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, for a waste management program simular to the program for industrial and residential recycling in Perth. To 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

Landfill Mercury

I took this photograph on the street, a pile of waste sitting outside one of the many skyscrapers in Central (Hong Kong) waiting collection.  These exhausted fluorescent lighting tubes pictured will soon contribute mercury, mercury compounds, and waste glass into Hong Kong’s already burgeoning landfill.

Whilst there is a system in Hong Kong for safe disposal in bulk, it is only available for the largest buildings and or occupiers, and not the SME’s which make up 98% of Hong Kong employers. They have no option except to dispose of defunct lighting tubes through the municipal waste collection system.

It is a sad indictment of the waste management system to note that part of Hong Kong’s green country park in Clearwater bay had to be excised to provide more landfill space, without any plan, or strategy to encourage waste separation at source and maximising recycling. Landfill is simply not sustainable.

– John A. Herbert, Consultant, Kelcroft E&M Limited

Sustainability article in SCMP newspaper

Hong Kong sustainability consulting, John Herbert

I was recently interviewed by the leading English language newspaper (www.scmp.com) on the topic of sustainability, and greening business. just in case you missed the article (68OK PDF one page, published 8-03-2010)

– John Herbert,Consultant, Kelcroft
we help lower the cost of doing business in Asia

Standard chargers

If you ever needed another lesson for the benefits of a sustainability, the launch of CLP’s brand new charging station for electric vehicles is a neat reminder.

What does a mobile phone, a netbook, and an electric vehicle have in common?  Each manufacturer has a different connection for re-charging your battery.  CLP’s new EV station to be located in Jordan, Hong Kong, will only support three Japanese brands of the various EV manufacturers, and particularly noticeable by its absence Hong Kong’s own EV the MyCar is also overlooked.

My own experience is no different, my laptop, mobile phone, camera, blackberry and MP3 player each have different chargers and connections. As individual consumers it is difficult to demand a standard, but that is exactly what we do need, a common standard. As production volumes increase, it reduces the cost, and future waste and environmental impact. I’ll be happier when I have few chargers not more.

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

Energy and water conservation pilot test?

water and energy conservation?

Here is a photograph I took yesterday in Jardin House (Central, Hong Kong) this hand basin tap was obviously intended to save energy and water, in reality does neither. You will note that this particular model has the flat faced user sensor located very near the base of the stem, and that its downfall.

When using this tap water droplets adhere to the sensor plate. Therefore after you have finished, the sensor still detects “a user” and the tap continues to discharge water long after the user has left the room. Just because it says energy saving on the box doesn’t make it so.

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