More focus on climate change

The SCMP newspaper (unlinkable article) reports a survey that found

…..two-thirds of Hong Kong’s respondents thought the government should place a higher priority on climate change, while 30 per cent thought the current priority was appropriate

Now I haven’t seen sight of this survey, but it is an interesting idea. People in general tend to think that climate change is large problem, so overwhelming that it is only a governmental issue rather than business or personal issue. Yes, I do agree that government has a role to play but I feel it is far more important that you stack the cards in their favour first. Governments are inherently slow to act, business can act  today, gain a leadership position before regulation is imposed.

I think Wal-Mart a US company has the right idea, its ahead of the curve. Voluntarily, without any fancy regulation, its products will have a carbon footprint, the cost has been estimated in the region of US$250million, and other retailers will be left to follow the leader.

In certain instances government needs to balance the mismatched market, the much vaunted Polluter Pays principal is fine if it is actually implemented. Presently it is not, externalities, for example the social cost for health, and well fare are not costed in the market, and only regulation can readdress that issue. As this survey indicates like it or not the people want more government action.

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

International Green Code is a misnomer

I read with interest from GreenBuildingAdviser a report that the ICC (International Code Council) is also playing catch-up and going green! ICC intends to create the definitive International Green Building code, read more on their website. Of course, ICC is not alone, it has partnered with august organisations such as AIA (American Institute of Architects) and ASTM (American Standards) so it will be anything but international.

Personally, I have more faith in the promised co-operation between USGBC, BREEAM, and UKGBC to tackle common global carbon emissions than ICC setting a global green construction code, which like LEED will be difficult for countries outside north America to incorporate. It is heartening and reassuring that sustainable building is finally escaping from the dark back alley, becoming a main street activity.

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

Green LEED Decertification

LEED (USGBC) is a US tool for rating sustainable building, the latest version LEED 2009 introduces a new concept MPR (Minimum Program Requirement) (and also from GBCI website). It covers New Construction, Core & Shell, Schools, Commercial Interiors, and Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance, but excludes Homes & Neighborhood Development projects.  USGBC/GCBI websites also indicate further guidance will be provided in Summer 2009.

Essentially the seven MPR’s are:

1. MUST COMPLY WITH ENVIRONMENTAL LAWS
2. MUST BE A COMPLETE, PERMANENT BUILDING OR SPACE
3. MUST USE A REASONABLE SITE BOUNDARY
4. MUST COMPLY WITH MINIMUM FLOOR AREA REQUIREMENTS
5. MUST COMPLY WITH MINIMUM OCCUPANCY RATES
6. MUST COMMIT TO SHARING WHOLE-BUILDING ENERGY AND WATER USAGE DATA
7. MUST COMPLY WITH A MINIMUM BUILDING AREA TO SITE AREA RATIO

Clearly these are aimed to precluding toilets, bus shelters, trailers, tents, toll booths, ships, and the like. from claim LEED building certification. And to provide the teeth USGBC/GBCI also included a “revocation” clause, I quote:

“NOTE: CERTIFICATION MAY BE REVOKED FROM ANY LEED PROJECT UPON GAINING KNOWLEDGE OF NON-COMPLIANCE WITH ANY APPLICABLE MPR.  IF SUCH A CIRCUMSTANCE OCCURS, REGISTRATION AND/OR CERTIFICATION FEES WILL NOT BE REFUNDED.”

Sparse details indeed, but in my view these MRP’s are essentially common-sense requirements, clearly designed to prevent tents, boats, and other structures from gaining LEED certification.

The interesting exception perhaps is Item 6 – sharing energy and water consumption data which is obviously a post occupancy activity, and in a sector where building construction and operations are separate a thorny subject.  As one might expect the construction lawyers in USA have started a debate on the issue. However, from an international perspective what will USGBC/LEED do with projects in China, Hong Kong or UAE will these overseas entities also still need to share energy data?  and who has access the shared data? and in the case of speculative developments the future owner is committed to providing data to retain the certificate provide by the developer.

Transparency
As a panellist at the recent 2009 Greenbuild Asia conference, if I could distil one common theme it was a clear demand for increased transparency, and frankly the lack of transparency is criticism levelled at BEAM (HK-BEAM).

Green Building as the name implies was aimed clearly at new construction, to help encourage, rate and compare new sustainable construction activity. If a building that meets all the LEED MPR’s, was constructed sustainability, but then fails to share energy data does it then enter the twilight zone of formerly green.

The next few months should be interesting, will these MPR impact uptake of LEED? or has it already reached a critical mass such that developments will opt to bite the bullet and share the data?  Providing or not providing the energy data is not a LEED green building issue is it? USGBC want the data for self marketing purposes period.

Locally the HKSAR government is finally starting the embrace green building, BEAM or LEED being accepted as the prefered tool for large developments, but will the HKSAR government or for that matter any government be willing share energy and water data with USGBC.

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

You’re paying too much

Those shoes you bought last week, that new furniture you ordered, your laundry bill, even that trendy shirt cost too much.  Why? because the manufacturers, and their supply chain have wasted energy, that in turn means higher costs that ultimately you as consumer have to pay.  As you reading there are countless injection moulding machines, chillers, entire data centres, and other production equipment operated with careless abandon wasting energy Gigawatts of energy with nobody minding the store. I have visit many facilities, a couple of recent examples might surprise you:

  • Comfort air conditioning plant running 24 hours/day for an office block with only 9-5 occupancy!
  • Steam systems where process equipment burns unnecessary fuel, poor steam distribution, no condensate recovery

Reality bites, its you the consumer pays that for this waste.

Why waste energy?
So the real question: why do these businesses keep wasting energy? Is it the often cited lack of technology, finance, or availability of know how? I think not. Seriously, is it that difficult to Goggle energy consultant, pick up a phone and ask? It might be an awareness problem, but it’s not a shortage of resource problem.

A code problem?
One of the often cited explanations is absentee regulation. Generally every facility must be built to the current “code” for example the local fire code. But in circumstances where no code exists, i.e. energy waste, there is no limitation to the amount can be wasted.  However, assume for a moment the plant was efficient on day one, it is commonly recognized that maintenance budgets are wholly inadequate, so over time the plant efficiency deteriorates resulting in excessive waste. For buildings an energy code is not going to solve all the problems.

Accountability
Yes, having an Energy Czar, reporting at board level puts a driver at the wheel of the bus, but is that enough? You also need the ability to handle change, without guidance and drive we all generally work to avoid change. We are creatures of habit, and prefer the easy way, its less stressful, less pain, than considering change.  We need support, we need systems to motivate and embrace change. And I feel that is the real key to understanding energy efficiency projects, we all know having management “buy in” is critical, however if the employees fear change little progress would be made.

Often the employees already know where energy could be saved, but businesses are not structured to leverage that knowledge. Large facilities with quality circles, etc. have the opportunity to use that change structure to benefit the bottomline.

– John Herbert, Consultant, Kelcroft E&M Limited

helping lower the cost and impact of doing business in Asia