Businesses prepared to pay extra to go 'green'

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 September, 2011, 12:00am


Hong Kong's office space which has been awarded 'green' accreditation is becoming increasingly relevant to building owners and tenants, with the majority of leaseholder interest coming from multinational companies.

According to John Siu, executive director of Cushman and Wakefield (HK), green office space is mainly in demand from multinational organisations that have made a commitment to corporate environmental and social responsibility goals. He believes larger local firms would also be prepared to follow the same trend.

Siu believes Hong Kong will see an increase in the amount of affordable 'green' office space. Government concessions of allowing an increase in usable floor areas for incorporating sustainable design elements are encouraging developers to create sustainable construction projects.

Demand is also coming from tenants who see value added to their social responsibility reputation if their offices are located in buildings constructed to meet Hong Kong's Building Environmental Assessment Method (BEAM) or United States' Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards.

'We are seeing a trend where Hong Kong architects and developers are moving in line with global construction practices,' Siu says. He says prime examples include the mixed-use Hysan Place in Causeway Bay, which has received HK-BEAM and LEED pre-certified recognition. International Finance Centre in Central and the International Commerce Centre in West Kowloon are also notable examples.

Thomas Lam, Knight Frank director and head of research, Greater China, says Hong Kong's office rents, that are among the highest in the world, will remain a barrier for local companies with restricted budgets, even if they did consider leasing green office space. 'As long as office rates remain high, it will always be the bottom line rather than environmental issues that local companies look at,' Lam says. A global survey conducted at the end of last year by CoreNet and Jones Lang LaSalle found that about 50 per cent of companies were willing to pay more for 'greener' offices.

In a city operating on short-term leases, with terms that usually require tenants to restore premises to their original condition, Hong Kong's environmental groups say green office interior retrofits, carried out by tenants, have the potential to make a significant impact.

For instance, when HOK, a global firm specialising in planning, design and sustainable solutions, needed to expand its office space last year, minimising demolition and construction waste was a key consideration. The firm was able to conduct a mid-to-low range interior fit-out through negotiation with a departing tenant to retain a large portion of the expansion space and through using industry-available equipment and materials.

Dave Siu, general manager, office leasing, Harbour City Estates, believes landlords can also work with their tenants to make their office space more environmentally friendly.

He says in addition to installing low-energy consumption fixtures and fittings, his company has its own programmes in place to reduce and recycle waste.

He says Harbour City had made big strides to reduce its carbon footprint in the past year.

After signing up to the Conscientious Recycling Charter organised by Friends of the Earth, the firm gathered more than 733,000kg of waste paper and 17,000kg of plastic waste for recycling, while almost 5,000kg of used fluorescent tubes and 300 pieces of used computer devices and equipment were disposed of safely.