Urban Heat Island

infra red Hong Kong Island by John A. Herbert

Here is an interesting image, the infrared of Hong Kong Island promenade, the sum has been shining all day and the path is absorbing the sun’s energy, the walkway is warmer than its surroundings. At night, that stored energy keeps the area warm, warmer than the air temperature, a good example of the urban heat island effect.

Infra-red is accurate and very sensitive, the image even shows the edges of the manhole covers!

It is not too difficult to avoid this problem (remember white reflective roof post) choose a material with a high solar reflectance index (SRI) say 80 or above, that will reduce the energy absorbed.

Circular or Irreversible Systems by John A. Herbert

Another, and some might say, a purist video, illustrating the simplicity of the perfect Circular Economy (CE) this one is from EU Environmental department.

The principle is very simple, an old product is the raw materials for the new product, but not necessarily the same product. The steel content from old vehicles has been using this model for decades because steel is expensive, it can be recovered, and processed into new products. Even aircraft, trains are all stripped bare to recover that valuable steel or aluminum to make the next product. Continue reading

reflective white roof more effective than lawn for greening existing buildings by John A. Herbert

Commonsense really…..

reflectA reflective white roof is more effective than lawn for greening existing buildings, here is a link to my article published on LinkedIn https://t.co/H8SyyavhHU

Continue reading

Sustainability and Sustainable building means making use of existing resources

MADE IN HONG KONG

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.

app-lab-600w

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.

LINKS

  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:
http://www.epd.gov.hk/epd/english/environmentinhk/air/data/air_data.html

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

unintended consequences

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 [1] 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.

[1] http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2015/may/01/leftover-industrial-heat-to-warm-swedens-chilly-northern-city

New York City, USA has banned styrofoam

stryofoam-103

The administration of New York City, USA has provided environmental leadership banning single use Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) also known as Styrofoam, including loose fill   ‘peanuts’ used for packing, beginning on 1 July 2015, but a concession, a six month grace period, will be granted so the law and fines will be effective from 1 January 2016.

It will save about 30,000 tonnes, normally sent to landfill, which is a staggering saving. Here is the link: http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/016-15/de-blasio-administration-bans-single-use-styrofoam-products-new-york-city-beginning-july-1-2015

Will Hong Kong follow the NYC lead?

Airing your clean laundry

by John A. Herbert
no-drying_800w

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. 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?

drying_800w

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.

Right idea wrong scale

waste to energy

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.

community, eco-districts, waste to energy

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.

One Planet Living

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 some guidance, like David Letterman 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 locked at a set speed, I have seen the entire central chiller plant operated when only room demands cooling, I have seen room temperature sensors located above lighting fittings (heaters) therefore the system continuously calls for more cooling. etc. So I have learned one thing, its not the latest new idea or the wizbang technology itself that matters, what really matters is how we use equipment or operate the facilities.

eco-district-flowchart_800w

But before we all become angel operator, 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 is 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. It si 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 called 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 our 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.

Sustainability Primer

sustainability-101

Here is a TED talk, it is an interesting primer for environment and sustainability issues (and I doubt the speaker Leyla Acaroglu will thank me for that). But I do wonder is sustainability finally heading towards the main stream?

There is no doubt that the analysis is incredibly complex, and the possibly the most significant factor, us, the end users, cant be easily modelled, or predicted, Just consider the factors for the paper vs plastic, how to account for the damage cause to ecosystems from the tonnes of plastic waste waste floating in the oceans, out of sight – out of mind. Look at http://projectkaisei.org which illustrates the vast cities of plastic that was dumped on to the ecosystem.

The Electric kettle is interesting too, since families here often boil the potable water before using it for drinking water, and that stems from water rationing in 70’s and 80’s coupled with the corroded steel pipes used for distribution prior to 1994, and the complete absence of maintenance for the central water storage tank, it is no wonder your parents had the boil the water. Assuming we 3,000,000 households boiling a standard 1.7 litre kettle, that’s 5,100,000 litres of water boiled (at least once) per day, the energy consumption alone is an huge environmental burden.

But don’t be fooled into thinking I am reminiscing about the past, my office is located in a pre- 1994 building, the water pipes have corroded, and water is usually brown in colour.

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.

 

Why is the world still going to hell……

Greenbiz.com published a great video interview with Patagonia’s founder, YVON Chouinard, tackling the elephant in room……

sustainability

So what does the future hold, who will be successful? Look at consumer driven societies, especially here in Hong Kong, how will can it reinvent itself in a future world where consumerism and shopping are frowned upon…

eco cities, districts, and buildings

There has been increasing traction for the concept of a sustainable city, I for one have a dozen conference invites on hand which is one measure. And from the engineering perspective alone is long overdue. In the Hong Kong context, I advocate for expanding the focus from a single building to the wider and scalable community thus leveraging the advantage through integrated design (see my blog post green communities).

Eco City Ideas

Artist’s Impression of Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City by Keppel

Having just read the LSEcities survey [link] interestingly enough it included the category eco-districts and buildings {section B2}.  I take that as further recognition, solutions for  climate change not only require efforts in our buildings, but also through the local infrastructure development.  Hong Kong is blessed, approx. 43% of the population live 500 metres from the rail network, and more than 50% of the jobs are located less than 500 metres from those stations.

However, it’s not immediately obvious from those glowing stats that there is a glaring omission, the jobs are not always located near the sites of the new towns.  The new town of Tin Shui Wai is probably the most graphic example, this planned new town was built alone out, in the northern part of the New Territory. It became infamous and labelled “City of Sadness” because this new district was poorly planned, and lack any significant commercial activity, with very few local businesses, high local employment and despair reigned.

Although Hong Kong has efficient transport system, for Tin Shui Wai residents the long commute also cut deep into their pay packets.  The publicity surrounding the “City of Sadness” caused the Hong Kong government to act and actively encouraged business to create jobs in that region, too little too late in my view.

I argue again and again that employment and housing should co-exist, then the whole community can thrive.  From the engineering and infrastructure perspective too it makes sense, employment and homes are opposites of the same coin. Yet the benefits for integrated planning and design for the next green community or eco-district are overlooked in the rush to rapidly develop new housing.

 

 

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.

 

Hong Kong Green Speed Dating

cleantuesday




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

Participants:

– 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

sustainable waste management

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

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

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

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

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

— John A. Herbert, Consultant, Kelcroft