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Spotlight on BURO HAPPOLD

Updated: Mar 8, 2021

This month, we talked to Dr. Jason M. Y. Tse and he leads the Sustainability and Building Physics Team for Buro Happold International (Hong Kong) Ltd.

1. Tell us about yourself.

I am Dr. Jason M. Y. Tse and I lead the Sustainability and Building Physics Team for Buro Happold International (Hong Kong) Ltd. I am Chartered Engineer and accredited as WELL Faculty™ and as a LEED® Accredited Professional Building Design + Construction (LEED AP BD+C) along with a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt certification. My focus is to deliver sustainable solutions for the built environment. I am experienced in environmental performance evaluation, new building and existing building performance analysis, building certification schemes and mechanical system design. I have been involved in different international projects including locations such as Hong Kong, Mainland China, the United Kingdom, South Korea and Mongolia.

I have been supporting project bidding and applying my project management skills to ensure a high quality of project deliverables and optimised resources utilisation. With my technical knowledge and experience, I have delivered a variety of projects which exceeded performance in terms of engineering codes and regulations and project team’s expectations. I have been applying my expertise in analytical skills and techniques through data analysis and numerical simulations techniques, such as Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD), Radiance, Revit and energy modelling. These include urban comfort and air ventilation assessments, indoor thermal comfort evaluations, mechanical systems design and performance evaluation and building energy performance optimisation. In addition, I am also experienced in existing building performance optimisation by carrying out building energy audits as well as energy management, measurement and verification. My practice covers a wide range of building types including residential developments, commercial buildings, mixed-use developments, data centres and public transport interchange.

I have been active in the industry. I have authored 11 peer-reviewed publications and two conference papers; and spoken at several symposia and conferences. I am also passionate about providing supports for the younger generation, including mentorship and professional sharing presentations for universities such as The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, The University of Hong Kong, and The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

2. As you are involved in different international projects, do you see any differences between country and country in the adoption of green building practices? How does Hong Kong compare to other geographies?

When compared to other geographies in the world, Hong Kong is a compact high-density city, but the developable land is limited. The building industry contributes around 40% of carbon emissions worldwide; and 67% in Hong Kong. The population of Hong Kong is over 7 million people. By having about 6,700 persons per square kilometre, it is one of the most densely populated places in the world. Some special characteristics of Hong Kong, such as the dominance of high-rises paired with a hot and humid climate, make Hong Kong different from other countries around the world from the perspective of green building practices.

To deal with the high population density, high-rise buildings have become an inevitable solution in Hong Kong. The flourishing high-rise market on the one hand boosts the region’s reputation in the world, but on the other hand, sparks off an intense debate on its functionality and environmental influence. One of the most critical topics is its energy consumption. High-rise buildings in general need a vast amount of energy to sustain their daily operation of large gross floor area. Some research studies reveal that energy consumption is increased with height. Comparing to the low-rise category, the electricity use could raise by more than 70% whereas about 20% increase was recorded for fossil fuel consumption. Achieving a target of net-zero energy becomes quite a challenge due to the limited roof area available for renewable energy solutions to offset operational energy use.

Hong Kong has a humid subtropical type of climate with hot and humid summers. It lies in south China on the east side of the Pearl River estuary and is surrounded by the South China Sea on all sides except the north. These climate characteristics become one of the biggest constraints for Hong Kong buildings to adopt some common green practices around the globe, such as natural ventilation, chilled ceiling/beam, and radiant floor cooling system. These solutions may lead to indoor environmental issues such as thermal discomfort and condensation problems and need careful analysis. A thorough analysis of building envelop would be one of the key areas to focus on. Some latest sustainability applications such as biophilia walls could not only improve the thermal insulation but also improve the building appearance from aesthetic view and air quality.

In general, due to these special characteristics, other countries such as the USA seem to be a place where a higher standard of sustainability can be achieved easily. An example can be referred to The Tower at PNC Plaza – Buro Happold.

3. What is the biggest hurdle within the private sector for building sustainably?

I think the biggest hurdle is occupant behaviour, which is one of the major factors causing the large performance gap between design values and actual operating measurements of building energy consumption. We can provide a total sustainability solution for our Clients around the globe (see Building performance – Buro Happold), which covers from the early design stage through the construction phase to post-occupancy stages. The design could be optimised with passive and active strategies, and renewable energy applications in order to reduce energy usage. However, energy is still required to maintain satisfactory occupant comfort, and occupant behaviour can be affected by various aspects, not only air-conditioning, lighting and electrical installations, but also site environment, building façade and internal layout. The energy usage patterns from occupant behaviour account for a significant portion of the actual energy performance, in particular in high-rise buildings where there is a high density of occupants. However, it has been typical in the building industry that there is a performance gap between design performance and actual building operational performance. Post-occupancy evaluation and Measurement and Verification (M&V) become important in closing the performance gap for a building design.

I think another big hurdle is the focus on first costs rather than a more holistic and longer-term outlook. One exciting new tool we would propose to our Clients is Autocase, which quantifies value, in dollars, the triple bottom line impacts of sustainability investments (such as carbon, air pollution, life cycle costs, etc.). This enables us to compare and prioritize the most sustainable options more quickly and cheaply throughout the entire design process. Our approach not only addresses the first cost and life cycle cost, but also the revenue generation and the staff’s productivity of our Clients. For a recent US$7M project that is pursuing LEED Platinum and NZE certification, our Triple Bottom Line analysis showed US$5.2M in environmental, social and financial savings over the lifespan of the building.

4. What are the trends that will become more prominent in green building in the next five years?

I think more and more new buildings would strive for zero carbon emission in the next five years. Rather than just focusing on the design and construction of a building, it will become more common for clients to look at how their buildings can operate more sustainably in the long run, which shall align with the carbon goals that Buro Happold have set for ourselves (see – Global Sustainability Report 2020 – Buro Happold) A holistic approach will be adopted throughout the life cycle of a building, such as by performing energy management, energy audits, measurement and verification. This also ties into overcoming the occupant behaviour hurdle, real-time data mining will become more and more prominent. The actual operational energy performance can be used as feedback to the system design via real-time occupant behaviour and further refine and improve the system. I believe this will be the new trend to ensure building operating as energy efficient as possible while delivering satisfactory human comfort.

Embodied carbon is another significant opportunity in the next five years. Embodied carbon and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) have quickly emerged as critical lenses for climate mitigation and responsible design practice. The embodied carbon in a structure is defined as the carbon dioxide emitted in the extraction, manufacturing, and transportation of building materials. According to Architecture 2030, 11% of global CO2 emissions are associated with building materials and construction. In commercial buildings, the majority of the total embodied carbon is due to the building’s structure. Therefore, design optimisation to minimise the embodied carbon during the early design stage would be one of the emphases in the near future.

5. In the last 5 years have you see developers become more interested in what they can do within to make their buildings ESG compliant?

The world’s 500 biggest corporations could face $1 trillion in costs related to climate change in the coming decades and there is 50% of CPG growth from 2013 to 2018 from the sustainability-marketed product. In view of the risk of climate change, there have been much more developers than before in the development of environmental, social and corporate governance indicators. They normally partner with financial institutions to find a common language in defining the environmental, social and corporate governance indicators affecting their common objectives to achieve sustainable, long-term growth and prosperity.

In meeting the very highest standards of sustainability, buildings not only shall be designed environmentally and technologically, but they also have to be resilient in adapting to emerging social trends to deliver enduring value to tenants and landlords alike. Especially now in the pandemic world, we shall bring forth an equitable and green recovery. Developers shall move forward with their collaborators to reshape our industry for the better. We know that it is impossible to tackle climate change and wider social and environmental challenges without addressing cities and the built environment. Consequently, as we move from a public health emergency to social and economic flourishing, we must take steps to ensure that everyone benefits from a green recovery that is healthy, sustainable and fair.

The importance of Corporate Governance consists of its contributing to not only corporate prosperity but also to responsibility. Along with the development of global markets, investors’ activity increases with them, demanding higher standards of responsibility, conduct and performance. A successful reference from us is Xuzhou Suning Plaza – Buro Happold.

6. Is there a particular building material which is are particularly excited about right now?

In view of special characteristics of the building industry in Hong Kong such as the popularity of building high-rises, there are two particular building materials that are exciting nowadays. They are Transparent photovoltaics (TPVs) and Ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE).

Transparent photovoltaics (TPVs), which combine visible transparency and solar energy conversion, are being developed for applications in which conventional opaque solar cells are unlikely to be feasible, such as windows of buildings. The installation of conventional opaque solar panels on the exterior walls of buildings may detract from the original design of the building. TPVs are expected to replace glass windows of buildings where conventional opaque photovoltaics (PVs) are unlikely to be applied directly. It could lead to a significant increase in the area available for solar cells.

Buildings nowadays can also apply some new materials in the façade to mitigate solar heat gain. In recent years, there are a number of innovative façade materials introduced to attain this purpose. An alternative to glass is Ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE), a transparent, light and recyclable material compared to glass. Applying ETFE in two or three-ply form can effectively trap air between layers, which then acts as an insulator to provide a good overall thermal property. One of the successful projects of Buro Happold that adopted ETFE is the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center (ARTIC). See –

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