Following is a question by the Hon James To and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Paul Chan, in the Legislative Council today (January 23):
I have received complaints from several members of the public in recent months that the sunlight reflected from the glass curtain walls of a number of buildings completed in recent years has affected the daily lives of residents in the residential buildings in the vicinity. For example, the curved design of the glass curtain walls on the lower floors of the International Commerce Centre (ICC) in West Kowloon has created a spotlight effect of a concave mirror. The glass curtain walls converge and reflect sunlight to buildings in the housing estates in the vicinity (including the Island Harbourview, the Sorrento, The Waterfront, The Arch and The Harbourside), seriously affecting the daily lives of the residents. These residents need to draw the curtains or wear sunglasses from 6am to 7am and 5pm to 6pm every day, so as to block dazzling light. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) whether the authorities had received in the past three years any complaint from members of the public about the nuisance caused by reflected glare from glass curtain walls of buildings (including ICC); if they had, of the details of the complaints and follow-up work; whether there were cases in which the relevant problem was successfully solved; if so, of the details, if not, the reasons for that;
(b) of the number of buildings with glass curtain walls as the primary design of the external walls among the building projects being vetted by the authorities; their locations and whether there are residential buildings around; among such buildings, the number of blocks or the number of building clusters with a curved design of glass curtain walls, which will thus converge and reflect light to the buildings in the vicinity; whether the authorities will request the developers to amend the building plans of such projects or to adopt remedial measures, so as to prevent residents in the vicinity from being affected by reflected glare from the glass curtain walls of such buildings in future;
(c) whether the authorities have formulated objective criteria for assessing the impact of reflected glare from the external walls of buildings on members of the public; if they have, of the details of the criteria; if not, whether they will formulate the relevant criteria;
(d) whether the authorities have considered including light pollution that may be caused by reflected glare from the external walls of buildings in the scope of study of the environmental impact assessment studies; if they have, of the specific timetable; if not, the reasons for that; and
(e) in the light of the rapid development of society, whether the authorities will include the problem of reflected glare from the external walls of buildings in the study on introducing legislation on light pollution; if they will, of the progress of consultation and legislation; if not, the reasons for that?
The Buildings Ordinance (BO) aims to regulate the planning, design and construction of buildings and associated works on private land and, for this purpose, to prescribe such building standards on various aspects such as structural and fire safety as well as sanitation. The Buildings Department (BD) enforces control on buildings and associated works in accordance with the powers conferred by the BO. Under the BO, any person intending to carry out building works is required to appoint an authorised person (AP) and, where necessary, a registered structural engineer (RSE) to prepare and submit building plans for approval by the BD, unless the works fall within the scope of designated minor works that can be carried out under the simplified requirements of the Minor Works Control System or such works are exempted works. The person must also appoint a registered contractor to carry out the building works in accordance with the approved plans. After the building plans have been approved, the AP must obtain written consent from the BD before commencement of works.
The material, design and construction of glass curtain walls are subject to the control of the Building (Construction) Regulations (B(C)R). The B(C)R provides, inter alia, that glass curtain walls shall safely sustain the combined dead loads, imposed loads and wind loads, and shall be constructed of non-combustible materials. However, the B(C)R does not include regulation on reflected glare from glass curtain walls.
My reply to the five-part question is as follows:
(a) In September 2012, BD received a report referred from the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) on the glass curtain walls of the International Commerce Centre (ICC) reflecting light to buildings in the vicinity. BD then conducted a joint visit with EPD and the informer. According to the inspection of BD staff, no instability of the glass curtain walls at the subject site was revealed, and the design and construction of the glass curtain walls had been carried out in accordance with the BO. As regards reflected glare from the glass curtain walls, as mentioned above, as the existing BO does not include regulation on reflected glare from glass curtain walls, BD could not handle the report under the BO. BD has written to the informer to explain the above. Nevertheless, in view of the concern of the residents of the housing estate, BD has relayed the request of residents to the then AP responsible for the ICC project for the latter to consider taking appropriate mitigating measures to reduce the impact of reflected glare. EPD has also explained to the informer that reflected glare from glass curtain walls was not under the jurisdiction of the prevailing environmental protection legislation.
Separately, BD and EPD do not have statistical information on complaints about nuisance caused by reflected glare from glass curtain walls of buildings.
(b) BD is currently vetting the building plans of about 70 development projects. It does not have statistical information on the design of external walls of these development projects.
BD vets and approves building plans in accordance with the BO. If a plan complies with the relevant requirements under the BO, BD shall approve the plan. As the existing BO does not include regulation on reflected glare of glass curtain walls, it is not a factor that BD will take into account in vetting and approving plans.
(c) and (e) The existing BO does not include regulation on reflected glare from buildings. On the other hand, the current work on light pollution under the Environment Bureau (ENB) is intended to respond to energy wastage and light nuisance caused by external lighting. The Administration will find out the practices and experience of other countries and jurisdictions in handling reflected glare from buildings.
(d) According to ENB, the Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance (the EIAO) is targeted at major projects. Designated projects (including reclamation, construction of railways and airports) under the EIAO are large-scale development projects which may have major and far-reaching adverse impacts on the environment. Such projects have to undergo a statutory environmental impact assessment process, which involves a detailed assessment of their impacts, to ascertain whether the statutory requirements are met and what measures are required to mitigate the environmental impacts. As such, the environmental impact assessment process is time-demanding and involves considerable resources. Currently, the EIAO is not applicable to individual buildings. Given the purpose of the EIAO, it is not suitable to apply the environmental impact assessment process to tackle pollution caused by individual buildings.
Ends/Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Issued at HKT 17:26