Call for audit of estates' power use
A green group has urged the government to check energy consumption in common facilities of private housing developments after finding many have multimillion-dollar power bills.
Such facilities, including clubhouses, garbage rooms, car parks and wide corridors, are supposed to be environmentally friendly or improve the living environment - and earn developers more floor area for more flats and, in turn, more profit.
But a Greenpeace survey found little is known about whether these areas are managed in an energy-efficient way. Of 25 Kowloon West private estates the group wrote to seeking data on energy consumption in common areas between April 2009 and April this year, only six replied.
The power bills for the common areas of the six developments were between HK$4 million and HK$9.8 million for the period. Manhattan Hill, a Sun Hung Kai project in Mei Foo, uses 7.6 million kWh a year to power its common area, for which each household pays HK$6,834 a year - eight times what a resident of a public housing estate pays for powering common areas.
The management office of Manhattan Hill said it had carried out a carbon audit and developed measures to cut electricity use in common areas by 10 per cent last year.
It said it had installed light sensors, cut use of decorative lights, switched to more efficient lighting and shut down two lifts in each block during off-peak hours, measures expected to lower electricity use by 11 per cent this year.
At Cheung Kong's Aqua Marine, the management company charges residents HK$1,600 a year for the common areas, including the clubhouse, lobbies and lifts, twice what a public estate resident pays.
The group also found Island Harbourview and Central Park, two projects managed by the MTR Corp, used 7 million to 9 million kWh during the period. The MTR Corp said it had implemented measures to lower energy use in common areas.
'The government gives away bonus floor area to developers for putting in green and amenity features in their projects, but it does not monitor how these huge spaces are managed after completion,' Greenpeace campaign manager Prentice Koo Wai-muk, who conducted the survey, said. Koo, who said not all companies would conduct an energy audit to find out how consumption could be cut, criticised the management companies that failed to respond to the Greenpeace survey. Three companies said they would not disclose the information.
He suggested the government make it a condition that a developer must conduct a carbon audit for a project's operation if it was to get bonus floor area for green features.
He said an audit would help identify what could be done to cut energy consumption, whether it was lobby lighting, escalators or air conditioning, for example.
Wong Kam-sing, architect and Green Building Council director, backed the idea of the government requiring management companies to disclose energy consumption for common areas.
In some places, such as Britain, companies running certain major buildings were fined if electricity consumption exceeded a cap imposed by the government, Wong said.
The policy for granting extra floor area for green features is under review. The Council for Sustainable Development is expected to make recommendations to the Development Bureau shortly.
The review focuses on control of the design stage of buildings rather than management. The council is likely to propose, among other things, reducing exemptions for the area used for clubhouses and swimming pools, and removing from the exemption policy 'fake' green features, such as bay windows and wide corridors without natural ventilation.
Greenpeace wants carbon audits to be compulsory for estates
Changes made after a carbon audit cut the amount of power used in common areas of Manhattan Hill last year by: 10%