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

Kai Ching Estate has Quality Water Certification

The Kai Ching estate, in the middle of the Lead (Pb) ‘scandal’ and the Legionella case associated with Mun Ching House achieved the WSD (http://www.wsd.gov.hk) Quality Water Recognition Scheme for Buildings certification! (see image below). Lead (Pb) is not one of water quality parameters tested.

kai ching estate, lead, legionella, hong kong, water quality certificate

In the past I highlighted Hong Kong’s building water quality issues (here) but my office building is not listed above, I am certain that WSD will revise the criteria after this incident. So far Lead (Pb) contamination of the residents water has been detected in the following sites:

  1. Kai Ching Estate, Kowloon City
  2. Kwai Luen Estate, Kwai Chung
  3. Shui Chuen O Estate, Sha Tin

updated: 17 July 2015

Late yesterday (16 July 2015) WSD published a circular letter no. 1/2015 (Chinese only) online, dated 13 July 2015, it now requires Flats (subject to interpretation) to provide a declaration letter for No Lead in solder, and additional water quality testing parameters in the laboratory report, including:

Lead (Pb)  ≤10 μg/l
Cadmium (Cd)  ≤3 μg/l
Chromium (Cr)  ≤50 μg/l
Nickel (Ni)  ≤70 μg/l

Needless to add that these new requirements only apply to new water meter applications. However, the estimated to be 50,000 renovation projects per year, are not required to conduct any type of water quality test!


 

BEAM for Offices Training

BEAM for offices training

There is about 40 Million sqm of office space in Hong Kong, with renovation and fitting out projects representing the bulk of active projects each and every day. Because of their number and repetitive nature these projects have a significant impact on the environment and our quality of life. Responding to market demand and recognising those who choose to do this work in an environmentally friendly fashion and offer users a healthier workspace, a new green building rating tool was created locally by BEAM Society Limited: BEAM Plus BEAM for green officesInteriors. The new addition to the suite of BEAM green rating tools covers fitting out works for commercial premises, offices, hotels, and retail spaces. This two (2) hour training course is specially designed solely for BEAM Professionals. It will introduce the new framework, grading, credits and features of the new rating tool. Undertaking this training course is a prerequisite for all BEAM Professionals to submit Interiors projects for assessment and certification using the BEAM Plus Interiors rating tool.

Speaker: Mr John A. Herbert REA, FCIPHE, MASHARE, BEAM Pro
John has worked across Asia for 20 years, he is an authority on sustainable building development, GB rating tools, and energy efficiency. He is the Managing Director and Head of Sustainable Building at Kelcroft E&M Limited, and he was one of the first BEAM Professionals in Hong Kong. John led the team developing BEAM Plus Interiors in 2013, is chairman of the BEAM Technical Review Panel, and a member of the BEAM Technical Review Committee.

 

Hong Kong Office Rating Tool – BEAM Interiors

Hong Kong BEAM Interiors for Offices, retail and fitouts

Well here it is, after countless pro-bono hours, and a few sleepless nights, BEAM PLUS Interiors (BI) is published!  To the existing BEAM users, the new rating tool will be reassuringly familiar, yes its part of the BEAM suite, and yet its a little different.

Whilst still broadly on based on the existing tool, BEAM Interiors 2008 tool, BEAM NB and EB, this marks a renewed focus on science based sustainability, BEAM has introduced some updated concepts for it’s framework, extra categories  and new credit criteria format.

Ok, I admit it, I did chair the BI steering committee, so I am hoping you’ll find the the new manual exciting, the new credit criteria refreshingly clear, with fewer opportunities for confusion.  But if you find a glitch, do drop a line to BSL and let us know your thoughts, it designed for continuous development. I am sure critics will already be comparing it to LEED, but this tool is a local, Hong Kong rating tool, designed in Hong Kong, for Hong Kong projects, only time will tell if the other tools can catch up! The Official launch, and project registration will commence around September 2013, so that gives you time to familiarise yourself with the new tool and the latest credit requirements.

download the BEAM Interiors manual from the BEAM Society web site or click (PDF) here

update: Presentation about new BEAM interiors 2013 http://www.slideshare.net/johnherbert/beam-interiors-2013

Hong Kong Greener Pastures

Here is my interview regarding potential opportunities, and outlook for businesses in the sustainable/green building space, and here it is, published in the Hong Trader Magazine Oct 2010 (Click here or on the image to read it online).

Hong Kong Trader magazine featuring an interview with John Herbert, Kelcroft

~~~ John Herbert, Kelcroft, Consultant


UPDATE (4 Nov 2010):

Parlez-vous français? Also published in French, here is the link:
http://www.lepetitjournal.com/hongkong/a-la-une-hong-kong/88814-ecologie-hong-kong-affirme-son-expertise-environnementale.html



Hong Kong BEAM Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Hong Kong BEAM Frequently Asked Questions  - BEAM FAQ

If you dig deep enough, and long enough hidden within the Hong Kong BEAM website you might just stumble on the new BEAM FAQ page.  It was created by the BEAM Technical Review Committee (TRC) to answer many of the general questions by building owners and consultants about technical issues involved with obtaining BEAM certification – to save your time here is a shortcut:

Hong Kong BEAM Frequently Asked Questions  – BEAM FAQ

Students Demand Green Facilities

Hong Kong green building consultant

If pressure from government, NGO’s, and your competitors is not enough, you can add students to the list pushing for change…. here is the link to report [link] where the local students in USA are standing up to be counted, demanding that the local council change the city planning code to make their city greener.

The student group said  “a change in the city code would at the least put forward a public message of commitment to sustainability, which they called a step in the right direction.” Indeed it would.

— John Herbert, Kelcroft, Consultant

More More More Is Not Always Better

There seems to be a growing trend that needs to be corrected.  For sustainable building and rating systems advocates including Hong Kong BEAM and US LEED often encourage more, more, more.   It might be more site greenery, or in the case of LEED more ventilation.  However, I foresee a tragic mistake associating “more” with sustainable.

For site greenery, I am not saying we should ignore soft landscaping, greening the landscape is beneficial, aside from the physiological benefit,  greenery creates a micro-climate zone that can provide sun shading, and help lower the ambient temperature.  Hence, a well designed micro-climate zone will lower the environmental impact and reduce building operating costs.   Additionally replacing those endless lakes of concrete with soft landscaping mitigates the urban heat island effect.

Property designed soft landscaping, and I include green roofs in that sector, have a positive impact, particularly when outdoor air is drawn from these miniature micro-climatic zones.

Under LEED rating system extra credit can be achieved, encouraging designers to exceed ASHRAE’s (the ventilation experts) recommended ventilation rate by 30%.  The increased operating cost for moving, filtering, treating the additional air volume is an extravagance that has seemingly been overlooked.

Designers, including the creators of rating tools, should take a comprehensive holistic approach,  simply demanding more soft landscaping needlessly increases the demand for primary resources, like soil and water, and secondary resources including irrigation systems, piping to service the larger requirement.   All I am asking Think! before we demand more.

~~ John Herbert, Kelcroft, Consultant

Regulatory Support for BEAM Plus Green Building

wholesale conversion of industrial buildings going green, john herbert

As manufacturing moved North into China, Hong Kong has been left with a legacy of under utilized factory space and industrial buildings. There is only so much demand for low yield warehouse and storage space, so opportunities to move up the value chain, converting to higher yielding properties such as lofts, commercial, and hotel accommodation is an attractive proposition. Another important factor to remeber, is that the necessary public transportation infrastructure is already in place.

The market has already dictated the direction, re-populating industrial space into more lucrative higher yielding office accommodation, yet, approximately 1.1 million square metres or 6.5% remained vacant (2008 data).

Last year (2009) the Government acknowledged that sustainability outweighed demolition, and removed the first major obstacle for the wholesale renovation and revitalization of industrial building stock, namely the land premium (a charge levied by government to change the land use) could be waived [link].

And now that initiative has been extended, the next hurdle technical issues and this time the concession is tied with BEAM PLUS [www.beamsociety.org.hk] green building certification.

First some background, the regulations for buildings set out the minimum technical requirements including issues such as planning, fire safety, lighting, ventilation and other stipulations. However, the industrial building stock is constrained by decisions from the past .

Therefore the Government has eased certain technical requirements to encourage wholesale conversion of  industrial buildings, on the express condition that the building obtains BEAM Plus Green Building label. PNAP APP 150 Items (ii) and (iv) directly refer to compliance with BEAM Plus as the condition for obtaining the waiver. PNAP APP150 (published September 2010) states:

…. To encourage green building designs and practices, provision of green and/or energy efficient features to revitalised industrial buildings will be a relevant factor in support of the granting of modification of or exemption from certain specific regulations. Examples relating to applications for such modification / exemption are as follows:

(i) If a refuge floor is required to be provided in accordance with the Code of Practice for the Provision of Means of Escape in Case of Fire (MOE Code) for the proposed conversion but there is difficulty or site constraint to comply with the technical requirements of the MOE Code, proposal for the provision of a refuge floor with greenery design and enhanced fire service installations will be favourably considered subject to no adverse comments from the Director of Fire Services. PNAP APP-122 is relevant.

(ii) In the case of conversion to office use, if there are difficulties in providing the required natural lighting and ventilation due to constraints posed by the original design as industrial building, application for modification of Regulations 30 [link] and 31 [link] of the Building (Planning) Regulations will be favourably considered if adequate artificial lighting and mechanical ventilation and energy efficient design that could achieve 40% in the categories of Energy Use (EU) and Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) under the BEAM Plus certification with provisional assessment reports conferred by the Hong Kong Green Building Council are incorporated in the proposal. PNAP APP-130 is relevant.

(iii) For individual air-conditioning boxes/platforms attached to the external walls with projection larger than the usually accepted size and/or projection over street, application for modification / exemption will be favourably considered if the proposal is incorporated with the use of energy efficient/environmentally friendly air-conditioning units. PNAP APP-19 is relevant.

(iv) For the provision of curtain walls to existing building facades,exemption from section 31(1) of the Buildings Ordinance to allow the curtain walls to project over streets will be favourably considered if low-energy absorbent type glazing/energy efficient materials with energy efficient design of the curtain walls that could achieve 40% in the categories of EU and IEQ under the BEAM Plus certification with provisional assessment reports conferred by the Hong Kong Green Building Council are incorporated in the proposal. PNAP APP-2 is relevant.

Click here to download Wholesale Conversion of Industrial Buildings PNAP APP150 (PDF FORMAT ENGLISH)

or PNAP APP150 CHINESE

The environmental benefits cannot be under estimated, avoided building demolition, handling construction waste, and ultimately waste disposal are powerful arguments to support re-using the existing building stock if possible.

Will this new incentive help sway the market to encourage investment to upgrade the industrial building stock? I think it’s too earlier to judge, however it must be acknowledged that the Government’s Development Bureau has embraced sustainable building to encourage the reuse and redevelopment of existing buildings structures.

— John Herbert, Consultant, Kelcroft E&M Limited

Premature green building labelling

It’s been more than fifteen years since the concept of a green label for buildings was introduced to the world (BREEAM) so you might be surprised to learn that the definition of what makes a green building is still an issue. In most jurisdictions you can call just about any building a green building, there is no statutory requirement or definition, I argue that buildings must be independently assessed with a rating tool such as LEED or BEAM before the term green building can be permitted. I know from my own experience that experts find differentiating between certification of new, existing, renovated, and re-certificated a challenge.

BEAM (formerly HK-BEAM) consistently failed to market and communicate its key benefits both here and overseas, in the meantime USGBC created and heavily marketed LEED and gained an international renown. Later the HKSAR Government commissioned a new green building rating tool, it would have been a direct competitor to the long standing BEAM (http://www.hk-beam.org.hk) first created in 1996. Fortunately, wiser heads prevailed, no pilot study took place and the tool, including its many certification stages was abandoned.

It is worthwhile to note that Australia, the GBCA (http://www.gbca.org.au) operates a green building rating system “Green Stars” for building design, and a different tool known as NABERS is entirely focused on the actual performance of buildings based on occupation and metered data.

The key issue, over the years stakeholders surveyed have constantly expressed a preference for green building labels to be awarded after the building was complete and operating (more like NABERS than Green Star). This is a key difference from LEED, Green Star, and other schemes, which awarded certificates based on design, and strong relying on the promise of superior environmental performance.Often these predication’s were based on optimist computer modelling.

Over the years, LEED has finally realized that design intent does not always translate to high performance buildings, and in V3 2009 version has called on building owners to share the critical metering data as the first step. Here is the link to a story about a LEED rated Walter Hardwick building [link] it’s one case where the LEED design has not been translated into green living for tenants, and supports the argument for post occupation certification.

The challenge remains for all rating systems in my mind, when project proponents look for the green building label to help and assist the marketing and sale of the property before occupation, offering only the promise of greener living. In the case for a new building, building operators make choices which impact the environmental impact.

Don’t think for second that defunct systems is limited to green buildings, there are countless buildings with fitted with gadgets that offered owners the promise of better building operations, management or lower costs, many have failed and litter our building stock.  The birth of computer controlled buildings, including the now ubiquitous BMS (Building Management Systems) promised the earth with energy and manpower savings, etc. etc.  As I witnessed only last week, many facility managers have reverted to paper-based manual operation and measurement records.

Going back to the issue, if design certification (promised performance) is offered that will assist the project proponent during the pre-sale, sale, and marketing activities, but the fact remains it is not any guarantee that the intended green features will be eventually installed, or operate correctly as the case of Walter Hardwick building [link] proves. But we surely cannot abandon new construction in favour of just certifying building operations, they are inextricably linked, and the use of materials critical for the sustainability and future operating impacts.

Furthermore, once an operating building is certified, how long should that certificate be valid? one, five or ten years? Fr the re-certification under BEAM EB (Existing Buildings) is five years, however the re-certification process is not really defined.

We need to listen to the stakeholders demanding green buildings that actually deliver superior environmental performance, not those which merely make that promise (aka green washing). From the project proponent / building owners perspective, how should we design a rating tool that is able determine how the building the future.

— John Herbert, Consultant, Kelcroft E&M Limited

LEED is not a standard

In a piece posted by Reuters [link/GreenBiz.com] the author fails to understand that USGBC’s LEED is a NOT a standard. Item number 9 in the piece says, I quote:

9. Meet LEED standards. Build, renovate, and operate your facilities according to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards…..

LEED is one of many [1] available methodologies that can be used to assess the environmental performance of buildings, it is a rating tool, not a standard.

[1]. Other international green building rating tools include BEAM, BREEAM, Green Star, Green Mark, and Green Globes

— John Herbert, consultant, Kelcroft E&M Limited

ecobuildmagazine launched Hong Kong

In what can only be viewed as another boost for the sustainability sector, a new bi-lingual magazine has been launched titled ecobuild (see cover below). It published by the RFP group, and is accompanied by a website www.ecobuildmagazine.com

This inaugural issue covers several related topics and features a LEED certified restaurant in Hong Kong.

www.ecobuildmagazine.com

www.ecobuildmagazine.com

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

Water charge increase threatened – China

China is once again suffering with problems in the Water sector, although plentiful in some areas, other areas suffer drought conditions.  Here in Hong Kong it’s relativity cold now, barely 10 deg C outside, as our thoughts turn to hot humid summers, the cost of operating cooling towers and providing domestic water services could escalate if the threatened 24% increase becomes fact.

John Herbert leading green building consultant Hong Kong

John Herbert BEAM Faculty, a leading green building consultant Hong Kong

The above (extracts from the unlink-able South China Morning Post on 17-12-2009) gives an indication that the authorities will try to stave off water shortages, not by small changes, but dramatically increasing the cost of water.

Energy Efficiency
Energy Efficiency project managers will certainly need to be aware, and weigh the possible risk of increased water charges into the financial model and assessment for future projects.  Also operators of systems with Process or Comfort cooling Air conditioning systems that use cooling towers would be advised to look closely at the system design and operation for opportunities to reduce water, and energy consumption before the new charging regime is implemented.

Replacing blocked and damaged fill in cooling tower John Herbert BEAM Faculty, a leading green building consultant Hong Kong

Replacing blocked and damaged fill in cooling tower

In many jurisdictions a separate charge is levied for discharge of sewerage/waste, and it can be expense. Therefore while we are considering projects that provide water conservation benefits, let’s not forget to include the avoided sewerage charge in our financial model.

Hot Water Systems
It could be an appropriate time to review to the hot water system, to identify any existing energy losses or water wastage. How many tonnes of tepid water are discharge directly into to drain everyday while we wait for the hot water to actually reach the tap or process? too many I’d argue. Reducing the waiting time lowers bother energy and water consumption.

Industrial Process
Many industrial facilities often need to heat one product line, and at the same time cool another, this is particular common in the food and beverage industry. Many of these systems uses a different water system, often oversized for heating and one for cooling. However, if we consider the problem from a greening perspective, we could easily combine these systems, adding very little complexity, using heat transfer to drive all or part of the process, and replacing one thou water systems for cooling. Therefore, a smart green design would reduce water, sewerage and energy charges.

More than just energy saving
One key point that is often undersold in the rush for energy saving projects are those extra additional benefits, some might argue intangible benefit. But they are real and often overlooked. Many businesses are recovering from the financial crisis, with capital scarce for facilities upgrades. Energy efficiency projects not only save energy, minimising the use of a resource creates opportunities for generating spare capacity without upfront investment.

For example after an energy efficiency project, a switchboard that was fully loaded now has spare capacity. That newly created spare capacity could be used for any number of purposes, perhaps expansion, new machinery, etc. without investing in a new power supply.

Right-sized, and regularly maintained equipment that is not forced to strain unnecessarily all day long has extended operating life span, and avoids the inconvenience, and capital expense of early replacement.

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

Climate Change COP15 – ADB advocating Transport sector?

The ADB (Asian Development Bank) issued a dire warning about climate change and the transportation sector, citing 23% of carbon emissions [link]. Without doubt transportation is important, however putting focus on transport and fuels overlooks a simpler long term solutions for commuters namely design sustainable environments from day one.

A classic example of a bad idea, and poor design is found here in Hong Kong. A new development was constructed, comprising concrete tower blocks with accommodation for some 3000 residents, it was named Tin Shui Wai (TSW) , and it was very poorly conceived idea from the start.

TSW has more in common with the now defunct 1960’s era concrete jungles built in the United Kingdom than modern 21st century design. It is a standalone estate, with hardly any local employment opportunities to speak about. It’s remote, so the workforce needs to use the public transport network to commute, on average one hour or more to get work. And if that image of a 60’s housing tenement was not enough, there are very few local amenities, so recreation and entertainment also requires transportation.

Lost Opportunity
The opportunity was lost when this area was designed. Instead of building endless blight the HKSAR government (owner of all land in Hong Kong) could have planned and built a sustainable environment, a self-sustaining city within a city.

We are told we live in a high-tech society, yet the majority still need to commute to work, the paperless office, and virtual commuting is still nearer to science fiction, than science fact.

A sustainable plan should have been comprehensive from the start and included local commercial buildings, shops, amenities, recreation, government buildings, etc. all providing local employment and thus eliminating the need and carbon footprint for transport.

In 2008 with rising unemployment the government finally realised its mistake, and has started to encourage employment, but it was too little too late. It did strong arm the HK Jockey Club and others, to hold job fairs in the TSW district to try absorb the excess unemployment.  However, had the government employed smart thinking at the beginning the social and economic problems could have been easily avoided, and also the related carbon emissions.

Sustainable Development
This is not rocket science, a sustainable planned environment named Masdar City [link] is under development in the Middle East, it follows this very principle putting home and work within reach and averting transportation and carbon headaches.

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

Here is the full ADB article, I am sure they will change the hyperlink in the future so here is the text:

13 December 2009
Asia Pacific Must Act Now to Tackle the Scourge of Climate Change – ADB

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK – The countries of Asia and the Pacific have a strong stake in a successful outcome to the current climate change talks in Copenhagen, senior officials of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said Sunday.

Most have already prepared action plans to address both the causes and consequences of climate change.

The People’s Republic of China and India, for example, have announced comprehensive strategies, including renewable energy and energy efficiency ambitions, and have committed to improve land and forestry management, the officials said.

The Asia and Pacific region is expected to suffer significantly from the detrimental effects of climate change such as rising sea levels and extreme weather events. This could seriously undermine the economic potential of the region and damage livelihoods.

ADB’s role is to work with its developing member countries to address climate change through financing and technical support for both adaptation and mitigation, the officials said at ADB Day, a day-long series of discussions organized by ADB and held in the Danish Capital.

Within the climate change agenda, a redirection of the transport sector’s development was highlighted as crucial.

ADB President Haruhiko Kuroda pointed to the urgent need for establishing a low-carbon, climate-resilient transport sector.

Transport is one of the largest and fastest growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for 23% of global carbon dioxide emissions.

“No global solution can be found to the climate change challenge without real progress in the transport sector – especially in Asia,” said Mr. Kuroda. “Annual transport-related carbon dioxide emissions in Asia are estimated to double between 2006 and 2030, from 1 billion to 2.3 billion tons.”

Seminar speakers noted that many countries have begun to adopt clean fuel technologies, but the sheer increase in demand for private motor vehicles and other forms of fossil-fuel burning transport are outweighing the gains at this point. The transport sector faces a major challenge to find alternatives to fossil fuels that can both reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which would also help to ensure the energy security of developing Asian countries.

“There is therefore an urgent need for the countries of developing Asia to elevate this need within their national development agendas. This workshop is one in a series of events that are helping to raise awareness on these issues and to promote suitable mechanisms to support the development of a low-carbon, climate resilient transport sector,” said Mr. Kuroda.

High-ranking officials from government, development agencies, and academia took part in ADB Day, including Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Rae Kwon Chung, Ambassador for Climate Change from the Republic of Korea, and Tariq Banuri, director of the sustainable development division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

The workshop was held in conjunction with the UN-led negotiations on a new agreement to combat climate change, which have drawn more than 30,000 government leaders, policymakers, private sector and civil society experts and activists to Copenhagen.

HKGBC inauguration 20 November 2009

Here is the link to the speech by the Hong Kong Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam at the Hong Kong Green Building Council inauguration on 20 November 2009 http://www.devb-plb.gov.hk/eng/press/2009/200911200000.htm

Here is the text for your reference:

Following is the speech by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, at the inauguration of the Hong Kong Green Building Council on November 20:

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

It really gives me great pleasure to attend the inauguration of the Hong Kong Green Building Council. I want actually to thank, most sincerely the four founding members of the Hong Kong Green Building Council: the Construction Industry Council, chaired by Mr Keith Kerr; the Business Environment Council, chaired by Mr Stephen Fong; the Hong Kong BEAM Society, under Mr Michael Arnold’s leadership; and of course K S Wong, Chairman of the PGBC. I want especially to thank the inaugural chairman, Andrew.

I think we could not find a better chairman at this point in time to head the Hong Kong Green Building Council, partly because of Andrew’s extensive experience locally and worldwide on green building matters, but more importantly because as you will know at the same time, Dr Chan is the president of the Hong Kong Institute of Engineers and he has chosen the theme of sustainability to mark his presidency of the HKIE. So my deepest appreciation goes to Andrew.

To be positioned at this juncture to give a keynote address is very difficult because all the things that the government is doing on promoting green buildings have been said by the Financial Secretary, my boss. And all the things that you need to know as practitioners in promoting green buildings will be said by the professionals later on. So I have very little value to add to this discussion. But I’ve learnt this from my 30 years of public service that not being somebody who is professionally trained and as someone who has no expertise in anything, my greatest merit is I’m ready to learn. I learn from every job that I’ve taken in the government from public finance to social welfare, to housing and lands, arts and sports. So I would tell you that my education as the Secretary for Development, particularly in green buildings, started from a journey to Melbourne last September.

In around summer last year, I was asked to lead a delegation to take part in Sustainable Buildings 08 to be hosted in Melbourne. I think the Green Building Council Australia is here, Romilly is here, thank you very much. At first, I did have a little bit of hesitation. In this term of government, the subject of green buildings or environmental sustainability falls more on the Secretary for Environment, and not me, and somebody used to allege this government these days for trying to pass the buck around, to see where it sits better before taking on the assignment. But I have been educated in that process by a number of distinguished people who are so passionate about green buildings, and they are all here in this room. And I fortunately decided that I should take up this invitation to lead a delegation, also for a private reason because I have never been to Australia, so I thought it’s a good trip, especially when LegCo was in recess in around September.

And this trip turned out to be a very eyes-opening journey, not only in attending the SB08 and learning from the practitioners and leaders all around the world about what they are doing on promoting green buildings, but also through a lot of private luncheons and dinners where I had this privilege of sharing experience and learning from really very distinguished leaders who have driven this green building movement including Rick Fedrizzi, who was the founding chairman of the USGBC and of course Tony Arnel, who now heads the World Green Building Council, himself Victoria’s Building Commissioner. I told myself that we in Hong Kong need a bit of catching up to do, because despite the fact that I was leading a delegation, I was not representing or partnering with the Hong Kong Green Building Council to attend this very important event in Melbourne, whereas I have met counterparts from the India Green Building Council, from of course the Green Building Council Australia, the USGBC, the Singapore GBC and the China Green Building Council. So when we were there, we had some private discussions with friends and colleagues from Hong Kong. And we decided when we came back to Hong Kong, we should really give this subject a big push. And this has been very well received by the four founding members, particularly of course by Mr Keith Kerr from the Construction Industry Council. Without the Council’s support, I’m sure that this way of forming the Hong Kong GBC will be made even more difficult. So that’s the history to my involvement in the setting up of the HKGBC.

Now that it has been born, I feel a very strong sense of duty and I will make sure that it would succeed, not only in Hong Kong, not only in this region, but also in the world scene. So what I am going to say in the next five to ten minutes is a topic I just decided, these notes were jotted early this morning, is what the Hong Kong Green Building Council can do for Hong Kong, and in return what the HKSAR Government, particularly the Development Bureau that I lead, can do for the Hong Kong Green Building Council. And I have these few things to share with you.

There are four As that I expect the Hong Kong Green Building Council to do for Hong Kong, on green buildings of course. First is Advocacy. This is a subject that means a lot of public education, not only amongst the practitioners and the industry, but also amongst the building users, and also within the government. People tend to feel that since this government is executive-led, it doesn’t like to be told by other people. I can assure you that it’s not the case. That’s not the case with me particularly, as I have told you that my own strength is to learn from other people. So the Hong Kong Green Building Council needs to be a very strong advocate and champion for promoting green buildings in Hong Kong, for transforming market practices, as well as for suggesting or even pressurising us for policy changes, where justified. People may think that this will bring the Hong Kong Green Building Council into conflict or tension with government officials; that’s fine, we are quite used to this these days. And I certainly will embrace this sort of tensions because they are healthy, they will ensure that we could reach our common goal more effectively.

So right now we are actually in a very good timing for some very serious advocacy to be done by the Hong Kong Green Building Council. As FS has just announced, the Environment Bureau has rolled out a number of initiatives to promote green buildings in Hong Kong, including legislation, like mandating the compliance of energy efficiency code in buildings and also in incentives where they have set aside $450 million under the Environment and Conservation Fund to support carbon audits, as well as installation of energy efficiency measures in private buildings. But more importantly, Development Bureau is, with the support of the Council for Sustainable Development, undertaking a major review on quality building design, in order to foster a more sustainable building environment. This is a very long title, but in short, people called this inflated building (發水樓) consultation document.

The Council has completed its four-month public consultation, so the ball will be back to me pretty soon with a range of recommendations from the Council for Sustainable Development in the light of public views collected on what to do. I know that the Hong Kong Green Building Council, because of all the works involved in the setting up, might not have the time to focus on this subject yet. So I would expect you and invite you to focus on it in the next few months, so that the Council’s view will be taken fully into account in my final formulation of recommendations. And just to give you a tip, we would have a very good opportunity to make a push in things that the Hong Kong Green Building Council would like to see in Hong Kong. Somebody may not know this figure: of the 12 so-called green features that this government has promoted since 2001 through a joint practice note issued by the Director of Buildings, we estimate that they will need a total of 23% extra GFA to be granted on an exempted basis to buildings. So the GBC does have this leeway of 23% of GFA, if you want me to give it to other things, by all means, please tell me. I hope this will provide a good basis for any effective advocacy to be done.

The second A is of course a very practical one – Assessment. Green building is not a subjective matter. It needs to be assessed, appraised and rated, so that it is done in a very professional, very objective and fair manner for all to see. And it’s only when we have this sort of objective assessment and grading, that we could on that basis formulate whether it’s a policy, whether it’s a voluntary accreditation or it is financial incentive. I’m very pleased to hear Andrew in one of his interviews has already talked about this subject in terms of a BEAM Plus. I just realised that in fact the BEAM was the second to be created worldwide, but in terms of widespread application perhaps it has not been given the due credit that it should with this environment and policy and so on. So in time to come, I hope that the BEAM Plus will be not only on par with the US LEED or the Australian Green Star, but also excels. It will be applied not only in the local context, in the regional context, in Mainland and also hopefully worldwide.

Again, in assessment, we are also in a very timely environment, because some of you will know in this year’s Policy Address, the Chief Executive has mapped out a rather ambitious strategy to retrofit and revitalise over 1,000 existing old industrial buildings in Hong Kong. Age-wise they are not actually very old and they are very versatile for adaptation and reuse. But of course we would like to see enhanced value out of the reuse and conversion of industrial buildings. So if the HKGBC could in due course come up with a template or particular assessment for industrial buildings’ retrofitting, then I think that will do a lot of good to our exercise and to the Hong Kong community.

The third A is Accreditation. We need trainers, we need properly-accredited, qualified and trained professionals to do the rating to apply the tool. And I would much encourage my own professionals in my various departments to take part in any training and accreditation that the HKGBC is going to lay out for us.

Finally is Award. People need some recognition. I would put running an award scheme as one of the priorities of the Hong Kong Green Building Council. Maybe not on day one, but in time to come, we should have a landmark event on the HKGBC award presentation and assuming that I will still be the Secretary for Development, I will happily attend to preside over any award presentation scheme. I was at a MIPIM Asia Award Presentation 2009 a couple of days ago. Sitting there, I realised that among the 24 finalists — the buildings that have been chosen by the panel of jury of eight categories ranging from green buildings to business centres, shopping malls, hotel resorts and futura projects and things like that, Hong Kong has only one entry, and we did not win any award in this particular award presentation. I realised that in past award presentations for Asia regions, Hong Kong did excel in some of the winning awards. But I dare not ask why, because I was sitting in between Aedas and some of the architect firms in Hong Kong. If I tended to ask why, they would immediate say, “Oh, it’s all your fault.” It’s because of your building codes. It’s all because of the way you calculate GFA, you stifle our imagination. I would like to share this fault with developers in Hong Kong. It’s also the developers’ fault, who are so keen and anxious about every square metre in GFA that they need to build and then they sell. But never mind, I think the world is changing, Hong Kong is changing, people are now attaching a lot more importance to quality city environment, spacious living. And I’m sure that with the efforts of HKGBC, people will have a change in mindset. We will see more winning entries both in what schemes to be mounted by HKGBC in due course, and also in any Asia region and worldwide competitions.

Now the next thing for me to say is after all I have said so much about what I expect the HKGBC to do, so what Development Bureau or the HKSAR Government can do for the HKGBC? Not much, I am afraid. This is because I was told by the world leaders in Green Building Councils that any successful Green Building Council should have very little association with the government. They need to be very independent. They don’t want to operate under government’s interference. They don’t want to be just a professional group, as K S will know, the PGBC cannot become a HKGBC because it is just formed by professionals. GBC worldwide has to be industry-based, membership-based, open door policy. So having said that, I try to find something that we could do for HKGBC.

The first thing is we will listen. We will listen and we will champion on behalf of the HKGBC within the HKSAR administration. These days, it will be very naive for you to think that the whole government thinks and sings in one voice. No, we argue. We argue very fiercely within our administration in order to champion for something that we believe is right. Conserving Central will not be able to be announced if it hasn’t gone through that argument. So we will listen and we will champion within the administration, we will argue on behalf of green buildings in Hong Kong, and the Council’s initiatives and good work if we feel that it is justified. And it is in the best interest of Hong Kong.

Second thing that we could do is we will act by example. As FS has mentioned, we have already issued technical circulars requiring new government buildings as well as existing government buildings to be retrofitted to higher standards. So we will set examples once BEAM Plus is available. We will have no hesitation to request our departments to adopt BEAM Plus for the assessment of our government buildings. We will also be able to provide incentives where justified. And this is an area that we need to work hard in the next six months or so. We will not shy away from regulations for mandating certain practices, if we feel again that it is well justified, like the mandatory compliance with the energy efficiency code to be introduced by legislation, by the Secretary for Environment in due course.

The third thing that we could do is we will support and provide funding where necessary. And this funding, I must qualify. In order to have this firewall and this independence, we will not be able to provide any recurrent funding to HKGBC. But where there are good projects that the Council wants to do and you want to do it very independently, so you don’t want to go to the developers for sponsorship, then come to me, come to us, we will try to squeeze money out of very limited budget. That $450 million does not belong to me, it belongs to the Secretary for Environment, but I’m sure Edward Yau will be very sympathetic and I will still be able to find some money within my overall operating expenditure in order to fund good projects of the Hong Kong Green Building Council.

So comparatively speaking, what we can do for the HKGBC is no match of what HKGBC is going to do for Hong Kong. I look to the leaders of the HKGBC Board, and the founding members, and more new members to join this important goal. Like constitutional development, what we need now is to embrace a common goal and find common ground, and move ahead. The last thing Hong Kong wants to see is stand still, doing nothing, and then we will be caught up by cities around the world. Thank you very much.

End

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

BEAM Plus for green building

The Hong Kong Building Environmental Assessment Method or BEAM launched the 2009 BEAM Plus version for assessment and certification of green buildings last Friday (20 Nov 2009).  One version BEAM Plus EB covers existing buildings, and the other BEAM Plus NB covers new buildings.  These rating tools, are not standards, and are intended to cover an entire building.

The documents are available to download FREE from the www.HK-BEAM.org.hk website, here are the links:

BEAM Plus EB (PDF) or BEAM PLus NB (PDF)

Until 31 March 2010 practitioners have the choice, to have building assessed under the new or old tool, after 31 March, green buildings will be assessed under 2009 BEAM Plus.

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

Hong Kong Green Building Council (HKGBC) Launch

Hong Kong’s very own GBC (Green Building Council) will be launched this week on 20th Nov. 2009 at the Conrad hotel.   The one day event will feature some of the usual Hong Kong suspects and some international speakers from Australia, and Japan GBC’s.

HKGBC has four founding members, they are The BEAM society, Professional Green Building Council (PGBC), Business Environment Council (BEC) and Construction Industry Council (CIC), the latter a quasi-government body also taking the majority voting share, and chairmanship.

Although the HKGBC secretariat has been recently touting for event sponsorship, HKGBC has still not actually produced a web site, or documents of its doctrine, I guess we are expected to believe, blind faith you could call it.

As a member of BEAM executive committee, I can say that the sponsorship deal was issued late. It included free ticket or tickets to attend the event, and although no formal announcement has been made, within the sponsorship burb (provided by Ketchum) an annual HKGBC membership cost of HK$3,800 is revealed.

HKGBC’s role
So what will HKGBC do? what is its role in Hong Kong? Honestly, I think that at this stage nobody knows. I do know that GBC’s are not meant to be “commercial” and starting out with this type of mega-sponsorship deal is not a good start in my view.

Global Carbon
Interesting that this week, the worlds major GBC’s (including BRE-UK, Australia, and USGBC ) announced their call for a common carbon metric initiative [1] [2PDF] and yes details are as sketchy as HKGBC’s new mantra.

UPDATE (23 Nov 2009):

I stumbled upon the original USGBC document, USGBC Common Carbon language Press Release if that’s not available here is local PDF version

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

Green Building Labelling is flawed?

More trouble for green building? The NY Times article Some Buildings Not Living Up to Green Label [1] reports on the hot button issue of the moment in green building sector. Essentially, the issue is that not all green buildings {registered/certified under LEED} are energy efficient, with perhaps 25% of LEED certified green buildings burning more energy and not eligible for any EnergyStar certification.

However, here LEED is not alone, many of the building environmental performance rating tools are based on a similar structure, under assessment projects need to accumulate points or credits, and the higher score equates to more prestigious building rating.

In the absence of other metrics, often the design team is often tasked to deliver a target rating (for example refer to Hong Kong green building circular mentioned yesterday) and that is the driver, the pursuit of the necessary points/credits becomes the goal without considering other viable options that do not attract credits.

So the rating tools are flawed, but I am not advocating that we abandon the assessment models. The industry does need a common language for building assessment, to recognise, encourage, and reward superior environmental performance. However, we shouldn’t overlook the fact that LEED/BEAM/BREEAM is not the only route to provide superior environmental performance, and it can be achieved without fanfare and rigid assessment tools.

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/

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