Experts demand incentives to encourage renovation of buildings One out of every eight buildings demolished in the city is less than 30 years old, and some are even torn down right after completion. The phenomenon contributes to the dumping of more than 4,000 tonnes of building waste a day, prompting calls for measures to encourage the renovation of existing buildings. Demolition permits were issued for about 120 building sites from January to November last year, Buildings Department figures show. A title search of the demolished buildings found that at least 15 were less than 30 years old and a third of those were less than 10 years old, with the newest being four years old. In 2006, at least 12 of the 136 buildings approved for demolition were less than 30 years old, including the Mitsukoshi department store in Causeway Bay. While most of the 'young' demolished structures were of mixed use - commercial and residential - two were abandoned industrial buildings. Four were demolished in urban renewal projects. A Buildings Department source said developers sometimes applied to demolish a new residential building to replace it with a more profitable commercial one. The removal of the height limit for Kowloon City after Kai Tak airport closed in 1998 had also speeded up the demolition of 'young' buildings to build taller ones, the source said. Even five-star hotels are torn down to make way for stylish commercial buildings. The Ritz Carlton in Central, which opened in 1993 and will close by the end of this month, is expected to be demolished to make way for a commercial high-rise. Under the same developer, Lai Sun Group, the 28-year-old Furama Hotel, famous for its revolving restaurant, was replaced by the AIG Tower in 2001. Hong Kong Architecture Centre chairwoman Agnes Ng Ka-yin said high land values and inflexible building regulations had discouraged developers from renovating buildings. When buildings are renovated, they must meet building standards and safety requirements. But Ms Ng said the stringent requirements were designed for new high-rises, and it was unwise and difficult to apply them to existing structures, especially industrial buildings. 'In Hong Kong, the construction costs are just one-eighth of the land value,' she said. 'If building rules are not favourable to renovation, why not tear it down and build a new one?' Exemptions should be given to industrial buildings being used for new uses, she said. A City University lecturer in construction science, Wong Wai-man, said most buildings less than 30 years old were structurally safe, and renovation would save 80 per cent of construction waste. A senior associate of the architecture firm Aedas, David Clayton, said developers who opted for renovation could be given credits through the labelling scheme for green buildings. Tax incentives to promote renovation rather than demolition were being discussed in Vancouver, he said. A spokesman for Swire Properties, which redeveloped two industrial buildings in Quarry Bay into the glittering One Island East, said new buildings could be more sustainable as they could be equipped with green features. He said the company had experience in renovating residential buildings, adding that government policy encouraging environmentally friendly practices was welcome. A spokeswoman for the Development Bureau said the Buildings Ordinance had no age limit for demolition. But to promote renovation, she said, statutory requirements for minor work would be simplified. Under the new system, minor work would not require approval from the Building Authority.