest camera/TV/computer/etc. and these early adopters are the real beneficiaries, because over time achieving a new green standard will only become increasingly difficult as the entry level bar is continuously raised.

John Herbert
Consultant
Kelcroft E&M Limited
helping lower the cost and impact of doing business in Asia

Green Building Innovation

John Herbert, green consultant, waste heat rejection

waste heat rejected challenges

In the sustainable building sector fortune telling is easy, however future-proofing is not.  Over time what could be considered “state of the art” today is destined to become tomorrow’s rating tool baseline case. Translating that into project work, it means that earning your green credentials in the future must become increasing more difficult.

This is best exampled with an example, lets take the rain/storm water credit. Today’s green building rating tools such as LEED and BEAM award credits for a building project that includes rain/storm water capture and re-use.  At some point in time, this will become ubiquitous, a pre-requisite for certification.

As old ideas, and technologies become widely adopted, the number of credits within the rating tools for past innovations will decrease, and the number of pre-requisites credits will increase.  Your probably thinking yes that obvious, yet the implications for future green building are still not widely understood.  This will require more creative, and innovative thinking coupled with new technologies to meet future targets. Engineers will be stressed into new thinking “outside the box” thinking, and do more research to bring innovative credits to the design table.

After the building’s initial certification period, it then joins the largest sector in the industry – existing buildings or EB. It’s a critical future-proofing issue, and where the rating tool standards have a critical role. There is no point to create an existing building tool that certified buildings cannot achieve, yet as time and technology moves forward finding space to incorporate innovative credits within an existing building will be a challenge.

At this stage, green building is still a “new” and everyday I witness plenty of opportunities to improve the buildings.

John Herbert
Consultant
Kelcroft E&M Limited
helping lower the cost and impact of doing business in Asia

Lost Energy Efficiency Opportunites

Energy efficient design opportunities lost, John Herbert, Kelcroft, EnergyLAB, Hong Kong,  energy efficiency

Energy efficient design opportunities lost

Often you don’t even need to go inside a building to see opportunities for energy conservation in Hong Kong.  Sadly this opportunity (refer photograph) was many lost years ago at design stage when the lighting control strategy was planned and conceived.

Perhaps it is not clear from the photograph, I took this photo on a glorious sunny morning yet the unneeded halogen incandescent fittings burned bright, serving no useful purpose except burn extra carbon.

And that is the reason why independent third party energy consultants review projects, to highlight these opportunities before the die is cast.

John Herbert
Consultant
Kelcroft E&M Limited
helping lower the cost and impact of doing business in Asia

upgrading to LEED v3 or 2009?

The confusing launch of USGBC’s LEED v3 or it is LEED 2009?  has launched. As the graphic and schedule below shows that LEED v3 / LEED 2009 becomes compulsory for new green building projects after 27 JUNE 2009.

  • March 27: Reference guide e-copies available for order; hard copies available for pre-order.
  • April 27: LEED v3 launches.
  • June 27: New projects will be required to register for LEED 2009.
  • Dec. 31: Last day of free migration period, during which currently registered projects can transition to LEED 2009 and LEED Online v3 without paying a new registration fee.

International Perspective
USBGC’s LEED V3 (or LEED 2009) is still not an international Green building rating tool. Interestingly USGBC local chapters in US were involved to identify keystone criteria for specific regions. The separate regionalisation element, totally focused on USA, does not provide regionalisation credit for international projects. Essentially, the regional credit system is intended to recognise that a “water” credit should have a higher weighting and more importance in a desert location or a region with a combined storm water and sewerage system, for example Washington DC, USA.

Green Buildng Qualification
If your project team is not stressed enough the LEED qualification system has also been “upgraded”, introducing CPD, new levels.

John Herbert
Consultant
Kelcroft E&M Limited
helping lower the cost and impact of doing business in Asia