About John A. Herbert, BEAM Professional, BEAM Interiors, FCIPHE, MASHRAE, REA, GGP

John Herbert is a career engineer, he is a Director at Kelcroft an engineering firm, director at energyLAB energy saving consultants, director of HAESCO and BEAM Society Limited. He is also a BEAM Professional, Green Globes Professional, and Registered Energy Assessor (REA).

last large coal-fired power plant in Beijing closed

by John A. Herbert

Great news from Beijing, mark your diary, on 20 March 2017, RTHK (www.rthk.org.hk) reported that “….the last large coal-fired power plant in Beijing has suspended operations, with the city’s electricity now generated by natural gas” LINK: http://news.rthk.hk/rthk/en/component/k2/1320043-20170319.htm Meanwhile here in Asia’s World city, burning coal for power generation continues…..

Electricity is a necessity for Hong Kong’s high-density living, I don’t imagine anyone would live on the 65th floor of a tower block without a lift, we almost take it for granted. However, the business model has to change. Power generation is not an efficient process, most of the fuel energy is lost during generation, transmission, or inefficient usage.

John A. Herbert energy expert

Electricity charges are relevantly speaking cheap, and where the whole cost + profit can be passed over to the tenant there is little financial incentive to drive energy improvements, and this limits our options to pursue cost and carbon reductions, except for the rare case of owner/occupier where the business could simply and significantly improve the bottom line.

And we have to remember also the context, starting in 2000, Hong Kong relieved the water restriction, permitting the installation of cooling towers for air conditioning. Huge savings were promised, with a reduction in greenhouse gas emission by 950,000 tonnes annually [1]. And so far those promised savings have had little impact, from the chart below, since 2000 since the Territories GHG footprint has increased unabated [2] whereas one would expect accumulated recurrent energy and carbon savings.

hong kong ghg inventory

This is the key point I raised in the EU position paper on the topic [3] in 2016, those cost savings created by switching over to water cool air conditioning (cooling towers) dramatically lowered the energy costs, shopping centres, as an example, could reduce the air conditioning electricity bill by 50%, but few tenants report dramatically lower bills.

The issue is particularly concerning since pollution, as experienced in Beijing in recent years, damages the economy, yet conversely, from boots on the ground energy auditing, I know that the energy improvement “work” to lower costs could be very simple and low cost but only if, and that is a big if, the owner is prepared to pay experts to undertake the necessary analysis.

If you are sick, try asking your Doctor for a fixed price quotation before seeing the patient, it is same for sick buildings, some buildings have fewer energy defects than others, and who can predict ahead of time how much time (and hence fees) will be needed to conduct a thorough exam.

 John A. Herbert

The daily chart above provides spectacular results! Any piece of electric equipment, particularly large air conditioning chiller, switching off and on all day long as discovered in the above chart (technically called it Hunting). It is a map to significant cost savings, lower electricity consumption means lower transmission losses, and power stations burn less fuel, in turn, providing environmental benefit for Society.

There are other challenges too, Hong Kong is a small territory, and technical equipment, such as control valves, are imported. When a failure does occur, there is no local stock, requiring ordering with long lead times. Given the spares difficulty, you might imagine that equipment maintenance would be a high priority. Unfortunately not, deferred maintenance is a common energy audit finding, systems can be kept operating, inefficiently for many months with faulty equipment in place, whilst awaiting approval of the budget.

I have only touched upon the various issues, and one thing is clear, we need a policy framework to help incentivize energy saving where stakeholders and the whole community benefits.




Green buildings do make a difference


Green Buildings do make a difference.

It has been argued that the public cant tell the difference between a building and a green building, from the outside buildings “look” the same. And advocates have argued the improved productivity is the key metric, although measuring that is a really challenge. thats why a piece in The Guardian caught my eye, it tends to support the idea that better buildings, i.e. green buildings, are better for its occupants, and employers, less sick days being one of the claims.


It is commonsense in my view, people are more productivity/happy in a good environment, and for work that means buildings having better features than bog standard buildings built for minimum code.

The typical minimum code only covers the basics, although that is changing, there are few, if any, environmental requirements. Check the fresh air for example, I have seen commercial building brochures with fresh air provided (enough for 100 occupants) but the floor plan indicates 150 workstations, fresh air per person is not mentioned. We have seen this before, during past energy efficiency drives, fresh air was curtailed to such an extent that sick buildings were created, therefore it is critical that HVAC systems are energy efficient and provide the necessary comfort, including sufficient conditioned fresh air. In Hong Kong with tropical summers heat, most often a simple central PAU (fresh air unit) is the preferred solution, with simple on/off control. However this model needs to deliver 100% of the fresh air requirement, even periods of low occupancy.

Considering larger buildings, a larger diversity is predicted, think about hotels, often the central fresh air system is designed to provide 100% fresh air, irrespective of the number of occupants, and where the hotel occupancy fluctuates, say 50% occupancy, there is 50% too much fresh air conditioned and filtered.

So i agree Green Building systems are certainly a step in the right direction, however more studies are needed to define and assess those extra intangible benefits, and hopefully it will include productivity.

by John A. Herbert, BEAM Professional

LPD exempt

The Hong Kong Building Energy Code version 2012 rev1 and 2015 Lighting Power Density (LPD) requirement does NOT apply where the room lighting load does not exceed 100 watt (2012 rev1 page 13) and 70 watt  (2015 page 14) respectively.

2015-lpd 2012-lpd

by implication the target is the TOTAL power (lighting and control gear).  So what does that mean? for BEC 2015, it means a store room with total power is less than 70w you are not required to comply with the 9w/sqm LPD or the lighting control requirement.

— John A. Herbert

autodesk autocad 2017 review

autodesk 2017

my screenshot — waiting for AutoCad to load

Testing Autodesk Autocad 2017

Autocad 2017 follows the now annoying and traditional model, frequent incremental updates to extract the most money from users as possible. This latest version, takes longer to load than I can bear, and adds little functionality over the 2000 version, it should be better but sadly it is not.

Sure there are some minor incremental improvements, but nothing to write home about. In my world which is essentially 2D drafting, useful features are now hidden, requiring time consuming research for the 2017 version.

If you are a CAD user you know that screen real estate is important for productivity, the more you can see on the screen, the more you can do without wasting time zooming, right! But the new 2017 out of the box, wastes that real estate with enormous icons across the top of the screen. those are valuable pixels we need for work! there must be some way to switch to text, but research is needed to fix it, and I don’t have the time to go hunting for solutions. To me it proves that Autodesk is not serious, beginners will find the huge icon useful I guess, but I have been using Autocad for more than 20 years, I have my own shortcuts, to suit my work and I bet other users have the same set up, But every time Autodesk issue a new version I have to track down and edit the .pgp file.

Soon 2018 version will be issued, an architect somewhere will use it, forcing the rest of the design team to follow suit. Perhaps it is time to add an extra clause in the fee agreement to cover the cost for these incessant and largely unnecessary upgrades. Autocad block handling has never caught up to users real needs, perhaps by version 2020 they will catch up and understand some BASIC drafting needs, but don’t hold your breath.

GHG inventory emissions rising

by John A. Herbert
wasting energy lighting

GHG inventory emissions rising

Since 2000 Hong Kong installed approx 9000 cooling towers according to EMSD for air conditioning heat rejection following the HKSAR Government policy to reduce energy consumption by 1,360 million kWh, and resultant greenhouse gas emissions by 950,000 tonnes annually[1].

The HKSAR Government must be disappointed, the latest carbon emission data for 2013 [2] released on 22 June 2016, records a total increased  to 44.4 million tonnes CO²E [3]  the highest recorded since 1990, and from the chart electricity and total GHG emissions have rising steadily since 2000, when the policy to permit cooling towers was initiated.

hong kong ghg inventory

Electricity generation being the largest, accounting for 68.29% of the total GHG inventory.

hong kong ghg 2013

and that includes the windfall between 2000-2013, from converting air cooled air conditioning systems to water based cooling towers.

So are we witnessing city wide rebound effect? The rebound effect postulates that after energy saving features are installed, users waste energy because they know the energy consumption and costs will be lower.

For example, switch from 100w incandescent lamp to 8w LED lamp, the energy consumption and costs will be significantly reduced, now the user knows the running cost will be “cheap” so the 8w LED lamp is operated 24/7.

It seems Government and industry is still seeking that elusive Silver Bullet to tackle energy and GHG reduction, sadly I must inform you there is no silver bullet, the conversion to water based cooling towers has done little to stem climbing energy consumption (as the chart shows) over the last 20 years, a new multifaceted approach is needed.

The problem is electricity, accounting for nearly 70% of the total GHG inventory, and the other sectors, transport, agriculture, waste, etc. are insignificant compared to electricity.

Egregious waste, lighting the walkway during a bright summer day is just one of the issues that needs to be addressed.


  1. Territory-wide Implementation Study for Water-cooled Air Conditioning Systems in Hong Kong http://www.legco.gov.hk/yr02-03/english/panels/ea/papers/ea0722cb1-2231-3-e.pdf
  2. http://www.info.gov.hk/gia/general/201606/22/P201606220616.htm
  3. http://www.epd.gov.hk/epd/sites/default/files/epd/english/climate_change/files/HKGHG_Sectors_201606.pdf

Sustainability….where to start?

Do one thing….

Trying to do the “right thing” can seem somewhat overwhelming, sustainability has countless facets, we face too many issues where to start? You can’t change the whole world overnight right! One approach that works, pick ONE thing.

Focus on that single issue, overtime it will become second nature, once the habit is formed, then you can tackle the next topic. For me switching from canned shaving foam means the metal can, and propellent gas impacts are averted. Pick one thing!

deadleg, the hot water type

hot water dead leg dead leg, John A Herbert

Reducing Waste Water

by John A. Herbert

The first time you open the hot tap or your shower you have to wait some time for hot water to arrive, during that waiting time the unwanted cold or tepid water is lost to the drain, obviously this occurs because the water inside the water pipe, between the water heater and tap is cold (the deadleg).

To reduce that waste water, the length of dead leg (green) should be as short as possible, for a 22 mm pipe, every linear metre of pipe contains about 0.32 litres of cold water.

In extreme cases the dead leg could be 10 metres in length, that equates to approx. 3.2 litres of waste water every day, or 1168 litres per year wasted.

Now that might not seem to be huge amount of water, but if you multiply that by 3,000,000 households in Hong Kong, you get the idea.

In Hong Kong apartments the length of hot water dead leg pipe is typically quite short because individual water heaters are mainly used, but not always. Presently there is no legislation in Hong Kong governing the maximum length of the hot water dead leg, whereas overseas in United kingdom for example, it is specified.

BSRIA Legionella Guidance 2015

BSRIA legionella guide cover 2015

BSRIA legionella guide 2015

BSRIA has published a FREE Legionella topic guide in PDF format here is the (LINK) to download from the BSRIA website.

In fact I had the pleasure of meeting BSRIA’s Tom Jones during his recent trip to Hong Kong in October 2015.

John A. Herbert

Mr John A. Herbert (left) and Tom Jones at Eco Expo Asia Hong Kong 2015

BSRIA has also published a topic guide for building air tightness (LINK) to download from the BSRIA website.

by John A. Herbert


Sustainability and Sustainable building means making use of existing resources


The most sustainable option for our buildings would be to make use of existing building stock, we find (thanks to the Hong Kong audit department) a gift – Hong Kong has schools which have been vacated, some vacated for many years, that have not been returned to Government, idle they serve no purpose, but they are an invaluable resource. the work has been done they have been built, they have infrastructure (water/drainage/power) and often very good links to public transport.


Sustainable Thinking Today

These vacant idle buildings can immediately be opened and put to good use, I can imagine several solutions, that could meet societies needs today:

  1. Small Business Incubator, think PMQ++ there countless classrooms available, offer low rent office/workshops (lower density than classrooms). Common rooms to be used as collaboration space, think tank spaces, like the common areas at Google. If the school has metal workshop, craftsmen can create, or teach. Learning from PMQ businesses that merely sell imported products and add no value, would be excluded.
  2. The Hong Kong Government has created an Innovation fund, but there is little affordable space to innovate, launch appLAB – a building provide low rent space for firms creating software applications (apps), games, etc. a real innovation laboratory for Hong Kong residents. Firms surely face common problems, whether it is business administration, HR, accounting, finance, etc. collaboration areas help and allow sharing ideas and finding solutions to common problems.
  3. Schools are often located far from the CBD, and community space is rare, these building can be used with little alteration for yoga, dance, creating a truly community space for drama, the arts, these are necessary.
  4. If a building has been abandoned for so long that it needs repair use it as training ground ground have CITA trainees, giving them real world experience.

These would be short term plans, no long leases, this does not need to be lifetime commitment, these existing buildings can be used today! and contribute to society and sustainability, over the short term, because Government will need time to figure out how to deal the land over the long term. Of course, Government being government they will immediately say No, I can imagine the countless excuses, but they might, just might, say Yes.


  1. 18 Nov 2015 – SCMP article
  2. 27 Oct 2015 – Hong Kong Audit dept report

E-Bus for Hong Kong? Not soon Enough

Hong Kong may have a new electric bus, sooner than you think. The new vehicle was spotted around town last week, outside HKPC in Kowloon Tong, and at the Eco Asia Expo 2015 exhibition.

Left to Right: Simon Cheung (China Dynamics), Lyndia Hui (Green Council) and John A. Herbert (HAESCO)

Left to Right: Mr Simon Cheung (China Dynamics), Ms Linda Ho (Green Council CEO) and John A. Herbert

Considering Hong Kong’s small area, this E-Bus must be killer app for Hong Kong’s urban pollution problems. I understand that many argue against EV’s because the rational is that EV’s merely move the pollution problem from our lungs to the distant electricity generating stations, and they claim that is a problem?

Repeated studies have shown the pollution at street level is often intolerable with excess PM2.5 PM10 and NOX. (nitrogen oxides). However, these power generating stations already have pollution control measures in place, and are discharged far from the lungs of busy pedestrians presently dodging the fumes in Central.

Burning diesel at street level should be a crime nowadays! Now we know, the diesel combustion (petroleum diesel not bio diesel) process the combustion is incomplete, and creates tiny microscopic soot particles, they are so small they are easily inhaled, hence the grave concern over particulates in the PM2.5-10 range. Hong Kong’s EPD in fact publish the monitoring data:

Screenshot - EPD Pollution Monitoring Data

Screenshot – EPD Pollution Monitoring Data

And the source of those PM2.5 and PM10 particulates? the overwhelming majority are created by diesel engine discharged at lung (street) level. Furthermore, I understand that the E-Bus creators (designed in Hong Kong!) have useful applications in mind for the ‘used’ batteries, to avoid creating another waste problem dealing with spent batteries. I had a tour, inside it looks like every other Hong Kong bus, in fact you would find it hard to distinguish between the diesel  version, except for the tailpipe.

Another sustainability perspective to consider, beside being conceived and designed in Hong Kong, it is manufactured close to home, avoiding the related emissions caused from importing buses from Europe which I understand is the usual practice.

Let us hope it is on the road, here in Hong Kong, sooner rather than later. One of Hong Kong’s key selling points must be the fantastic low cost, public transport system, but can it be improved? Of course, there is always room for improvement, as Paul Zimmerman points out, there are water taxi’s and ferries that would improve connectivity across the harbour, however the Hong Kong public transport system is one that many cities envy.

Hong Kong’s E-Bus was also featured by RTHK 

e-bus hong kong hkpc by RTHK

credit: RTHK

short link: bit.ly/hongkong-ebus

by John A. Herbert