sustainable waste management

Landfilling is an unsustainable practice period, particularly so in Hong Kong where we have limited land available. Sustainable waste management changes our thinking about throwing  AWAY waste (and there is no AWAY) and embrace the community.

Out of sight out of mind thinking needs to be changed to locally transparent – you create it, it’s yours, it’s your local communities responsibility.  I have long argued for community based responsibility, for a waste management program simular to the program for industrial and residential recycling in Perth. To use waste is as local fuel to be used for a local power plant, produce Town gas, or even fuel.

We shouldn’t build these basic facilities hidden behind concrete walls, but we should be display case transparent, use glass for everyone to see the inner workings, host field trips for the local school children – engage not preach at the local community.

Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) is the local source of fuel used available locally, and using plasma or gasification plant (NOT INCINERATION) lowers the environmental impact and the noxious discharges. Being smaller than central facilities they could hook in to the local power grid infrastructure powering local homes or alternately creating fuel, power or Town Gas for the local people.

The real advantage is that people learn from the visual cues, upto 75% of learning is acquired visually, having a local visible and transparent facility is the prefect education solution.

— John A. Herbert, Consultant, Kelcroft

Regulatory Support for BEAM Plus Green Building

wholesale conversion of industrial buildings going green, john herbert

As manufacturing moved North into China, Hong Kong has been left with a legacy of under utilized factory space and industrial buildings. There is only so much demand for low yield warehouse and storage space, so opportunities to move up the value chain, converting to higher yielding properties such as lofts, commercial, and hotel accommodation is an attractive proposition. Another important factor to remeber, is that the necessary public transportation infrastructure is already in place.

The market has already dictated the direction, re-populating industrial space into more lucrative higher yielding office accommodation, yet, approximately 1.1 million square metres or 6.5% remained vacant (2008 data).

Last year (2009) the Government acknowledged that sustainability outweighed demolition, and removed the first major obstacle for the wholesale renovation and revitalization of industrial building stock, namely the land premium (a charge levied by government to change the land use) could be waived [link].

And now that initiative has been extended, the next hurdle technical issues and this time the concession is tied with BEAM PLUS [www.beamsociety.org.hk] green building certification.

First some background, the regulations for buildings set out the minimum technical requirements including issues such as planning, fire safety, lighting, ventilation and other stipulations. However, the industrial building stock is constrained by decisions from the past .

Therefore the Government has eased certain technical requirements to encourage wholesale conversion of  industrial buildings, on the express condition that the building obtains BEAM Plus Green Building label. PNAP APP 150 Items (ii) and (iv) directly refer to compliance with BEAM Plus as the condition for obtaining the waiver. PNAP APP150 (published September 2010) states:

…. To encourage green building designs and practices, provision of green and/or energy efficient features to revitalised industrial buildings will be a relevant factor in support of the granting of modification of or exemption from certain specific regulations. Examples relating to applications for such modification / exemption are as follows:

(i) If a refuge floor is required to be provided in accordance with the Code of Practice for the Provision of Means of Escape in Case of Fire (MOE Code) for the proposed conversion but there is difficulty or site constraint to comply with the technical requirements of the MOE Code, proposal for the provision of a refuge floor with greenery design and enhanced fire service installations will be favourably considered subject to no adverse comments from the Director of Fire Services. PNAP APP-122 is relevant.

(ii) In the case of conversion to office use, if there are difficulties in providing the required natural lighting and ventilation due to constraints posed by the original design as industrial building, application for modification of Regulations 30 [link] and 31 [link] of the Building (Planning) Regulations will be favourably considered if adequate artificial lighting and mechanical ventilation and energy efficient design that could achieve 40% in the categories of Energy Use (EU) and Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) under the BEAM Plus certification with provisional assessment reports conferred by the Hong Kong Green Building Council are incorporated in the proposal. PNAP APP-130 is relevant.

(iii) For individual air-conditioning boxes/platforms attached to the external walls with projection larger than the usually accepted size and/or projection over street, application for modification / exemption will be favourably considered if the proposal is incorporated with the use of energy efficient/environmentally friendly air-conditioning units. PNAP APP-19 is relevant.

(iv) For the provision of curtain walls to existing building facades,exemption from section 31(1) of the Buildings Ordinance to allow the curtain walls to project over streets will be favourably considered if low-energy absorbent type glazing/energy efficient materials with energy efficient design of the curtain walls that could achieve 40% in the categories of EU and IEQ under the BEAM Plus certification with provisional assessment reports conferred by the Hong Kong Green Building Council are incorporated in the proposal. PNAP APP-2 is relevant.

Click here to download Wholesale Conversion of Industrial Buildings PNAP APP150 (PDF FORMAT ENGLISH)

or PNAP APP150 CHINESE

The environmental benefits cannot be under estimated, avoided building demolition, handling construction waste, and ultimately waste disposal are powerful arguments to support re-using the existing building stock if possible.

Will this new incentive help sway the market to encourage investment to upgrade the industrial building stock? I think it’s too earlier to judge, however it must be acknowledged that the Government’s Development Bureau has embraced sustainable building to encourage the reuse and redevelopment of existing buildings structures.

— John Herbert, Consultant, Kelcroft E&M Limited

Premature green building labelling

It’s been more than fifteen years since the concept of a green label for buildings was introduced to the world (BREEAM) so you might be surprised to learn that the definition of what makes a green building is still an issue. In most jurisdictions you can call just about any building a green building, there is no statutory requirement or definition, I argue that buildings must be independently assessed with a rating tool such as LEED or BEAM before the term green building can be permitted. I know from my own experience that experts find differentiating between certification of new, existing, renovated, and re-certificated a challenge.

BEAM (formerly HK-BEAM) consistently failed to market and communicate its key benefits both here and overseas, in the meantime USGBC created and heavily marketed LEED and gained an international renown. Later the HKSAR Government commissioned a new green building rating tool, it would have been a direct competitor to the long standing BEAM (http://www.hk-beam.org.hk) first created in 1996. Fortunately, wiser heads prevailed, no pilot study took place and the tool, including its many certification stages was abandoned.

It is worthwhile to note that Australia, the GBCA (http://www.gbca.org.au) operates a green building rating system “Green Stars” for building design, and a different tool known as NABERS is entirely focused on the actual performance of buildings based on occupation and metered data.

The key issue, over the years stakeholders surveyed have constantly expressed a preference for green building labels to be awarded after the building was complete and operating (more like NABERS than Green Star). This is a key difference from LEED, Green Star, and other schemes, which awarded certificates based on design, and strong relying on the promise of superior environmental performance.Often these predication’s were based on optimist computer modelling.

Over the years, LEED has finally realized that design intent does not always translate to high performance buildings, and in V3 2009 version has called on building owners to share the critical metering data as the first step. Here is the link to a story about a LEED rated Walter Hardwick building [link] it’s one case where the LEED design has not been translated into green living for tenants, and supports the argument for post occupation certification.

The challenge remains for all rating systems in my mind, when project proponents look for the green building label to help and assist the marketing and sale of the property before occupation, offering only the promise of greener living. In the case for a new building, building operators make choices which impact the environmental impact.

Don’t think for second that defunct systems is limited to green buildings, there are countless buildings with fitted with gadgets that offered owners the promise of better building operations, management or lower costs, many have failed and litter our building stock.  The birth of computer controlled buildings, including the now ubiquitous BMS (Building Management Systems) promised the earth with energy and manpower savings, etc. etc.  As I witnessed only last week, many facility managers have reverted to paper-based manual operation and measurement records.

Going back to the issue, if design certification (promised performance) is offered that will assist the project proponent during the pre-sale, sale, and marketing activities, but the fact remains it is not any guarantee that the intended green features will be eventually installed, or operate correctly as the case of Walter Hardwick building [link] proves. But we surely cannot abandon new construction in favour of just certifying building operations, they are inextricably linked, and the use of materials critical for the sustainability and future operating impacts.

Furthermore, once an operating building is certified, how long should that certificate be valid? one, five or ten years? Fr the re-certification under BEAM EB (Existing Buildings) is five years, however the re-certification process is not really defined.

We need to listen to the stakeholders demanding green buildings that actually deliver superior environmental performance, not those which merely make that promise (aka green washing). From the project proponent / building owners perspective, how should we design a rating tool that is able determine how the building the future.

— John Herbert, Consultant, Kelcroft E&M Limited