Personal Adventures

Streets of Hanoi
Streets of Hanoi

Shenzhen China

I traveled to China in July as part of a team from LBNL and the CERC-BEE program, CERC-BEE R&D teams are comprised of U.S. national laboratories, and U.S. and Chinese universities, research institutes, and industry partners. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory(LBNL) leads the U.S. participation in the program.

We were there to introduce the US building Commissioning (Cx) standards and guidelines, explain the merits of building Cx, and provide specific instructions on how Cx is implemented in the US. The team was lead by Xiufeng Pang, Ph.D, P.E. from the Building Technology and Urban Systems Department, Environmental Energy Technologies Division, of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The other members of the team were Stacey Lin, PE, Principal Interface Engineering, San Francisco, and my old friend Joe Derringer who wears many hats, but founded and heads the Institute for Sustainable Performance of Buildings, in Berkley, California, and myself from Texas.

My wife and I flew nonstop from DFW to Hong Kong. We caught a ferry to Shenzhen from the Hong Kong airport. This was very convenient. We went directly to the ferry ticket desk without going through customs or having to claim checked baggage. They picked up the baggage and delivered it to us upon ferry arrival in Shenzhen, then we went through the smaller customs desk in the ferry terminal. I recommend this route if you are traveling to southern mainland China.

Shenzhen is a modern city that is mid-sized for China, but large for the US. The transportation is mostly via small cars. Driving through the city, one is struck by the fact that the buildings, clothing, and traffic could be found in any American city. People are busy and on the move.

The meetings in Shenzhen were hosted by the Shenzhen Institute of Building Research. Their new building is LEED Platinum and was featured in the summer 2014 issue of High Performance Buildings. The Shenzhen Institute of Building Research combines research with design and has a large staff of engineers designing HVAC systems. They also have an interest in moving into building commissioning. Our main escort was Dr. Zhen Lu, PhD, who is employed at the Institute and is a Director at the Center for Public Credit Services and Technology, and also Chief Engineer at the Department of Comprehensive Affairs. He was nice enough to wait for the next ferry when we did not arrive on the first ferry after our plane landed.

We had two days of meetings with an excellent dinner between the meetings. I started the presentations with an overview. XP thought that the audience would speak English, but it soon became evident that XP would have to translate for me “on the fly.” It worked out fine and the presentation went well. Stacy then went into more detail and gave examples of his work; he speaks beautiful Chinese and English. XP continued the presentation from a larger academic view. Joe closed us out on the second day with envelope and lighting commissioning. XP then visited a building site that that the other Americans were not cleared to visit.

The meal. We sat at two great round tables that sat about 15 people each. The tables each had a glass lazy Susan that reached out to all of our plates. The servers began placing plate after plate of food on the lazy Susans and they rotated all night with each of us plucking delicacies from the plates as they passed. The first dish was pigeon soup; the broth was delicious. The servers then poured a very small taste of wine into our glasses. I thought the small portion was odd until the toasts began, then I understood that with the many toasts the portion was necessary. A small thimble size glass was then added so that the toasts could continue with a clear, potent liquor. These toasts were made face-to-face and normally repeated more than once. Before the night was over, we were all the best of friends.

Zhuhai China

The second evening, we took a ferry from Shenzhen to Zhuhai. Zhuhai is larger than Shenzhen, but the western feeling of the city was the same. We had the edge of a typhoon passing through the day of the presentation, so the weather outside was wet and windy. This was a one day presentation, held in our hotel. The host was Singyes Solar, a company that specializes in solar building envelopes. From the literature:

“China Singyes Solar Technologies Holdings Limited, an investment holding company, is engaged in the design, manufacture, supply, and installation of conventional curtain walls and solar projects. Its products include solar cells, photovoltaic modules, solar thermal collectors, air source heat pumps, selective absorber coatings, ITO films, smart LC films/glasses, curtain wall materials, and solar PV application products. The company is also involved in the integration of photovoltaic technology into the architectural design of buildings and structures, and conversion of solar energy into electricity for use; develops roof top solar systems and ground mounted solar systems; and produces and sells renewable energy goods, including smart grid systems, and solar thermal systems. In addition, it is engaged in the design, manufacture, and assembly of wind products and solar photovoltaic power station; and research and development of energy-saving products and marine biology technology, as well as provides engineering design services. “

I suppose we were presenting to the design services people, but we had a lot of interest from the solar people. Our main host was Ms. Luo Duo, who is chief engineer of the Zhuhai office. I also had discussions with Dr. Yu Guobao, the deputy director of Singyes Solar’s Green Building Research Center.

The presentations went much the same as in Shenzhen except that Joe went before XP and XP closed us out. Joe and I presented in English so it was a nice alternation. XP translated for me, but a local architect translated for Joe. We will never know what they actually said, but XP got bigger laughs than I did.

We had two dinners in Zhuhai. The first in a seafood restaurant that was full of aquariums that had live fish from which to choose; there were also many choices of fish on ice. We went upstairs and were led to a room with two giant tables, again with lazy Susans. The meal was a repeat of the night before except with delicious seafood. Stacey explained the dishes and we had a wonderful night. The toasts and the local liquor were again poured in small but multiple helpings.

The next night, after the presentations, we went to a hot pot restaurant. We had the same table set up, but this time the table was even bigger and we had only one table. At a hot pot restaurant, the meal begins with broth. Multiple ingredients are then added to the hot pot. XP demonstrated the correct order of things to add so that the broth changed just a little and was not overpowered. This restaurant specializes in mushrooms, many kinds were served, but sea worms look a lot like mushrooms. It was the last night and the drinking became more serious. Each person at the table was responsible for a toast at the end of the meal. We were all seriously bonded by the end of the night. Some went to Karaoke following the meal. I opted out.

The next morning, we drove up to Guangzhou to catch a plane to Vietnam. The drive to Guangzhou was very interesting. Many fish farms were along the road in the country between the cities. Joe is currently the chief director for a USAID project to develop a building energy standard for Vietnam. He had asked me to visit and develop a mechanical plan. I have also been working to help a wonderful young engineer, Mr. Khanh Ng, to commission the National Assembly House in Hanoi. This is a major building designed in Germany that is located behind the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, for which his father had designed the HVAC system. His father described the Mausoleum as a “clean room which 3,000 people walk through each day.” Joe was a wonderful host on this trip. He is very busy with a major presentation the day after we left. Still, he was the perfect host. He is assisted by a wonderful local woman, Ms. Thi Kim Vu Thoa, who really runs the day-to-day operations. She knows everyone in this town that is the center of the government. Joe’s office is full of young dynamic people. It is also the only shoeless office I have ever encountered.

The USAID contract is with Winrock, to manage climate change and development. It is called the clean energy program. The internet notes that it is a $12,857,814 program from October 2012 to October 2017; maybe I should ask for a raise. I visited with the USAID people and the people that managed the building in which they were located. I looked at the HVAC system where Joe’s office was located and I interviewed the chief engineer at the local Sheraton Hotel.

We then met with Dr. Ha Minh, Deputy General Director of Coninco., JSC. A JSC is a joint stock company which means it partly owned by investors and partly (51%) owned by the government. Coninco is an impressive company that does design and project management. It had just won the design contract of a 50 story building in Hanoi without a foreign partner. They were rightly very proud of this. He was very supportive of the USAID program. The Sheraton operator would support a program to train operators and Dr. Ha Minh was support of a program to train design engineers.

I was invited to come back to develop a training program for HVAC engineers that meets the special requirements of Vietnam. It is a hot and humid climate with limited design options. Split system DX is very popular, and VRF systems are being designed for large class A buildings. There is some chilled water (like the Sheraton) being designed by foreign engineering firms. I hope to return to help with training in Hanoi, Hoe Chi Minh City, and Di Nagn.

Hanoi looks like you would imagine. Full of scooters, small streets and a mix of buildings; trees in the sidewalks and meals cooked in front of small stalls. The food was good with a mix of seafood, vegetables, and small pieces of meat. The best meal was served to us by Joe’s housekeeper/cook; a delicious pork dish with rice and vegetables. Joe has become a vegetarian, so she was happy to cook something different.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>