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.
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