Students Demand Green Facilities

Hong Kong green building consultant

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

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

— John Herbert, Kelcroft, Consultant

More More More Is Not Always Better

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

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

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

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

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

~~ John Herbert, Kelcroft, Consultant

Premature green building labelling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— John Herbert, Consultant, Kelcroft E&M Limited

LEED is not a standard

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

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

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

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

— John Herbert, consultant, Kelcroft E&M Limited

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

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

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

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

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

upgrading to LEED v3 or 2009?

The confusing launch of USGBC’s LEED v3 or it is LEED 2009?  has launched. As the graphic and schedule below shows that LEED v3 / LEED 2009 becomes compulsory for new green building projects after 27 JUNE 2009.

  • March 27: Reference guide e-copies available for order; hard copies available for pre-order.
  • April 27: LEED v3 launches.
  • June 27: New projects will be required to register for LEED 2009.
  • Dec. 31: Last day of free migration period, during which currently registered projects can transition to LEED 2009 and LEED Online v3 without paying a new registration fee.

International Perspective
USBGC’s LEED V3 (or LEED 2009) is still not an international Green building rating tool. Interestingly USGBC local chapters in US were involved to identify keystone criteria for specific regions. The separate regionalisation element, totally focused on USA, does not provide regionalisation credit for international projects. Essentially, the regional credit system is intended to recognise that a “water” credit should have a higher weighting and more importance in a desert location or a region with a combined storm water and sewerage system, for example Washington DC, USA.

Green Buildng Qualification
If your project team is not stressed enough the LEED qualification system has also been “upgraded”, introducing CPD, new levels.

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