Hong Kong: Stricter building regulations to come

Stringent assessment of new buildings by the Hong Kong Green Building Council will be introduced in 2017, as the city attempts to save energy by following a blueprint announced by the Environment Bureau earlier this month.

Flexible assessments for existing buildings will also be introduced early next year to encourage the retrofitting of energy-saving technology.

New buildings are defined as those developments that are yet to be completed. Existing buildings meanwhile, which account for 90 per cent of the city’s electricity consumption, face more difficulties in adapting to new technologies given space constraints and multiple ownerships.

Under the improved assessment scheme planned by the council, owners of existing buildings are given two more rating options instead of a full-scope assessment in one go.

They can fulfil some aspects, like energy, water and waste, among the six criteria, or achieve a gradual full-scope assessment over three years.

The council will also introduce new assessment criteria to encourage greener building operation and management.

For example, buildings that require tenants to adopt green practices, devise systems to cut and recycle food waste, and disclose information on environmental and social performance will also score under the improved scheme.

For new buildings, rating standards will become more stringent by 2017 to catch up with new technologies and updated regulations. For example, buildings would be required to label their low-carbon products to achieve a higher rating.

Recognition schemes will also be launched for office and retail developments with outstanding energy-saving performance by the fourth quarter of this year and the second quarter of next year respectively.

Under the city’s first energy-saving blueprint, Hong Kong aims to cut energy intensity by 40 per cent by 2025 from 2005 levels. That replaces the old target of reducing consumption by 45 per cent by 2035, which was adopted at the 2011 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

The target is translated into a reduction in energy consumption by 6 per cent from the 2012 level in the next decade.

But Vincent Ho Kui-yip, president of the Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors, which also advises on building management, said the council’s new measures would make attaining a green rating easier for existing buildings but he was not optimistic that a large number of them would be retrofitted in a short period of time.

“Existing buildings need more incentives like government subsidies, which will speed up the installation of glass in commercial buildings that block heat from coming in and hence reduce the consumption of air-conditioning,” Ho said.

“Financial incentives will also help residential buildings facing multiple ownership retrofit faster or encourage large estates to install renewable energy equipment,” he added.

Green building assessment carried out by the council is a voluntary practice. However, it attracts developers as the council is empowered to give new buildings a concession of extra floor area, capped at 10 per cent of the total area, when a development has undergone an assessment. Yet, the rating scheme offers no concession or incentive to retrofitted existing buildings.

Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po said earlier that developers could be required to attain a certain rating to obtain the concession.

Source: South China Morning Post

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