Green Building Regulations & Certifications (BEAM)

Heads up! this month the Hong Kong International Building and Decoration Materials & Hardware Fair will be held at AsiaWorld Expo in Hong Kong. It opens on 27th October 2012, and I’ll be speaking about my favourite topic Hong Kong BEAM in the Green Building Regulations & Certifications session!

It’s an opportunity I doont want to miss, because I want to help the players in the building materials industry, its vendors, suppliers or perhaps that entire supply chain, to understand what Green Building professionals actually need!

john herbert zero landfill logo

And one area specifically we do need more information – affordable smarter materials! We want businesses to have clean environmental records, we want Zero Landfill policies, and so much more…….

Time: 11:30 am – 12:45 pm
Date: 27 October 2012
Venue: Seminar Room, Hall 8, AsiaWorld-Expo

visit the website

see you there!!


Project Managers know but British Government didn’t

project management 101

Any project manager worth their salt knows, but it seems that the British Government didn’t know monitoring to ensure that progress is actually happening is part of the managers job.  It seems that some folks in Whitehall blindly accepted assurances that security staffers were “already employed and trained”. Sadly days before the games commenced it transpired that the real number of people engaged was far less than reported and the government stepped in.

If you manage a project, whether its the 2012 Olympics, or any project, assurances are simply not good enough. For construction project, visit the site, check site progress, and the materials delivered. If its service contract, dont accept verbal reporting, obtain documentary evidence of progress,  there are plenty of options available look at invoices, timesheets, contracts, applications, payments, to monitor delivery – it’s not rocket science.

Every Community a Powerhouse

Green Communities

CCBF and University of Hong Kong published a paper “Every Building a Powerhouse”  they missed the point and an opportunity.  I am afraid that the academic’s still don’t get it. What is needed is “community” scale,  a cluster of buildings, an estate, development or community these can yield cost effective low carbon solutions.  And it’s not a new concept, think about district heating – its has been tried and tested in Europe and USA for many decades. However, what I propose here is an expanded that concept, to go beyond district heating to use 21st century design ideas and technology, essentially a blueprint for a sustainable green community.

Ask an Engineer

Engineers spend a lot of their time struggling to match demand and supply profiles in a building. However, if we consider the wider picture in a community opportunities arise from diversity, the diversity amongst a number of buildings in a community. Think about an office block and a residential tower, during the day light hours the residents are in work and the building consumes little energy, whilst the office is occupied demanding air conditioning during the day.

Using Community Resources

Hong Kong is sadly lagging behind other first world nations in its handling of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW), every year another reminder is sounded the landfill sites are exhausted, yet the policies don’t change, MSW is collected and transported across the territory burning diesel fuel to the near bursting capacity landfill sites.

waste energy management kelcroft

The typical housing estate or development has opportunities municipal solid waste is only one, the sewerage, energy use, but these are invisible, hidden from people in our communities, and in my encouraging the NIMBY attitude.  We should know by now- throw it away! means get it away from me.  However, no single community or district should be forced to bear a huge portion of the environmental burden for the entire population of Hong Kong.

In areas like Hong Kong and Singapore, where land is scare, dump waste into landfills is simply not sustainable, government agencies are starting to recognise the problems, but the solution is not tackled.

A community based solution means the waste owners need to see the results of their own waste, in the energy sector we often say if it not measured is not managed, and the same is true for waste management. Its going the be difficult to encourage households to reduce or manage municipal waste whilst it remains hidden and silently moved to a distal landfill far from their own backyard. Instead, I propose these valuable waste streams should be used in the community for the community.  Where excess green electricity is generated it should earn a significant premium for the community generator from the utility companies. 

Waste used for local power generation, sewerage for local methane production, rainwater harvesting for local water use. The main advantage for local community based solutions, over the single building is that the supply and demand profiles are diverse, where one building requires more water, another building with lower usage can meet the demand.

On the topic of waste, we need to see the big picture, organic material from the countless garden and sitting out areas is collected by hand and stuffed into ubiquitous black plastic bags for disposal, presumably sent to the landfill. At the same time, tonnes of fresh organic material is imported for building new gardens, there is a very obvious disconnect, the necessary policy to manage environmental resources is missing. Waste food can be rapidly processed into compost also.

Chiller Load Profile – why install two air conditioning systems when one will do

Other past projects, including green buildings have shown that where people can be engaged the value of the investment increases,  making the community a more desirable location will also impact the real estate market significantly increasing property valuations.

We should have progressed further, yet the environment continues to provide “free” resources divorcing us from the true cost of materials, water, and energy.  There are kept  artificially low because nobody sends in a bill for polluted air, not a great incentive for recycling or effective management is it? It’s time for a change.


Water Conservation – sea water flushing

For more than 50 years seawater has been used for toilet and urinal flushing in Hong Kong, saving significantly quantity of fresh water. If you are near the coast, the process is straightforward, sea water is filtered, treated and then pumped to purpose built service reservoirs ready for use in residual and commercial buildings. Eighty percent of Hong Kong buildings are served by the sea water infrastructure.  In the year 2011, the potable water savings were 740 tonnes per day,  or more than 270,000 tonnes per year.

All new buildings by regulation mustbe provided with two separate water systems, potable and flushing water. The flushing water infrastructure must be designed to handle sea water.  in buildings uPVC is the material of choice for pipework serving all sanitary appliances.  WC cisterns are designed without any metal components exposed to the corrosive seawater.

WSD Distribution Diagram

Underground the pipework distribution utilises cement lined piping for sea water to the service reservoirs and buildings as shown in the above diagram (courtesy of Hong Kong Water Supplies Dept.

Having separate potable and sea water infrastructure has another advantage, in the event that one water service is shut-down for maintenance, that doesn’t stop all the water services. Furthermore, since the sea water provides part of the buildings water demand, the potable infrastructure is smaller and lower cost.

One of the major objections against using sea water is a concern that potable water and seawater piping could be cross-connected, in reality that’s an unlikely occurrence because the materials are different, its physically difficult to connect a cement lined pipe to PE piping.

China is starting to embrace sea water as a resource too.

Its obvious really, in coastal areas, why flush our precious potable fresh water down the toilet? The use of sea water is a low-tech solution to lower and conserve potable water usage, and very cost effective.

Update: John Herbert was appointed to the Hong Kong Green Building Council Faculty June 2012 and chairs the Water Aspects technical group.

Hong Kong Green Speed Dating


17th January 2012 save the date! Cleantuesday and the French chamber of commerce in Hong Kong (FCCIHK) are pushing the boundaries and opening 2012 with a new idea, here is the Cleantuesday  link

No more excuses!!! Join : “Green Business Networking Speed-Dating” organized by the FCCIHK and its Green business committee.

Its a  speed-Networking-event  for companies in the green industry :

  • Unique opportunity to meet a maximum of companies in the green business in a minimum of time
  • One-hour meetings organized under a speed-dating format
  • 3-minute interviews
  • Around 20 companies met during one hour
  • Followed by a one-hour networking cocktail.
  • Open to all actors in the field

Time efficient networking format, that suits your Hong Kong


– Open to members of the French and German Chambers
– Participation of Delegates from the Environment Protection Department
– Diligent Group Ltd., EKKO (HK) Ltd, Suez Environmental

Date : Tue, 17 Jan 2012 06:00 PM  –  08:00 PM
Location : Cliftons, Level 33, 9 Queens Road, Central
Member : HK$300
Non Member : HK$500

Register online on the French Chamber : Here

Steam, Cogeneration and Efficiency

With all the talk about carbon and renewable energy the largest energy losses often escape the limelight, and we already have the solutions that could be implemented today but decades of infrastructure development and misinformation often block us from making the smarter choice.

Power generating stations were once upon a time, small, and local, often located right on the edge of town.  Now remember at that time the fuel of choice was coal, so as the demand for the new electricity service increased, more coal was burnt in the cities increasing local pollution. Faced with the choice of clean up or move out, the generators moved outside the communities they served to remote locations that allowed larger plants to be constructed, they were out of sight and out of mind.

As the distance between the generator and consumer increased, extra losses in the form of transmission losses occurred, to cover the vast distances the transmission voltage was increased incurring transformer losses at each end of a circuit.

Long Transmission Lines Increases losses

Also have you ever wondered why many power generating stations are located near rivers or coastline? Because the process of using steam to electricity generates vast quantities of waste heat, and with the generators now located at distal sites there are few neighbours to use this high grade waste heat so its dumped into the nearest convenient river, cooling tower or seashore.

Inland generators overcome the problem by building cooling towers (pictured below) using vast quantities of water to dump the waste heat into the atmosphere.

Power Generation Cooling Towers


To be frank the thermal efficiency of a typical coal fired generating station is miserably low approximately 30 -35 percent.

So today, after pushing the generators and pollution away from us, it should not be a surprise to find that less than 10 percent of the energy in fuel ever reaches the consumer or put it another way 90 percent of energy in the fuel is lost forever.

There are viable alternatives for China and elsewhere in Asia. Cogeneration is the engineering term we use, essentially it is a system that will use that waste energy and that means a dramatic efficiency improvement.

The waste heat energy can be used for heating,  process, or air conditioning system – both industrial and residential, according to the feedback from HVAC contractor in El Dorado. It also provides an overall thermal efficiency nearer 85 percent,  nearly 300% improvement over conventional plants.

Absorption chillers are a breed apart, they create chilled water but heat energy through a process of concentrating and dilution of spacial salt compounds. High grade waste heat from any source could be used to power air conditioning without the need for large electrical supplies (some electricity would be still needed for the associated air handling units, pumps and automatic controls). 

Local Cogeneration as the name implies is close to the consumer and demands a cleaner fuel, natural gas is a good choice where available.

One barrier for the wider implementation is the utility companies themselves, having invested billions of dollars to build and operate the plant and equipment, they have unsurprisingly created rules to protect that investment.

What is needed is community based approach, for example use the locally created waste to fire cogeneration plants for that community. Instead of hiding from the problem, make it visible, a showcase,  demonstrate that waste from their office or home will be burnt across the street to provide local community electricity.

For manufacturing plants using high pressure steam, a simple design change can result in large benefits, generate superheated steam to drive an electricity turbine first, that will power your factory, and use the turbine exhaust saturated steam to serve your process, and return the condensate to the boiler – its a simple and elegant solution but often overlooked.

Here is a link to an interesting article about the multiple use for steam generation

steam generation and energy efficiency Kelcroft

Instead of using technology, China has sadly followed the western development model for coal fired plant, plus suffering the torment of wasted energy plus regular power outages. Many businesses in China, particularly in Guangdong have no choice except diesel fuelled engines to overcome frequent blackouts and shortages, whilst simultaneously wasting Gigawatts in wasted heat.

Countries with a strong demand for heating homes and offices, such as Germany and Nordic countries in Europe waste heat from power generators is used in district heating systems delivering heat to the doorstep. Here in Asia, and the tropics where air conditioning, offered by Ambrose Air, Inc., is demanded for comfort, waste heat from power generators, or biomass boilers should be used to power to absorption chillers.

The public and governments are increasingly focused on demand side awareness, and it is noticeable, through more efficient lighting, LED’s fittings, and air conditioning systems but remember that is one part of the story.  In Hong Kong 1/3rd of the power generated is used to drive air conditioning equipment,  so businesses today are paying utility companies to waste fuel resources that can’t be replenished. Don’t you think it is time to get smart? I do.

John A. Herbert, Kelcroft, Consultant