Carrie Lam hint on floor area
Developers may have to achieve the minimum green-building rating if they want to enjoy extra floor area for adding environmentally friendly features to their projects.
A minimum-rating rule would be imposed by the next government 'if I still have some influence', said development secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor - dropping the strongest hint yet that she will serve under the incoming government of Leung Chun-ying.
At present, developers seeking 'bonus' floor area must have their projects assessed under a green-building labelling system, but can enjoy the concessions even if they fail to achieve a rating.
Lam, who is hotly tipped to become chief secretary, said she would prefer to put the green-buildings system under the environment bureau, which under Leung will be supervised by the chief secretary, instead of the Housing, Planning and Lands Bureau, to be supervised by the financial secretary.
'I can assure you that if I still have some influence, I will make sure that [imposition of a minimum rating for gross floor area concessions] will happen for the private sector,' she told a conference on green buildings.
She also hinted at the possibility of appointing Wong Kam-sing, a veteran architect of green buildings, as the next environment chief, saying: 'I have every confidence that the next secretary for the environment will take the green-building movement to a new height.'
Developers enjoying floor-area concessions for adding green features to a project must have its environmental performance - from the planning, design and construction to operation - assessed under the Beam Plus labelling system recognised by the Green Building Council. The lowest rating is bronze, followed by silver, gold and platinum.
In Singapore, new buildings and existing ones undergoing major refits must, by law, achieve a certain rating, depending on the type of development.
The concession policy triggered controversy in Hong Kong when it was found that developers were granted floor area taken up by green and amenity facilities free of charge but sold them as part of the gross floor area of a flat. A cap of 10 per cent of the total floor area was imposed on the concession in 2010.
Lam said the incoming environment bureau should adopt a more aggressive approach, as recommended by the Council for Sustainable Development in March, and require at least a bronze rating in return for the floor-area concession. Daniel Chan Ping-cheung, a member of the Hong Kong Green Building Council's labelling committee, said a bronze rating would require a score of about 40 out of 100 on the assessment scale.
Wong, the council's vice-chairman, said the minimum rating was not difficult to attain if the owner really wanted it. 'It is not very challenging and can be done with a minimal budget,' he said. As a 'world city', Hong Kong should be more progressive, like Singapore, he said.
But a director of the council, Agnes Ng, said a mechanism would be needed to ensure developers who failed to achieve the rating would be penalised. At present, developers are given a provisional rating before the completion of a development. The rating is confirmed after a final assessment conducted six months after occupation.
Tan Tain-chong, executive director of the Singapore Green Building Council, said developers had to pay a deposit equivalent to the value of the extra floor area granted, which would be confiscated if they failed to achieve the provisional rating.
The Real Estates Developers Association did not reply to questions.
Communal or unusable space can account for this proportion of the quoted gross floor area of some new flats, a watchdog said in 2009