Urban planning

Action stations

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 January, 2008, 12:00am

Experts say government needs to ditch outdated regulations

There is a challenge with attempting to cram 7 million people into 1,036 sqkm, while trying to alleviate the toll on the environment and our way of life. It is a matter of priorities, and landscape architects believe the government has to change by way of enacting new rules and regulations.

Building decisions are now affected by outdated regulations based on the needs of a Hong Kong that existed 50 years ago. These archaic rules are preventing opportunities for environmentally friendly buildings (on a micro level) and community-friendly urban areas (on a macro level), to flourish.

'The government needs to tick boxes. The checklist is out of date sending our environment in one direction [with] no room for flexibility for anything new. There seems to be little interest at a high level in government in reassessing policy based on today's environmental information and technology base,' said Barry Wilson, director of landscape consultancy Initiatives.

Developers can do some things: green walls, green roofs, grey water systems, natural ventilation corridors, energy efficient lighting and cooling systems, and renewable energy could be used to reduce a building's carbon footprint. Providing more green space would be a plus too, although developers will not maximise profits if they do, unless it is mandated by the government.

Peter Austin, a director with environmental consultancy ERM and secretary of the Association of Landscape Consultants, said: 'Landscapes can help reduce the heat sink effect which would otherwise occur where you have large footprints of buildings and hard paving.'

That is true for environmentally friendly residential building design on a micro level. Ironically, on a macro level, more green space is not what makes a city great, according to a local urban planning expert. He contends that additional large, unstructured, urban open space is not needed in Hong Kong but more consideration should be given to its quality, such as at the Central/Wan Chai reclamation site.