Two innovative, environmentally friendly designs claimed the city's top architectural awards this year, as the organiser vowed to wake up developers who put profit before the planet.
Polytechnic University's teaching hotel complex and the Ping Shan Tin Shui Wai leisure and cultural building were yesterday named as the two local recipients of medals from the Institute of Architects. A church in Huizhou, Guangdong, was the only recipient of the top prize outside the city.
The institute's president, Dominic Lam Kwong-ki, stressed the importance of green design and said the city lagged behind its regional neighbours in encouraging such buildings.
'For local developers, the electricity bills do not matter much,' Lam said. 'They raise rentals in the malls by a few points and can cover [the bills].'
The big developers had always been reluctant to accommodate the environmentally friendly features architects put to them, he said.
'The air conditioners are always on summer mode,' Lam said, as developers fear customers will desert malls where the temperatures are too warm.
Architect Rocco Yim, who designed the PolyU complex, had another worry: the city's landscape and the tendency of developers to build what he called 'wall-like towers' in the past few years.
Yim said the biggest problem with his own design was the site, nestled between the mouth of the Cross-Harbour Tunnel at Hung Hom, the East Tsim Sha Tsui commercial area and the university's main campus. Still, he was able to fit on the site the teaching hotel, known as Hotel Icon, PolyU's department of hospitality and accommodation for students and staff.
Judges praised the building for its large glass atrium allowing natural light into the space.
The other winning design is far from the bustle of the city, but also won praise for its use of natural light. Located in the northwestern New Territories, the Ping Shan recreational building will house the city's second-largest public library when it opens at the end of this year.
According to the government's Architectural Services Department, the building's emphasis on the use of natural light will reduce by 70 per cent the cost of lighting it.
'I've always believed reading should be accompanied by natural daylight, not in a dim setting,' said senior architect Thomas Wan. Some 20 per cent of the total site was devoted to a green, open space where readers could take their books, a first for a Hong Kong public library, he added.
The amount by which it is claimed the Ping Shan building will reduce lighting costs due to its use of natural light