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Zero Carbon Building and the City

The Zero Carbon Building in Kowloon Bay is the first building to produce net-zero carbon emissions in the hot and humid climate of sub-tropical Hong Kong. Completed in 2012, the project is a joint effort between the Construction Industry Council and the Hong Kong government’s Development Bureau. Ronald Lu & Partners is the architect and Arup provided sustainable design and multidisciplinary engineering services. The evening event started with a tour of the ZCB, followed by panel discussion of distinguished sustainability leaders covering architecture, engineering, design, policy, and technologies, sharing with AIA members the multiple-perspectives of zero-carbon buildings.

Dr. Christine Loh, Under Secretary of the Environment, HKSAR, is leading the city towards a sustainable future. She encouraged AIA architects to reach out to the community of professionals, and to engage stakeholders such as developers on the path to zero carbon. Anticipating the climate talk COP 21 in Paris this fall, she cited building local capacity expertise as the major challenge of Hong Kong in sustainable development. Loh also recognized architect’s and building professionals’ unique skill set in the low-carbon goal of Hong Kong. She cited public housing as one example in the government’s building stock that have the potential of replicating a well-designed prototype and the government agency is reasonably open-minded about innovative solutions.

Jeff Klein of Big Ass Fans, a U.S.-based company selling high volume low speed fans, shared with the audience the perspective of learning from a widget. using advanced building products in low-carbon buildings. Jeff has a passion in vendors actively support architects, engineers, and building professionals via research and development, and share quality information of advancing building performance. In engaging the architecture community, the vendors also is not in an active roles working with the architects realizing the goal of low-carbon buildings.

Dr. Raymond Yau, Arup Fellow and Director of Sustainability, led the team of engineers working closely with the architects in the integrated design of ZCB. The building is sited to capture southeast prevailing wind. Along with the architectural design, the transit zone from outdoor, to naturally vent area, to air-conditioned indoor area. Meticulous work is devoted to testing and commissioning to get the systems right. Foreseeing the future of ZCB will involves big data, how to collect and interpret the massive data gathered at ZCB and will need specialist with the skills to analyze and make use of data in meaningful way. And going in the direction of zero waste/ zero water use, and contributing to a healthy environment.

M K Leung, Director of Sustainable Design at Ronald Lu & Partners, led the evening tour and shared with the audience the process and propagation. MK advocated that concept design should be initiated with more efficient process at the outset. And architects should make a more active role in utilizing data and simulation in design stage. Through this integrated design process, the for and orientation of ZCB reduces envelope heat gain and photovoltaics panels are oriented in optimize renewable energy output. The hierarchy of passive design, active design, and renewable energy.

Sean Quinn, Assoc. AIA, Director of Sustainability at 10 Design, challenges the general notion that zero-carbon with case studies of S, L, XL, and XXL zero-carbon buildings. Sean proposed that although most successful cases of zero carbon buildings are < 5000 sq.m., there are also successful cases of large-scaled ZCB such as NREL in the US, or BedZED in the UK. Perhaps more specific to Asia, is the opportunity to create mega-scaled low-carbon development with not only one but many low-carbon buildings. In the design process, the architects not only work with single owners, but also with master planners and multiple-stakeholders.

During the panel discussion, Dr. Christine Loh encouraged architects to get involved in the dialogue about achieving low-carbon goal in Hong Kong. Government offices and public buildings constitute substantial building stock, all with potential for recommissioning. Although there is a consensus of the importance of building energy code, including more flexible in performance method, Dr. Raymond Yau also amplified that architects and engineers need to be mindful not to stifle innovation in the process.

Contributor: Vikki Lew, AIA