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Further incentives for Green buildings being considered (English only)

The following is the speech (English only) by the Secretary for Planning and Lands, Mr John C Tsang, at the Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors' annual dinner this evening (November 16):

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to have been invited to the annual dinner of the Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors. I have met some of you earlier at the conference last month organized by the Building Surveying Section of your esteemed Institute. I talked on that occasion about the forging of a new partnership between building professionals and the Government in developing a safe and decent built environment for our community. Tonight, I would like to talk about another subject that is also very dear to my heart, and that is the theme of "Green Buildings".

Hong Kong is unique in having a high density and high intensity environment. With rapid developments in the past few decades, many urban areas and even some new towns in the New Territories are now facing problems of over-crowding, premature aging and air pollution.

As the Chief Executive announced in his Policy Address last month, one of Government's major tasks is to enhance the quality of our living environment and to provide Hong Kong people with clean and comfortable living conditions. In the past, we have not paid enough attention to this aspect of livelihood, but in recent years, the public has been demanding improved standards in our surroundings. In response to these new calls, we have put in place a series of initiatives to improve our living environment. One of these initiatives is to encourage the development of "Green Buildings". I wish to share with you our experience in tackling this challenge, the achievements we have made so far and our plans for the future.

Challenges

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Many people still mistakenly believe that "environmental friendliness" could only be achieved at a high price to society. In the building construction sector, those who subscribe to such a view tend to be skeptical about the attractiveness of the "green buildings" concept. If we are not persistent with our resolve, we could find ourselves in the unsatisfactory situation in which the private developers are hesitant to invest in green projects, the building professionals are reluctant to take part in designing and building green

properties, and the property owners are not offered the choice of green homes. As a result, our wish to improve the living environment in Hong Kong would be frustrated. This is one of the major challenges that is confronting us.

When we approach the task of upgrading our living environment, we seek to create a "win-win-win" situation: we want building professionals and private developers to have more flexibility and greater incentives to come up with innovative ideas to design and construct better buildings; we want building owners and tenants to be able to enjoy higher quality homes; and we want our home here in Hong Kong to benefit from a cleaner and more comfortable living environment.

Achievements

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To meet these challenges, we have set up a multi-disciplinary working group last year comprising representatives from my stable of departments, including the Buildings Department, the Lands Department and the Planning Department. The objective of this inter-departmental working group is to promote the design and construction of green and innovative buildings. There are four principal features to our approach -

1. We want to adopt a holistic life cycle approach to planning, design, construction and maintenance;

2. We want to maximize the use of green building materials including natural renewable resources and recycled materials;

3. We want to minimize the consumption of energy, in particular non-renewable energy; and

4. We want to reduce construction and demolition waste.

Earlier this year, we issued our first joint Practice Note setting out the specific incentives to encourage the design and construction of greener and more innovative buildings. These incentives take the form of permitting green features to be exempted from Gross Floor Area and/or Site Coverage calculations. Some of these green features include:

* Balconies;

* Wider common corridors and lift lobbies;

* Acoustic fins;

* Sunshades and reflectors;

* Wing walls;

* Wind catchers;

* Funnels;

* Communal sky gardens; and

* Communal podium gardens.

Our aim is to encourage private developers to include suitable green features in their new development projects. The results so far have been highly promising. A total of 65 building plans, bearing one or more of the green features, have already been approved over the past six months. This is a clear demonstration that "green buildings" can be commercially-viable. We are anticipating more and more buildings like these to come on stream.

Way Forward

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Given the positive response from the industry and the market to our first batch of green initiatives, we are now actively exploring ways to provide further incentives. For instance, we are seeking to grant additional Gross Floor Area to green features that do not take up extra floor space and to award commendations to buildings for excellence in environmental and energy performance.

We believe that, by providing Gross Floor Area exemptions for green features, we are planting the seeds for "green buildings" in Hong Kong. To carry forward this initiative, the Government is committed to devising further standards for "green buildings", to removing barriers to innovation and to promoting environmental friendliness in our urban renewal programme. We have identified three major components for our way forward:

First, we plan to set up a green building label system as a means of using market force to promote environmentally-friendly buildings. We will soon commission a consultancy study to devise a system for assessing the environmental design and performance of buildings.

Second, we will continue with the comprehensive review of the Buildings Ordinance to remove barriers to innovative and green building designs, and to introduce into the regulations comprehensive and practicable standards for energy efficient designs of "green buildings".

Third, we intend to redevelop old and dilapidated buildings into modern and environmentally-friendly habitats, and to promote sustainable development as one of our urban renewal objectives.

Conclusion

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Let me assure you that Government is committed to supporting and promoting the wider adoption of green features in our buildings. I wish to invite our building professionals - including every one of you here tonight - to develop and showcase your talents in this area of our work. I invite all of you to share with me the vision of Asia's world city.

End/Friday, November 16, 2001

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