Danes Making Zero Energy Office Buildings in Malaysia

Danish engineer Mr. Poul Erik Kristensen’s vision is to build comfortable office buildings with full electrical capacity and still save energy.
To many, this may sound like an impossible task in a country where energy is highly subsidized by the Government and most energy conscious people are surprised by the level of energy waste.
None the less, Mr. Kristensen’s small company, IEN Consultants, has managed not only to assist in building a Low Energy Office building (LEO), they are now implementing a Zero Energy Office building (ZEO) for the Malaysian Ministry of Energy, Water and Communication.
The venture started some five years ago when Mr Kristensen first came to Malaysia to do projects under DANIDA (formerly DANCED) as a consultant.
He decided very early on that he would like to stay so that’s what he did after finishing the last of three DANCED/DANIDA projects in 2004 and then set up his own small consultancy – IEN Consultants (http://www.ien.dk).
“I had the advantage of having previously worked in Malaysia for a number of years so when the idea of a Low Energy Office building was first launched by the Ministry of Energy, it was easy to join the bidding process. I was a known face after all”, Kristensen explains. He quickly employed young Danish engineer and Phd. student Gregers Reimann who many in Malaysia will know as son of the previous Danish Ambassador HE Lasse Reimann. Recently, Kristensen has also employed Ng. Chuu Jiun (Regina) from Singapore as an expert in Sustainability in Buildings.
“Though only a two-man company, we won the bid and have worked closely as consultants together with engineers, architects and contractors to design and construct Malaysia’s first Low Energy Office building. It was named LEO, partly because it is an abbreviation of Low Energy Office, partly because the Minister of Energy at the time was Dato Leo Moggy,” Mr. Kristensen muses.
Having been occupied since September 2004 the LEO building has already proven to save 50% energy compared to traditional office buildings, which is good by most standards.
“We have now reached the energy saving targets on the LEO building, and the energy efficiency standard set by the LEO building will soon become standard for all new non-domestic buildings in Malaysia. We are just waiting for the Ministry of Housing and Local Government to amend the Unified Building By-Laws accordingly. The progressive thinking and actually showing that it can be done, certainly has paid off. We are down from a typical annual energy consumption of almost 300 kWh to the projected 100 kWh per square meter floor area per year (kWh/m²/year).”
“The consequences of this is that we are now involved in the first ever Zero Energy Office building in Malaysia,” Kristensen says with some pride. The new ZEO building is for PTM (Pusat Tenaga Malaysia; Malaysia Energy Centre) under the Ministry of Energy.
The launch of the first project, the LEO building, nearly died before it started when they discovered that the cost would be around 50% more than a “normal’ building. But Kristensen went into a dialogue with the Ministry and together they found solutions to make it happen after all.
One major advantage was financial support from the EU ASEAN Energy Programme paired with cost saving manoeuvres for the ZEO Building.
While the LEO building was to cost 10% more than a traditional building with a pay back period of 10 years, the ZEO building will cost significantly more. The ZEO building is now projected to cost 20-30% more than normal buildings and is to be built more as a pilot project for the Ministry to prove that energy saving is a way forward rather than to have any immediate pay back. Malaysia is after all known for its eagerness to be first, tallest, best et al and this will be one of the first Zero Energy buildings in Asia. However, if subsidies of electricity in Malaysia are not taken into account, the electricity price would be approximately 0.55 RM/kWh and not 0.25 RM/kWh which makes the ZEO building an economically feasible solution today.
The orientation of both the LEO and the ZEO buildings are, together with specially designed sun screens and insulation of the roof, some of the most important elements of the design. The sun screens, also called light shelves, keep the sun from shining directly on to the windows thereby preventing heating up of the building, but it still allows in enough daylight to save on the lighting bills. Another major energy saving factor is the zoning of electrical light so that the lighting for the whole floor is neither switched on or off as traditionally done out here in Asia, but by using zoning it is possible to switch on effective light systems only in those areas where light is actualy needed. This is controlled via automatic sensors supplemented by desktop lamps for individual control.
The cooling and dehumidifying of the buildings is normally very expensive in the tropics so this has been made very effective partly by using zoning here also. Another feature is floor slab cooling where cold water is built into the floors as it is cheaper to pump cold water around the building than using air. An added benefit is less noise and draught from cooling vents. Energy-efficient office equipment is also contributing to large savings in energy usage.
Where the LEO building has a energy consumption of 100 kWh/m²/year, the ZEO building is projected to have a consumption of only 3450 kWh/m²/year and all this energy consumption is to be supplied by a solarun cell system on the roof top. The solar system will provide 150 kWh/m²/year, meaning that the building is completely self sufficient. The ZEO building is, however, connected to the national grid to help alleviate peak load problems by selling solar electricity to the grid during the day (high peak hours) and buying back the same amount of electricity at night (low peak hours).
For PTM and the Ministry of Energy the objective of the ZEO Building is to provide a platform that can advance the Malaysian building industry towards more sustainable solutions. In fact, they are aiming towards a situation in the coming one or two decades where zero energy buildings can become the norm because it is the cheapest solution in an overall economic perspective. Obviously, this is important in a time where energy prices are on the rise and future subsidies on some may see a drastic reduction in Malaysia. The new ZEO building is leading the way by setting new standards.
Eventually Kristensen believes that when expensive imported materials such as spectrally selective glazing and solar panels are being produced locally at lower cost, it will spearhead the principles of the LEO and the ZEO buildings to be used in the private housing sector too. So much so that he has set up another company with partners to form Eco-Homes Malaysia ). The company has just signed the contract for their first private housing project to be located in Damansara Heights in KL. Their main objective is to create contemporary high quality homes applying cutting-edge architecture and engineering with a gentle approach to the environment. In the meantime, they are also providing consultancy services to companies and individuals on energy saving measures in existing buildings.



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