New Rating Tool for Urban Sustainability

West Kowloon Cultural District

The Hong Kong Green Building Council (HKGBC) has launched the BEAM Plus Neighbourhood Version 1.0, a new rating tool for urban sustainability. The emphasis is less about individual building performance and more to do with overall sustainability and the space between and around the buildings themselves.

The concept of Green building is evolving, from emphasis on building design to sustainable community development that promotes healthy living and social cohesion while moving towards a low-carbon metropolis. Nowadays, the concept of Green building has indeed entered into the new era of ‘sustainable built environment’. The surrounding environment and facilities, as well as occupants—not only buildings—are holistically considered in the planning stage.

With this in mind, the Hong Kong Green Building Council (HKGBC) takes one step further to introduce BEAM Plus Neighbourhood Version 1.0, the latest tool developed to assess sustainability performance of buildings at the inception stage of a development project. It helps to lay down a broader framework of urban sustainability for a smoother implementation of the principles in the subsequent development stages. The tool covers the design of space between buildings and places an emphasis on socio-economic elements of a development. HKGBC is optimistic that BEAM Plus Neighbourhood Version 1.0 would set an example by encouraging more positive changes to Hong Kong’s social, economic and cultural landscape. 

Transformation of EMSD Headquarters into a Green building

Proponents of the BEAM Plus Neighbourhood project incorporate sustainability principles in the planning/design of public realm and infrastructural provisions of a development. The emphasis is less about individual building performance, which is expected to be dealt with and evaluated under BEAM Plus New Buildings, but more to do with overall sustainability and the space between and around the buildings themselves.

A series of urban experiments were carried out to explore the living public space

A sustainable neighbourhood is not an island of its own. Rather, it should be a good neighbour to its surroundings. The intended beneficiary of BEAM Plus Neighbourhood includes both building occupants and their neighbours. In order to better evaluate the sustainability performance of each neighbourhood, a 500-metre distance from the site boundary and the site area itself will be assessed. This aims to encourage integration with the immediate neighbourhood in provisions of amenities, open spaces and public transport, as well as to examine the potential socio-economic impact on the existing community and local heritage.

WSBE17 Hong Kong is a world-class event aiming to draw 1,800 global Green building experts to ‘Put Ideas into Action’

Furthermore, a new performance element called community aspects (CA) is added to the tool. It underlines the socioeconomic impact of a development on the neighbourhood surrounding the built environment, including its local character and social identity, community engagement, conservation of cultural assets, design and quality of open spaces, and more.

To ensure greater relevance, user-friendliness and more practical implementation of the tool for typical development projects, HKGBC engaged three real projects—Subsidised Sale Flats Development at Fat Tseung Street West, Transformation of Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (EMSD) Headquarters into a Green Building and West Kowloon Cultural District—to undergo pilot testing prior to recalibrating the launch version. All these projects were awarded Platinum ratings under the BEAM Plus Neighbourhood Pilot Version.

The assessment area includes both the impact and site areas

An urban experiment in Kwun Tong in collaboration with the Hong Kong Public Space Initiative (HKPSI) was put up to explore different aspects of public realm design. Through this pilot study, detailed observation and interviews were carried out to understand the interaction between art pieces, public space and community. The results of these studies helped to recalibrate the launch version, especially in terms of ‘placemaking’ and ‘quality open space’.

BEAM Plus Neighbourhood Version 1.0 is the latest tool in Hong Kong to assess the sustainability performance at the early or inception stage of a development project

The rating tool and related professional training are now ready. Moving forward, HKGBC will continue to escalate the scheme through high-profile discussions that facilitate learning and promote hands-on use in practical situations.

In June 2017, the Construction Industry Council (CIC) and HKGBC will jointly host the World Sustainable Built Environment Conference 2017 (WSBE17 Hong Kong) for the first time, during which topics like sustainable neighbourhoods and community empowerment are two of the focus areas to be discussed and explored.

It is an honour for Hong Kong to be hosting this highly esteemed triennial event often seen as the Olympics of the Green building industry. About 1,800 industry leaders, experts and academics will meet to exchange views on various sustainability issues. As part of the SBE Conference Series, WSBE17 Hong Kong will conclude the 2015–2017 cycle by embracing all of the top findings from the 20 regional conferences held in different parts of the world this year.

The CIC and HKGBC are thankful for the full support from the Hong Kong government, academics, professional institutions, as well as the public and private sectors for the successful bid. It affirms Hong Kong’s leading role in driving excellence in Green building.

The conference will focus on ‘Putting Ideas into Action’. For example, climate change is a problem that requires immediate action by countries. Following the pledge made at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) to keep the rise in temperature within two degrees Celsius, it is time to let actions speak louder than words. There is a need to move from commitment to implementation, from global promises to policies, and from campaigns to tactical actions.

The three-day conference—to be held on 5 to 7 June 2017—will feature inspiring keynote speakers, a panel discussion led by UNEP, interactive roundtables and over 100 sessions on cutting-edge research and business cases. It is hoped that the vibrant discussion will lead to solutions for the challenges ahead. Furthermore, CIC and HKGBC partnered with the Global Alliance of Buildings and Construction to hold the next Regional Roundtable at WSBE17 Hong Kong.

Given Hong Kong’s close ties to China, the conference is an ideal platform for participants to study the rapid and massive urbanisation in the mainland, which is essential to having a truly global Green building movement. WSBE17 Hong Kong will be a seminal opportunity to demonstrate sustainable development in a compact city, while learning ideas and practices from Green building experts around the world.

Sr Wong Bay is a building surveyor, chairman of the Hong Kong Green Building Council, and principal lecturer in the Department of Real Estate and Construction at the University of Hong Kong. He has served the Architectural Services Department and Housing Department, being responsible for handling different scopes of work concerning public housing development, estate maintenance and improvements, as well as property and facilities management. He was given the Distinguished Building Surveyors Award in 1998 by the Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors (HKIS). 

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