Successes overseas provide lead for HK

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 January, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 12 January, 2009, 12:00am

Green design has become a key consideration for flat buyers in such places as Australia, the United States, Japan and Singapore.

Labelling schemes for green buildings are widely used and some governments even require developers to disclose their assessment results.

In Hong Kong, developers promote high ratings gained from the labelling system but the public is not informed of those given low ratings.

The founder of the local scheme, the Hong Kong Building Environmental Assessment Method Society (HK-Beam Society), says it is not allowed to disclose a client's assessment results without authorisation.

About 150 new developments have joined the labelling scheme in Hong Kong over the past 12 years.

In Australia, more than 500 buildings have been assessed since its national and voluntary environmental rating scheme - Green Star - was set up six years ago.

The scheme does not attract only new developments. Owners of existing developments and heritage buildings wanting to upgrade their environmental quality also look for a green label. Apart from indoor air quality, energy efficiency and management style, the scheme also assesses the developments' impact on traffic, ecology and emissions.

Surveyor Kenneth Chan Jor-kin said developers in Australia were required to publish the results although they were not required to achieve a certain rating. The same approach was adopted in the US and Canada, he said.

'Developers are competing for a better design under the well-recognised labelling scheme. It creates a market demand,' Mr Chan said. 'People buying flats are now looking for a Green Star.'

In Japan, developers joining the labelling scheme were required to investigate a development's impact on the heat island effect - the creation of localised 'hot spots' by building congestion. Developments making an effort to alleviate this effect could get higher scores.

'Buildings have a significant impact on our environment. They consume up to 70 per cent of the city's energy,' Green Building Council founding member Wong Kam-sing said.

A survey found the productivity of workers in a 30-year-old office building in Melbourne had increased by 10 per cent after it was refurbished and won an excellent green rating, he said.

While Hong Kong was planning to consult the public on the need for a comprehensive green building labelling scheme this year, Mr Wong said the US and Australian governments were promoting zero carbon emission designs and requiring all government developments to go through green assessment and obtain a high rating.