HK: Local Green Building Council to rise registration fees for projects

The Green Building Council is cashing in on its right to accredit environmentally friendly building projects, having announced an increase in registration fees that will take them to double the level of two years ago.

The not-for-profit body is responsible for certifying buildings that have undergone BEAM Plus assessment – government-recognised tests developments must undergo if developers are to claim green construction incentives. The assessment itself is carried out by BEAM Society (BSL), another not-for-profit group which developed BEAM Plus.

Critics said the fee rise – for which the council has not offered any explanation – demonstrated the problems of leaving a government-recognised accreditation scheme in the hands of a private organisation that was not subject to public scrutiny.

Council chairman Conrad Wong Tin-cheung said it was granted the right to use the BEAM Plus rating tool to develop related services under an agreement with BSL. BSL was one of four industry organisations that helped set up the council in 2009.

However, a source familiar with the situation said the council had “nothing to do with the development, assessment and administration of the BEAM Plus scheme”, but forced BSL to grant it the right to “sign” the certificates and thus pocket the registration fee.

Registration fees for extra-large, mega and exceptional-scale projects will increase to HK$300,000, HK$400,000 and HK$600,000, respectively, from June – double what they were in June 2013. The council also sets the assessment fees BSL can claim. Assessment fees for new extra-large and mega-projects will rise by 25 per cent and 35 per cent, respectively, from June, to HK$841,000 and HK$1,237,300.

The fees have proved lucrative for both organisations since the Buildings Department officially recognised BEAM Plus assessment as the accreditation scheme for its incentive programme in April 2011.

The council’s financial statements for 2013 show its registration fee income more than doubled to HK$9.88 million that year, from HK$4.38 million in 2012.

BSL also saw its turnover surge, from HK$7.45 million in 2012 to HK$13.2 million in 2013.

The council says on its website that it reserves the right to adjust both certification and assessment fees, but did not detail the reasons for the latest increase.

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“They are running like a private club with board members setting their own game rules and doing as they please without being regulated by the government and being held accountable to the public,” said another source familiar with the situation. “It seems like this small circle of close allies is taking advantage of the government.”

Founded in 1996 by construction and real estate professionals, BSL developed BEAM assessment tools for benchmarking green buildings.

However, insiders say things have become complicated after BSL restructured itself to join hands with three other organisations, including the Construction Industry Council, to establish the Green Building Council in 2009.

The government’s decision to officially recognise BEAM plus accreditation has increased the thirst for power and personal gain of some inside the organisations, a source said.

Democratic Party lawmaker Wu Chi-wai urged the government to take steps to plug potential loopholes by either placing both bodies under its scrutiny or overhauling the whole incentive scheme.

Source: South China Morning Post

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