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!

*****END

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!

Novel Coronavirus and SARS

A novel coronavirus emerged from Wuhan City, China in December 2019 (2019-nCOV) and it is apparent that it shares many similarities with the 2003 SARS outbreak, the virus is transported inside water droplets (aerosols) from coughing and sneezing in the air and its also shed in fecal matter which in turn is aerosolized risking contamination of surfaces.

History ignored is destained to be repeated, the same engineering issues remain today creating panic in the Hong Kong community.

Back in 2003, Kelcroft’s John Herbert was one of the few engineers that dared to visit buildings during the SARS outbreak, to highlight buildings requiring urgent improvements. You might not worry about a disconnected vent pipe, until you understand that’s a transmission path for the virus into your home.

Like SARS, and Legionella (which is bacteria) the novel coronavirus can be transported in the air, it’s said to be airborne pathogen, protected inside a water droplet, and depending on the air temperature and humidity, it is thought to be able to carry its virus package over long distances, outside and inside home.

And with favourable environmental conditions, the virus remains viable for up to 5 days on hard surfaces. ( link to useful Singaporean government list of household disinfection products).

If you are interested, here is a link to download our free SARS 2003 report: http://www.kelcroft.com.hk/download/kelcroft-sars-report-may-2003.pdf

#sars #coronavirus #hongkong #2019-nCOV #airbourne #kelcroft #2003

Tips to avoid Hong Kong Tenant Complaints About Mould

Instead of handling mould after it occurs let’s try a different approach.

When a property suffers from damp and mould, the tenant suffers, but also the landlord, committing extra time and energy for handling the issue, so here are some tips for landlords to avoid mould <<<< click here

China will ban plastic straws……soon

Major cities in China will ban plastic drinking straws and non-degradable plastic bags by the end of 2020 RTHK reports.

https://news.rthk.hk/rthk/en/component/k2/1503793-20200120.htm

However, how to define non-degradable? A biodegradable material needs to be exposed to sunlight to starting decomposing, bury it in concrete doesn’t mean it will decompose.

This announcement goes further than just straws, the NDRC also advising that disposable plastic products should not be “actively provided” by hotels by 2022.

Similar bans and voluntary action still does not touch the surface, the commercial use of plastic, for example, the tonnes of plastic wrapping used for cargo, still has not been addressed.

Unintended Consequences

Switching from disposable plastic cutlery could cause unforeseen consequences, in Hong Kong, one restaurant that switched to reusable cutlery delivered the cutlery in a steaming cup of hot water!

Waste has been traded, swapping plastic for water plus the energy need to heat that water, be careful what you wish for.

Offset your increasing energy costs

Hong Kong notched up another record, 2019 was the hottest year since records began in 1884 the Hong Kong Observatory (HKO) revealed [1].

It should be no surprise really, almost every year HKO reports that temperatures have been steadily increasing year on year, a trend that is not so easy to reverse.

Asia is dominated by the use of electricity for air conditioning, and warmer weather means higher energy bills, and it is not just a local affair either, Australia is also suffering from hotter temperatures and devasting wildfires.

In addition to warmer weather, increasing the air conditioning running hours, the Hong Kong electricity tariffs increased again in 2020, which will add 3-5% to your energy bills.

To offset the increasing costs, building owners can use the subsidies provided by HEC [2] and CLP to help finance energy efficiency upgrades for the building communal systems, including air conditioning, lifts, lighting, and pumps.

1 http://www.hko.gov.hk/en/wxinfo/pastwx/2019/ywx2019.htm
2 http://www.kelcroft.com.hk/hke-energy-power-fund.htm
3 http://www.kelcroft.com.hk/clp-energy-funding.htm

Pressurisation and IAQ

Positive building pressurisation and proper filtering of the outdoor air will be more important as testing reveals plastic in the air we breathe!

Plastic particles have been found in the air in the mountains but now in cities[1] . It may take years for the human studies and research but commonsense dictates plastic inside the human body, particularly in the lung should be minimised now.

1 https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/dec/27/revealed-microplastic-pollution-is-raining-down-on-city-dwellers

Another Reason to Energy Audit

As we approach the end of 2019, the Hong Kong power utilities publish their electricity tariff adjustment, aka price rises.

For 2020 Hong Kong Electric (HKE) customers will enjoy approx. 5% cost increase and China Light Power (CLP) customers will enjoy around 2.5% cost increase, RTHK reported on 10 Dec 2019.

https://news.rthk.hk/rthk/en/component/k2/1496953-20191210.htm

Fear not, RTHK reports that some Hong Kong Electric corporate customers will be exempt, but that is bad news for the individual customers who will be paying for that corporate windfall.

In this context, we suspect that corporate customers really means their highest electricity users, and automatically reducing the financial incentive to lower their energy consumption and lower costs.

Part of the problem is related to Hong Kong’s energy policy, it only targets lowering carbon intensity which seems fantastic until you know their plan, to importing more electricity from China generated by nuclear power, this policy is short-sighted, it encourages the status quo, keeping the energy-wasting business as usual culture in place, causing energy waste which has reached epidemic proportions in Hong Kong.

Last year we predicted these increasing tariffs, so looking forward we’ll predict and expect the same type of Christmas gift form HKE and CLP next year.