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

Commonsense really…..

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

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Energy Efficiency is easy?

Three sensors neatly located directly above heater (lighting fitting)

Energy efficiency is easy right?  In a seminar about carbon and energy efficiency I noticed the neat location of three air conditioning return air temperature sensors – direct over a heater (aka lighting fitting) .  The truth is, energy efficiency is hard.

~~~ John Herbert, Kelcroft, Consultant.

Don’t do stupid things

It’s hard to believe another year is coming to a close, and so much work remains undone…. I stumbled upon a lecture titled “Don’t Do Stupid Things” by Dr Joseph Lstiburek on youtube it is worth the time to listen.

He makes Building Science more interesting, and honestly more interesting than my pitch. I can’t agree with him on every point,  although he is primarily focused on the US/Canada region,  I have witness the same type of mentality every day in Asia.  Finally, I would like to wish a Merry Christmas and a prosperous new year to you.

Enjoy!!

Mandatory Disclosure Australia

Later this year (2010) we will see the introduction of the energy efficiency regulations for commercial buildings downunder.  So if you are selling or leasing commercial office space over 2,000 sqm, the building owner(s) are required to disclose it’s energy performance and efficiency. [Source SBE] This mandatory disclosure will require owners to obtain a NABERS (National Australian Built Environment Rating System) Energy base building star rating.

As I understand it, there will be no grace period following the passage of legislation, therefore building owners need to start considering these requirement before leasing or sale. The Australian NABERS system has accredited NABERS assessors that provide guidance through the NABERS process, to assess current energy performance and explore opportunities for improving energy efficiency.

Compared the BEAM Plus EB (existing buildings) methodology, NABERS it is a concise and focused scheme and was helped by support from the Australian government. Discussions have been on-going for some time here in Hong Kong to launch a similar scheme in Hong Kong, a founding committee was setup however funding was not secured.

– John Herbert, Consultant, Kelcroft E&M Limited

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

data centre energy efficiency more important than Uptime

Emerson’s survey reveals an interesting fact, their survey of data centre professionals and managers indicates that data centre energy efficiency is now higher priority than Uptime! Whilst it’s only one survey, it is interesting because adds to the mounting evidence indicating the sudden realisation that energy consumption in the data centre sector is a critical issue for the industry.

by John A. 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

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

data centre energy efficiency

It’s not a secret, my most frequent comment in energy audit work is that a director/senior director takes responsibility for “energy”.  It is clear if you review the processes, energy costs are overlooked, and considered as a fixed expense. When the electricity, oil or town gas demand hits the mat, it is paid with little or no scrutiny.

With the recent introduction of carbon footprint into management vernacular perhaps now energy will finally have a seat in board room. If not through carbon foot-printing then pressure for CSR reporting, and sustainable business practices will provide the needed energy oversight at board room level.

If proof is need, I read that the Uptime Institute (USA) has caught up. They recommend, in a typically flamboyant style it must said, that in the data centre space organisations assign an “Energy Czar” and that’s great news. However, a recent Uptime Institute survey of the executives and IT managers found that although 41% were aware of the recommendation to create an energy Czar position, only 13% had assigned a personnel.

So for the time being I’ll have to keep fighting for an energy Czar’s in the firms here in Asia.

energy efficiency of data
Across the planet bits and bytes sit on hard drives and virtual servers, helping business, why the sudden interest in data centre energy efficiency? It energy consumption became a key issue in initially in USA, when the US EPA issued a report with some startling figures, it focused attention on the infrastructure cost to provide IT services we have all grown to reply upon, including every blog note ever written. It also highlighted the existing inefficiencies found in the data center environment. It sparked new debates if servers should be powered by DC or AC, power supply manufacturers where reminded of the poor conversation efficiencies.

New metrics, include PUE were created by IT consortium with little thought about the real meaning of efficiency or efficacy.

John Herbert
Consultant
Kelcroft E&M Limited

Suffering Contention?

If the number of conference and seminar invitations is any gauge of activity, there is an obvious, and intentional increasing interest in green building and energy efficiency sectors so what is the connection with contention?

Let’s be honest for a moment, if there is one area where the E&M or MEP engineers lack creativity it is engineering definitions. To the outside world engineers are often accused of speaking Klingon dialects, but between ourselves in many cases we still don’t have a simple word or phrase to convey complex engineering phenomena. Unlike the medical profession where they created an entire dictionary of new terms, engineers didn’t try very hard.

I coined the use of the word contention and pressed it into action for E&M engineering services to describe a very common engineering phenomena that is found in many facilities. And it is a lot easier to use than provide the entire word heavy description every time we need to explain it.

Here is a typical situation, imagine a large room with two (or more) air conditioning/heating/humidification devices installed, each fitted with its own automatic control system.  Now, imagine we operate the equipment, it is operated simultaneously and because each has an independently controlled, over time each starts to operate in a different control mode.

For example if one system senses rising room temperature it delivers more cooling, whilst another system senses dropping temperature and delivers more heating.  This double act wastes an enormous amount of energy as the systems figuratively “fight each other” simultaneously delivering either more heating or more cooling to the same space.  This also occurs when individually controlled humidifiers operating in the same space. one system senses dropping relative humidity and starts its humidification operation, whilst another unit sensing increasing humidity and its starts de-humidification cycle, both operating to cancel each other.

For the lack of a better phrase, engineers will often use a phrase like “the controls are fighting each other” hardly an elegant description I think you will agree.

This energy efficiency nightmare often occurs in datacenters, and other large areas such as hospitals and production areas with multiple systems in the same space.  It is common in datacenters and mission critical facilities that use packaged CRAC (Computer Room Air-Conditioning ) units since each has a complete inbuilt automatic control system, and during normal operations each attempts to “control” the space condition – that is contention, use it you might like it.

There are plenty of complex engineering situations that occur in the built environment arena that would benefit from improved terminology that would aid communications and replace a those drearly, wordy descriptions, perhaps we’ll leave those for another day.

John Herbert
Consultant
Kelcroft E&M Limited

Carbon Reporting with only one catch.

Really the Hong Kong the government is so far behind the curve in environmental matters I am surprised that it is not a serious concern for business, or are they blind to the risk? Instead of leading Asia, we lag behind the so called developing countries, and it is our economy that will suffer. I think nobody would want to try and predict the outcome from the Copenhagen summit but as a Chinese city we can expect some impact.

I have previously reported that the writing is on the wall for voluntarily carbon reporting.  And that prediction is one step closer to reality since the EPA (USA) has grasped the opportunity of the new 2009 presidency and signalling intentions for compulsory carbon reporting for US factories.

Global Carbon
Since Carbon is a global phenomena it does not require a vivid imagine to see where all this could lead.  Let’s assume for a moment that China continues to claim “developing country” status and does not require compulsory carbon reporting for manufacturing facilities. Importing countries, like the USA could demand it. You might think I am stretching the US EPA’s jurisdiction, perhaps, perhaps not. Consider the considerable power wielded by US trade negotiators, and the political pressures recently demonstrated by the “Buy American Only” stimulus package! It seems clear to me that any factories or business exporting to foreign markets will need to report their local carbon emissions.

Indeed it could be argued that the China is already heading in this direction (China wants importers to cover some emission costs) has already laid the groundwork, with Chinese official’s arguing that the cost of Chinese emissions for products exported to US markets are the responsibility of US market. In the future US importers may be required to bare an extra cost, the carbon cost, for emissions within China, but wait China is not the only exporter to the US.  Surely India, Thailand, Vietnam, etc. will have equally valid reasons to claim equal rights?

While US business might be quietly smarting over the idea, extra costs that are never welcomed, another surprise could be around the corner because the distant carbon emitted, and hence its cost, will surely give them further reason for pause.

China Energy Efficiency
If your report card was based on China’s energy efficiency, its one that you’d probably like to hide. The power generation sector is predominately coal based that is well known, lacks modern boilers and the latest controls technology. The risk from the resultant emissions could cause a nasty surprise. How this will play out is unclear, it is really a political trade issue more than a technical Carbon issue, undoubtedly there is an unseen business risk.

John Herbert
Consultant
Kelcroft E&M Limited

Cleaner Factory Production in China

Kelcroft, cleaner production consultant china, factory, cp3What does Cleaner Production mean? All manufacturing operations require energy for operations and or create air pollution.  An independent audit of the energy consumption and processes in a production facility will identify areas for improvement of the energy efficiency.

If the facility owner implements the corrective measures the operating cost will be lower, and environmental impact of the facility will be reduced, so we have cleaner production.  Shameless plug for my firm Kelcroft is a registered consultant for the Hong Kong Cleaner Production Programme called CP3 (refer image).

Need an example to clarify? Right let’s take a look at the injection moulding process. Like many processes the press creates heat energy therefore to cool the machine moulds cooling water is needed. It circulated through the injection moulding machine, and the heat rejected outside the building typically using a cooling tower.  However, often the cooling towers are out of sight (and out of mind) they are not properly designed and not regularly maintained. Therefore the effectiveness of the whole process deteriorates causing excessive energy consumption.

This deterioration process does not occur overnight!  No, it is a slow steady process.  These apparently insignificant efficiency losses combine lowering the cooling capacity of the cooling tower installation until one day the injection moulding machine malfunctions, and the facility manager then replaces the whole cooling tower. An energy auditor familiar with cooling tower operation could identify the fix before a minor problem becomes a catastrophe.

John Herbert
Consultant
Kelcroft E&M Limited

Financing Energy Efficiency is EPC the answer?

While everyone seems to be pointing to the financial crisis I can see more opportunities to use creative financing techniques, like the Energy Performance Contract model to finance energy efficiency improvement projects.

An Energy Performance Contract (EPC) is a tried and tested method to fund capital expenditure for an energy efficiency improvement project from the future cost savings. First, let me say this is not a new idea, energy performance contracting has been around for decades, and today is probably the best option around where budgets are tight. Typically an EPC covers the entire project cost, including all the new equipment, cost of finance, measurement and verification, and maintenance all funded from the energy savings.

I was asked today is an EPC only suitable for replacing old and ageing equipment? Typically my answer would be yes, that is a good application because large energy efficiency improvements equate to significantly lower operating expenses.  However, here in Hong Kong, there is also the option for healthy air cooled chillers can be replaced today with water-cooled chillers under an EPC so facility owners can immediately enjoy the benefit of lower operating costs.

Energy efficiency improvements achieve cost reductions by improving facilities, for example a more efficient air conditioning system, but also create soft benefits too including lower maintenance costs and improved comfort for the building occupants. Facility owners have the new equipment installed so the risk to the owner is minimal, yet there is an overwhelming inertia for EPC’s to traction in this part of the world. The objections to be honest are not clearly defined.

Also an often overlooked benefit is the value gained by combining multiple technologies and payback periods, to achieve an overall package which will meet the project cash flow projections. EPC Projects are typically 3-5 years in length, although government bodies have been known to enter into lengthy contracts.

Nowadays, with the software and analysis tools available, EPC’s often include more complex systems such as central plant distribution loop modifications. These more complex upgrades could include plate and frame heat exchangers, variable frequency pumping, and controls.  Some contracts even include other sectors, such as water, grey water, and waste treatment.

There are seven model Energy Performance Contracts types, and clearly these will continue to evolve. In the current economic climate they might even reach critical mass.

John Herbert
Kelcroft E&M Limited

helping lower the cost and impact of doing business in Asia

Current CO2 level in the Earth’s atmosphere

Energy Efficiency is by far the fastest, most benign to the environment, and cost effective weapon we have to tackle climate change – and time is running out for voluntary action.

Governments across the planet are finally realising that it is very much harder to the promised reach targets, although most were only modest goals and the next climate summit will be interesting.

Current chart and data for atmospheric CO2

It is reported here that within the US stimulus package approx. 3% has been allocated for energy efficiency projects-that is significant.  However, no single country, government, state, business, or individual can solve this problem alone, it is the big daddy of all global issues, requiring complete international cooperation.

We have already exceeded the danger threshold @ 350ppm, and CO2 is still increasing faster than ever before. At a local level, many business are preoccupied with the financial crisis, will likely overlook the quietly accumulating business risk (see the graph) until there weighty carbon tax demand note hits their mailbox.  By then it will be too late. Those who were are not already prepared will likely suffer the wrath of stakeholders and investors for ignoring the writing on the wall.

Still I remain optimistic, since there are many businesses are still unaware of the zero cost, low impact opportunities to embrace Energy Efficiency Improvements (EEI) using a performance contract, can be quickly implemented without upfront capital cost.

the misguided role of energy benchmarking?

The IPMVP blog has an interesting post from John Cowan, Chairman EVO regarding the misguided role of benchmarking. The argument is based on the notion that benchmarking is at the end of the day a pretty pointless exercise.

It is a good question since all most every energy audit RFQ demands a benchmark, even in sectors when a benchmark for that business type is not published, you need an apples to apples comparison. Comparing a hotel to commercial building is clearly pointless, hotel to hotel is certainly feasible, however comparing a hotels with integral casino, and shopping mall, etc. to those without is just futile.

Clearly he key advantage for a using benchmarking – its a shortcut, giving management access to simple index so that they can easily grasp their energy situation without delving into kwh charts. The reality of modern life is that we all need shortcuts, in the financial world listed companies are compared based on debt/equity ratios, P/E ratios, etc. it is not the full picture, its a snapshot summary for the finance side of particular business and practitioners know these need to be used wisely.

Studies have shown us already that merely public posting of neighbours energy bills creates a competitive environment in the neighbourhood to lower energy consumption. So there are needed, if only for self comparison, but practitioners need to apply then carefully.

US – China Cooperation on Energy and Climate Change

A Source For EE Quotes

I know it is hard to find good quote for your EE presentations, so the report report by the The Asia Society  A Roadmap for U.S.-China Cooperation on Energy and Climate Change is welcome.

However, it is worth noting that the fixation with CCS (Carbon Capture and Sequestration) as a solution remains as strong as ever. Now bear in mind that over the years it was another promised solution, yet as the report recognises, nobody has as managed to build a working facility. The reports first recommends further US-China cooperation to develop CCS projects.

Yes, Energy Efficiency improvement is mentioned as part of the solution, so we must be grateful. From page 32…….

2. Improving Energy Efficiency and Conservation
To reduce greenhouse gas emissions, enhance national energy security, and save money, the United States and China both need to prioritize and expand energy efficiency and conservation efforts.

In the near term, the most significant step that the United States and China can take to reduce their emissions and enhance their energy security is to reduce energy demand through greater efficiency and conservation. In many cases, these efforts also promise significant economic benefits, with only modest upfront investments returning substantial long-term savings through lower energy costs.

Indeed, energy efficiency measures are often characterized as “negative cost” opportunities, meaning that they result in positive economic returns over the lifetime of the investment. A recent McKinsey study estimates that 40 percent of emissions abatement opportunities in the United States could be achieved at “negative” cost by, for instance, improving building insulation and lighting, and by using more fuel-efficient vehicles and appliances. However, these potential gains often remain unrealized because of market inefficiencies, lack of information, government neglect, and shortages of upfront capital. More targeted government policies are needed in both countries to overcome these market barriers.

energy efficiency Japanese style

I was excited to have the opportunity travel to Japan over the lunar new holiday, it was to be my first visit, and besides the tourist must dos and sightseeing, and the like I was looking forward to a first hand view of the much cited Japanese efficiency, and particularly their efforts in the energy efficiency sector.

The good news, if you are in the Japanese energy efficiency business there are still countless opportunities in Japan.

Sure, Tokyo has adopted some improvment measures, for example LED traffic signals, and CFL (Compact fluorescent Lamps) however the energy wastage is still obvious.  Tokyo’s extensive communtor rail and subway system is noteworthy not only because of the extensive network, operated by several different companies,  but also the countless rows upon row of T12 lamps, with magnetic ballasts, that littered every subway station I visited.

Then there are Japan’s infamous vending machines, there are everywhere. Indoors, outdoors, on the street, in railway stations, on the concourse, on the platform, in hotels, there are everywhere.  Just behind the Star hotel in Shinjuki, Tokyo sits a row of eight vending machines lining the road offering a vast array of hot and cold beverages, the lighting is bright, bright enough to illuminated the street at night, they eliminate the need for street lamps in that area.  As far as I could tell, I didn’t personally conduct 24 hour surveillance, these machines burn electricity all day, all night, 365 days a year.

Japan has plenty of energy efficiency opportunities no doubt.

Top Ten Energy Conservation Tips

Top ten list of energy smart decisions:

1. If you can’t measure it, how can you manage it? Regularly monitor and record on your electricity consumption, plus other fuels such as gas and oil. Provide and monitor sub-meters to record different systems and sub-systems.  Also don’t forget that utility companies are not infallible – remember to check that your bills relate to the fuel that you actually used rather than an “estimated” meter reading.

Incidentally, the fact that BEAM rewards a credit for energy sub-metering is an indication of the importance of energy awareness.

2. Switch off lights in empty rooms – sounds like common-sense doesn’t it? Turning off lights in unoccupied rooms and corridors especially at the end of the day. This can save up to 10% of your energy bill. And yes that includes fluorescent lighting fittings.

3. Use energy efficient light fittings – they use 25% less power and last six times longer. Switching to the last technology today will save the cost of the investment long before the old lamps have expired – recoup the savings today.

4. Use the light you need. Bright corridors? delamp (remove) or switch off alternate lighting fittings.

5. Use daylight it’s free, so regularly clean your windows.

6. Clean light fittings regularly – Dirt reduces lighting levels, encouraging people to switch on more lights.

7. Too cold, set the room thermostat at comfort levels say 24°.  Air conditioning consumes forty percent (40%) of buildings energy. For example, every 1° decrease in room temperature, the energy cost increases by approximately eight percent (8%) .

8. If humidity and condensation is not a risk, don’t pay for cooling unused space e.g. empty offices, storerooms, corridors, etc. turn off the air conditioning.

9. Check that your thermostats are property sited, out of draughts and away from cold or hot spots. Consider installing remote sensing or wireless. Bonus tip – horrified, I saw a the air conditioning thermostat installed next the hand dryer – please don’t.

10. Keep equipment such as air conditioners and filters clean. Dirt reduces efficiency and lowers output.

Bonus Tip

Top eleven tips just didn’t sound right, so here is a bonus tip, it is so critical that I can’t possibly leave it out – Lead by example.

If management and senior managers are “seen” to ignore the new corporate energy measures, I guarantee that your efforts will fail. It is human nature, people follow visual cues for seventy five percent (75%) of their information – we watch and learn. Actively demonstrating energy conservation will do more to promote energy conservation campaign within your organisation or business than a memo will ever achieve. Plan to ensure that your employees see your energy strategy.

Out of Service

Three vending machines all using energy, a closer look reveals the unit in the middle is out of service, see the photo below.  Didn’t anyone think about turning off the electricity completely? As you can see some of the lamps are still on, still burning electricity.

Powering an appliance that can’t or does not serve its intended purpose is an egregious waste of energy.