Productivity where are thou

Improving productivity is one of those subjective areas that rarely attracts much attention, studies show that comfort conditions are critical, is it a key part of the goals for a green building, for productively.

Where the people feel their work environment is too hot, too cold, too dry or too wet, productivity drops, and in Hong Kong it is a real issue since most buildings have no winter heating.

A recent survey, by a software company, supports the notion that your workers are dissatisfaction with environmental conditions, and that in turn impacts the productivity of your business.

More detailed than other studies, this survey covers different genders, and different seasons. One finding is stands out immediately the report states 10% of staff are totally dissatisfied.

Whilst this will not be surprising to Building Services engineers who are taught that engineering systems can only satisfy 80% of the occupants in room, It is time to challenge those empirical tests, when we have better options, underfloor distribution, and smart phone computers in our pockets.

However, visit any modern building and you will still find the room sensors in odd positions, often outside the occupied zone, this strategy only provides the general/average room condition (often near the ceiling) not the conditions where the people are working.

sensors-2

Hotel function rooms have sensors located 6m above the occupants, so the HVAC system is working hard to main the conditions for the ceiling zone not the people zone. Also lighting fittings, hand dryers, etc. which act as localized heaters, installed beneath sensors influencing the room conditions.

by John. A. Herbert

Is your BMS the answer to the energy crisis?

BMS the cure or curse?

Annual Energy Costs Before, and then After new BMS installation

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.

BMS chiller operation

Central Chiller Plant Hunting – poor operation hurts energy consumption

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.

 

Building Energy Label – Mandatory

Here in Hong Kong 89% of all electricity consumed, and 63% of Carbon emission are created from our buildings, and these rise every year. I had argued that mandatory building labelling is the future, and until customers can see an easy to read, third party verified, building energy label there is little incentive for building owners and operators to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions from buildings. The disconnect in speculative buildings (for leasing) is obvious, since the building operators profit from inefficiency [refer note 1].

Now Australia will likely become the next country to bite the bullet, realising the importance of energy usage in buildings, a mandatory label scheme is planned for mid of 2010. It seems the popular NABERS scheme will form part of the system.

Overseas, in the United Kingdom has a mandatory label scheme is in place for all government buildings, a certain forerunner for the private sector.

Mandatory building labels will create job, employment, and better buildings, REITs, fund managers, and consumers will have a choice, a choice I believe they will exercise. At the recent HKGBC conference, a building fund manager endorsed building labelling for this very reason, and early adopters and users of of the green building labels [refer note 2] would testify.

Notes:
[1] A building with numerous owners or tenants cannot be managed effectively, therefore a property management company is employed to operate and oversee all the building common area operations, for example the central chilled water equipment. For multi-owner buildings, it is common for a committee to drive the scope of the property services provided. However, many of these property management firms are compensated on a percentage fee basis or cost plus basis, therefore if more fuel used, the management charge is also higher.

Also all tenants typically pay a management fee based on Gross Floor Area (GFA) of the leased accommodation, irrespective of the actual energy usage, therefore we have a situation where there is no financial incentive to lower the use of central services such as central air conditioning because they don’t benefit from the saved costs or lower emissions.

[2] BEAM is the local green building label system. Buildings are assessed against various criteria, and can be awarded a green building label to distinguish them from other buildings. Once a valid scheme is established customers and facilities personnel have a choice and often use that label as a key criteria for choosing accommodation – that is exactly what happened in Australia, the voluntary NABERS scheme became a customer requirement.

– John Herbert, Consultant, Kelcroft E&M Limited
lowering the cost of doing business in Asia.

Presenting at IDT Conference 3-5th December 2009

It has been a busy recently, and I had completely forgotten about the Innovation Design Technology (IDT) conference next week, it will will be held on 3-5th December 2009 in Hong Kong.

I will be speaking at the conference, during the 2.30-4.30pm session on 4th December  2009 http://www.hktdc.com/John-herbert.

If you have spare moment you could also visit our energyLAB booth number 1B09 and say hi.

Related Links:

website: http://innodesigntechexpo.hktdc.com

seminar schedule: conference seminar

speaker link: http://www.hktdc.com/John-herbert

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

Funding energy efficiency, PRD, China

The Guangdong municipal Government in South China has created an energy efficiency funding scheme, not unlike CP3 (Cleaner Production Partnership Programme). For energy and environmental improvement projects RMB 300 million (Approx. US$ 44 million) has been allocated for 1:1 cost match basis. Also upto RMB 300,000 (approx US$ 43,000) is available for a specific project proposal.

[PRD – the Pearl River Delta region]

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

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

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

Energy Efficiency is Not Rocket Science

Hong Kong is a great location, indeed I am fortunate to meet a great number of smart, intelligent people that travel through Hong Kong, this week alone I met a Government Minister, a project developer, and financiers from the energy sector.

Its dark down here

I am equally sure that for all the talk about energy efficiency improvement projects, not many people have actually spent as much time in plant rooms as I. Continue reading

Alternate EE models

Energy Efficiency might well be the fastest, least intrusive and lowest cost solution to implement energy conservation projects that also lowers your carbon footprint, the McKinsey report even highlights these opportunities. However, it does not take way from the fact that little improvements have been made.

This report dated March 2009 covers much of the same ground, only offering legislative improvements to encourage take up of energy services.

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

What tune does your building play?

Buildings account for the largest proportion of greenhouse emissions in Hong Kong, currently that is sixty three percent (63%) of Hong Kong’s carbon footprint. Whilst initiatives for new buildings are indeed welcome, the influence of the measures are limited to 500-600 new buildings, a very small proportion of the total 40,000 buildings in Hong Kong.

Building Tuning

Improving the existing building stock is critical issue, and one solution is tuning your building. If you owned a vehicle – would you run it year after year without a regular tune-up? of course not, yet buildings are often run for fifty years or more, without tuning.

Behind the glass façade air-conditioning, lighting and other environmental systems of commercial buildings, hotels, shopping malls are burning electricity contributing to the Hong Kong carbon footprint, for efficient operation the engineering systems need to be tuned and optimised and I would argue that it should be conducted annually.

One interesting point I have noticed, often I find firms have an elaborate ISO 14000 EMS (Environmental Management Systems) protocols in place, seemingly unaware that the building energy consumption is causing a larger, and more significant environmental impact!

Building Tuning means optimising the operation of the energy systems, including the chiller plant, pumps, and other systems to identify opportunities to lower the building carbon footprint based on today’s operating environment.

Changing Times

It is one of those facts of life, things change. For a building it is no different except it doesn’t it complain so loudly. Electrical tariffs, usage, building codes, the neighbourhood is a little more crowded, social pressure, these and other influences occur over the operating life of a building and may impact the building energy consumption.

Other influences include new legislation also play a role. For example the relaxation on the use of water and cooling towers for air conditioning systems in 2000, offers opportunities to lower operating costs for hotels and other commercial buildings in Hong Kong.

One approach is the hindsight method – review all every engineering system as if it was a new project – what would you do differently today?

The electricity tariff for commercial buildings in Hong Kong island is significantly higher than Kowloon.  Is this fact taken into consideration when designing a building for Kowloon side or HK island?  In my experience unfortunately not.  The main reason often cited is the structural disconnect between building developers don’t pay the fuel and electricity bills. All the operating costs are paid by the tenant, including any core services such as air conditioning, which is charged in the form of a management fee, charged by square foot not actual usage.

Industrial Tunes

Building Tuning is not limited to just office buildings, factories and manufacturing facilities are not immune to the influence of change.

When you lead others follow

Presently, any tenant of a grade A building in Hong Kong looking to lower their carbon footprint presently has limited opportunities while the primary cost, the cost of air-conditioning, is charged on a square foot basis irrespective of actual consumption. Now that’s true for the majority. However, some innovative developers have seen the light, and have started to provide a metered service, therefore tenants will only pay for the actual usage.

Buildings don’t have any voice to complain, and let you know where the problems are located. A buildings Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is correlated with its annual energy consumption, over its entire life the OPEX (Operating Expense) is significantly higher than its CAPEX (Capital Expenditure), mortgage, cost of finance, etc.  For single owner buildings its a no brainer, the real challenge is multi-owner buildings.

I talked with a client last week regarding his facility, apparently it emerged that a competitor had already completed some work, and now they needed the same work stat. To remain competitive and distinctive in the market place, you either lead or follow.

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

Green Building Innovation

John Herbert, green consultant, waste heat rejection

waste heat rejected challenges

In the sustainable building sector fortune telling is easy, however future-proofing is not.  Over time what could be considered “state of the art” today is destined to become tomorrow’s rating tool baseline case. Translating that into project work, it means that earning your green credentials in the future must become increasing more difficult.

This is best exampled with an example, lets take the rain/storm water credit. Today’s green building rating tools such as LEED and BEAM award credits for a building project that includes rain/storm water capture and re-use.  At some point in time, this will become ubiquitous, a pre-requisite for certification.

As old ideas, and technologies become widely adopted, the number of credits within the rating tools for past innovations will decrease, and the number of pre-requisites credits will increase.  Your probably thinking yes that obvious, yet the implications for future green building are still not widely understood.  This will require more creative, and innovative thinking coupled with new technologies to meet future targets. Engineers will be stressed into new thinking “outside the box” thinking, and do more research to bring innovative credits to the design table.

After the building’s initial certification period, it then joins the largest sector in the industry – existing buildings or EB. It’s a critical future-proofing issue, and where the rating tool standards have a critical role. There is no point to create an existing building tool that certified buildings cannot achieve, yet as time and technology moves forward finding space to incorporate innovative credits within an existing building will be a challenge.

At this stage, green building is still a “new” and everyday I witness plenty of opportunities to improve the buildings.

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

Lost Energy Efficiency Opportunites

Energy efficient design opportunities lost, John Herbert, Kelcroft, EnergyLAB, Hong Kong,  energy efficiency

Energy efficient design opportunities lost

Often you don’t even need to go inside a building to see opportunities for energy conservation in Hong Kong.  Sadly this opportunity (refer photograph) was many lost years ago at design stage when the lighting control strategy was planned and conceived.

Perhaps it is not clear from the photograph, I took this photo on a glorious sunny morning yet the unneeded halogen incandescent fittings burned bright, serving no useful purpose except burn extra carbon.

And that is the reason why independent third party energy consultants review projects, to highlight these opportunities before the die is cast.

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

upgrading to LEED v3 or 2009?

The confusing launch of USGBC’s LEED v3 or it is LEED 2009?  has launched. As the graphic and schedule below shows that LEED v3 / LEED 2009 becomes compulsory for new green building projects after 27 JUNE 2009.

  • March 27: Reference guide e-copies available for order; hard copies available for pre-order.
  • April 27: LEED v3 launches.
  • June 27: New projects will be required to register for LEED 2009.
  • Dec. 31: Last day of free migration period, during which currently registered projects can transition to LEED 2009 and LEED Online v3 without paying a new registration fee.

International Perspective
USBGC’s LEED V3 (or LEED 2009) is still not an international Green building rating tool. Interestingly USGBC local chapters in US were involved to identify keystone criteria for specific regions. The separate regionalisation element, totally focused on USA, does not provide regionalisation credit for international projects. Essentially, the regional credit system is intended to recognise that a “water” credit should have a higher weighting and more importance in a desert location or a region with a combined storm water and sewerage system, for example Washington DC, USA.

Green Buildng Qualification
If your project team is not stressed enough the LEED qualification system has also been “upgraded”, introducing CPD, new levels.

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

International Energy Efficiency Finance Protocol

Hope on the horizon for ESCO’s and Energy efficiency projects? EVO has released (April 2009) a new publication (cover see right) titled International Energy Efficiency Financing Protocol or IEEFP to tackle the issue of bank training.

This guide is based on work conducted by EVO in Mexico, and Thailand is targeted at your local financing institution, primarily banks, essentially helping them to understand and evaluate energy efficiency project finance risk.

As mentioned here ESCO’s historically suffer from a  weak balance sheet, and often find difficultly finance for viable energy projects, one of the reasons most often cited being Financial Institutions lend only based on collateral.

Considering the financial chaos gripping the US, perhaps that prudence should have been extended across all sectors of banks activities?  Anyway, the present approach, demanding asset based collateral, overlooks the benefits of energy efficiency improvement projects, including the income stream from lower energy costs and to some extent lack of understand the mechanics of energy efficiency programmes.

This guide aims to show financial institutions how energy projects that generate energy savings, result in cash flow revenue, and can increase credit capacity for repayment of loans. It is comprehensive overview including a plan for a two day training programme, what expected risks strategies from new and emerging technologies one might encounter.

Unlike the Hong Kong’s recently launched Buildings energy funds it clearly states the obvious, the need for Investment grade energy audits and M&V (Measurement and Verification) to ensure that projects are sound and that projected energy savings are sustainable.

Risk is always an issue, especially for banks entering new territory, recognizing the outstanding opportunities and potential benefits multinational financial institutions (MNF) such as IFC created a programme for help manage the credit risk, for example this publication cites the experience from using IFC/GEF Commercializing Energy Efficiency Finance (“CEEF”) programme.  Locally, we already have IFC’s CHUEE programme which is entirely focused on China energy efficiency projects.

I agree that education, and edcuating the banking sector as a whole, not one person at a time, is a critical issue for wider adoption of energy efficiency improvement projects.  So will this guide answer all of your questions? Unfortunately no, as stated in the preface, it only provides a framework, it is intended as a starting point for a series of further IEEFP programmes and a perhaps a teaser for their two day training course.

Overall yes it is a useful energy efficiency primer, IEEFP 101. It does provide the bare bones of a programme, however key points are only covered with a list of bullet points and likely to leave the reader equally unsatisfied.

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

[event] Greenbuild Asia 7-9 July 2009

Save the date! Greenbuild Asia 2009 is coming back to Hong Kong in 2009.

Indeed I am fortunate to be chosen to speak on the green building expert panel (PM 9th July 2009).  It should be interesting event, awareness of green building has never been higher. I will continue to advocate for the wider understanding and adoption of WSD (Whole System Design) principals, also called Integrated Design.

And I am also certain that the issues surrounding certified green buildings that are not energy efficient and carbon will be a hot topics this year.

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

Suffering Contention?

If the number of conference and seminar invitations is any gauge of activity, there is an obvious, and intentional increasing interest in green building and energy efficiency sectors so what is the connection with contention?

Let’s be honest for a moment, if there is one area where the E&M or MEP engineers lack creativity it is engineering definitions. To the outside world engineers are often accused of speaking Klingon dialects, but between ourselves in many cases we still don’t have a simple word or phrase to convey complex engineering phenomena. Unlike the medical profession where they created an entire dictionary of new terms, engineers didn’t try very hard.

I coined the use of the word contention and pressed it into action for E&M engineering services to describe a very common engineering phenomena that is found in many facilities. And it is a lot easier to use than provide the entire word heavy description every time we need to explain it.

Here is a typical situation, imagine a large room with two (or more) air conditioning/heating/humidification devices installed, each fitted with its own automatic control system.  Now, imagine we operate the equipment, it is operated simultaneously and because each has an independently controlled, over time each starts to operate in a different control mode.

For example if one system senses rising room temperature it delivers more cooling, whilst another system senses dropping temperature and delivers more heating.  This double act wastes an enormous amount of energy as the systems figuratively “fight each other” simultaneously delivering either more heating or more cooling to the same space.  This also occurs when individually controlled humidifiers operating in the same space. one system senses dropping relative humidity and starts its humidification operation, whilst another unit sensing increasing humidity and its starts de-humidification cycle, both operating to cancel each other.

For the lack of a better phrase, engineers will often use a phrase like “the controls are fighting each other” hardly an elegant description I think you will agree.

This energy efficiency nightmare often occurs in datacenters, and other large areas such as hospitals and production areas with multiple systems in the same space.  It is common in datacenters and mission critical facilities that use packaged CRAC (Computer Room Air-Conditioning ) units since each has a complete inbuilt automatic control system, and during normal operations each attempts to “control” the space condition – that is contention, use it you might like it.

There are plenty of complex engineering situations that occur in the built environment arena that would benefit from improved terminology that would aid communications and replace a those drearly, wordy descriptions, perhaps we’ll leave those for another day.

John Herbert
Consultant
Kelcroft E&M Limited

Carbon Reporting with only one catch.

Really the Hong Kong the government is so far behind the curve in environmental matters I am surprised that it is not a serious concern for business, or are they blind to the risk? Instead of leading Asia, we lag behind the so called developing countries, and it is our economy that will suffer. I think nobody would want to try and predict the outcome from the Copenhagen summit but as a Chinese city we can expect some impact.

I have previously reported that the writing is on the wall for voluntarily carbon reporting.  And that prediction is one step closer to reality since the EPA (USA) has grasped the opportunity of the new 2009 presidency and signalling intentions for compulsory carbon reporting for US factories.

Global Carbon
Since Carbon is a global phenomena it does not require a vivid imagine to see where all this could lead.  Let’s assume for a moment that China continues to claim “developing country” status and does not require compulsory carbon reporting for manufacturing facilities. Importing countries, like the USA could demand it. You might think I am stretching the US EPA’s jurisdiction, perhaps, perhaps not. Consider the considerable power wielded by US trade negotiators, and the political pressures recently demonstrated by the “Buy American Only” stimulus package! It seems clear to me that any factories or business exporting to foreign markets will need to report their local carbon emissions.

Indeed it could be argued that the China is already heading in this direction (China wants importers to cover some emission costs) has already laid the groundwork, with Chinese official’s arguing that the cost of Chinese emissions for products exported to US markets are the responsibility of US market. In the future US importers may be required to bare an extra cost, the carbon cost, for emissions within China, but wait China is not the only exporter to the US.  Surely India, Thailand, Vietnam, etc. will have equally valid reasons to claim equal rights?

While US business might be quietly smarting over the idea, extra costs that are never welcomed, another surprise could be around the corner because the distant carbon emitted, and hence its cost, will surely give them further reason for pause.

China Energy Efficiency
If your report card was based on China’s energy efficiency, its one that you’d probably like to hide. The power generation sector is predominately coal based that is well known, lacks modern boilers and the latest controls technology. The risk from the resultant emissions could cause a nasty surprise. How this will play out is unclear, it is really a political trade issue more than a technical Carbon issue, undoubtedly there is an unseen business risk.

John Herbert
Consultant
Kelcroft E&M Limited

Cleaner Factory Production in China

Kelcroft, cleaner production consultant china, factory, cp3What does Cleaner Production mean? All manufacturing operations require energy for operations and or create air pollution.  An independent audit of the energy consumption and processes in a production facility will identify areas for improvement of the energy efficiency.

If the facility owner implements the corrective measures the operating cost will be lower, and environmental impact of the facility will be reduced, so we have cleaner production.  Shameless plug for my firm Kelcroft is a registered consultant for the Hong Kong Cleaner Production Programme called CP3 (refer image).

Need an example to clarify? Right let’s take a look at the injection moulding process. Like many processes the press creates heat energy therefore to cool the machine moulds cooling water is needed. It circulated through the injection moulding machine, and the heat rejected outside the building typically using a cooling tower.  However, often the cooling towers are out of sight (and out of mind) they are not properly designed and not regularly maintained. Therefore the effectiveness of the whole process deteriorates causing excessive energy consumption.

This deterioration process does not occur overnight!  No, it is a slow steady process.  These apparently insignificant efficiency losses combine lowering the cooling capacity of the cooling tower installation until one day the injection moulding machine malfunctions, and the facility manager then replaces the whole cooling tower. An energy auditor familiar with cooling tower operation could identify the fix before a minor problem becomes a catastrophe.

John Herbert
Consultant
Kelcroft E&M Limited