The Tang brothers have a lot of cleaning up to do – they intend to be the specialist doctors’ for Singapore’s indoor environment.
Jeffrey Tang and Keith Tang, scions of Tang Choon Keng, founder of the Tangs store, have found new business pursuits in indoor environment quality.
The two brothers must have forgotten what a cough and clearing a blocked nose sound like. After all, the only sickness they have heard around them in recent times is diarrhoea.
The advantage of not having anyone sick in the office or at home, muses Jeffrey, is that they don’t go scooting off in a car or taxi. This reduces energy consumption and, or possibly, pollution. The financial burden of the medical bill is also relieved, not to mention that an organisation with generally healthy staff must have higher efficiency. He credits it to the indoor environment quality or IEQ, which both their offices and home maintain. This is the thrust of IEQ’s Global business.
A NEW HERITAGE BEGINS – To date, these two self-professed crusaders for a healthy environment have converted more than 50 per cent of the hotels in New Zealand under their Heritage Group to adhere to and achieve the internationally recognised the Green Globe certification.
The Group started in 1993, when their father Tang Wee Cheng relinquished control of the then Dynasty Hotel to their uncles. According to The Straits Times, as part of a divestment strategy, they took the cash proceeds of $50 million to New Zealand to start the Heritage Hotel chain, which includes both hotels and serviced apartments and is part of the Dynasty Hotel Group.
The brothers have been inseparable partners ever since – Keith is naturally left-handed and Jeffrey is right handed. They even have complementary traits. Keith is more macro and creative in his views and outlook, whereas Jeffrey is the “back-room engine” that takes care of details and execution. Keith formulates his thoughts over time and Jeffrey seems faster off the block, which is probably why he is taking most of the questions at our interviews, with Keith chipping in occasionally.
THE GREEN CRUSADE – “As a country, New Zealand has always been known for its strong belief in the green movement. They would not allow things that would destroy nature to even touch New Zealand. There’s a very strong principle there to protect the country and its resources,” says Jeffrey, the Heritage Hotel group’s managing director.
The green culture is so strong in New Zealand that during the renewal of contracts, partner companies have asked the Heritage Group what environmentally friendly practices they follow. Hence, the group will convert all its Heritage hotels in New Zealand to eco-friendly standard by 2009.
Jeffrey is encouraging about companies going green and reveals that it is not necessary to put forward “life-changing actions.” He says that simply by turning the air conditionings in the building one or two degrees down. It is possible to conserve energy without any adverse impact on the staff.
He goes on to explain that each of us takes 20,000 to 25,000 breaths every day. But because we are breathing the air circulating in and out of the air conditioning system while we are indoor, and the system may not have been properly cleaned in years, we should check the air quality and clear up the air so that we can breathe better. IEQ Global provides solutions such as AHU and ventilation ductwork system maintenance (ACMV) and energy saving methods for offices and buildings.
The Heritage hotels undertook costly measures during conversion, reassessing all their equipment and their energy consumption, to be more eco-friendly. Along the way, chemicals had to be changed; new machines to track specific measurements were bought and occupancy censors were attached in every room to work in conjunction with the automatic energy saving switches, Careful planning enabled them to incorporate these changes as part and parcel of the hotel’s refurbishment, which takes place every seven to eight years.
CLOSING IN ON THE ENVIRONMENT – It is with their lofty aspiration to improve indoor environment quality, save energy and be green, that the Tang brothers launched IEQ Global in Singapore late last year.
With IEQ Global, the brothers aim to be the specialists who can help companies ensure a standard of quality in the indoor air, ventilation, noise, illumination (lighting) and temperature.
The star product distributed by IEQ Global is HealthWay’s EMF Air Purification systems. This is said to be the world’s only air purification with EMF technology, developed with U.S Defence Department in a research study to counter germ warfare.
Suffice to say, this is the ultimate weapon against germs and bacteria in the environment. Unlike most conventional filtering systems, EMF filters not only trap airborne particles, but is tested to kill up to 100 percent of viruses, bacteria and fungi up to 0.3 microns small.
What IEQ Global can do for a start is to conduct an indoor air quality (IAQ) audit. In buildings where air conditioning system has not been properly serviced for years, the brothers made shocking discoveries – yes, even in our clean and green city state.
Apart from dust and dirt, IEQ Global has found dead birds and rats decomposing in air conditioning ducts. This could lead to health problems, especially for people wit respiratory problem such as asthma, when they breath in the air from those ducts. Jeffrey recalls finding a 1977 copy of a newspaper in one building’s duct, so apparently, its ducts has not been cleaned for 30 years.
Fortunately, the Tang brothers have also seen a number of responsible clients who have engaged them to clean up their systems. The Tuas Incineration Plant is one such client with regular ‘clean-ups’ to avoid debris collection and prevent health risks to their staff.
Keith elaborates that indoor environmental problems are found not only in old buildings, but in new buildings as well.
“Most people don’t understand new buildings come with a lot of particles. The smell from your carpet, for instance, is due to new chemicals that are very dangerous to your lungs. But you don’t know whether the ‘new smell’ you detect are good or bad to your body until the chemical reactions in your body occur. So you need certain apparatus to turn these around. We have been doing this.” Jeffrey adds, “we take care of a building’s respiratory system.”
READING THE AIR – Indeed, the air indoors can be two to five times as polluted as the air outdoors, according to the Environmental Protection Agency which placed it among the top five environmental risks to the public health, The Washington Post reported recently. The problems primarily lies with homes populated by mites, moulds, bacteria, dander and volatile organic compounds, which create a hostile environment for those who are especially sensitive, such as asthmatic children under five.
“My daughters and son are all asthmatic,: says Jeffrey. “Unfortunately, I live within an area now under massive construction. So the air around got so bad that I have to close all windows, which means relying totally on my air conditioning. But that also means totally recycled air, since there is no fresh air from outside. This build up of carbon dioxide is not good for us either. So what we’ve done is that we switch HealthWay’s air purification machine on for the whole day. On particular day when we are out, we kept sneezing. But once we got home and closed the door, we stopped sneezing. It really makes a difference.” Keith adds that his mildew problem at home was also resolved by using the machine to circulate fresh air all around.
Jeffrey, who visited various countries with his air quality counter late last year, says: “In New Zealand, up on its highest peak, Mount Cook, I drove as far as I could and got the outdoor air pollutant particle count of around 90,000. In Singapore, it is three million on a normal day that is not hazy, and around seven million on a hazy day. In Shanghai, it was eight million and in New York, the readings I got were around 12 million.”
Looking at these figures, Singapore certainly has a long way to go. This also means that the act of cleaning up our air, starting from indoors, is only just the beginning, We shall wait with bathed breath.