About John Herbert

Director at Kelcroft, focused on energy efficient M&E services, energy including energy auditing and sustainability consulting for Asia. He is an EMSD Registered Energy Assessor (EA00496G) Fellow of the Charted Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineers, and a BEAM Professional.

July 2020 hottest on record

John Herbert

To anyone that will listen, will have heard me moaning and complaining that July 2020 was HOT! It was the hottest since 1993 for sure. HKO [1] has confirmed that July 2020 was the hottest July on record since records began in 1884.

The monthly mean maximum temperature of 33.3 degrees, monthly mean temperature of 30.2 degrees and monthly mean minimum temperature of 28.3 degrees were 1.9 degrees, 1.4 degrees and 1.5 degrees above their corresponding normal figures respectively, all of them being the highest of the corresponding monthly mean values on record.

HKO press release 4 August 2020

July 2020 also recorded the highest number of 21 hot nights (defined by HKO) and the highest number of consecutive hot nights! that will increase hotel and residential operating costs. HKO app was reporting dry bulb temperatures up to 36 deg C which is higher than 35 deg C maximum summertime design temperature listed in the Hong Kong Building Energy Code.

Big Data Nonsense

One result will be increased building operating costs and energy bills. However, all the hype over Big Data bandwagon didn’t help you right? Big data is just historical data, a view of the past, analysis of historical data doesn’t predict the future.

1 https://www.info.gov.hk/gia/general/202008/04/P2020080400524.htm

Lousy IAQ Analysis

Restaurants in Hong Kong must comply with the relevant provision of the FEHD licensing requirements. For Air-conditioned restaurants, typically the indoor air is largely recirculated with a small quantity of fresh air / outdoor air added into recirculating air steam.

By law, the minimum requirement is provided in clause 42 of the licensing requirements, only 17m3/hr/person (or 4.2 litres/sec/person) [1] of fresh air / outdoor is required, to put that into perspective that rate is lower than the normal 7-10 litres/sec/person rate.

Of course, the result is poor IAQ quality, because the air pollutants, including airborne covid19 [2] concentrations, are diluted extremely slowly.

“Poor ventilation may play a major role in transmission” RTHK reported the spread of covid19 investigation [3]. However, as explained above, it is no surprise, all Hong Kong restaurants have little fresh air/outdoor air, thus are poorly ventilated, and any bacteria/virus in the air is not diluted.

[2] http://www.kelcroft.com.hk/20200404-news-covid19.htm
[3] https://news.rthk.hk/rthk/en/component/k2/1537915-20200715.htm

No surprise Legionella discovered

After any prolonged shutdown, whether it is annual shutdown, holidays or the COVID-19 lockdown, buildings have idle water systems that are stagnating and risk fostering the growth of Legionella, the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ Disease.

The BBC has reported three schools in the UK will delay opening because Legionella has been identified. Here is the link:


It is no surprise, the extended holiday / lockdown means the building water systems have been idle allowing water to stagnant, providing an environment for the growth of bacteria. If the water systems have not been flushed, the water system needs to be assessed.


Illegal FSC Timber

2 July 2020

In June 2020, Channel 4 television investigated the logging and timber business, and exposed flaws in the supply chain including timber used by the IKEA (http://ikea.com) supply chain in Europe, which raises questions about Ikea’s monitoring and Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) processes. Here is the link to the video:


You decide.


The Pok Oi Hospital isolation room ventilation system was found with a “red” light on 27 May 2020, that ventilation system maintains negative pressure inside the isolation room to reduce the risk of airborne transmission within the hospital.

An investigation found that the ventilation stopped operating because a contractor, working on the hospital roof, accidentally triggered the Emergency Stop (e-stop) button at sometime during the afternoon, but obviously failed to notice that the ventilation system was shut down.

The report says the fault was discovered by the red light in the isolation room, which implies the HVAC system did not have any audible fault alarm in the occupied area, or at the roof level.

If you have ever wondered about how far ITC has infiltrated our lives, in the report, it states the HVAC system was rebooted!


Other design considerations, typically code requires HVAC systems >1000 l/sec to be interlocked with the automatic fire alarm system, triggering the fire alarm automatically closes ALL the HVAC systems, for hospital isolation room that risks covid19 contamination of the whole ward.


Urban Mining

If you live in an urban environment, the storage bank for constructing tomorrow’s buildings is all around you. Yes, those buildings will be deconstructed, becoming the raw material for tomorrow’s buildings. And if you are lucky you might find a building constructed from steel, which can be infinitely recycled.

Therefore, designers must consider how the building will be demolished and reused before its open.

Don’t Do Stupid Things

The above drawing is from a new air conditioning building (designed 2020), an interior vapour barrier is stupid!

Why? The external vapour pressure is significantly higher (approx. 1kpa higher) than the interior vapour pressure in the air conditioning space, causing moisture flows toward and into the room.

However, the internal vapour barrier stops the flow, and traps moisture saturating the thermal insulation with water and destroying its thermal properties, and increasing the building energy consumption.

HKGBC recent asked for ideas to promote nett zero and lower energy consumption, the first step I suggest must be stopping architects doing stupid things!


No lockdown for Legionella Getting Back to Work

During the lockdown thousands of workplaces, restaurants, offices, factories, and buildings are empty but remember that means the drainage systems may have dried out “U” traps, plumbing systems may have hot water heaters and potable water piping with stagnating water, whirlpool spas may have stagnant water, and building air conditioning cooling towers may contain stagnant condenser water.

Legionella risk assessment

Every risk and possibility cannot be listed here, therefore it is essential that the employer arrange for risk assessment to plan your start up.

Your plan needs to review and prepare an action plan to mitigate risks to ensure that all the systems are cleansed and checked BEFORE restarting, that means managers need advance notice, before for the opening date, to facilitate a safe start up procedure.

Bad Design

To understand valuable design we also have to identify and flag cases of bad design. We find from the recent heath checks conducted at the Hong Kong International Airport that health professionals working on the frontline have inadequate facilities, was this foreseeable certainly, every border has provision for handling health checking.

The RTHK report [link] states

She said there were other problems concerning protective clothing, for example, no designated locations for workers to take off their gear.

In this context, their gear means their PPE. So the frontline nurses and doctors facing thousands of passengers, potentially carrying the infectious diseases including COVID19, don’t have adequate changing facilities risking themselves, and other employees at the airport.

After the shift, the PPE including mask, gown, apron, glove, face shield, etc. are considered contaminated, therefore, an appropriate space clearly identified, should be provided for healthcare workers to doff (remove) and don their PPE, but it seems the border control design did not provide such space, even a temporary space, and a frontline doctor tested positive for COVID19.

Design means considering reasonably foreseeable usage and planning according, health checks at borders are routine and commonplace for many years. If you are old enough to remember some countries made visitors present health records, but in this case, the designers ignored or overlookedthe healthcare workers.

In engineering terms, located transformers and switchgear underground is a risk, in the event of a blocked sewer pipe, flooding, or water leakage the building power supply or back up generator could be compromised. Of course, architects say oh that will never happen, until it does. In a recent Hong Kong incident, water leaking on the upper floor of the building flooded the corridor and the electrical meter room, water travelled down the building using the 2500 amp TPN busbar as the conduit shorting each floor, and continued to the LV switchroom in the basement, causing a disastrous short circuit, shutting off power to the entire building.

The takeaway, engaging and listening to people outside your field, outside your silo, gather views and ideas, consider future events and scenarios, while the building plans are still on the drawing board.

Building Drainage Systems and COVID19

In the good old days the topic was called Public Health, nowadays its called Plumbing and Drainage. It is essential for all buildings to have properly designed, installed and maintained sewerage systems to prevent infecting occupants, whether it is 2003 SARS, 2020 COVID19, or Influenza.

youtube is unreliable here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uv38qdl4Z1M

Recently, when COVID19 infection was discovered spreading within Hong Mei House, Tsing Yi on 10 and 11 February 2020, the RTHK report stated that the HK Government instantly reported it was not a “U trap” problem [RTHK link] a reference to the SARS outbreak in 2003 where the disease spread through the drainage system in block E Amoy Gardens infecting occupants, and requiring evacuation of the block.

youtube is unreliable at the moment, here is the link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GTNvTuV_CM4

I predicted the cause would be the sewer vent pipe, vent pipes are part of the high rise drainage system designed to prevent loss of the water seal in U traps. Subsequently, my suspicion was confirmed, the SMCP newspaper confirmed that the vent piping inside the bathroom was damaged (see SCMP photo below). Therefore, droplets could contaminate the bathroom area.

CREDIT: SCMP Government Press Conference Handout — BROKEN VENT pipe

Still problems in 2020

The photo below taken 15 March 2020 shows damaged drainage system vent piping.

ABOVE: faulty drainage system spreads disease taken 15 March 2020

That drainage system is damaged, it is no longer an enclosed system, allowing odour, bacteria, virus to escape into the air.

We have always known that sewerage and drainage systems are important, providing a conduit for bacteria and viruses, yet the severe lessons from SARS in 2003 and now from COVID19, demonstrate lessons still have not been learned!