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Infrastructure & Town Planning

Compulsory Energy Codes Help Clear The Air

SCMP LEADER Dec 29, 2007

The link between buildings and air pollution is not readily apparent. You cannot see it by looking at a building, as you can by looking at vehicles with smoky engine exhausts, or easily apportion blame as you can to emissions from coal-burning power stations. But these emissions reflect the link. Government figures show that buildings account for up to 89 per cent of Hong Kong’s total energy consumption. Energy efficient buildings that consume less power therefore help combat pollution by power stations. That is not a revelation. It has long been a pet subject of environmental groups, and Hong Kong has had building standards for higher energy efficiency for nearly 10 years. As we report today, however, compliance is voluntary and very patchy. As a result, the government feels compelled to issue mandatory codes that would apply to new commercial buildings, public space in new residential and industrial buildings, and renovations of existing buildings covering more than half the public space and key

The proposal has been released for public consultation. It is estimated that extra building costs of up to 5 per cent to ensure air conditioning, lifts and escalators, lighting and electrical installations comply with the codes would be recovered within six years through smaller energy bills, which would then represent savings. That is a proposition for bringing a modern city up to the world’s best practice that seems hard to reject. With the cost-benefit argument here, the consultation should be little more than a formality. That should clear the way for the government to turn its mind to older buildings that have been exempted from the codes because space or design constraints would make compliance onerous. Given that they are more likely to be energy inefficient, incentives should be considered where compliance with the codes would make a big difference. Hong Kong has also been notorious for being too brightly lit at night and for its chilling shopping malls. If mandatory building codes could push us to cut wasteful lighting and turn down freezing air conditioning, so much the better.

LegCo Presentation – Tamar Canyon Effect

LegCo Presentation:

Feb 2006 – Tamar canyon effect – Dr. Jimmy Fung

Air pollution numbers wrong and canyon effect not considered


November 30, 2005

TO: Panel on Planning, Lands and Works – Special Meeting 17 Dec, 2005 – Tamar
Fax: 2869-6794

Honorable Chair and Members,

We ask that you not accept anything from the Government regarding the Tamar site until the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for CRIII is updated with recent, actual air pollution data using a proper model that includes the “canyon effect” of our buildings in trapping air pollution.

We note the following regarding the results of the Environmental Impact Assessment shown to you in 2001.

  1. The predictions were wrong – the Environmental Impact Assessment is no longer valid
  2. The model used in the Environmental Impact Assessment assumes Central is a flat surface
  3. There is no urgency. There is time to do a new report properly with current data and the correct model (estimated 3 months and $300,000)

Comparison of predicted and actual 24-hour Average Respiratory Suspended Paticles (RSP)

Predicted and Actual Levels of RSP in Central 2003

* Environmental Impact Assessment (July 2001) supported by Urbis Limited, Babtie BMT Harris & Sutherland Regards

** Data from Environmental Protection Department Central roadside air pollution monitoring station 2003

Annelise Connell
Vice Chairman , Clear the Air

Central Reclamation Phase III

South China Morning Post – Sunday November 20 2005 – Tamar pollution prediction ‘far too low’

Tamar Pollution Prediction Far Too Low

South China Morning Post – Sunday November 20 2005

Tamar pollution prediction ‘far too low’

Niki Law

Official environmental report ‘pretends Central has a flat surface’ with no tall buildings, say experts

Official figures seriously underestimate the pollution levels people will face in Central once the new government offices are built at the Tamar site and the surrounding district developed, it has been claimed.

The Sunday Morning Post has learned that air pollution could be three times higher than predicted by the Environmental Protection Department’s 2001 environmental impact assessment (EIA) report, due to miscalculations.

Annelise Connell, vice-chairwoman of Clear the Air, says pollution predictions on the Tamar site and the Central Reclamation Phase III were based on 1999 data plugged into a prediction model that assumes Central has no buildings.

‘The entire air pollution assessment is useless,’ she said. ‘There is not a chance in the world that the real numbers are within objective. The Central Reclamation Project III and Tamar site project would not have been approved if the real figures had been used.’

In the assessment, respiratory suspended particles (RSP) at the Central roadside station were not expected to exceed an average concentration of 80 micrograms per cubic metre and the Air Pollution Index was expected to remain below 100. In reality, the respiratory suspended particles figure has been as high as 257 micrograms and the air pollution index has reached 100 some 97 times.

Meanwhile, air-quality-modelling expert Jimmy Fung Chi-hung says the government’s pollution model ‘pretends Central is a flat surface’ and ignores the fact that pollution gets trapped.

The University of Science and Technology associate professor said a ‘deep canyon’ of pollution was created when buildings by the road were twice as high as the width of the road. ‘Pollution is three times higher than in places where air can flow freely. If you have doubts, just think of how bad the air is in Causeway Bay,’ he said.

‘For a two- to three-lane road, a three-storey commercial building is high enough to create a deep canyon. Cars release exhaust very close to the ground. Central’s canyon would be very deep.’

He suggested the government produce another report using a newer model that considers the buildings. This would take about three months and cost $300,000.

However, the department is standing by its methods and findings. Asked by the Post for comment, a spokeswoman said the study had been conducted in line with environmental impact assessment procedures and the public and the Advisory Council on the Environment had been consulted before the report was approved.

The Constitutional Affairs Bureau felt there was no need to delay the Tamar project, which a spokesman said would have ‘no significant impact on the air pollution in the Central Business District’.

LegCo Presentation – Future Development On The Tamar Site

LegCo Presentation – Nov 2005 – Future development on the Tamar site – Ms. Annelise Connell

Air pollution predictions are false


November 17, 2005

Panel on Planning, Lands and Works
Legislative Council
(Fax: 2869-6794 / email:

Re: Future development on the Tamar site – Air Pollution levels far above existing air quality objectives

Honorable Chair and Members,

We write to inform you that the air pollution in Central will exceed all air quality objectives by a large margin if Government Offices and are moved to Tamar and other buildings are built as proposed.

The Environmental Impact Assessment for the CRIII site – on which all your previous decisions were based – has failed to accurately predict pollution levels. The air is actually more polluted than the estimate on the Environmental Impact Assessment by well over 100%. We are happy to provide details on request.

Therefore we request the following action item:

PRIOR TO committing to the proposed development at Tamar we urge the Honorable Members of the Legislative Council to request a new air pollution Environmental Impact Assessment for the CRIII be done – using accurate models that include the “canyon effect” of the existing and proposed buildings as well as the ventilation outlets from the proposed “bypass” tunnel.

The work that was done – on which you may have based previous decisions – has been proven to be drastically incorrect. The actual results from the Environmental Protection Department’s Central roadside monitoring station prove this.

Hong Kong people suffer from some of the highest levels of respiratory ailments in the world because of polluted air.

The proposed plan for Tamar will drive air pollution levels UP – we must develop responsibly and drive air pollution DOWN.

This is both possible and necessary.


Annelise Connell
Vice Chairman , Clear the Air

Why Quality Matters

Published in the SCMP on the 15th of December 2004:

URBAN PLANNING Christian Masset

Why quality matters

At last month’s Apec meeting in Chile, President Hu Jintao emphasised that Hong Kong’s government “should give priority to the development of the city to ensure that its citizens enjoy concrete benefits … improving the livelihood of the Hong Kong people”.

This declaration leaves us wondering about the meaning of “development”, since Hong Kong already has Asia’s second-highest gross domestic product per capita, after Japan. Does “development” mean the need to build infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, container terminals and housing? Or is it about meeting a specific need and ensuring its viability in the long term, something which I will call “quality development”?

Hong Kong’s situation can be viewed as a paradox; we are in the position of having world-class infrastructure, yet, during the past two years, we have adopted several poorly justified and widely contested projects which threaten our quality of life and competitiveness. These include the Central-Wan Chai reclamation; the mega hotel in Wan Chai, masking nearby hills; the West Kowloon cultural hub; and the Zhuhai bridge.

All these projects reflect the poor quality planning behind them. They translate into aggravated air and noise pollution, a reduction of the natural footprint of this remarkable area, and high financial costs to the people and the government of Hong Kong. Now is the time for Hong Kong to adopt a new intention – to accept only “quality development”. Clear The Air proposes that this should rest on three basic approaches.

First, abandon the cheap, shortsighted and non-transparent processes. This means opting for the challenging, creative and long-lasting – a worthy prospect for a world city. Applications of this thinking range from energy-efficient architecture to the adoption of rail and other low- or nonpolluting modes of urban transport, and the design of pedestrian-friendly urban areas – while at the same time preserving the existing natural surroundings.

Second, Hong Kong must reflect on issues such as: how to drastically reduce domestic waste by recycling all goods and packaging; and how to develop and implement innovative services and methodologies in education and training.

Third, a focus on “quality development” would make Hong Kong a world-class laboratory of “innovative urbanism”, resulting in cash-rich opportunities for enlightened entrepreneurs.

Hong Kong is never short of ideas; we must let them blossom. Good environmental policy is identical to good economic policy. Archaic thinking, seen in the calls for more infrastructure projects to provide work for engineers, suggests that a viable and fair development policy is badly needed.

The tendency of developers to label environmental groups “antibusiness” reflects the paradox of these times; poorly devised processes and natural destruction of the environment are themselves anti-business, since they result in the depletion of two of our most valuable assets – land and the natural environment. Without these, there is no chance to demonstrate quality of life, which, if it is good, will attract quality people.

If Hong Kong is serious in its claim to be a knowledge-based society, we ought to look to other places – such as California or Japan, for example – with well-protected natural resources. They attract highend businesses, quality research, and are vibrant places that foster development.

To set a new course, let us walk away from a pollution-based mentality which offers an illusion of a prosperous economy. Hong Kong needs economic growth based on “quality development”. Only then will President Hu’s wish materialise and benefit the Pearl River Delta and the people of Hong Kong.

Christian Masset is chairman of Hong Kong-based green group Clear the Air