David Chan was recruited by Knight Frank to restructure its building auditing process, and he saw an opportunity do it with conservation issues in mind.
For a building to be as environmentally sound as possible, it has to be of good quality. So, he created a new and strict audit system that lets clients know throughout the construction process whether or not a building is of good quality.
He expanded this system into Mainland China because China has a problem with building quality control. He saw there was a gap in the market and a need for quality that was good for business and the environment.
To pass this auditing system, a building must fulfil the following:
- Cut waste by 5%
- Be structurally sound
- Be efficient (heat loss, materials, ventilation etc.)
Unlike any other auditing system, the beauty of this one is that it works on a ranking system. Each project is ranked using the above criteria, and then the client is given the information in the format of a league table. Monthly reports are released, and their score can change each month. There are two reports made, one at the start and one at the end of every project.
“Once you start ranking people on a number scale, they start paying attention. In the case of the audits, it’s important to be honest, despite politics and pressure,” says Mr Chan.
Each month when a client is given their report, they sit down together, and Mr Chan and his team let them know how they can improve their scores. “We are not here to catch people out; we are here to help them.”
The outcome is win-win because the clients learn how to build quality buildings and they can charge more for their buildings as a result. And the construction companies are happy because the building sites are more safely and efficiently.
Taking on China was a huge challenge. Building quality control in China is a significant problem. He is proposing an entirely new system, so initially, there was fear of unseen problems. Often companies will start projects with the best intentions and then fall by the wayside. “To see it come together in China is rewarding; the buildings are safer, cleaner, and more environmentally friendly.”
Mr Chan also joined the latest round of LegCo elections – but with no intention of winning, simply getting the word out to people in the industry. Speaking at the LegCo elections gave him an opportunity to talk to 6,000 people in his industry about climate change, how it is and will continue to affect Hong Kong. He also talked about how they (architects etc.) can create positive change through their work. He emphasised a need for the new building code to include strong stipulations about work being environmentally conscious and sustainable.
Locally in Hong Kong: The auditing system has changed the way our clients view the auditing system and their construction practices.
Every couple of months he writes articles about the state of Hong Kong ’s environment in the SCMP, highlighting changes needed in the construction industry in an attempt to see a comprehensive new building code for Hong Kong brought to fruition. Through LegCo and the SCMP, he hopes he has been successful in raising people’s awareness of environmental issues.
Nationally in China: He hopes the auditing system is an example that will pressure the government to change the country’s construction laws and auditing requirements.
Overall he hopes to highlight the idea that the construction industry and the laws surrounding it need to evolve to include issues of environmental conservation and sustainability. Current building auditing does not consider sustainability or the environment and needs to be changed.
He says he has his family very much in mind. “I’m thinking more of their future in the next two decades. We need to think about what kind of life we are providing for our kids – my job is providing a better life for them.”