BEAM PLUS projects are showcased in a roving exhibition at different locations around Hong Kong.
BEAM PLUS projects are showcased in a roving exhibition at different locations around Hong Kong.
We are all hindered by unintended consequences, Sweden one might argue a global leader for harvesting leftover heat was hamstrung by the law which prevented other suppliers accessing the district heating grid, but that changed when a law was passed last year that allows outside suppliers to deliver heat through the district heating grid. Now the town of Kiruna in northern Sweden can use waste heat from their local industry to cheaply heat homes, a neat solution when the mercury hits -30 Deg C in winter. Details are scarce in the Guardian article  however using waste heat whether from industry or power generation is cost-effective when the distance (where increasing distance equates causing increasing heat loss) between the source and end-user is not great.
Less commonly known is that waste heat can be used in the tropics to drive air conditioning, necessary in large parts of Asia. Low grade heat energy is often dumped into rivers or the sea, instead it can be used to change the concentration of liquid salt, e.g. lithium bromide, creating cold water for comfort cooling.
by John Herbert
Hong Kong’s urban landscape is harsh, concrete won that battle long ago. However to increase the greenery area the vertical green wall concept is often used to supplement the missing green lawn, but as this video clip shows, your green wall might be burning more diesel fuel than you thought….
We need to spend more time, and money, not less, to properly designing our buildings and landscaping areas. Of course this idea is not limited to green walls, continuous honing and refining is required for buildings too. Here is an example, the BMS (Building Management System) often touted as the saviour for building managers, set and forget.
Yet after the BMS installation in a Hong Kong commercial building, the energy consumption and energy bills actually increased! Yes, it demonstrates that the system was not commissioned correctly, and after the BMS provided the solution, nobody was minding the store, nobody monitored the energy consumption. Often People assume that because the computer is handling it, it must be ok. However, in reality the data shows the operating cost and carbon emissions increased. I don’t need to visit this building to know there are problems, the data shows the problem.
It was beautiful weather today, it was hot, so hot in fact that the Hong Kong Observatory promulgated the Very Hot Weather warning, a glorious day indeed for drying your laundry in the sunshine, alas not in Hong Kong. Building and estate managers, for reasons unknown, actively prohibit carbon free laundry drying, stainless prohibition signs litter the site, proclaiming no drying. Perhaps they deem it to be ugly? but enterprising hongkongers hang their duvets, sheets, and bedding just outside the estate officers influence and control. Most of them might also want to Sell clothes online, but they do not do so. This walkway (photo below) is a good example, just beyond the estate boundary, it doubles as a carbon free clothes drying area, beating the often lousy provisions provided at home and without burning fossil fuel. Is it time for a change of policy?
It is said, you’ll never find an architect visiting their finished project, but sustainable living, demands more time and energy devoted for more thoughtful design not less. Carbon free clothes drying isnt going to spark the revolution, but its a small step in the right direction.
Spring has arrived, the humidity is increasing and air conditioning and their power consumption start in earnest.
Air conditioning systems rely upon converting electrical energy at the central chiller to chilled water, yet these veins, the chilled pipes are often hidden from view, deep inside the building behind locked plant room doors. The chilled water piping should deliver cold water from the chiller at approximately 7 deg. C to the AHU’s. The air conditioning maintenance in prior is of crucial importance.
However, the photo above is a big problem, the chilled water piping is insulated, covered with vapour barrier, and finished with aluminium cladding. However, condensation is clearly visual and that equates to lost energy. If it not repaired the water wicks along the piping and thermal insulation, causing more condensation, increasingly wasting more energy.
To rectify the wet and damaged thermal insulation needs to be cut back and removed, piping cleaned and insulation replaced, and wrapped with a new vapour barrier, and re-clad. the new vapour barrier is key!! to prevent moist air contacting any surface, including the insulation, having a lower dew point temperature.
Trees can provide excellent solar shading, they are master eco-climate controllers. The natural shading is clearly seen on the exterior wall in the above photo, lowered the direct solar gain, but not diffuse solar gain. Plan ahead. Creating a beneficial micro-climate for a building, particularly near the entrance and or air intakes helping lower the building ventilation cooling load. It is that smart and that simple.
I am constantly amazed, I recently witnessed an expert speaker presenting a wonderful array of professional photographs explaining green office concept. One problem, the perimeter row of lighting fittings, although it was a sunny day with plenty of daylight, and speaker praising use the of daylight, the perimeter zone lights were on, a common problem. In another office photo, the lighting fittings sometimes called light boxes here, were clearly too close the wall, they were illuminating the top of the wall, pretty is not green, don’t take my word for it, you need independent review like BEAM Interiors.
energy efficiency matters, seven million died needlessly in 2012 a result of air pollution (BBC/WHO) and considering the smog in China this year, that figure will surely increase. That figure for me is staggering,particularly when we know that energy efficiency is the fastest, most benign strategy to reduce your fuel use, lower energy costs and prevent pollution. Many of the solutions need only your effort, not huge amounts of capital. Smart organisations have designated person to deal with energy matters every day, sadly many don’t.
Turning off the exterior lighting during the day is another obvious win, the outside lighting in this hotel was operating 24 hours per day, even during a sunny day, during the green building conference!
Another case, electricity must be too cheap, in the photo above, this company leaves the shop front lighting on day and night although the shop is closed, the lights continue to burn. As you know, every watt counts because 100 units of fuel are burnt to give 10 units of work, those huge losses result from generation, heat rejection, continuous conversion (no storage), spinning reserves, kilometres of transmission losses, and transformer losses.
Operating the air conditioning installation efficiently saves money and prevents pollution! I have identified and corrected countless systems operating poorly at part load, hunting, and cycling causing extra expenses! Also, the central chiller plant was found operating 24/7 even the building was unoccupied at night and weekends, there are countless success stories.
Science 101 – warm air rises so air conditioning controllers pinned to the underside of the suspended ceiling do not experience the same actual condition as the people in the occupied zone! Little wonder the occupants wear jackets and feel too cold.
In the photo above, we have heaters (lighting fittings) fitted underneath the air conditioning return air sensors, this causes the control system to over cool the the space. To lower costs and improve comfort only condition the ‘occupied zone’, the suspended ceiling zone can be 30 deg C when the occupants are comfortable with 23 deg C. There is no point to condition the whole space (control the whole space) when we only occupy the zone nearest the floor. Put the sensors in the occupied area, we don’t need to keep the ceiling cool, we need to keep the occupants comfortable.
You have a choice!
Handling food waste is a global problem, but is all food waste equal? There is waste from dining generated in homes, restaurants, and Dai Pai Dong’s, and there is food waste from markets, wet markets, and supermarkets, the latter being merely past its sell by date. HKSAR Government intends to create four food waste to energy plants, but no mention of their location and tragically RTHK’s report confirms our fears, about 3,000 tonnes are dumped into landfill every day! That is 1,095,000 tonnes per year.
However, collection, handling, shipping it across the territory, and bulk storage in central facilities is the worst possible solution in my view. To tackle local problems we need local education and local solutions, shipping it “way” will only perpetuate the most common reaction NIBMY.
Eco-District or community scale solutions demonstrate locally there is no distant landfill to handle the waste, you use it, you see it, you handle the waste. Therefore encouraging participation in the solutions, today’s over emphasis towards Green/Smart cities overlooks an important aspect, the human scale. The biggest challenge for eco-districts will be success, where the WTE (waste to energy) plant and equipment is designed for the worst case scenario, and the neighbours begin to understand that their waste creates a local waste problem, over time the total volume of waste will shrink, leaving oversized equipment in its wake. We need District, not City scale solutions.
We know there are insufficient resources to go around, right? Perhaps not. However, there are options, the idea of one planet living (http://www.oneplanetliving.com) gives guidance, like David Letterman’s feature, it provides a convenient top ten list, but how can we migrate from the status quo to a more sustainable future?
Green Building or clean technologies? What is the solution? Well in reality it is not that easy, I have seen Variable Frequency Drives (VFD) intended to provide fan speed control and save energy, locked at one speed, I have seen the building’s central chiller plant operated when one room demands cooling, I have seen room temperature sensors located above lighting fittings (lights are heaters) therefore the air conditioning system continuously calls for more cooling. etc.
So if I have learned one thing, it’s not the latest new idea or the wizbang technology itself that matters, what really matters is how we use the equipment and operate the facilities.
But before we all become operator angels, we will need to optimise and improve design, and not just buildings, but their context, we need more design not less, and we have to be prepared to pay for it. The challenges we face require scaled solutions, beyond a single building, and communities provide sufficient scale to enable working solutions (see also Every Community a Powerhouse).
And these solutions should be local. In my diagram above, waste can be managed AND reused. For example, water a separate stack would collect greywater for reuse primarily within the community, for example irrigation or process water for local industry.
Its more important than ever before that Eco-districts cover all aspects of our daily life including work! In the USA vast cities developed where work and home are very separate, with little public transportation, the urban sprawl created the un-walkable distance, increasing the demand for a private car, and in reality more than one car.
Creating distal residential areas in remote isolation is a recipe for disaster, we need closer communities, communities where certain resources can be shared or call them eco-districts, which are places we can work, play, and live.
We must optimise the use of resources, rainwater can be captured from several buildings are used communally for industrial use, irrigation, or your local energy generation. We have become accustomed to throwing things away, out of sight – out of mind, but there is no away, a far better solution is to handle all waste locally, and yes we should encourage more recycling, but we must be practical, and the local reminder (that there is no away) should be visible in your backyard, and it should be used locally whether for power generation, compost, or biogas (fuel for cooking) when possible locally.
We invest in expensive and energy-hungry air conditioning systems for offices that are typically used 9-7, then we repeat the investment and resource use, providing air conditioning for homes, with a little planning forethought, and load profile analysis, one AC system could serve both the office (during the day) and our homes (outside office hours), this natural synergy would save considerable cost and resource use.
The technology exists, but that is the easy part, we need solutions at scale, we need Government, stakeholders, communities to embrace change, and start managing and operating the entire planet.
The building structure, columns and floor slabs cant be seen with the naked eyes, but are clearly visible as purple colour in this infra-red image. the columns and floor slabs are cooler than the infill sections of the walls and the windows. The red/white hot spot is off the scale, it is caused by a electric sign, hotter than the building structure. Overall I think it nicely demonstrates that buildings which we perceive to be uniform in appearance actually have different paths for energy leakage, we call it thermal bridging.
The SCMP (unlinkable) published an article on 7 Feb 2014 reporting the HKGBC as saying a few tweaks will save energy. Really, is it that simple? In reality it is not. Surely the time as come to get serious about energy consumption in Hong Kong buildings.
There is a school of thought, in the race for low carbon, lower energy consumption, etc. that installing a new BMS (building management system) will magically solve all your energy problems. A quick review of the above chart gives the hard evidence, it failed, and it is difficult to believe that more building owners don’t demand evidence from vendors, after installation, to support those glossy brochures.
In my experience, vendors sell sell sell, install, and move on to the next project, but where is the Measurement and Verification (M&V)? What is M&V? It is the name given to process, that will essentially prove or disprove that those promised energy savings were achieved.
Generally, little post installation checking is conducted to try and validate the promised savings were achieved, whereas in reality the results are poor. In the above example, the peak month energy consumption actually increased by approx. HKD 90,000, hardly the savings often touted in the brochures.
Fortunately, whilst conducting energy audits I have access to the raw data, and plot charts like the above, and find a new BMS alone not the best choice for energy management.
Whether you choose a BMS, variable speed drives, or other means, you should pay the extra to monitor and report the results – trust but verify! Properly commissioned installations can help monitor operating costs, but that is not the answer to improving energy efficiency.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. This is why a regular transformer maintenance is important.
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 neighbors 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.
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 which can be supplied by a diesel fuel delivery company, 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
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.
I have been a fan of open source, and I found a great little iphone APP that takes two data sets and adds value. This app shows you where the traffic jams are located in Hong Kong so you can pick the best route to your destination, get your FREE app at iTunes
click on an image to enlarge………. the red overlay indicates heavy traffic, green overlay indicates normal traffic, it is real time and that simple.
~~~ John A. Herbert, Kelcroft, BEAM Professional
Steam is valuable energy media used in countless industrial processes, applications include laundries, food factory facilities, laboratories. garment manufacturing, chemical and material processing amongst others. And there is a wealth of energy and cost saving potential based on the steam systems I have inspected in Asia.
Sadly many have been poorly designed which is a root cause for future difficulties and wasted energy. After fixing the system, setting up the right operations is next, to optimise the use of steam and condensate to suit the needs of the processes.
Hardly a day goes by without more news from the Japan’s stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, unlike past disasters, we have had more news, and media coverage that was inconceivable even ten years ago, and the unfolding tragedy in Japan and at the Fukushima Daiichi has impacted countries far from the leaking radiation.
Many countries including Germany, and China, have halted or postponed existing nuclear programmes for “safety checks” as the media report continues to report the countless attempts by the plant operators TEPCO to try and control the leakage from the wreckage. Japan like Hong Kong has few natural resources (coal, oil or gas) and relies heavily on its nuclear energy programme to provide 30% of its energy needs.
The elephant in the room is those pesky commitments to tackle climate change. China announced on the eve of COP16 (and reiterated at the recent NPCC 12th Five year plan  ) that it would reduce it’s Carbon Intensity by 40-45% Hong Kong closely followed suit and also pledged to lowers its CI, but don’t mistake these Carbon Intensity reductions as energy efficiency improvements.
Carbon Intensity (CI) is defined as the quantity of carbon (CO2) emitted per unit of energy. Therefore to lower your carbon intensity change from burning a high carbon fossil fuel like coal, to nuclear energy (or renewable energy) reduces the intensity, without any energy efficiency improvement, does that sound more like a Business As Usual approach than a real framework or strategy to tackle dwindling resources?
To achieve this impressive figures would be achieved by switching from power generation using fossil fuel to nuclear powered generation. At Macau MIECF 2011 (31 March 2011) the Hong Kong Government’s EPD representative Mr Joe Fong  indicated that Hong Kong would increase the nuclear energy contribution imported from the mainland from 23% in 2009 to 50% by 2020.
So, the obvious question needs to be raised, if these promised CI reduction targets are to be achieved, and increasing nuclear energy production has been sidelined as a solution can will nations meet these ambitious targets? Is it even possible without increasing the contribution from nuclear powered facilities? Fortunately, the answer to both questions is affirmative, energy efficiency improvements can deliver real carbon reductions. It’s not sexy, and unlike building more power plants, it requires hard work on the ground, and political commitment but achievable.
Coupled with these unfolding events in Japan, unrest in the Middle East continues to cause jitters in the markets, dramatically increased crude oil prices adding salt to wound. It seems that only major news reminds us that oil and other nature resources will not last forever.
Energy efficiency improvements are certain not a panacea for every problem a nation faces today, however developed nations have no excuses, I wonder how long it will take before politicians will truly embrace this opportunity.
— John Herbert, Kelcroft, consultant
1. China’s Carbon Intensity to be reduced by 40-45 % by 2020, based on 2005 baseline http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2011npc/2011-03/07/content_12125740.htm
3 December 2010 – Today the Hong Kong Building Energy Code Ordinance was gazetted (http://www.info.gov.hk/gia/general/201012/03/P201012010258.htm). Background information, including consultations can be found on the EMSD website here is the link. It is anticipated that the new legislation will be fully implemented in mid-2012.
also known as Cap 610 legislation link
— John Herbert, Kelcroft, Consultant
What does energy management mean to you, turning off the lights? When the mandatory efficiency improvements were considered too hard or too difficult some twenty provinces in China decided that simply cutting the power supply to industrial undertakings was one solution to gain energy efficiency points.
Energy management is a science, obtaining more whether it is more work, goods or output, without increasing the fuel consumption. Faced with increasing pressure the Chinese officials in China opted for a lights off campaign, preventing fuel consumption to meet their target – that does not improve the energy efficiency or manage energy and fuel resources effectively it only hides the root cause of the problem.
Perhaps if the guidance, used better terminology to define the goal, surely that must be one of the lessons to be learned, as the capital has now banned the use of power cuts as a means to meet the energy efficiency targets.
The utility sector have been promoting “Smart Grid”, ironic then than China itself has promoted a smarter grid as a solution yet its instrument for change is power cuts.
Power generating utilities across the globe have moving to implement “Smart Grid” systems but will it really benefit the consumers? The grid is dumb and will not be smarter, however metering data with Automatic Metering Reading (AMR) technology will improve. Since this extra data will be available to the meter owners namely the utilities, I predict that the grid will not be any smarter tomorrow than it is today. The utilities will have the data, and be able to dramatically influence future management (read cost increases) so in the end the consumer that will need to bear the cost and suffer the consequences.
— John Herbert, Consultant, Kelcroft E&M Limited
The above extract was published and printed in the South China Morning Post newspaper on 21 September 2010.