Regulatory Support for BEAM Plus Green Building

wholesale conversion of industrial buildings going green, john herbert

As manufacturing moved North into China, Hong Kong has been left with a legacy of under utilized factory space and industrial buildings. There is only so much demand for low yield warehouse and storage space, so opportunities to move up the value chain, converting to higher yielding properties such as lofts, commercial, and hotel accommodation is an attractive proposition. Another important factor to remeber, is that the necessary public transportation infrastructure is already in place.

The market has already dictated the direction, re-populating industrial space into more lucrative higher yielding office accommodation, yet, approximately 1.1 million square metres or 6.5% remained vacant (2008 data).

Last year (2009) the Government acknowledged that sustainability outweighed demolition, and removed the first major obstacle for the wholesale renovation and revitalization of industrial building stock, namely the land premium (a charge levied by government to change the land use) could be waived [link].

And now that initiative has been extended, the next hurdle technical issues and this time the concession is tied with BEAM PLUS [www.beamsociety.org.hk] green building certification.

First some background, the regulations for buildings set out the minimum technical requirements including issues such as planning, fire safety, lighting, ventilation and other stipulations. However, the industrial building stock is constrained by decisions from the past .

Therefore the Government has eased certain technical requirements to encourage wholesale conversion of  industrial buildings, on the express condition that the building obtains BEAM Plus Green Building label. PNAP APP 150 Items (ii) and (iv) directly refer to compliance with BEAM Plus as the condition for obtaining the waiver. PNAP APP150 (published September 2010) states:

…. To encourage green building designs and practices, provision of green and/or energy efficient features to revitalised industrial buildings will be a relevant factor in support of the granting of modification of or exemption from certain specific regulations. Examples relating to applications for such modification / exemption are as follows:

(i) If a refuge floor is required to be provided in accordance with the Code of Practice for the Provision of Means of Escape in Case of Fire (MOE Code) for the proposed conversion but there is difficulty or site constraint to comply with the technical requirements of the MOE Code, proposal for the provision of a refuge floor with greenery design and enhanced fire service installations will be favourably considered subject to no adverse comments from the Director of Fire Services. PNAP APP-122 is relevant.

(ii) In the case of conversion to office use, if there are difficulties in providing the required natural lighting and ventilation due to constraints posed by the original design as industrial building, application for modification of Regulations 30 [link] and 31 [link] of the Building (Planning) Regulations will be favourably considered if adequate artificial lighting and mechanical ventilation and energy efficient design that could achieve 40% in the categories of Energy Use (EU) and Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) under the BEAM Plus certification with provisional assessment reports conferred by the Hong Kong Green Building Council are incorporated in the proposal. PNAP APP-130 is relevant.

(iii) For individual air-conditioning boxes/platforms attached to the external walls with projection larger than the usually accepted size and/or projection over street, application for modification / exemption will be favourably considered if the proposal is incorporated with the use of energy efficient/environmentally friendly air-conditioning units. PNAP APP-19 is relevant.

(iv) For the provision of curtain walls to existing building facades,exemption from section 31(1) of the Buildings Ordinance to allow the curtain walls to project over streets will be favourably considered if low-energy absorbent type glazing/energy efficient materials with energy efficient design of the curtain walls that could achieve 40% in the categories of EU and IEQ under the BEAM Plus certification with provisional assessment reports conferred by the Hong Kong Green Building Council are incorporated in the proposal. PNAP APP-2 is relevant.

Click here to download Wholesale Conversion of Industrial Buildings PNAP APP150 (PDF FORMAT ENGLISH)

or PNAP APP150 CHINESE

The environmental benefits cannot be under estimated, avoided building demolition, handling construction waste, and ultimately waste disposal are powerful arguments to support re-using the existing building stock if possible.

Will this new incentive help sway the market to encourage investment to upgrade the industrial building stock? I think it’s too earlier to judge, however it must be acknowledged that the Government’s Development Bureau has embraced sustainable building to encourage the reuse and redevelopment of existing buildings structures.

— John Herbert, Consultant, Kelcroft E&M Limited

inverted sustainability

The HKSAR Council for Sustainable Development (CSD) conducted a year long consultation exercise titled Building Design to Foster a Quality and Sustainable Built Environment. And now CSD has released the report [link].

One of the many issues raised in by the public was the coveted green features deal [BD Joint Practice Note 01],[BD Joint Practice Note PN2] essentially developers would be granted GFA concessions (READ more GFA) for providing gazetted green features. I don’t want to go into hideous detail on this decision, suffice to say that these “green” features included central facilities such as wider corridors, clubhouse, mail delivery room, etc. and also residential flat improvements such as balconies.

The consultation report noted the public views. However, for reasons best known to themselves, the CSD seems to believe its now expert, and includes a number of recommendations, including changes to the GFA concession arrangements.  If the Secretary for Development accepts implements the recommendations, some will impact the Hong Kong Green Building Rating System BEAM.

Green GFA

Don’t think for a moment that every CSD recommendation actually reflects the concept of sustainability, the report states:

The CSD recommends that the Government should reduce the level of GFA concessions for car parks in general and promote underground car parks where technically feasible through provisions of relatively higher level of GFA concession as compared with that for their above-ground counterparts.

Here CSD is promoting basement car-parking, compared to above ground parking, so the Life Cycle cost for basement parking must be superior right?  CSD have overlooked a few critical issues. Considering the construction work needed for top down excavation, and disposal of the created spoil.

Once created the basement car-park will require 24 hour 365 day mechanical ventilation systems and a higher level of illumination than an above-ground counterpart.  Also the actual construction area required to accommodate the same number of vehicles would require a larger footprint because:

1) Floor Area will sacrificed on every level for routing the necessary mechanical ventilation systems to grade level (consider the extra annual operating cost);
2) Floor Area will sacrificed accommodating the routing fire services =smoke control ventilation ducts back to to grade level;
3) basement car parking is inevitably below the water table, therefore requires a drainage system with drainage pumps to convey any waste water back up to grade level (consider the extra annual operating cost);

If you compare basement car parking with above-ground car parking, it doesn’t take a genesis to conclude that the latter is more energy efficient, and has a lower environmental impact.

Cap GFA Concession

The report noted there is no limit on the exempted area under the “green” features BD Joint Practice Note 1 and 2.  However, the CSD recommends limiting or capping the concession. It also suggests one way forward would be to provide a sliding scale for GFA concessions for buildings that achieve higher BEAM awards. The intention to encourage environmental best practice, the report states:

…….the Government may consider the feasibility of prescribing different levels of the overall cap corresponding to the overall environmental performance of the building by reference to certain benchmarks (e.g. BEAM Plus rating), i.e. the higher the rating, the higher the overall cap.

– John A. Herbert, consultant, Kelcroft E&M Limited

BEAM Plus for green building

The Hong Kong Building Environmental Assessment Method or BEAM launched the 2009 BEAM Plus version for assessment and certification of green buildings last Friday (20 Nov 2009).  One version BEAM Plus EB covers existing buildings, and the other BEAM Plus NB covers new buildings.  These rating tools, are not standards, and are intended to cover an entire building.

The documents are available to download FREE from the www.HK-BEAM.org.hk website, here are the links:

BEAM Plus EB (PDF) or BEAM PLus NB (PDF)

Until 31 March 2010 practitioners have the choice, to have building assessed under the new or old tool, after 31 March, green buildings will be assessed under 2009 BEAM Plus.

– John Herbert, Consultant, Kelcroft E&M Limited
helping lower the cost and impact of doing business in Asia

Green Building in Asia: It’s more advanced than you think

I feel the author of this blog article should have conducted a little more research before gushing over yet another green building conference in Asia, that event is certainly not the first green building event in Asia, and I am sure it will not be the last.  In fact that reminds me, yet another green building conference will be held in here in Hong Kong on 25th March 2009.

In terms of green building standards Asia is ahead of the game too, BEAM (Hong Kong’s Building Environmental Assessment Method) http://www.hk-beam.org.hk is the defacto green building rating standard in Hong Kong, with more than 100 buildings already registered covering millions of square feet.

Here I must confess that I am member of the BEAM executive committee, so have some insight in this area. To date, BEAM is the most successful in Asia, on per capita basis, well ahead of USGBC’s LEED, and is making headway in China.

If you are interested BEAM has already developed three versions, New Build, Existing Buildings, and Interiors. BEAM New build and Existing Building standards are published, and can be download free of charge from the BEAM website.  The third in the series BEAM Interiors is complete, and the pilot study is underway. Hopefully it will be launched 2009.


Looking forward, certainly the outlook and opportunities for green building in Asia will continue to grow steadily. I constantly advocate for better buildings, to avoid repeating the past mistakes.  Officials are only now just begininng to realise what engineers have known for many years, buildings consume the lion share of our energy budget. We can’t continue to create inefficent homes, offices, hotels, and other buildings, it is not sustainable.

The recent uproar in USA regaridng LEED (Henry Gifford’s video) is only part of the whole, future buildings must be sustainable, and that includes energy efficient irrespective of the brand.

I attended a Sino-German green building conference last year, one presentation noted that two office buildings, one designed by Sir Norman Foster was a “Green Building” it consumed more than 400w/sqm/year, yet a local design, not branded green, consumed 123w/sqm/year. Now, if you pay the energy bill which one do you want to own?

However, we can’t just create energy efficient buildings, and ignore sustainble building methods and materials,  we need both and we need them now.

John Herbert
Consultant
Kelcroft E&M Limited

Green Building – new insurance revenue

For the insurance business most of the media reports and predictions are dire, focused on the increasing losses, particularly the financial crisis and increasing claims many resulting from increasing number of natural disasters it said.

Finally big business has seen the light, and the new opportunities from the green, low carbon economy. The Lawyers Weekly (Canada) newsletter reports that insurers will introduce new Green insurance products, designed to help building owners manage risk.

Particularly interesting, some insurers will offer 10% saving on the cost of pollution legal liability insurance for LEED certified buildings.

Energy Performance Contracts
Also a long awaited insurance product suitable for EPC (Energy Performance Contract). The insurance is specifically designed to help building owners mitigate the risk in the event that a capital improvement project does not produce the anticipated energy savings. Here in Asia EPC’s are still in their infancy, and a product designed to help encourage building owners feel secure by lowering their downside exposure is welcomed.