Anyone looking for clear signs of positive action on the environmental front in Hong Kong needs to consider a couple of factors. One is the rate at which developers and the construction industry generally are moving towards adoption of the highest international standards and training staff accordingly. The other is the willingness of building owners and occupiers - from big commercial concerns with their own office towers to boutique retailers with a few up-market stores - to seek advice and accept solutions which put care for the environment ahead of other concerns. 'There is definitely a great shift in thinking, and it is only going to get stronger,' said Tim Threlkeld, North Asia managing director for ISG Asia, which specialises in providing construction and consultancy services. 'Overall, you may pay a small premium to get an environmental outcome for your project, but we find architects and consultants are driving it forward.' Citing the example of the retail sector, he said that, in the past, a flagship boutique in Asia might have had Italian marble, fabrics typically flown in from Europe and, maybe, furniture from the US. Now, for reasons guided by growing environmental awareness as much as by cost implications, it is more usual to look for suitable alternatives much closer to home. 'Boutique owners drive the decision, and we basically facilitate it,' he said. 'We are not getting caught up in carbon-free [calculations] and are not quite at the level of carbon footprints. But it is the moral issue of sustainability, and we spend a lot of time with vendors and retailers to educate them on the [options for] procurement.' So, if a fabric or fittings could be made in the mainland, rather than imported from halfway around the world, the task was to work with suppliers - maybe to a deviated specification, but still meeting requirements of look and feel - and find the quality and outcome required. Also, clients were starting to pay much closer attention to features such as lighting sensors in storerooms, timers for retail signage, and the use of recycled carpet and reconstituted timber or stone. This increase in awareness and action was sure to continue, something that the growing demand for consultants with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) qualifications confirms. 'LEED provides the highest standards for environmentally sustainable construction,' Threlkeld said. 'You need to have hands-on experience and to sit the exam, so when delivering projects you can provide comfort for clients and [contribute to] their corporate sustainability initiatives.'