Sustainability Implementation and Education, Keys for Greenest School on Earth | Sing Yin | Kwok But

Sing Yin's principal 2An educational institution in Hong Kong had made a bold statement showing that ‘sustainability’ is not a principle merely belongs to the ‘privileged’. Having been awarded as the Greenest School on Earth by the US Green Building Council (USGBC) last year, Sing Yin Secondary School proves that being a low-income institution is not a hindrance to be the vanguard in pursuing green movements.

AsiaGreenBuildings.com set up an exclusive interview with the Principal of Sing Yin Secondary School, Mr. Kwok But, to understand better the prowess that has granted this school such acknowledgment. Apart from the (mainly) government-funded green facilities – i.e. solar PV panels, solar and wind-power LED lights, rooftop garden, highly efficient cooling system, vertical wind turbine, etc – it turns out that the school is also putting a great emphasis on sustainability in a curricular and non-curricular levels, educating their students to be the leaders of the next ‘green’ generation — both inside and outside of the school.

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What are the green features/facilities that have your institution won the award as the Greenest School on Earth?

Certified as a BEAM-Platinum building, the green facilities we have included solar tracking PV panels, solar panels covering windows facing the south to convert sun light into electrical energy as well as reducing the heat entering the classrooms, and some other types of PV panels. There is a rain water collection system for irrigation. We also have a wind turbine electrical energy generator designed for cities, an energy regenerating lift, many types of LED lights, double glaze windows, air purifiers and more. In particular we use water chillers in our VRV air-conditioning system. Many of these systems are attached to sensors for automatic shut down, and they could be centrally controlled through a campus wide Building Energy Management System.

Our environmental management and education programs are many and varied. For example, we have about 50 environmental prefects or monitors to manage the use of air-conditioning. Using data fed from an automatic weather station, they make sure that the air coolers are turned on when the heat index is above 25.5 degree Celsius. A pre and post study revealed that this practice save about 40,000 kWh of electrical energy, roughly 6% of the annual power consumption back then.

What are the main issues you’ve encountered in pursuing sustainability practices in your institution?

As all stake holders of our school were consulted before hand and all agreed to uphold sustainable development as part of our first goal of education, we encountered few problems to pursue sustainable practices. What remains are some technical problems. For example, we use enzymes to treat kitchen waste to turn them into organic fertilizers. Apparently the supplier of the enzyme seems to have folded and we need to find a new supplier.

Do you face financial challenges in accommodating and facilitating sustainability programmes and features in your school? Is there any financial challenge in accommodating sustainability practices/facilities? How do you cope with the funding?

The cost of all environmentally related facilities was about 20 to 30 million dollars. Fortunately almost all the funds were provided by the Government and we faced little financial difficulties. We did add around 6 million dollars of facilities using our own fund, mainly to pay for the water chilled air conditioning systems, a bamboo garden, self sustaining aquarium and some early production facilities like LED light tubes. We secured the money through fund raising.

Apart from the environmental impact, how have your sustainability initiatives actually benefited your institution?

We believe it is consolidating and developing our students’ environmental knowledge, attitude and practices. Another benefit is we helped reinforce the need for environmental protection among the general public, as we received much publicity after becoming an environmental demonstration school and receiving many prestigious green awards like the 2013 Greenest School On Earth.

What would you suggest/advise to other similar institutions in the Asia region?

Do whatever they can to teach and practice environmental protection.

Some devices and measures can pay back for themselves in just a few months, do them without hesitation. One example is our automatic weather station. It beams the heat index to our intranet. Students observe the heat index once every two lessons. The air-conditioners will only be used when the index is above 25.5 degree Celsius. The cost of the station is just about HKD 10,000. It helps save HKD 40,000 of electrical bill every year.

The solar panels have a payback time of about 8 years now. If the initial capital funds could be secured, install them for long term cost reduction. They could only provide for a small percentage of the electrical energy needed, but we should start using more to bring the cost of solar energy down and to demonstrate to students how they can save themselves and their kids.

Use LED lights in school halls. They may be quite expensive. Yet because of their longer life time, the maintenance cost is far less. Indeed, it takes a few thousand dollars annually to erect a scaffold to replace a few hundred dollar worth of burnt out lights in a hall.

Last but not least, integrate environmental education into every subject. It can be done without any expenses and is very worthwhile. Always remember to include students in the loop so they can practice environmental protection. For example, do not rely on automatic sensors to switch on or off appliances. Arrange students to do it. The sensors should be included, but only as a backup.

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More about Sing Yin Secondary School :

Awarded as the Greenest School on Earth by USGBC in 2013, Sing Yin Secondary School is located in Hong Kong, China, and aims to provide one of the best educations in the world with a global perspective for boys in the local community. The school is putting a heavy emphasis on environmental awareness and adopts an interdisciplinary approach to realize its aim for environmental education. through their green facilities as well as programs.

Website: www.singyin.edu.hk/?lang=en

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2 Comments

  1. Kwok But

    16/01/2014 at 2:51 pm

    Dear Ms. Resti

    Many thanks for your prompt action. I did not imagine that you would post the interview so soon. I do hope that other schools could take action to protect the environment after reading your interview. Keep up the good work.

    Once again please accept my gratitude. Keep in touch.

    Kwok But
    Principal

    • Editor

      20/01/2014 at 2:39 pm

      Our pleasure, Mr. Kwok But.
      Thank you for your endeavor and contribution – let’s keep in touch.

      – Editor, AsiaGreenBuildings.com

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