New body to revamp green ratings for buildings

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 November, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 16 November, 2009, 12:00am

A government-backed Green Building Council will open on Friday in a bid to steer the local market in a more environmentally friendly direction and create more green business opportunities.

On the day it is established, the council is expected to announce details of a new green-building rating scheme designed for the whole region, and a set of more stringent energy codes to reduce the carbon footprint of new and existing buildings.

The council is an independent body but is expected to be influential, as its board includes not only professionals but the statutory Construction Industry Council, which will provide its major funding.

Other board members include representatives from the Business Environment Council and the Beam Society, which formulated the city's first green-building rating scheme, the building environmental assessment method.

The council is expected to cater to increasing demand from multinational companies seeking certified green offices. The demand for green materials and qualified professionals to certify and improve buildings' environmental performance is also expected to rise if the local market is successfully transformed.

'We look forward to the public sector taking the lead in implementing higher standards, thereby helping to spur the private sector on,' said the newly elected council chairman, Dr Andrew Chan Ka-ching, who also represents the Construction Industry Council.

The development and environment bureaus issued a circular in April requiring all new government buildings with a floor area of more than 10,000 square metres to be certified, and they must meet at least the second-highest certification standard of the local or US rating scheme.

But a council board member and honorary architecture professor at Chinese University, Chan Ping-cheung, said the market transformation would be more effective if the government moved into certified offices.

Chan said the council was revamping the local green-building rating scheme - the world's second rating scheme, set up in 1996 after Britain. It was criticised for not taking into account the buildings' impact on the city's air flow.

About 406 buildings have been certified under the scheme, which assesses their performance in terms of energy, water, waste and transportation.

But some buildings that received an 'excellent' rating contribute to the wall effect, which blocks air flow.

Chan pledged that the revamped rating scheme, to be called Beam Plus, would have world-class standards and require developers to conduct air flow assessments.

Local and overseas experience shows a green building will cost an extra 2 to 3 per cent of the total construction cost but can reduce the building's energy consumption by 20 per cent or more. A survey by global real estate services firm Jones Lang LaSalle last summer found the local market was slow to develop and only 40 per cent of the 80 responding tenants said they would pay higher rents for a greener office.

But Swire Properties said it saw a potential market for green offices in Hong Kong and on the mainland.

A Swire spokeswoman said its international office tenants were seeking environmentally responsible buildings.