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Ever greener

New measures are ensuring a more environmentally friendly future for building developments in Hong Kong – with the accompanying need for more property and construction talents with green credentials

Through a mix of voluntary certification schemes and mandatory requirements, Hong Kong’s green building landscape is expanding. Concerns about greenhouse gases emissions, energy costs and a keenness by companies to demonstrate responsible business practices alongside government initiatives are also helping to boost Hong Kong’s green building development.

For instance, by adding green features to their buildings, projects that meet the criteria of the Green Building Council’s assessment scheme can be rewarded with extra floor area. Since the government introduced incentives last year, applications to the scheme have almost doubled.

Keith Griffiths, chairman of architecture and design firm Aedas International, describes the design and development of green buildings as “an unstoppable global trend in Hong Kong and globally”.

“The green building trend has definitely created a demand for green professionals in the architecture and design field,” says Griffiths, adding that Aedas has a global platform that enables the best creative minds to plug into the information and delivery systems which include green building design knowledge and expertise. “We have in-house sustainability experts to explore, develop and foster the ‘Green DNA’ so that sustainable design becomes intuitive,” adds Griffiths, who believes that great design can only be delivered by people with a deep social and cultural understanding of the communities they are designing for.

Griffiths says that Aedas places great importance on the training of all staff, especially fresh graduates aiming for their professional qualifications. Every year, Aedas recruits about 20 fresh graduates locally from the University of Hong Kong and the Chinese University of Hong Kong architectural departments. Globally, the firm recruits some 120 graduates annually.

With technology playing an ever-bigger role, Aedas has developed a green building information modelling (BIM) platform for the Hong Kong market, incorporating building performance simulations at the early design stage. “The process identifies opportunities for sustainable design and acts as design driver for the integrated design process,” says Griffiths. “Aedas is always standing at the forefront of green design.”

Projects where the BIM and ‘Aedas ViewVantage’ visual quality assessment processes were used and received top Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and HK-BEAM (Building Environmental Assessment Method) awards include Hotel Indigo Hong Kong Island (LEED Gold), The Gramercy (LEED Gold) and the Chinese University Student Amenity Centre (HK-BEAM Platinum).

To equip construction professionals with the environmental knowledge and skills they need, the faculty of construction and environment at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University offers undergraduate and postgraduate programmes focusing on the latest industry trends.

Similarly, the MSc graduate diploma in environmental engineering and management programmes offered by the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology are designed for those who wish to strengthen their environmental engineering knowledge and prepare themselves for advanced engineering practices with management responsibilities.

On another front, the Construction Industry Council (CIC) says Hong Kong’s Zero Energy building in Kowloon Bay, known locally as the ZCB, aims to educate the industry and the public on the need for low-carbon living and green-building technologies. The CIC says the project is not only a showcase of state-of-the-art eco-building design and technologies, but also serves as a platform for the industry to share related knowledge and expertise.

With nearly 70,000 housing units (including those under development), the not-for-profit Hong Kong Housing Society has integrated a number of environmental initiatives into the planning, design, construction, operation and maintenance of its properties.

“The society is a staunch supporter of environmental protection. We work closely with our consultants and contractors to ensure various environmental initiatives are incorporated in our housing projects to improve the living environment for our residents,” says Bobby Li, the society’s head of quality assurance. 

For example, the society has adopted the BEAM to evaluate the environmental performance of all of its urban renewal projects, retirement housing developments as well as other housing projects.

To minimise the environmental impact arising from its construction sites, the Housing Society also implements environmental controls, such as the use of noise mitigation enclosures and barriers, water spray and sedimentation tanks (for recycling waste water) during foundation and superstructure works.

And to preserve natural resources, metal formwork and precast concrete elements – instead of wood – are incorporated in the urban renewal and other development projects.