Leading The Pack

The results from the Decarbonising Hong Kong public consultation were published by the Council for Sustainable Development in November 2020, one of the recommendations was energy saving building design.

One of our completed projects was featured in a HKGBC video, the HKUST Indoor Sports Center, Sai Kung, started years ago, but already incorporated energy saving building design.

It was a team effort, the whole team, the client, the engineers, the architect, and the contractor clicked, and delivered a project that scored 80% independently assessed used BEAM PLUS NB rating tool, earn final gold rating. It was challenging because BEAM PLUS NB is designed for a new build, not an extension over an existing building. The result I hope demonstrates and inspires future possibilities.

ABOVE: HKUST Indoor Sports Center

HKUST Indoor Sports Center achieved BEAM PLUS New Buildings Final Gold Certificate with an overall score of 80 points!

John Herbert was the project BEAM Professional, providing BEAM consulting, sustainable building design consultant, lighting consulting, and environmental consultant for the HKUST Indoor Sports Center, Sai Kung, Hong Kong.

#greenbuilding #BEAMPLUS

Carbon Neutrality target by 2050 Hong Kong

Days after the Hong Kong Council for Sustainable Development published the result of the Decarbonisation public consultation recommending Carbon Neutrality by 2050 [link], the CE’s 2020 Policy Address 25-11-2020 announced that Hong Kong will join the global target and strive for Carbon Neutrality by 2050.

It is a pledge, but a step in the right direction, and it appears to be widely accepted here in Hong Kong. The challenge, according the latest Hong Kong GHG inventory, refer to chart above (2018 figures published in 2020) Hong Kong will reduce / offset its absolute GHG emissions equal to approx. 40,000 kiltonnesCO2e/yr.

#carbonneutrality #netzero #nettzero

Commissioning Improvements

We know that MEP commissioning in buildings is typically relegated to the end of the project, this a problem.

Thinking about this issue, I have changed our strategy, in our projects now all contractors, and sub contractors shall provide their commissioning submittal(s) along with the equipment submittal, at the same time.

For example, when a contractor issues the pump equipment submittal for employer approval, they are required to include the relevant pump commissioning submittals. That changes the contractors attention, focusing attention on commissioning process much earlier in the process. And frankly it saves a lot time.

The Public Opt for Carbon Neutrality by 2050

by John Herbert (@johnherbert)

The No. 1 recommendation from the Decarbonisation Public consultation, Hong Kong should be Nett Zero by 2050 (published in Hong Kong Council for Sustainable development). Here is the link to the report https://bit.ly/38D6tvL

Since Hong Kong buildings account for around 90% of electricity consumption and therefore more than 60% of the Greenhouse Gas inventory, it must be obvious that buildings will be the targetted to dramatically lower emissions, that means improving energy efficiency.

This target, its still only a pledge, is broadly aligned with the targets in other countries in the region.

It is easy to promote a slogan without actually understanding the practical underlying details, the devil is in the details.

How can Hong Kong meet 2050 target?

Yellow Fire Hydrants

In Hong Kong you can see street fire hydrants painted in red and yellow colours, but do you know what does the yellow colour signify?

#firesafety #firehydrants #hongkong


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.


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!

Legionnaires Disease Outbreak Hong Kong update 5 March 2020

A Legionnaires Disease outbreak occurred in Hong Kong between 1st – 29th February 2020 with seventeen (17) patients diagnosed with no fatality reported by CHP.

The total number of cases reported by CHP is lower than 17 reported here because additional cases residing physically close (<1000m) to the Choi Hung MTR station and the Ngau Chi Wan market were excluded without any evidence of the distinction. Ngau Chi Wan market is a very popular wet market in the area, located on Clearwater Bay road, directly above the Choi Hung MTR station, it is high traffic area, used by people from the local estates, and the surrounding districts.

Popular Ngau Chi Wan Wet Market located above Choi Hung MTR station

In total 15 cases were declared by CHP, twelve (12) male, and three (3) female, most were elderly residing near Choi Hung / Ping Shek Estate in Hong Kong, most with underlying disease.

At least two Legionnaires disease cases (refer to the table below, cases 12 and 13) were not counted as part of this cluster, yet both people reside nearby, approx. 1000m from buildings with confirmed cases, and well within the typical range of infection caused by cooling towers.


click for larger image

CHP also reported on 4 March 2020, specimens from two (2) more patients, that is eight (8) in total, match the samples from two Choi Hung MTR station cooling towers taken before the towers were disinfected (by implication sampled before 4 Feb. 2020). What is unclear, the initial 6 patients were reported on 14-2-2020, and three weeks later the additional pair were reported.

The CHP report on 4 March 2020 [link] that the Choi Hung MTR cooling towers have been disinfected and the water sampling test result (not provided) was stated to be lower than the action level. However, the tower installation date is not reported therefore it is unclear which COP would be relevant. Assuming CHP refers to the latest 2016 COP, it can be deduced that the Legionella sampling result was <10 cfu/mL and the Heterotrophic Colony count (also known as the plate count) sampling was <100 000 cfu/mL.

The CHP report concludes with a total of 27 cases for 2020, compared with 105 cases in 2019, which equates to 25% of cases in 2019 cases.

UPDATE 6 March 2020

EMSD.gov.hkissued a press release for its regular Legionella testing [link] on 6 March 2020 with routine and epidemiological investigation information, for the latter, in the attachment annex 2 [link] titled Building locations of fresh water cooling towers detected with total legionella count at/above upper threshold (1,000 cfu/ml) with nuisance notices issued under PHMSO, the annex states that the MTR Choi Hung Station had a nuisance notice issued showing total 1700 cfu/ml Legionella count (above the action level).

EMSD press release dated 6-3-2020

Legionnaires Disease Outbreak Hong Kong update 1 March 2020

One late additional case was reported on 29-2-2020 involving a male admitted to hospital twice. Initially, the patient was admitted on 4 Feb. 2020, with pneumonia and discharged on 19 Feb. 2020, and then admitted again on 24 Feb. 2020 and Legionnaires Disease diagnosed. [CHP]

This additional case involved a male patient, aged 71 with underlying illnesses, who lives in Wong Shek House, Ping Shek Estate, Kwun Tong.

Given the initial onset date of this case and proximity, residing in Ping Shek Estate approx. 100m from the early cases involving Kam Shek House, this case must be classified as part of the Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak.

16 Feb 2020 Cooling Tower, Choi Hung, Hong Kong

Although MTR cleaning tower maintenance/inspection was witnessed on 16-2-2020, CHP has not released any further details.

Outbreak History

Legionnaires Disease Outbreak Hong Kong update 18 Feb 2020

Two (2) more Legionnaires Disease infections were reported on 18-2-2020, bringing the total number of Hong Kong cases to twenty two (22) and sixteen (16) of those reside near Choi Hung. The new cases report by CHP include:

  1. A male patient, aged 94 with underlying illness, who lives in Hung Shek House, Ping Shek Estate, Kwun Tong
  2. A female patient, aged 52 with underlying illness, who lives in Block 2, 22 Wing Ting Road, Ngau Chi Wan (Fire Service Married Quarters)
Legionnaires Disease Outbreak Location Map

The CHP report [link] lists fourteen (14) cases, attributing two cases (12 and 13) as residing in a different area, although physically close to the Choi Hung area, approx. 1000m from the buildings implicated in Choi Hung, Kowloon.

In earlier CHP reporting it’s noted that the Choi Hung MTR station has four cooling towers samples were taken before they were disinfected on 4 and 12 Feb 2020. And these match specimens from six (6) patients in the Choi Hung Area.

The novel coronavirus covid19 epidemic has increased awareness and heightened surveillance in Hong Kong. Since both diseases present with similar symptoms and both involve pneumonia, further Legionnaires Disease infections will be detected and diagnosed in the coming months.

legionella, legionnaires disease outbreak, Choi Hung, Ping Shek, cooling towers, Kowloon, pneumonia, Hong Kong

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