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

Commonsense really…..

reflectA reflective white roof is more effective than lawn for greening existing buildings, here is a link to my article published on LinkedIn

Continue reading

Hong Kong Green Building Outlook 2014

The end of another year is rapidly approaching, so it time to look forward, for me the absolute minimum requirement to obtain a green building certification is a growing concern.

In 2014, what features will a Green Building have? The same as 2013? Should every building labelled ‘green’ have one or more “green” features?  Shouldn’t certain requirements be mandatory for certification? Perhaps labelled buildings should use rainwater harvesting or greywater? Maybe it should have water cooled type chillers instead of energy hungry air cooled type chillers.



Or is it sufficient to merely illustrate that the certified building is so how better (however you wish to define better) than its minimum code peers?

Energy and Water conservation provide savings that are transparent, quantifiable, and we could, using published emission factors, assign a Carbon value, but other Environmental Impact criterion remain subjective and dimensionless.

Green building labelling and certification will certainly continue to gain prominence in 2014, Hong Kong has growing body of  2,000 BEAM Professionals and that’s a positive sign. Yet one benchmark that creates a nagging doubt for me is that Hong Kong’s total energy consumption continues to rise, that disparity provides fuel for Green Building critics.

It was thought by some commentators to be a passing fad, but the Green Building movement has past the grass-roots stage, overall it has shown stronger growth here in Hong Kong over the last year than previous years, and is set for positive double digit growth for next decade or so.


Here is clip from BEAM PLUS Interiors launch ceremony in 2013, with John A. Herbert.

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.


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

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

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.


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 website, here are the links:


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.


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

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].

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 ( and BEAM ( 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

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:


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:


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.

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

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.

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.

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

Sustainability more than just talk?

As HAESCO ( 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
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) 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
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