Greenery cools concrete jungle

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 01 November, 2010, 12:00am

The ultimate green office is likely to be a virtual one - and the prospect of more companies striving to reduce their carbon footprint will be a welcome prospect for serviced office providers.

Some business centre owners in the United States have resorted to calculating reductions in carbon emissions made by companies that use their offices. One report, circulated by The McLeland Group, trumpeted a 94 per cent drop when a virtual office was used rather than a shared physical space. The results usually contribute to an alluring marketing campaign, as working in an office takes a toll on the environment with greater vehicle use. This places a strain on scarce resources, such as water and energy, and encourages development that can swallow open spaces.

While the virtual office is being increasingly used by companies and sole traders, who rely on a prestige address and exclusive phone line based in the central business district as they travel or work from home, physical locations are becoming more environmentally friendly.

Hong Kong is not the only city said to have suffered from heightened heat induced by the 'wall effect' of rows of tall buildings that prevent air circulation. Greenery has been laid atop office towers in Chicago to create about four million sqft of gardens aimed at cooling the concrete jungle during summer. Similar methods have been adopted in Europe and, while the scientific benefits may be debatable, the aesthetic qualities are more pleasing.

While limited space, utility equipment and machine rooms on top of many office buildings in Hong Kong prevent landscape gardening on an impressive scale, big developers are at least seeing the benefits of factoring greenery into buildings.

One example is Sino's Exchange Tower in Kowloon Bay that lays claim to be the first office building in Hong Kong with a green balcony on each floor. The building also includes 'podium garden' restaurants on its second floor and a sky garden on the 15th floor that is used for staff meetings, lunches and social gatherings.

Yet, despite such efforts and the heralding of greener credentials, eco-friendly fixtures and fittings are still hard to find, particularly when offices are being refurbished on a tight budget. According to a report by property industry magazine RFP, organisations flush with cash - such as government projects, big law firms and banks - are driving the demand for green building products.

More institutions are also eager to gain Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification, which is the world standard for green buildings and may raise their standing among environmentally conscious investors.

Industry watchers say the good news for the green lobby is that mainland developers are also aiming for greener buildings when it comes to office development. But it all comes down to planning to ensure budgets and project deadlines can ensure offices can be made nearly as green as the green, green grass of home.