Tag Archives: Engineering

What Your Mechanical Engineer Can Do for You?

 What Your Mechanical Engineer Can Do for You?

“Only an ESD consultant can do ESD”

Specialisation in Australia has led to a vast amount of knowledge and ‘know-how’ being wasted. Worse we are paying for another level of consulting, which can be very well handled by your existing core consulting team (Architect and Engineers).

To ‘draw that duct’, your mechanical engineer has at his fingertips, all the sites; climate data (including rain, solar, wind, temperature, humidity and so); has evaluated your fabric; considered shading, day lighting, equipment efficiencies; wall temperatures and colours and the like.

With this information all the ESD output needed for a project can be delivered. The only thing missing is that you have just asked them to only ‘draw a duct’.

Some Items you might want to ask for are detailed below:

Is co-generation suitable?                       Gas Fired? Liquid Bio Fuel? Methane?
 Co-Gen Engine liquid bio-fuel
What size solar panels suit this site?
PV Chart
What shading is required to reduce Air Conditioning capacity (Façade Optimisation)?
 Window Shading Section  Window Shading Elevation
What is the average daylight level in a room? Is the room dark? Will lighting need to be turned on? SEPP 65 Day Light review
Room Daylight
Have I got interstitial condensation or surface condensation issues?
 Interstitial Condensation
Can I naturally ventilate that car park?
Can I remove all ductwork from a car park?


What air flow will I get with present openings…what openings should I have?
Single Stack Natural ventilation



Single Side Ventilation – two openings.


Air Conditioning Load reduction or load slowing by fabric selection (Façade Optimisation)
Energy (Heat) via Conduction Through Wall



Overall Load review (Sensible Heat)


How much rain will fall on this site?


What is the mass of the building?
Which AC System has the lowest running Cost?


 AHU2  AHUEnergyChart


What the prevalent wind direction?


Do I need air conditioning? How comfortable are occupants without air conditioning? Is free cooling an option?


What’s the pay back for; more insulation; LED lights; natural ventilation; shading devices; lighting control; co-gen, solar hot water; solar electricity, air con system 1 vs air con system 2; heat recovery and so on.
Can I use Geo thermal or ocean heat rejection to remove cooling towers?
How much energy is saved with a green roof?
Are zero carbon liquid bio fuels an option?
 liquid bio-fuel  Biogastank
Is gas fired air conditioning an option for my project?

In addition to the above most consultancies offer; Green Star, NATHERS, LEED, NABERS.

How did this happen?

Engineering, of old, was appreciated for good engineering and practioners focussed on excelling in the delivery of drawings and specifications.

As CO2 and energy relevance ‘took off’ in recent years, ESD companies saw a market. The engineers kept focused on drawing that duct.


The delivery of low energy products (buildings) is a team effort. To keep us on the ‘straight and narrow’, we have the BCA. To make it easier to see reward for our efforts, we have developed schemes where we get stars or numbers or both.

A modern mechanical engineer has all the necessary skills to deliver and assist in delivering low energy products. Often no additional fee is required.

As ever, it’s down to individuals. Find someone who has a drive and passion and technical ability to deliver low energy products and that’s your best choice.

Author: Jorgen Knox

Jorgen Knox PIC

Original Post Date: 19/02/2015

Contact e: jorgenk@knoxadv.com.au, t: 02 800 33 100, w: KAE

LI: au.linkedin.com/pub/jorgen-knox/27/a44/506/



It’s Complicated (The Green Thing)

It’s Complicated (The Green Thing)

This post discusses in layman’s terms Global Warming. Always a vex topic and I’m hoping I’ll start some healthy blog responses.

Humans – Can We Believe in Global Warming?

We are all different. Our ability to believe anything is a mixture of hard wiring, how we’ve been nurtured during our child hood, our working experiences and what we need to believe (to fit in to our social or work life).

So you can talk all day about the science of global warming and you might be right, but that only ticks a % box in an individual’s decision matrix.

Further the science of global warming whilst many say is settled, just isn’t.  So a rational decision based on science cant be made.

If Global Warming is occurring and all the predictions are true  a slow creep to extinction is occurring.   However to most of us  its not real yet. The human decision matrix hasn’t got to; let’s say, to a required 60% certainty  level. It will take natural world wide event(s) to get to ‘oh we need to do something moment…it is real’.

At a corporate level (and this is where most of us are, plying our skills and trades in the construction industry) there’s another level of thought process. Decisions are made on financial models, with the aim of growth or profit.

Summary: Generally, ‘head in the sand’ prevails, mixed with ‘there’s enough market out there to make some money’ or ‘I think people will like us more if we are a bit greener’.

From a simple cause and effect basis, I haven’t seen sea levels rise in Sydney Harbour yet.

ACADS BSG (local weather data provider for Australia) has recently updated their temperature files….they have not seen any temperature rises (the opposite).

What Can Be Done?

Again, lots of ‘science’ is out there. Some positive (we can fix things) and some negative (it’s too late). Some saying CO2 level increase is actually a good thing.

Negative View

  • The planets systems are to complex and massive
  • It’s a cyclic event in our planets history, it can’t be stopped
  • Stopping or reducing CO2 levels is a waste of time.

Many use the analogy of the massive ball rolling down a hill. It’s too late, the ball has started moving and we can’t stop it. At best we might deflect it a few, years.

It is interesting to hear our worldwide leaders already planning for a 2+ oC temperature rise…’read my lips’,  global warming can’t be stopped in their opinion, for at least, this first big temperature increase.






Positive View

The positive view comes down to believing global warming is due to man-made CO2 and if we can stop this, our planet will be able to recover. It assumes our best scientists know how the planets systems work and interact and their modelling is infallible. My experience with modelling is ‘rubbish in rubbish out’.

So, where are we at?

We have reached a status quo. Believers, non-believers and those who haven’t decided. Much of the undecided may well be down to the complexity of the data out there. It’s a hard slog to read it.

Our government (Australia) appears (at 2015) to not believe in global warming, but is providing some funding for greening.

There is still no massive climate events happening and weather data now appears to show we are in a cooling period.

Our industry, ran head long into the Green movement (getting star rated buildings everywhere), the industry wanted to pay for it (saw a marketing potential). That rush is now over. Many in the industry have ended up disillusioned with ‘green’ and its cost (to some extent) and its compliance requirements (to a large extent). I’ve been made aware of a lot of ‘green infrastructure’, now sitting idle. Was this infrastructure installed simply to get ‘green points’?

[See my previous posts about green points. For me it’s about reducing energy consumption and getting lower bills an dyes this removes CO2].

In typical human decision making process when you are unsure we get a compromise :

The compromise: We undertake CO2 reduction in a manner the nation can afford. (This is where the Australian government is presently at)…. you could be cynical and say this is to keep both sets of voters on board.

What will happen, however, due to politics, is that we will flip (with each government) to ‘Spend to save the planet’, to ‘we are in debt and the country’s going down the gurgler’.

For now, we will go with the compromise:

  • we will keep complying with the BCA (Building Code of Australia)
  • where mandated we will use the various rating schemes
  • where a marketing potential exists we will again use the various rating schemes.
  • industry suppliers will continue to improve their equipment efficiencies and we will reward them with sales.
  • New technology will be found to create electricity without CO2 emissions

Where I’m at?

Global Warming: I’m still undecided (or is that head in the sand), but leaning towards a naysayer. I’m struggling with the belief that man-made CO2 is the only reason for the alleged warming and that stopping CO2 emissions will stop the warming. Don’t forget we are now allegedly in a temporary a cooling period.

The real elephant in the room, on this subject, is population growth. Australia’s population growth I understand is at c.400,000 per year (a new Canberra to be built each and every year). This is horrifying and the physical impacts are huge.

Energy Reduction: Being practically minded I’d like to see the following:

  • BCA efficiency increase for plant and systems
  • BCA Fabric thermal performance increase
  • BCA mandated leak tests for new buildings
  • BCA mandated maximum watts per square for lighting and equipment
  • Industry standards being changed to mandate minimum and maximum room temperatures (lower in winter and higher in summer. Try 18 oC and 25 to 27 oC).
  • A reduction in fresh air supply rates for occupants, in air conditioned spaces.

With the above points I’d like to see an agreed ‘bar raising’, year on year. These simple points will do as much, or more than any rating systems to save energy (thus CO2). It will also give manufacturers, and the like, a clear instruction to get innovating. If we accept a 2 oC temperature rise is correct, we should be designing (preparing) for this now.

The little extra for me would include:

  • More money (with payback on sales) for new technology – to the private sector
  • More government co-owning/ partnerships with new technology companies associated with CO2 and energy reduction
  • More government co-owning/ partnerships with new technology companies associated with alternative forms of energy creation.


  • Tax free status for approved research and company development associated with CO2 and energy reduction.
  • Mandated 100% use of renewable fuels (fuels that can be grown). Obviously this comes with some practical issues to be resolved.

See link to funds an grants: : http://www.business.gov.au/grants-and-assistance/grant-finder/Pages/Search.aspx?collection=business-gov-au&profile=grant&search_type=grant&query=Energy

What Impact Can we have?

This is annoying. In our industry we can only impact global energy consumption and global CO2 in a small way.

The following link is a great source on our impact on the Construction industry. The link states “Construction produced 7.1% of total indirect greenhouse gas emissions in 1994-95”.


So are best efforts will not eliminate all the 7.1% and on a world basis anything we do will have negligible to zero impact…add in population growth and we can rightly start to feel useless.

Further Reading

This post has not gone into the detail or science of global warming from the various points of view. The web is chock-a-block with it. I recommend you get googling. Some great sites I’ve looked at are:




Author: Jorgen Knox

Last Updated: 10/08/2015

Contact: e: jorgenk@knoxadv.com.au, t: 02 800 33 100, w: KAE, LI

D & C versus Full Design

Full Design or D&C?

This post discusses D&C vs Full documentation.

Should I fully document a project or go D&C?  

This question is normally answered by the Architect or the Project Manager at the very outset of a project. This is a fundamental decision point. The rest of the team have no input, indeed the project, or potential project is very often still under wraps.

If you’re going D&C, then the team should be involving D&C (design and construct) contractors (Builder, HVAC, Elec, Hydraulic and so on contractors) from the start.

If this is too hard (D&C contractors involved early), then your heading for the Full Design approach with usual consultant input or the half-way house, where the team (including Architect and Consultants), get the project to say 30% and then start the D&C process (The hope is that the 30% work is not abortive).

Basically it comes down to hard dollars (again) and trust. The hard dollars (will I get a cheaper price if I fully document and go to competitive tender) and the trust (can I trust a D&C contractor not to rip me off).

My Views

I’ve been asked this question so many times over the years (D&C vs Full documentation).

There is no clear best way to document a project. It always comes down to the individuals, either on the consulting team or the D&C team. See also my post on competitions.

I have seen a trend towards the D&C approach.

The typical pros are:

  • It’s cheaper (cuts out the consultant)
  • Full responsibility lies with the contractor and it was always going to.

The typical conns are:

  • A perception you will be ripped off
  • D&C design isn’t as good.
  • Full documentation means there are ‘no variations’.
  • The building may be too far down the track when the D&C contractor is appointed.

Are Consultants Creating the D&C approach?

My call is yes. There is a definite move to providing less in consultant documentation. Two classic examples are shown below.

E.g. 1: Its easier (Time wise, PI insurance etc) to not show balancing dampers on a drawing or commissioning valves and so on. Just put a note on the drawing or in the specification and let the contractor work it out.

Eg. 2: Co-ordination, will it fit? Let the contractor work it out attitude often pervades.

So, if the consultant is providing a concept design and in reality a schematic layout, you can see why industry groups think “I might as well just use the contractor”.

In the consultants defence a client fees may be so low, that all you can do is dust off the last similar project and regurgitate it.

If you’re a services contractor

If you’re a contractor with the willingness to employ great staff and undertake projects in a fair and reasonable manner, then absolutely the opportunity to excel and win work without consultant input is there.

Main D&C Contractors

The large and good D&C contractors are generally forgotten in the process. They are often frustrated having to tender on documentation, which is consultant derived and can be considered useless. Wrong Concept employed, not representing best value to the client, un coordinated drawings (that just can’t work) etc are the comments you hear on that side of the fence.

What Should Consultants Be Doing

I’ve been a consultant for most of my career, so forgive me for my slight bias.

A consultant should be offering more than great drawings.  And clients should be using consultants to do more than just ‘great drawings’.

What a consultant should be doing:

  • Ascertaining what the client wants
  • Ascertain what the Architect wants
  • Ascertain what the site will allow
  • Review the world wide market and report to the team the options available, with life expectancy, power and water consumption etc. (LCC). So the client can make the best and most informed decision.
  • Concept design, spatial planning
  • Setting minimum standards.

Summary: Providing the smarts

At this point the consultant can be moved to a watching brief role or if they have the skill set move to a ‘documentation consulting’ role. For the Architects reading, this is all similar to the ‘Concept Architect’ and ‘Documenting Architect’ roles.

If a consultant provides all the services above in a watered-down fashion (due to low fees shall we say), they will not be thanked and push more work the D&C route.


I’ve sat on the fence a bit on this one, but hopefully covered off the main topic items. I have not covered PI insurance on purpose. Your feedback and experiences would be appreciated…write a comment.

Author: Jorgen Knox

Date: 12/08/2014

Contact: e: jorgenk@knoxadv.com.au, t: 02 800 33 100, w: KAE, LI