Green incentives may be limited to features that benefit the public

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 December, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 December, 2009, 12:00am

Incentives to encourage more eco-friendly buildings should not be removed altogether but should be given only for features benefiting the public, says Bernard Chan, chairman of the Council for Sustainable Development.

This is the view the council has distilled from a consultation on existing regulations, which award additional gross floor area to developers who add environmentally friendly features to their flats. For example, Chan said, a refuse storage and recovery chamber would benefit the public by reducing waste, while a clubhouse would benefit only flat owners.

He said the council expected to present broad recommendations to the government by the middle of next year after analysing the views collected from the four-month consultation, which ended in October.

'We could say what sort of facilities should gain floor area and whether a cap should be imposed,' he said. 'But the implementation details, like at which level the cap should be imposed and where the line should be drawn, will be left to the government to decide.'

Features benefiting the public could also include wider pedestrian ways, sky gardens offering better air flow in the neighbourhood, and balconies that reduce a flat's energy use for air conditioning, Green Building Council founding member Wong Kam-sing said.

'Same facilities put in different situations may have different implications on the environment,' Wong said. 'We have to look at their designs and see if they really perform well.'

Mail delivery rooms and unventilated lobbies might not enjoy concessions in future, he said.

The government has commissioned the council to look at the merits of each green feature.

A person familiar with the government's position confirmed that one of the options being considered by the Development Bureau was to give gross floor area concessions to facilities that would benefit the public and the environment. Another possible measure was to give concessions to those with a high rating under the local green buildings assessment scheme BEAM Plus.

But the most controversial aspect is deciding where to draw the line - deciding to which sites the new policy should apply. A less drastic measure under consideration, the source said, was to limit the new policy to developments launched after it was introduced and redevelopments that required lease modifications. 'This approach might avoid legal challenges from developers. But the policy will be less influential.'

With the auction of two sites at Pak Shek Kok in Tai Po to be held in two weeks, concerns have been raised whether the sites will be affected by the new policy, due to be formulated next year.

Developers are worried they could lose money if the concessions they obtain from the government eventually are far less than they expected when they bid for the land.

A Development Bureau spokeswoman said the Council for Sustainable Development is analysing public comments. She said the government would examine the council's report before deciding on the way forward. 'Until new policies are promulgated and implemented, the prevailing policies on land and building development will continue to apply.'

Thin green line

Facilities that have little environmental merit or public interest:

Mail delivery rooms

Wider common corridors and lift lobbies that do not have natural air ventilation

Counters, kiosks, office stores, guard rooms and lavatories for watchmen and management staff


Facilities that can benefit the public:

Refuse storage and material recovery chambers

Well-designed sky gardens on lower levels

Balconies with the proper orientation that save energy, requiring less air-conditioning

Wider paths for pedestrians

Sources: Institute of Architects and Green Building Council