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LCQ13: Green buildings

Following is a question by the Hon Abraham Shek Lai-him and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (December 16):

Question:

Recently, the Chief Executive and the Secretary for Development have separately indicated that the authorities are actively considering not to grant extra floor areas to developers as an incentive for the construction of green buildings, and therefore are reviewing the existing measures and do not rule out enacting legislation at a later stage to require the provision of green features in buildings.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a)  of the criteria adopted by the authorities for determining whether or not legislation should be enacted to require the construction of green buildings;

(b)  whether it knows, among the cities with levels of development comparable to that of Hong Kong, which cities have enacted legislation on the aforesaid matter, and which cities promote the construction of green buildings only by means of incentive measures, as well as the reasons for their adopting different approaches;

(c)  regarding land purchased by developers from the Government and land in respect of which premium has been paid as well as land owned by the Urban Renewal Authority, the MTR Corporation Limited and the Airport Authority Hong Kong, whether any assessment has been conducted to ascertain if such land will be affected by the legislation or new regulatory measures to be introduced by the Government on the aforesaid matter in future; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(d)  whether the authorities will include a new element relating to construction of green buildings in the conditions of sale of Government land; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?

Reply:

President,

With a view to encouraging developers to provide green, amenity and essential features in their building development projects, the Government grants gross floor area (GFA) concessions for these features as an incentive through the requirements stipulated in the Building (Planning) Regulations (Cap. 123 sub. leg. F), as well as the practice notes issued by the Building Authority.  Nevertheless, in recent years, there has been rising public concern over the impact of such concessions on building bulk and height.  In light of this, the Council for Sustainable Development (SDC) launched a four-month public engagement process entitled "Building Design to Foster a Quality and Sustainable Built Environment" on this policy and other topics in relation to the built environment.  The SDC plans to submit a report to the Administration in the middle of next year.  The Administration will carefully examine the recommendations in the report before mapping out the way forward.

My reply to the various parts of the question is as follows:

(a)  At present, there is legislation in Hong Kong to require the provision of certain specified green features in buildings.  For example, the Building (Refuse Storage and Material Recovery Chambers and Refuse Chutes) Regulations (Cap. 123 sub. leg. H) currently require that a refuse storage and material recovery room should be provided on every floor of a domestic building or of the domestic part of a composite building.  This would enhance the rate of source recovery and recycling of domestic waste.  Separately, the Environment Bureau has just introduced the Buildings Energy Efficiency Bill (the Bill) into the Legislative Council on December 9.  The Bill will specify the minimum energy efficiency standards for buildings in Hong Kong by mandating compliance with the Building Energy Codes.

In view of past experience, when the Government considers whether legislative approach should be adopted to require for the inclusion of certain features in buildings, in general, the importance of the particular features will be considered.  If the provision of such features on a temporarily voluntary basis is proven to be not effective, the Government will consider making the provision of such features a statutory requirement via legislation.  The Government believes that the SDC will deliberate on how to formulate detailed criteria for legislation.  At the same time, the Government will also carefully consider the matter.

(b)  The "Invitation for Response Document" for the aforementioned public engagement process issued by the SDC in June 2009 has set out the mandatory and administrative requirements on sustainable buildings in the Mainland and overseas cities.  For example, in cities such as Beijing, Chengdu and Guangzhou, there are mandatory requirements on the width of closely packed high-rise buildings and minimum separation between building clusters.  In Tokyo and some major cities in the Mainland, building setback requirements are mandatory and enforced with reference to the widths of roads nearby as well as zoning controls.  In Singapore, incentive measures are in place to enhance the quality of the pedestrian environment at ground level.  If certain criteria are met, GFA concessions will be granted for covered pedestrian areas.

Moreover, according to the consultancy report of "Building Design that Supports Sustainable Urban Living Space in Hong Kong" commissioned by the Buildings Department (BD), the Singaporean Government has, since 2001, encouraged the inclusion of "sky terraces" in new development projects to promote greening.  In a set of revised guidelines issued by the Singaporean authorities in December 2004, it is stated that covered sky terraces are exempted from GFA calculation.  In accordance with the "Handbook on Gross Floor Area" issued in February 2006, bonus GFA is granted for sky terraces in residential and hotel developments if certain criteria are met.

A preliminary study conducted by an inter-departmental working group led by the BD in 2006 revealed that GFA concessions are granted in New York and San Francisco for some green features (such as balconies, sky gardens and podium gardens) pursuant to their city planning laws.

(c) and (d)  As mentioned above, the SDC is collating and analysing the views received and aims to submit a report to the Government around the middle of next year.  The Government will examine in detail the recommendations in the SDC's report in reviewing the current policy measures to map out the way forward.  If the Government decides that changes should be made to the current policy measures, the relevant bodies, such as the Legislative Council, Land and Development Advisory Committee, Hong Kong Green Building Council, etc. will be consulted on the details of the proposal through the established channels.  We will then issue new practice notes for the implementation of the new policy measures.  Given the time required for the above actions, we anticipate that the implementation of any new policy measures will not be earlier than March 31, 2011.  If legislative amendment is required for the new policy measures, it will take a longer period of time for implementation.  

We understand that during such period when the way forward has yet to be decided, the market may include a risk factor when participating in Government land auctions or calculating the premiums for lease modification or land exchange.  That might create an adverse impact on public revenue.  We think there is a need to provide clarity and certainty to the market.  As such, we need to clarify the Government's intention, which is that any new policy measures will not have retrospective effect in the sense that the current arrangement in respect of the granting of GFA concessions will continue to apply to the green, amenity and essential features included in the general building plans if such plans are approved by the Building Authority prior to the implementation of any new policy measures.

As regards what new measures are to be introduced by the Government and how such measures will be concretely put into practice (e.g. whether such measures will be included in the terms and conditions of land sale), such matters have to be further worked out.

Ends/Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Issued at HKT 14:40

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