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Having green features in Hong Kong buildings should not be mandatory

I refer to the articles (“Green certification fees rise sharply”, April 27), (“Developers laugh all the way to the bank”, April 28), and (“Monitor green building scheme”, May 4).

The building sector accounts for 90 per cent of electricity consumption and over 60 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong Green Building Council was established to foster green building development and preserve the planet for future generations. One aspect of our work is to develop and manage BEAM Plus, a green building assessment and certification system tailor-made for Hong Kong.

The Buildings Department’s policy of offering gross floor area (GFA) concessions existed long before BEAM Plus was launched. The GFA concession provides developers with the resources to incorporate green features in buildings, benefiting occupants and the environment. If, for example, a developer chooses to install solar hot water panels, it needs a larger tank to store hot water.

Extra space is required, and the GFA concession encourages developers to incorporate such green features without decreasing the saleable area of the property.

The government applied a cap of 10 per cent on the GFA concession in 2011, while adding BEAM Plus certification to the list of criteria that developers must satisfy to qualify for the concession.

However, BEAM Plus certification is just one of a number of criteria. Developers were never granted a GFA concession simply by achieving certification.

Some may think that incorporating green features in buildings should be mandatory, but this would obstruct the green building movement. Building designs take into account the surrounding environment and other variables, so decisions must be made on a project-by-project basis. It’s also important to remember that the green building industry is a fast-moving sector. New ideas constantly emerge, and BEAM Plus has the flexibility to adapt to rapid advances in technology and changing market needs, whereas mandatory regulations would not.

The BEAM Plus registration fee is set fairly, according to project scale. It represents a very small portion of the construction cost. The fee is also used to fund the development of BEAM Plus, other research and development, and green building training, education and promotion. The Hong Kong Green Building Council is non-profit making and our income is invested back into the green building movement.

I hope that we, with the government, the industry and the public, can continue to build a greener Hong Kong.

Conrad Wong Tin-cheung, chairman, Hong Kong Green Building Council Limited

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