Hong Kong News

Nonpartisan, Noncommercial, unconstrained.
Monday, May 27, 2024

Hong Kong’s old buildings still have green potential

Hong Kong’s old buildings still have green potential

Building green isn’t nearly as sustainable as adapting the city’s thousands of existing high-rises. Property developers must focus on making these buildings more energy efficient, and, better yet, readily adaptable to future energy-saving technology.

While there was plenty of fanfare around COP27’s historic agreement to set up a loss and damage fund, I would have liked to see more coverage on the progress being made in other key areas, such as policies focused on the built environment.

That said, it’s not just about government action. The private sector should similarly set ambitious energy targets and work towards them through a range of strategies.

Hong Kong is well-known for its built environment of high-rise urban areas, set adjacent to subtropical hilly and even mountainous terrain. For decades, the city has been one of the world’s most densely populated places, with most of its 7 million residents living and working in skyscrapers.

New buildings in Hong Kong are often portrayed as a symbol of success. But in a sustainability-focused world, should we be so quick to demolish and rebuild?

Properties globally are some of the biggest energy consumers in the world, accounting for one-quarter to one-third of all energy use, and a similar amount of greenhouse gas emissions, according to a paper in ScienceDirect. Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu noted in his maiden policy address that more than 60 per cent of Hong Kong’s carbon emissions are attributable to generating electricity for buildings.

Developers and landlords have recognised for years that they have a responsibility to reduce emissions. Back in 1995, Hong Kong developers came together to establish the BEAM building standard, especially for construction in subtropical climates. In 2007, the Asia Business Council published a book called Building Energy Efficiency: Why Green Buildings Are Key to Asia’s Future.

The book references a McKinsey Global Institute study which found that improvements to existing buildings are four of the five most cost-effective measures that can be taken to reduce all greenhouse gas emissions (the fifth was improving energy efficiency in commercial vehicles).

A residential building under construction in Hong Kong on October 11. More than 60 per cent of Hong Kong’s carbon emissions are attributable to generating electricity for buildings.

This is because new buildings have what is called “embodied carbon” – the carbon dioxide emissions associated with the construction of a building. Put simply, embodied carbon is the carbon footprint of a building before it becomes operational. It is distinct from “operational carbon”, the carbon dioxide that comes from energy, heat and lighting.

It’s no wonder, then, that the saying goes: “The greenest building is the one that is already built”. As such, despite the continual clang of cement mixers and drilling that has become white noise in Hong Kong, much of the building work taking place is done behind the scenes, as developers refit current buildings with energy-efficient components.

Leading developers in Hong Kong spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year to retrofit existing assets to drive energy efficiency.

Today’s property owners need to have a great deal of imagination. On the one hand, we have to continuously be on the lookout for new property technology to increase the energy efficiency of our buildings.

On the other, we need to ensure existing technology can be easily upgraded or adapted to support new ideas that have yet to be invented. It’s a more difficult path to follow than constructing a new building, but it is worth the effort.

An example of imagination at play is the so-called blue economy, the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth. The idea of the blue economy was only conceived in 2012 at the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. Yet, more than 90 years ago, building owners in Hong Kong began to use seawater for cooling systems. It was a huge, imaginative step forward.

The real estate industry in Hong Kong has really stepped up when it comes to reducing its carbon footprint, as demonstrated by the sector leading the way for science-based target commitments.

Four out of the 10 companies in Hong Kong which have their 1.5 degrees Celsius-aligned greenhouse gas emissions targets validated by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) are property developers. While we are delighted that developers are aspiring to LEED and BEAM certification for new buildings, we know that reinvesting in existing buildings is disproportionately important for achieving a net-zero carbon future.

That’s why property owners are introducing smart technologies to create digital management systems that reduce energy consumption and waste production.

To be truly efficient, developers need to install a central monitoring system which integrates the management of buildings with device sensors, security cameras, AI technologies and mobile apps to provide centralised oversight.

Efforts in the real estate industry to retrofit and reuse are not only underpinned by the need to perform well environmentally, but are necessary to meet changing user expectations. Tenants are becoming more discerning about the buildings they occupy and consider landlords’ green credentials when moving to a new building.

The drive to retrofit has gathered momentum over recent years. Repositioning and refurbishing existing buildings to meet the evolving needs of society and the economy allows us to reuse building materials and avoid the need for new site work, which can reduce emissions significantly when compared with a new building.

These are just part of our efforts to decarbonise Hong Kong’s property market and are a positive step towards achieving net-zero by 2050. The private sector can take more initiative in collaborating with governments and NGOs to achieve a common climate change goal.


Related Articles

Hong Kong News
It's always the people with the dirty hands pointing their fingers
Paper straws found to contain long-lasting and potentially toxic chemicals - study
FTX's Bankman-Fried headed for jail after judge revokes bail
Blackrock gets half a trillion dollar deal to rebuild Ukraine
Steve Jobs' Son Launches Venture Capital Firm With $200 Million For Cancer Treatments
Google reshuffles Assistant unit, lays off some staffers, to 'supercharge' products with A.I.
End of Viagra? FDA approved a gel against erectile dysfunction
UK sanctions Russians judges over dual British national Kara-Murza's trial
US restricts visa-free travel for Hungarian passport holders because of security concerns
America's First New Nuclear Reactor in Nearly Seven Years Begins Operations
Southeast Asia moves closer to economic unity with new regional payments system
Political leader from South Africa, Julius Malema, led violent racist chants at a massive rally on Saturday
Today Hunter Biden’s best friend and business associate, Devon Archer, testified that Joe Biden met in Georgetown with Russian Moscow Mayor's Wife Yelena Baturina who later paid Hunter Biden $3.5 million in so called “consulting fees”
'I am not your servant': IndiGo crew member, passenger get into row over airline meal
Singapore Carries Out First Execution of a Woman in Two Decades Amid Capital Punishment Debate
Spanish Citizenship Granted to Iranian chess player who removed hijab
US Senate Republican Mitch McConnell freezes up, leaves press conference
Speaker McCarthy says the United States House of Representatives is getting ready to impeach Joe Biden.
San Francisco car crash
This camera man is a genius
3D ad in front of Burj Khalifa
Next level gaming
BMW driver…
Google testing journalism AI. We are doing it already 2 years, and without Google biased propoganda and manipulated censorship
Unlike illegal imigrants coming by boats - US Citizens Will Need Visa To Travel To Europe in 2024
Musk announces Twitter name and logo change to X.com
The politician and the journalist lost control and started fighting on live broadcast.
The future of sports
Unveiling the Black Hole: The Mysterious Fate of EU's Aid to Ukraine
Farewell to a Music Titan: Tony Bennett, Renowned Jazz and Pop Vocalist, Passes Away at 96
Alarming Behavior Among Florida's Sharks Raises Concerns Over Possible Cocaine Exposure
Transgender Exclusion in Miss Italy Stirs Controversy Amidst Changing Global Beauty Pageant Landscape
Joe Biden admitted, in his own words, that he delivered what he promised in exchange for the $10 million bribe he received from the Ukraine Oil Company.
TikTok Takes On Spotify And Apple, Launches Own Music Service
Global Trend: Using Anti-Fake News Laws as Censorship Tools - A Deep Dive into Tunisia's Scenario
Arresting Putin During South African Visit Would Equate to War Declaration, Asserts President Ramaphosa
Hacktivist Collective Anonymous Launches 'Project Disclosure' to Unearth Information on UFOs and ETIs
Typo sends millions of US military emails to Russian ally Mali
Server Arrested For Theft After Refusing To Pay A Table's $100 Restaurant Bill When They Dined & Dashed
The Changing Face of Europe: How Mass Migration is Reshaping the Political Landscape
China Urges EU to Clarify Strategic Partnership Amid Trade Tensions
The Last Pour: Anchor Brewing, America's Pioneer Craft Brewer, Closes After 127 Years
Democracy not: EU's Digital Commissioner Considers Shutting Down Social Media Platforms Amid Social Unrest
Sarah Silverman and Renowned Authors Lodge Copyright Infringement Case Against OpenAI and Meta
Why Do Tech Executives Support Kennedy Jr.?
The New York Times Announces Closure of its Sports Section in Favor of The Athletic
BBC Anchor Huw Edwards Hospitalized Amid Child Sex Abuse Allegations, Family Confirms
Florida Attorney General requests Meta CEO's testimony on company's platforms' alleged facilitation of illicit activities
The Distorted Mirror of actual approval ratings: Examining the True Threat to Democracy Beyond the Persona of Putin
40,000 child slaves in Congo are forced to work in cobalt mines so we can drive electric cars.