Hong Kong Government adopts green building

Earlier this year  the Hong Kong Government finally discovered it needed to embrace Green Building, quietly in April 2009 word was issued for the adoption of green Government buildings. However, the joint circular was not widely advertised. Covert copies have changed hands under the table, as if it was some government secret.  So today, I decided to investigate further. Google didn’t give up its secrets lightly, anyway after an hour or so searching I finally stumbled on the prize a public document [1].

Framework
The Government has created a framework for Government Green buildings in Hong Kong. There are more than 180+ buildings have been registered and or certified under the BEAM building environmental assessment scheme, many of which are Government or quasi-government buildings, and now in 2009, the HKSAR Government wants to promote green building in Hong Kong.

New Construction
In brief, all government new build projects, with an area of more than 10,000 square metres will be green! The framework states that Government buildings shall assessed with a goal to achieve the second highest award under an internationally or locally recognised building environment assessment system.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is that the US LEED system is cited, and considered suitable for Hong Kong [2]. It also strongly advocates achieving the highest rating award with certain caveats, immediately reminding readers about additional costs that not exceed 2% of the budget.

This framework also sets out additional targets and requirements for building energy efficiency, greenhouse gas reduction, renewable energy, waste reduction and management , water management, indoor air quality, and carbon audit

Building Energy Efficiency
Lets take a brief look at the specific targets for building energy efficiency. The circular states that a new government building, with a construction area of more than 10,000 sqm. shall outperform the Hong Kong Building Energy Code by ten percent (10%) for offices, headquarters buildings, and recreational facilities. Other facilities such as hospitals, schools, and cultural facilities shall outperform the code by five percent (5%). A very reasonable in my view payback hurdle of nine (9) years has been set.

Has the Government shot itself in the foot? Remembering that BEAM, like other rating tools, compares assessed project against a basic, no frills, code compliant building. Now in this situation one could easily argue that the Environment Bureau Circular Memorandum No. 2/2009 is the base case for Government buildings, including the 10% energy efficiency improvement. Under BEAM 4/04 (page 4-6) that 10% improvement could have earned one credit. In my view, as it stands today, Government buildings would have to offer greater improvements to gain that credit – In due course another issue for the TRP (BEAM Technical Review panel) to wrangle over.

Existing Government Buildings
Based on the numbers alone, the existing building stock provides the largest potential for improvement. How many 10,000 sqm Government buildings are constructed every year? very few. However, green building certification is NOT required for existing Government buildings. Instead the government had opted to once again to set specific targets for energy efficiency, water conservation, greenhouse gas reduction, waste reduction and indoor air quality objectives.

Other Government Buildings
Here in Hong Kong we have the “Government” and several other government funded organisations, known as subvented, and quasi-government bodies. It strongly recommends that this green building strategy framework is vigorously applied.

[1] Environment Bureau Circular Memorandum No. 2/2009 & Development Bureau Technical Circular No. 05/2009

[2] USGBC LEED was designed specifically tailored for the US market. Certainly, the latest version, LEED 2009, included regional credits to account for the relative importance of the different aspects of LEED system within the the US, but USGBC still does not officially sanction overseas projects.

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

greener data centres vs buildings

I can’t be the only person that has noticed, we have tools such as LEED (http://www.USGBC.org) and BEAM (http://www.HK-BEAM.org.hk) which treat new build (LEED NB, CS) projects and existing buildings (LEED O&M) differently. You might argue, without doubt, that new building is resource intensive, and sustainable construction activities should be supported. However, the operating cost of these green buildings was not considered a problem that needed solving! So the TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) which considers the total operating cost, and air conditioned buildings the majority of which tends to be energy cost, little focus was put towards increasing efficiency. In the US pictures of LEED certified buildings with lights burning bright all night long have raised the issue of green building operating energy consumption.

Indoor Quality
One of the many green building challenges is IEQ (Indoor Environmental Quality) expanded from the former and tighter IAQ (Indoor air Quality) goal. You might wonder is there any real difference between IEQ and IAQ, and does it make a difference? IAQ is the environmental air quality, it is measurable, whereas as IEQ covers a wider range of factors such as air quality, lighting, noise, etc. These factors that impact the quality of your working environment, it is frankly a very difficult metric measure.

IEQ is very subjective measure, the benefits of natural daylighting, and access to vistas (windows) have been documented to improve productivity. However, for the night shift for example FX traders does sight of a dark window improve your productivity? doubtful in my view.

Studies prove that under a given set of indoor conditions, varied by temperature, humidity and clothing, the best one can achieve is 80% occupancy satisfaction, so given a set of optimum environmental conditions that leaves 20% out in the cold.

Greener Data Centres
For greener data centres its a different story, immediately the focus is the TCO of the facility. Its difficult to pick a single reason for this anomaly. Maybe it is the lack of occupants, machines don’t complain loudly if there is no view. Perhaps a more rational explanation is that most data centres are owner operated, and therefore energy awareness is at the forefront. Google Inc. states that its energy cost are second only to its payroll, a mighty incentive for improved energy efficiency of its hardware and facilities.

THE US EPA report (PDF format) [1] in 2007 certainly brought the issue into the public domain. The summary says:

The energy used by the nation’s servers and data centers is significant. It is estimated that this sector consumed about 61 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) in 2006 (1.5 percent of total U.S. electricity consumption) for a total electricity cost of about $4.5 billion. This estimated level of electricity consumption is more than the electricity consumed by the nation’s color televisions and similar to the amount of electricity consumed by approximately 5.8 million average U.S. households (or about five percent of the total U.S. housing stock). Federal servers and data centers alone account for approximately 6 billion kWh (10 percent) of this electricity use, for a total electricity cost of about $450 million annually.

Perhaps it was fear of a backlash, or just the obvious opportunities to stop wasting energy, whatever the driver, facility operators started a drive towards greater energy efficiency.

Data Centre Operations
Another important issue for data centres has been operational change control. With separate IT and facilities operations departments.

As the world becomes digitized demand for data centre facilities increases, creating additional space is a time consuming and costly option, therefore rapidly increasing density followed, cramming more computing capacity into existing facilities. IT depts often installing additional equipment first, leaving struggling facilities manager to provide the necessary Power and Cooling. Whether through budgeting or structure IT and FM departments need to closely co-ordinate their activities if hot spots and power outages are to be avoided and improved energy efficiency achieved.

Building Energy Costs
With developers, and end users are becoming increasingly carbon aware the media grabbing projects have gone green, the challenge will be for every development to be green or at least greener. Over time, as green construction square footage increases, and acceptance widens, it will become the norm not the exception, and hopefully commercial buildings will be treated more like data centres where the TCO is considered at the conceptual design stage.

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

International Green Code is a misnomer

I read with interest from GreenBuildingAdviser a report that the ICC (International Code Council) is also playing catch-up and going green! ICC intends to create the definitive International Green Building code, read more on their website. Of course, ICC is not alone, it has partnered with august organisations such as AIA (American Institute of Architects) and ASTM (American Standards) so it will be anything but international.

Personally, I have more faith in the promised co-operation between USGBC, BREEAM, and UKGBC to tackle common global carbon emissions than ICC setting a global green construction code, which like LEED will be difficult for countries outside north America to incorporate. It is heartening and reassuring that sustainable building is finally escaping from the dark back alley, becoming a main street activity.

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

Green LEED Decertification

LEED (USGBC) is a US tool for rating sustainable building, the latest version LEED 2009 introduces a new concept MPR (Minimum Program Requirement) (and also from GBCI website). It covers New Construction, Core & Shell, Schools, Commercial Interiors, and Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance, but excludes Homes & Neighborhood Development projects.  USGBC/GCBI websites also indicate further guidance will be provided in Summer 2009.

Essentially the seven MPR’s are:

1. MUST COMPLY WITH ENVIRONMENTAL LAWS
2. MUST BE A COMPLETE, PERMANENT BUILDING OR SPACE
3. MUST USE A REASONABLE SITE BOUNDARY
4. MUST COMPLY WITH MINIMUM FLOOR AREA REQUIREMENTS
5. MUST COMPLY WITH MINIMUM OCCUPANCY RATES
6. MUST COMMIT TO SHARING WHOLE-BUILDING ENERGY AND WATER USAGE DATA
7. MUST COMPLY WITH A MINIMUM BUILDING AREA TO SITE AREA RATIO

Clearly these are aimed to precluding toilets, bus shelters, trailers, tents, toll booths, ships, and the like. from claim LEED building certification. And to provide the teeth USGBC/GBCI also included a “revocation” clause, I quote:

“NOTE: CERTIFICATION MAY BE REVOKED FROM ANY LEED PROJECT UPON GAINING KNOWLEDGE OF NON-COMPLIANCE WITH ANY APPLICABLE MPR.  IF SUCH A CIRCUMSTANCE OCCURS, REGISTRATION AND/OR CERTIFICATION FEES WILL NOT BE REFUNDED.”

Sparse details indeed, but in my view these MRP’s are essentially common-sense requirements, clearly designed to prevent tents, boats, and other structures from gaining LEED certification.

The interesting exception perhaps is Item 6 – sharing energy and water consumption data which is obviously a post occupancy activity, and in a sector where building construction and operations are separate a thorny subject.  As one might expect the construction lawyers in USA have started a debate on the issue. However, from an international perspective what will USGBC/LEED do with projects in China, Hong Kong or UAE will these overseas entities also still need to share energy data?  and who has access the shared data? and in the case of speculative developments the future owner is committed to providing data to retain the certificate provide by the developer.

Transparency
As a panellist at the recent 2009 Greenbuild Asia conference, if I could distil one common theme it was a clear demand for increased transparency, and frankly the lack of transparency is criticism levelled at BEAM (HK-BEAM).

Green Building as the name implies was aimed clearly at new construction, to help encourage, rate and compare new sustainable construction activity. If a building that meets all the LEED MPR’s, was constructed sustainability, but then fails to share energy data does it then enter the twilight zone of formerly green.

The next few months should be interesting, will these MPR impact uptake of LEED? or has it already reached a critical mass such that developments will opt to bite the bullet and share the data?  Providing or not providing the energy data is not a LEED green building issue is it? USGBC want the data for self marketing purposes period.

Locally the HKSAR government is finally starting the embrace green building, BEAM or LEED being accepted as the prefered tool for large developments, but will the HKSAR government or for that matter any government be willing share energy and water data with USGBC.

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

Energy Efficiency is Not Rocket Science

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

Its dark down here

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

A Big Ask

John Herbert Keynote speech at Energy Business forum June 2009

I know many have high hopes for the forthcoming treaty negotiations in Copenhagen, I don’t. In my view only an overwhelming ground swell of public opinion today has a chance to sway our local officials from the typical do nothing course.

Need evidence? Let’s review the Hong Kong Council for Sustainable Development media output over the last two weeks. The Chairman, Mr Bernard Chan, recently commented upon the soon to be released green building consultation. Being the Government de facto sustainable development proponent one should expect a little waffle.  But No, it was an avalanche of warnings.  The chairman spent his air-time warning the general public about the dire consequences of asking for green buildings, including a thoughtful statement about “extra cost” of energy efficiency, without reference to the missing part of the puzzle – externalities (social cost).

To add insult to injury, the general public will not get sight of the consultation, until those renowned building energy efficiency experts Hong Kong’s “architects” and “developers” have given there views first no doubt to shape what will be finally issued to the public.  Yes, your read it correctly, we can’t have a consultation with prior approval.

It seems Europe is suffering too, here is a great little video to encourage action. enjoy.

~~

John Herbert
Consultant
Kelcroft E&M Limited

Mandatory green roof

green roof John Herbert Hong Kong Kelcroft

Mandatory green roof?

Alas not in Asia. The green building is still driving built environment innovation, and whilst politicians ponder carbon limits, and building owners ignore operating costs then obviously the next step is regulation. In Canada, the Mayor of the Toronto is poised to implement legislation becoming the first city in North America to impose mandatory green roofing for an area of 5000 square metre and up. In my view It is yet another step in the right direction. JRLIR | J&R Long Island Roofing will offer you best options.

Its not Morse code
Essentially it all boils down to one issue, communication. From within the industry it is clear to see, look at any project brief, it includes those immortal words familiar to every developer, architect, and engineer on the planet “comply with code” or some equally ignominious phrase. This mini brief communicates to all parties the expected standard, covering all aspects of the building including occupancy, building safety, means of escape, fire prevention and protection, mechanical ventilation, etc. Its often used by those who don’t understand the individual legislative requirements, but know a building must comply with the local code to earn the necessary occupancy certificate.

Regulation
The implications are clear, green building is becoming main stream period. Once considered a fringe activity, at the edge of society, the development of green building has slowly entered the lexicon of typical both builders, developers, and regulators.

I don’t see this as a trend as many claim, flares were a trend, green building is not. However, just like consumers goods, some people will want to buy the latest camera/TV/computer/etc. and these early adopters are the real beneficiaries, because over time achieving a new green standard will only become increasingly difficult as the entry level bar is continuously raised.

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

Green Building Innovation

John Herbert, green consultant, waste heat rejection

waste heat rejected challenges

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sustainability more than just talk?

As HAESCO (http://www.haesco.org) was a supporting organisation for the SustainaBuild conference in Hong Kong last Wednesday, I decided to attend, a decision I would regret later. The pitch for the event was sustainable design of buildings, but shouldn’t such events that tout sustainability do more than just talk?

There were some great speakers, and bad powerpoints – it was bullet point city (they should have read Garr Reynolds book Presentation Zen).

Most of the speakers started laying out the current dire situation, some even used stats from USA. Yet as the day dragged on,  nobody had mentioned the elephant in the room, she had been strangely silent.  So in the final open forum, I had to ask the obvious question:

Considering all the disastrous predictions that we had heard during the day,  shouldn’t green building assessments, whether using Hong Kong BEAM, or another system be compulsory?

Honestly, I was expecting the long winded non-committal answers comprised of the usual arguments for delaying regulation, I am sure you have heard them before, you know the ones, they extol additional stakeholder engagement while engaging possible future policy initiatives etc and so forth.  It was a great surprise, one speaker after another respond with an fairly unequivocal affirmative answer.

It was an interesting event, in my view marred by refreshments provided with disposal paper cups, paper plates littering the breakout area.  You would think that the organisers The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) to do better, wouldn’t you?

Time is running out, we all agree, yet sustainability proponents and organisers of these events are not leading by example, and should not be serving up even more material for our the overburdened landfill sites.

John Herbert
Consultant
Kelcroft E&M Limited

Green Building in Asia: It’s more advanced than you think

I feel the author of this blog article should have conducted a little more research before gushing over yet another green building conference in Asia, that event is certainly not the first green building event in Asia, and I am sure it will not be the last.  In fact that reminds me, yet another green building conference will be held in here in Hong Kong on 25th March 2009.

In terms of green building standards Asia is ahead of the game too, BEAM (Hong Kong’s Building Environmental Assessment Method) http://www.hk-beam.org.hk is the defacto green building rating standard in Hong Kong, with more than 100 buildings already registered covering millions of square feet.

Here I must confess that I am member of the BEAM executive committee, so have some insight in this area. To date, BEAM is the most successful in Asia, on per capita basis, well ahead of USGBC’s LEED, and is making headway in China.

If you are interested BEAM has already developed three versions, New Build, Existing Buildings, and Interiors. BEAM New build and Existing Building standards are published, and can be download free of charge from the BEAM website.  The third in the series BEAM Interiors is complete, and the pilot study is underway. Hopefully it will be launched 2009.


Looking forward, certainly the outlook and opportunities for green building in Asia will continue to grow steadily. I constantly advocate for better buildings, to avoid repeating the past mistakes.  Officials are only now just begininng to realise what engineers have known for many years, buildings consume the lion share of our energy budget. We can’t continue to create inefficent homes, offices, hotels, and other buildings, it is not sustainable.

The recent uproar in USA regaridng LEED (Henry Gifford’s video) is only part of the whole, future buildings must be sustainable, and that includes energy efficient irrespective of the brand.

I attended a Sino-German green building conference last year, one presentation noted that two office buildings, one designed by Sir Norman Foster was a “Green Building” it consumed more than 400w/sqm/year, yet a local design, not branded green, consumed 123w/sqm/year. Now, if you pay the energy bill which one do you want to own?

However, we can’t just create energy efficient buildings, and ignore sustainble building methods and materials,  we need both and we need them now.

John Herbert
Consultant
Kelcroft E&M Limited

LEED Green Building is not leading

This great presentation, worth the nine minutes, it raises the discussion about LEED, and green building rating systems by Mr Henry Gifford. It reminds us that LEED is a great marketing system, yet the study shows that LEED rated buildings actually use more energy than non-rated buildings.

So where do we go from here? Could LEED, or for that matter any green rating system, be the driving force for more energy efficient buildings, perhaps that is the future intention? LEED O&M is the building operating rating system, however if your building is already certified as a LEED Gold building, why would you consider another certification process?

What is needed measurement, and publication of the annual resource consumption (not only electricity and fuel, but water consumption too because cooling towers are widely used).  Once the information is in the public domain the market has the opportunity to choose the lower cost, and reduced environment impact buildings. Building responsibly choosing recycled materials, and those from sustainable resources is a key part of green building, but it is not the only metric.

John Herbert
Consultant
Kelcroft E&M Limited

a global green building standard?

Well not quite. Green Building Councils from the UK, USA, Australia, and the BRE in the United Kingdom (BRE is the owner of BREEAM) have signed an agreement to prepare a common methodology for calculating carbon emissions from buildings (here is the report from Building Magazine).

I would have thought that perhaps the World Green Building Council would be a certain driver for global standardisation, but did they not receive a mention? I feel the idea stemming from the increasing internationalisation of the LEED system.  The USGBC, operates the LEED system and they have more than 18,000 members organisations worldwide, and whilst the US leads the planet in terms of carbon emissions, the marketing of the LEED has been masterful, Seth Godin would be proud.

They built a system, a system where every member markets LEED spreading the green word, whilst simultaneously marketing themselves as a green professional. LEED has now spread across the globe, with many projects outside the US, including the Middle East, Europe, and here in Asia. Indeed the local AIA chapter will host LEED training courses here in Hong Kong and Shanghai, China. Also as LEED is being widely adopted, many professional firms now demand LEED AP as a minimum qualification adding to the marketing effort.

BEAM which is Hong Kong’s defacto sustainable rating and assessment tool is currently owned by the BEAM Society, and is still struggling to keep up with times, the long awaited BEAM Interiors (LEED CI equivalent ) is under development with no launch date set. When this this global building emssion protocol is developed, to remain credible BEAM will need to change to incorporate this protocol within its system.

John Herbert
Kelcroft E&M Limited

helping lower the cost and impact of doing business in Asia

Green Building – new insurance revenue

For the insurance business most of the media reports and predictions are dire, focused on the increasing losses, particularly the financial crisis and increasing claims many resulting from increasing number of natural disasters it said.

Finally big business has seen the light, and the new opportunities from the green, low carbon economy. The Lawyers Weekly (Canada) newsletter reports that insurers will introduce new Green insurance products, designed to help building owners manage risk.

Particularly interesting, some insurers will offer 10% saving on the cost of pollution legal liability insurance for LEED certified buildings.

Energy Performance Contracts
Also a long awaited insurance product suitable for EPC (Energy Performance Contract). The insurance is specifically designed to help building owners mitigate the risk in the event that a capital improvement project does not produce the anticipated energy savings. Here in Asia EPC’s are still in their infancy, and a product designed to help encourage building owners feel secure by lowering their downside exposure is welcomed.