Tuesday, September 28, 2010

SAVING WEATHERED WOOD



In one primary school in Setapak in Kuala Lumpur, rubber soles graze the wooden floor as students troop into the lecture hall. Little do the kids know that they are trodding on flooring that once belonged to the main exhibit area of the National Art Gallery in Jalan Tun Razak, KL.

When the building was undergoing refurbishment three years ago, the flooring of kempas wood was changed and, through a wood supply networking system, the wood panels ended up with timber entrepreneur Albert Low.

Coincidentally, a contractor was then sourcing for cheap flooring material for the school. Low matched the two and voila, the school got a high quality and almost new timber floor-the flooring was only two years old when removed-for its 270sqm hall.

And it came practically free since Low decided to be philanthropic. And so old wood, which would otherwise have been wantonly discarded, was given a new use. As concern over forest destruction mounts, people are increasingly looking for old wood that can be recycled. Reclaimed wood is touted as environment-friendly because it not only prevents the burning of wood waste, something that is widely practiced, but also saves the rainforest from the chainsaw. Low’s company, Maltimber Industries, deals in sustainably produced timber; one of the products he offer is old timber. He sources for the material from any building that is being taken down, but mainly from old warehouses as the quantity would be large, sometimes around 50 tonnes, and the wood is superior.

“Those days, warehouses were big and used mainly hardwoods such as cengal and balau as these were readily available and cheap. These timber can still be used for many year so long as they have not been badly weathered through exposure to rain and sun.”
Cengal and balau are his wood of choice as both are hardy, durable and not chemically treated since they can naturally ward off termite attacks.

Low has been in the timber industry for over 20 years but only started dealing in old wood about five years ago when demand grew. “It all started by coincidence. Contractors were offering these old wood at lower prices and, as I have a sawmill, I could cut them to size for resale. Since there is business to be made, I went into it. Now, there are environmental reasons for doing it. It’s good as there is no wastage of wood. Besides, hardwoods like cengal and balau are difficult to get now and are also expensive.”

Environmental motive aside, another reason to purchase old wood is its price, which Low says is generally 30% lower than new wood. The quality, length and thickness of the wood dictate its pricing. While new cengal lumber measuring 150mm by 150mm and 6m long sells for RM12000 a tone, similar-sized old wood goes for about RM6000 to RM7000.

“But the prices is catching up. It used to be half the price of new wood. Warehouse owners are selling it more expensively as they know there is demand. It used to be that they’ll pay people to take away the wood or even give it away free,” says Low.
Hey buys old wood from all over the country, through a network of middlemen. “when ever an old building is being taken down, they will contact me. I’ll send my workers to check it out. They’ll e-mail me photographs to indicate the quantity and quality of the wood, then I’ll decide whether to investigate further.”

Since old buildings get demolished all the time with redevelopment, Low is never short of supplies. But he refuses to divulge more about his sources of aged wood, stating that the material is hot property in the increasingly competitive business. He does retrieve timber from old residential homes, but rarely, since these yield only small amounts, plus the wood is usually small-sized.

As a wholesaler, he deals with contractor and sometimes, architects, rather than houseowners. The old wood is usually cut to fit the required needs. Right now, he is expecting a shipment from an old warehouse in Penang. He has a ready buyer for it-a contractor who is sourcing the wood for a resort.

For safety reasons, he says reclaimed wood should not be used for structural purposes such as in roof trusses as its strength might have declined with age. Such wood is more suitably repurposed into gazebos, flooring, fencing, furniture, wall paneling, siding and wooden decorative items.

Some say that aged wood has an unmatched rustic beauty and built-in history, and Low attests to that. “The colour of cengal shines more, the longer you keep it,” he says.
Local demand for old wood is currently huge, according to Low, with buyers coming mainly from Kuala Lumpur and Penang. So, he sells it all locally and need not export. Though the trend augurs well for his business, he sees his green endeavour as “just my small contribution to the environment.”

Monday, September 27, 2010

SAVING RAINWATER



In Malaysia, where water is in abundant supply (most times, anyway) and the cost of water is relatively cheap, most people don’t think twice about taking long, leisurely showers or washing their cars daily.

On the other hand, in countries where drought is a serious recurring problem, like Australia which has been dubbed the driest inhabited continent, water conservation is necessary for survival. As a result, in dry times, the Australian Government enforces water restrictions on its citizens.

During one particularly bad drought, recalls Goh Soon Sinn who is executive chairman and chief executive officer of Waterco Australia, people weren’t allowed to wash their cars with running water from the hose.

“We had to use a bucket and wipe our cars clean with a cloth. Car wash facilities were required, by law, to use only recycled water,” shares Goh who is currently based in Kuala Lumpur, the company’s base for Far East operations.

Coming from Australia, it isn’t at all surprising that Goh is prudent about water consumption at the Waterco plant in Sungai Buloh, Selangor, where there is in place a rain harvesting and conservation system. The RM120000 investment can allow up to a 75% savings on water consumption- a considerable saving for the company and the environment.

With the system, rainwater is collected in two huge roof tanks through a catchment system of gutters and pipes. The tanks are covered to prevent contamination and algae growth, as well as to avoid water loss via evaporation. The water from the tank is then filtered and channeled to a huge underground storage tank which Goh says is the size of a “motel-sized swimming pool”- it can store up to 94.5 cu.m of water.

“Rainwater harvesting is not new but it hasn’t really been looked at in this country where there is plenty of rainfall. We felt, however, that water is a huge resource to be tapped and so when we built this facility, we built a huge underground tank which we could use to store rainwater. We use it to flush toilets, water our garden, clean our equipment and fill up the cooling towers (for the air-conditioning). We don’t use the water for drinking (because it would have to be treated first) but th and is reasonably fresh,” explains Goh.

He adds that rainwater harvesting also reduces the volume of storm water, which can cause flooding.

Australian company Waterco manufactures swimming pool and spa equipment, water filters, softeners and purifiers as well as commercial and aquaculture water treatment equipment.

As Malaysia is blessed with constant rain-fall, Goh says harvested rain water has accounted for up to 40% of Waterco’s total water consumption.
“The amount of water we use here is very large. An average household uses 40 cu.m of water. We use 904 cu.m which is equivalent to 22 households. We are fortunate we have plenty of rainfall in Malaysia. Even on months when there was little rainfall, we managed to collect enough rainwater to account for 40% of our consumption,” he says, adding that they hope to increase the use of rainwater to 60%.

When the storage tank reaches a critical low point and the rainwater supply is low. Automatic sensors in the rooftop storage tank will detect this and water is topped up from the Water Department (JBA) supply.
Although the harvesting system has translated into savings for the company, he explains that most companies would not consider putting in place a rainwater harvesting system in their facilities as it is not economically feasible.
“The payback is slow. If you are talking about a three-year payback then yes, people will be interested. But it’s more like a 10-year payback. It’s not economical because water is cheap here.

“We did it as part of our efforts to be green we are in the water business and we believe in conservation wherever and whenever possible. Water conservation is not fashionable..It’s here to stay, it’s something we have to think about and do. In Australia, there isn’t a drought now so the water restrictions have been lifted but the practice of water conservation lingers. It has become a way of life now,” says Goh.

Waterco does not “sell” rainwater harvesting systems though.
“We have the filters and the equipment but we don’t consult on setting up a harvesting system. We can, however, share our experience and knowledge with those who are interested,” says Goh.
He says that rainwater harvesting systems can also be installed in homes. “For homes, you need a basic system…an outdoor tank, piping and filters which will come up to about RM3000 and you can probably expect payback in three to five years.
“If you want to install an underwater storage tank, of course the cost will go up but it’s not necessary. You need a simple tank but a proper one as you don’t want sediment or any other residues to form,” he warns.

Alternatively, households can collect water the age-old way, like how it’s done in villages: by putting out buckets or old drums when it rains and using the water for the garden or to flush toilets.

Friday, September 24, 2010

KE ARAH MASA DEPAN YANG HIJAU




Malaysia merupakan Negara membangun telah berkembang dengan pesat. Namun begitu, kepesatan tersebut tidak seiring dengan sikap para pengguna terhadap alam sekitar. Sedangkan salah satu hak pengguna ialah hak untuk mendapat persekitaran yang sihat.
Siapa yang sepatutnya bertanggungjawab untuk menyediakan persekitaran yang sihat kepada kita? Sebagai pengguna, kita perlu mempraktikkan penggunaan lestari untuk mendapatkan persekitaran yang bersih dan selamat.

Apakah yang dimaksudkan dengan penggunaan lestari? Penggunaan lestari ialah penggunaan perkhidmatan atau produk bagi memenuhi keperluan asas dan membolehkan kita menjalani kualiti hidup yang baik. Dalam masa yang sama dapat mengurangkan penggunaan sumber asli serta bahan-bahan toksik dan pelepasan sisa serta bahan-bahan pencemar sepanjang kitar hayat supaya tidak menjejaskan keperluan masa depan generasi akan datang-Pertubuhan Bangsa-bangsa Bersatu.

Produk dan perkhidmatan pengguna boleh memberikan kesan kepada alam sekitar sama ada sebelum atau selepas kita membeli dan menggunakannya. Merancang pembelian dan mengubah corak penggunaan akan membantu untuk memelihara alam sekitar. Jika kita membuat keputusan untuk menghentikan penggunaan plastic, salah satu masalah besar di tapak pelupusan sampah dapat diatasi. Tetapi ini sukar untuk dilakukan kerana ketiadaan bahan ganti dalam pasaran ataupun perubahan tabiat pengguna.
Oleh itu, kita memerlukan satu mekanisme, iaitu Mekanisme CIG. Perkongsian antara pengguna(C)-Industri(I)-Kerajaan(G) adalah mekanisme yang sangat penting.

Kerajaan memainkan peranannya dalam melaksanakan undang-undang dan member pendidikan secara berterusan. Pelaksanaan undang-undang dan pendidikan yang berkesan ini dapat mewujudkan kesedaran dan etika dalam kalangan industri dan pengguna. Sektor industri pula perlu mengambil tanggungjawab dengan memastikan prosedur-prosedur dan peraturan-peraturan dipatuhi untuk memastikan produk-produk atau perkhidmatan-perkhidmatan bersifat mesra alam. Pengguna juga dapat manfaat daripada tindakan oleh kerajaan dan industry. Ini merupakan perkongsian bijak.

Pada masa akan datang, isu-isu berkaitan alam sekitar merupakan cabaran penting untuk ditempuhi. Bagaimana kita sebagai pengguna dapat mengatasi cabaran ini? Sebenarnya kita boleh memainkan peranan bagi menyelamatkan bumi dengan melakukan perkara-perkara berikut:

1.Bawa beg sendiri apabila membeli belah. Beg plastik tidak mesra alam dan tidak boleh terbiodegradasi.

2.Menunggang basikal atau berjalan kaki apabila pergi ke sesuatu tempat atau kedai yang berdekatan. Ini merupakan amalan 100% mesra alam dan menyihatkan tubuh badan.

3.Tutup televisyen, stereo dan computer apabila tidak digunakan kerana peralatan ini menggunakan di antara 10% hingga 60% sumber tenaga. Ini boleh menyumbang kepada pemanasan global.

4.Membawa bekalan ke tempat kerja atau sekolah. Makanan ini lebih menyihatkan dan menjimatkan.

5.Kumpulkan kertas yang digunakan di rumah dan bawa ke pusat kitar semula. Mengitar semula produk berasaskan kayu dapat menyelamatkan berjuta-juta pokok setahun.

6.Hentikan penggunaan racun makhluk perosak. Tanam tumbuh-tumbuhan tertentu di kebun anda, seperti pudina dan selasih yang boleh menghalau serangga perosak.

7.Gunakan lampu jenis kalimantang. Lampu jenis ini menggunakan ¼ tenaga elektrik dan empat kali lebih tahan lama berbanding mentol lampu biasa.

8.Sebelum membuka peti sejuk, tentukan terlebih dahulu barang yang ingin diambil. Membuka peti sejuk dengan kerap boleh merugikan tenaga elektrik dan menyebabkan bil elektrik meningkat.

9.Elakkan daripada menggunakan bahan berasaskan stirofom. Bahan ini tidak boleh terbiodegradasi dan boleh merosakkan lapisan ozon.

10.Jadilah sukarelawan projek penghijauan di kawasan anda. Adakan atau sertai program alam sekitar di tempat anda.

11.Kongsi maklumat dan panduan yang dipelajari tentang penggunaan lestari dengan keluarga dan rakan-rakan.

12.Anda boleh mendinginkan ruangan dalam rumah dengan mudah. Gunakan pembidai atau langsir berwarna putih bagi mengurangkan pemanasan. Penggunaan pendingin hawa boleh menyumbang kepada pemanasan global.

13.Beli tanaman keluaran tempatan. Ia bukan sahaja menjimatkan wang tetapi juga dapat menampung kehidupan petani tempatan.

14.Kurangkan pembuangan sampah. Jangan gunakan produk pakai buang seperti pinggan kertas, cawan plastic atau kertas tisu.

15.Menjimatkan penggunaan air turut menjimatkan tenaga elektrik kerana proses membekalkan air dan menyaring sisa kumbahan menggunakan tenaga elektrik yang banyak.

16.Gunakan kaedah penanaman secara semula jadi di kebun. Penggunaan baja kompos organik dapat menyuburkan tanah untuk bercucuk tanam.

Mengapa penggunaan lestari sangat penting? Mengapakah kita perlu bersikap prihatin, kepada isu alam sekitar? Hakikatnya, kita hanya mempunyai dunia ini sahaja untuk hidup. Kita perlu memeliharanya untuk kehidupan generasi akan datang. Mulakan hidup yang hijau pada tahun baru ini. Mengubah tabiat memanglah sukar, tetapi ingatlah masa depan anak-anak kita. Perlindungan terbaik adalah perlindungan diri sendiri.-oleh Piarapakaran Subramaniam, Setiausaha Agung, Persatuan Pengguna Air dan Tenaga Malaysia (WECAM)

(Dari akhbar Berita Harian/Jumaat/4Jun2010)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

PEMANASAN GLOBAL CETUS BENCANA


(Pakar PBB dakwa banjir landa Pakistan, China terburuk dalam sejarah)
London: Pakar peruabahan iklim berkata, fenomena pemanasan global kemungkinan menjadi punca tercetusnya banjir besar di Pakistan, kebakaran hutan di Russia dan tanah runtuh di China sekarang.
Hampir 14 juta orang terjejas oleh banjir di Pakistan menjadikan bencana itu lebih buruk daripada kejadian tsunami 2004 dan gempa bumi di Kashmir dan Haiti.
Bencana banjir terbaru itu yang dianggap Pertubuhan Bangsa-bangsa Bersatu (PBB) terburuk dalam sejarah terdekat, disebabkan oleh kehadiran ‘supercharged jet stream’ atau gelungan besar angin kencang yang juga dikatakan menjadi punca banjir di China dan cuaca panas berpanjangan di Russia yang menyebabkan kebakaran hutan.
Pakar PBB dari beberapa unversiti di seluruh dunia berkata, fenomena cuaca ekstrem dialami sekarang membuktikan kesan pemanasan global semakin dirasai.
Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, naib presiden IPCC, badan PBB yang ditugaskan untuk memantau pemanasan global, berkata cuaca ekstrem itu adalah konsisten dengan perubahan iklim yang dibawa oleh aktiviti manusia.
“cuaca ekstrem dialami sekarang terus dicetus dan diburukkan lagi oleh fenomena pencemaran rumah hijau yang terhasil daripada aktiviti manusia” katanya.
PBB berkata, banjir melanda Pakistan sekarang adalah krisis kemanusiaan terburuk sejak beberapa tahun lalu dengan 13.8 juta orang terjejas dan 1600 orang terkorban setakat ini.
Banjir dan tanah runtuh yang melanda China sejak tiga hari lalu sudah menyebabkan 702 orang terkorban dan lebih 1000 orang dilaporkan hilang, di samping menyebabkan kerosakan berbilion dolar di 28 wilayah. Di Russia, rumah mayat hamper penuh di Moscow ketika Negara itu dilanda kebakaran hutan yang dicetuskan cuaca terburuk sejak 130 tahun lalu. Ketua pemantauan iklim di Pejabat Meteorologi Britain, Dr Peter Stott, berkata hampir mustahil untuk menyatakan fenomena cuaca ekstrem dialami semata-mata disebabkan pemanasan global.
Namun beliau berkata, wujud bukti jelas peningkatan kekerapan fenomena cuaca ekstrm berikutan pemanasan global. Dr Stott berkata, pemanasan global dikatakan menjadi punca kepada fenomena cuaca ekstrem kerana apabila atmosfera lebih panas ia mempunyai keupayaan untuk menampung lebih banyak air dan berikutan itu mencetuskan hujan lebat dan banjir yang lebih teruk seperti di Pakistan dan China.
(Dari Akhbar Berita Harian/Khamis/12ogos2010)

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