Landscape works offer vital green aspect to public projects

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 September, 2016, 4:32pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 September, 2016, 11:10pm

The government announced the establishment of the Project Cost Management Office in June, aiming to reduce costs by 1 to 3 per cent for over 300 projects, saving a total of HK$1billion to HK$10 billion. Recent achievements of the office include deleting landscape and greening works from a new footbridge to reduce the need for structural support to save costs.

While we applaud the savings made by the office so that resources can be better utilised, should the cost saved by removing landscape works from public projects override the benefits landscape and greening works bring?

The cost for landscape and green treatments in infrastructural and building projects is only a fraction of the overall project cost. However, these treatments can effectively improve the environment and ameliorate the impact of built development, so they are cost and benefit efficient. Sadly, landscape and green treatments are always given a low priority and often the first to be deleted or significantly reduced to address budget concerns. This also reflects the lack of participation of landscape architects at top management level to promote and implement greening and landscape policies in various government offices.

Moreover, landscape and green treatments can provide environmental, economical, social and psychological benefits which cannot be simply calculated by an arithmetical approach in terms of cost reduction.

There are many successful government projects in Hong Kong that can demonstrate these landscape benefits. For instance, the pleasant extensive green lawn on a landscaped deck over Lung Wo Road linking the harbourfront promenade at Tamar Park is one of the most popular and valuable landscape resources for public enjoyment.

It is of paramount importance that the government adhere to the greening and landscape policy which it has been promoting all along, and enhance the living environment through quality landscape design instead of going backward.

Deleting or reducing landscape and green treatments for cost saving should not be adopted as a norm in the Project Cost Management Office and other project offices. Building professionals, including architects, engineers, landscape architects, planners, and surveyors, should work together to enhance the infrastructure and built environment to provide a green and sustainable living environment.

Cost management should not be at the expense of sacrificing the benefits of greening and landscape, in particular, opportunities for public enjoyment.

Patrick Lau, chairperson, Public Affairs Committee, Hong Kong Institute of Landscape Architects