Kevin works for the Business Environment Council. His initiative is BEAM society (Building Environmental Assessment Method); creating a way of communicating and changing standards for the environmental assessment and accreditation of buildings.
BEAM provides the framework to assess environmentally sustainable design, construction and operations. Previously there were no Hong Kong standards for efficiency, water use, recycling etc.
The initiative began in 1995, with the first assessment standard in Hong Kong in response to the change of expectations in the market towards environmental buildings. Since 1995 and ongoing, performance standards are always evolving. 180 buildings have been assessed: 40,000 residential units and 5million square feet of non-residential area.
We have received useful moral support from the Hong Kong government – they are keen to see this initiative introduced. Leading developers in Hong Kong have adopted our standards across their portfolio, for environmental assessment. This has made the architects feel that the community is listening.
The biggest obstacle was persuading commercial developers that there is some benefit to adopting environmental efficiencies. In the early days, the market place was not concerned with building conditions. Building regulations and industry practices were out-of-date and restrictive, not environmentally sympathetic, so we had to change practices and regulations. Initially, we wanted to encourage the use of green products, but there was a severe lack of availability of green raw materials in Hong Kong. This is changing.
Locally in Hong Kong: I like to think that this voluntary standard provides key vehicles for discussion and debate, as previously there was no talk in Hong Kong. BEAM has helped to provide the agenda and forum to changes in specifications for the green building.
There has been no impact internationally, but we have certainly gained recognition, and there are other schemes around the world and network of professionals around the world. We are recognized as the first.
In assessing building design and construction, we look at the health and wellbeing of the building. To achieve BEAM accreditation, it must achieve indoor lighting quality and air quality. The BEAM standard of the indoor environment is higher than the norm and emphasises impacts of a building to its surroundings, such as overshadowing, access to views, how the building can enrich the public space of the community etc.
In the short term – our biggest aspiration is to be able to affect existing buildings. 65% of BEAM assessments are carried out on new buildings, and we could do more to assess older buildings with carbon dioxide emissions (existing buildings are the main problem here) and help them adapt to become energy-efficient. The biggest impact of this program will be long-term, over the next 40 years.
Overall the environmental contribution is positive, changing the way the marketplace works, and we have achieved this through environmentally sensitive building methods, less waste, and more energy efficiencies than there would have been. We work from a virtual office, frequently meet outside and have no printed publications.
We targeted the professional community – architects, engineers, developers – and arrange occasional talks, a quarterly newsletter, a series of working groups for experience sharing. Students about to enter the workforce are our main target audience. We have no specific target audience within the general public as there are no resources, so we have a low profile.
The barriers are coming down, but in the past the biggest barrier was apathy. In the design and construction of buildings, individuals couldn’t have any impact, but over time this has changed. We speak out with new ideas, expressing concerns to the people they work for and suggesting solutions. Previously people were sitting back and accepting things, but now we are becoming leaders in the workplace, taking a risk and then the client will take ideas on board.
I hope that consumers in Hong Kong begin to expect and demand better environmental performance of the city’s buildings. Around the world, others demand that buildings have an Energy Label rating. Elsewhere, house-buyers are willing to pay more for an energy-efficient house. Hong Kongers focus on location and price, for both commercial and residential buildings, but we want people to take the environment into account when renting or buying, and assign value, so the whole marketplace will say it is better to design an environmental building.
BEAM society is very excited to be associated with Earth Champions. As our message is spread throughout the community people can lead a more environmentally-friendly lifestyle.