Hong Kong Fervently Pursues Green Construction Scheme | HK Green Building Council | Conrad Wong

Conrad Wong HKGBC e

Buildings are the biggest power consumer in Hong Kong, partaking alarmingly as much as 90% of the city’s power electricity usage. This inconvenient truth combined with the projected increase of building stock are prompting an immediate action to offset the greenhouse gases emissions it produces in order to avert further environmental crisis that may be caused.

Conrad Wong, the Chairman of Hong Kong Green Building Council further explains how the city is ambitiously targeting significant amount of energy consumption reduction by buildings through certain initiatives and programmes being carried out. In this exclusive interview with AsiaGreenBuildings, Conrad also shares the importance of behavioral change, innovation, and retrofitting schemes needed to achieve the desired goals.

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As a huge amount of power in Hong Kong (90%) are consumed by buildings, what kind of significant change is expected under the HK3030 scenario?

Conrad Wong (CW) : Given more than 60% of Hong Kong’s greenhouse gases emission is attributed to electricity consumption in buildings, which accounts of 90% of the total electricity consumption in Hong Kong, there is an immediate need for energy reduction. Hence, the Hong Kong Green Building Council (HKGBC) launched the HK3030 Campaign which proposed a holistic approach base on demand side management of electricity consumption to reduce 30% of the absolute amount of the electricity used in buildings in 2030 as compared to 2005 level. To achieve this goal, a reduction of about 60% per square meter on average is needed across all buildings in Hong Kong.

With the projection of increasing building stock and higher energy consumption per capita under the Business-As-Usual (BAU) scenario, the HK3030 Campaign is equivalent to a reduction of 58% electricity consumption per meter square when compared to the 2005 level. A stretched buffer of 2% is built in to make the HK3030 actual electricity consumption target 60%. It will contribute to over 33,000 GWh actual electricity saving and over 23 million tonnes of CO2e reduction by 2030.

The HK3030 targets 12% out of total 60% reduction to be achieved by behavioral change – what is it and what approaches do you use to ensure its compliance?

CW : Based on the model developed by Arup, the HK3030 reduction scenario has taken into account a host of major factors such as the projected distributions of the building stock and electricity consumption in 2030, potential energy savings from more advanced building technologies and designs, system upgrade and the distribution of energy-end use among sub-sectors, communal and tenant areas. It is estimated that 48% of the reduction target could be made possible through technology advancement and uptake, and the remaining 12% reduction is to be achieved by behavioural change.

With 12% of the HK3030 saving target to be contributed by behavioural change, the public needs to understand why building energy efficiency is an integral and crucial part of Hong Kong’s climate change strategy. In view of the importance of the education sector in driving behavioural change among the younger generations, the HKGBC has launched the first two initiatives targeting this sector in March 2013.

Under the HK3030 Campaign, the Hong Kong Green School Guide was launched for providing practical guidelines for principals and school administrators to better understand ways to improve building energy efficiency and engage students for reducing energy consumption. Formulated by a steering committee composing green building experts and key educational stakeholders including representatives from the HKSAR Government and the schools, the Hong Kong Green School Guide provides comprehensive guidelines on design, construction and operation of the green features at schools, including the school sites, energy saving, water use, materials and waste management, and indoor environmental quality. The HKGBC is also planning to introduce the Hong Kong Green Shop Guide for the owners, facility managers and tenants of shopping malls and individual shops in the 4th quarter of 2013, as well as for other sectors in the next few years.

The HKGBC also introduced the Energy Saving Charter (Education Sector) in March 2013. A total of 19 tertiary institutions, comprising 9 Universities/Tertiary Institutions and 10 Primary and Secondary Schools signed the Charter as an vow to integrate environmental considerations into the planning, design, construction, operation and maintenance of all the facilities and services and also the learning experience they offered to their students. Moving forward, the HKGBC will continue to expand the outreach and encourage further participation from other sectors, such as offices, hotels, and shops to foster a more environmental friendly low carbon community in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong has recently been acclaimed as one of the 5 most Innovative Cities in Asia Pacific. How is it ensured that this is not an over-acknowledgement; what innovative methods are being implemented to ensure ample green space in a dense built environment like Hong Kong?

CW : Innovation and creativity are key attributes to green building development. Hong Kong’s high urban density has driven building professionals for new ideas, such as the invention of new construction products and materials. As such, Hong Kong is well-poised to be an international leader in green building and urban development; with a locally developed BEAM Plus assessment tool takes into account Hong Kong’s unique conditions such as its high development density and naturally hot, humid weather. This is not only helpful for green developments in Hong Kong, but also creates the potential to set a new benchmark of excellence for the entire region. By utilising this market-leading tool, developers can launch quality new green building projects.

It is worth noting that the BEAM Plus scheme offers bonus credits on innovative techniques or performance enhancements that provide environmental benefits in addition to those already covered in the five key aspects of the entry project.  The idea is to encourage the adoption of new practices, technologies and techniques that have yet to find application in Hong Kong.  This bonus credit approach is reaping benefits as we increasingly see new innovative green building designs are being put in place by some of our latest entry projects.

A major chunk of Hong Kong’s population spends a majority of their day in buildings. What efforts are needed to ensure a healthy indoor environment?

CW : Indoor environment quality is one of the six aspects under the BEAM Plus Assessment Scheme. Indoor issues included in BEAM Plus are those aspects of building performance that impact on the health, comfort or well-being of the occupants, as well as aspects of performance that improve quality and functionality. These issues include safety, hygiene, indoor air quality and ventilation, thermal comfort, lighting, acoustics and noise, and building amenities.

The HKGBC has also just launched the BEAM Plus Interiors, a new green assessment system for the interior occupied spaces of non-domestic buildings. The launch marks the beginning of a new chapter for the method by expanding the scope of the existing tools to address considerably environmental and public health issues of interior space. Apart from green building attributes in the selection of a hosting building, key aspects of building management, including construction management practices and sustainable operational management are also covered.

Beyond BEAM Plus, the HKSAR Government has also implemented an Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Management Programme with the objective to improve and increase public awareness on the importance of IAQ. A voluntary IAQ Certification Scheme for Offices and Public Places is also launched by the Government to recognise good IAQ management practices; and provide incentives for owners of premises/buildings or property management companies to pursue the best level of IAQ.  Feedback on the Programme has been encouraging.  Not only did the participating units think it enhanced comfort level of the occupants and helped increase productivity of the workers, many said the Programme actually helped attract more tenants and customers in this increasingly sustainability-conscious era.

Experts claim that the number of new buildings built in Hong Kong would be a very small proportion of the number that already exists – does this mean a heavier focus needs to be put on the retrofitting sector?

CW : It is no doubt that one of the major tasks of the current green building movement is the retrofitting of the existing building. Significant effort must be put into driving major retrofitting in existing buildings to improve their energy efficiency performance. While tax concession for green buildings has been adopted in cities such as New York and Singapore, the HKGBC believes that providing concessions on income tax, Government rate and stamp duty to existing building owners and, more importantly, users, would be an effective means of in incentivising the market. It would also further shorten the payback period for major retrofitting and incorporating energy efficient systems in the existing building stock. It is anticipated that through sufficient financial incentives to reduce the upfront capital investment in retrofitting, the payback period can be shortened to four or five years. Under the HK3030 Campaign, the HKGBC proposed several financial incentives to drive major retrofit in both commercial and residential buildings, including:

  • Personal Tax Credits in purchasing energy efficient electrical appliances for residential owners
  • Stamp Duty Rebate for residential owners
  • Subsidies for residential home owners (in particular low income homes)
  • BEC Building Energy Code enhancement
  • Corporate Tax Credits for investment in better performance building service installations for commercial building owners and/or tenants
  • Green Mortgage or Green Loan for commercial building owners and/or tenants

The Chinese Government has just recently announced that environmental protection would be elevated to a “pillar industry” that would receive government support in the form of tax breaks and subsidies. How do you envision a concrete case that this scenario would leverage towards HKGBC goals?

CW : Aspired to be the “Principal Voice” in leading green building movement in Hong Kong, HKGBC welcomes government policies in the Asia Pacific region that is favourable to the green building movement. While it is too early to comment on the actual effect on green building development brought by the recent announcement of tax breaks and subsidies from the Chinese Government, HKGBC has been in close partnerships with our regional and international counterparts for closer dialogue and collaboration in the green building movement.

We also see great opportunities in taking the green equipment and material industry to the next level.  The HKGBC is working on recruiting industry equipment suppliers to be our active members and lining them up with our consultants through conference seminars to share their latest techniques. We believe in fostering a close connection with Mainland China, especially the Guangdong province and the Pearl River Delta region, so that their manufacturers can gain access to Hong Kong market. Throw the HK3030 vision into the equation, the cross-border equipment and material suppliers can come in and meet the increasing demand from Hong Kong in the years to come, creating win-win and taking the supply ecosystem to the next level.

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More about the Hong Kong Green Building Council :

The Hong Kong Green Building Council (HKGBC) is a non-profit, member-led organisation established in 2009 which strives to promote the standards and developments of sustainable buildings in Hong Kong.  The organization aims to raise green building awareness by engaging the public, the industry and the government, and to develop practical solutions for Hong Kong’s unique, subtropical built environment of high-rise, high density urban area, leading Hong Kong to become a world’s exemplar of green building development. The HKGBC has developed a particular green building certification systems recognized as BEAM Plus.

Website : www.hkgbc.org.hk

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