Far East — Big Green

Mainland China may be getting all the attention for beginning to adopt green building as a standard in the country, but green building has been around in Hong Kong for over a decade. The Hong Kong Building Environmental Assessment Method, or HK-BEAM is the leading green standard in the Far East. The HK-BEAM Society, the administrative body for the standard, is a non-profit organization that owns and operates the assessment method on a self-financing basis in coordination with the Hong Kong Business Environment Council (BEC). The BEC conducts all of the building assessments on behalf of the Society. HK-BEAM has six major objectives: to improve the environmental performance of buildings across their life cycle, to provide healthier, higher quality, more durable and efficient working and living environments for building occupants, to contribute significantly towards sustainable development in Hong Kong, to build capacity in the industry to move quickly towards sustainability, to educate the Hong Kong community to the concepts of eco-efficiency and sustainability and to extend these sound practices beyond Hong Kong into the Asia Pacific region.

HK-BEAM has five green building standards; one for new office design (1996), one for existing office design (1996), one for new residential buildings (1999), one for new building developments (2003) and one for existing building developments (2003). The standards have certified over a 100 buildings during its existence. That number, at first, doesn't seem so like a large amount of edifices, but those 100-plus buildings represent over 62 million sq. ft. of built space making HK-BEAM one of the most widely used assessment and labeling standards in the world.

The Steering Group for HK-BEAM was formed in 1995 and launched its first two standards in 1996. Four projects were submitted to HK-BEAM for sustainable assessment and potential labeling the same year. By 1997, two buildings had received "the Excellent HK-BEAM rating". The standard has four levels of certification; Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum depending on the overall performance of the building.

HK-BEAM is the best kept secret in the green building industry. Most people know about United States Green Building Council's green rating systems known as LEED, some professionals outside of Britain know about BREEAM: BRE Environmental Assessment Method if you live in Europe, you might know about the European Energy Performance of Buildings Directive if you're an international engineering consultant, there's a fair chance you'll know about the International Federation of Consulting Engineers' "Project Sustainability Management Guidelines". Nearly no one in the green building community knows anything about HK-BEAM.

A green guideline novice will find it quite easy to navigate through the HK-BEAM website, unlike the websites of its European counterparts. PDF downloads are available for a wide-range of information about the Society and the standards, and unlike any other green rating system on the planet, all of the latest versions of the HK-BEAM guidebooks can be downloaded for free.

As for the standards themselves, they're pretty standard in the areas covered for construction. For example, HK-BEAM 4/04 'New Buildings' has six sections that evaluate the design and construction of a project. The six categories include Site Aspects, Material Aspects, Energy Use, Water Use, Indoor Environmental Quality and Innovations & Performance Enhancement. The biggest difference with HK-BEAM and other guidelines is the detail to how they award points and assess the components of a building. Each credit is broken down into five parts; Exclusions, Objectives, Prerequisites, Credit Requirements and Assessments.

Sections, such as the Site Aspects have subsections, such as the Emission from the Site. In the Emission from the Site subsection, the design and construction is assessed base on criteria dealing with Air Pollution during Construction, Noise during Construction, Water Pollution during Construction, Emissions from Cooling Towers, Noise from Building Equipment and Light Pollution.

HK-BEAM is sure to continue growing within Hong Kong. As mainland China increases its interest in green building, the country will benefit from the knowledge gained from by the HK-BEAM Society. The experience in Hong Kong with green building, and standards developed on the island providing a framework for China seems to make more sustainable sense than importing rating systems from other continents. In fact, if HK-BEAM is instrumental in assisting China and neighboring countries to go green, the process of moving to a more sustainable way of building may avoid cultural idiosyncratic mistakes by foreign organizations. Plus, it takes the old saying "Think Globally, Act Locally" to a whole new level.

Tags: Architecture | China | Hong Kong

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