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Government proposes energy codes for buildings
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The government proposed to implement mandatory Building Energy Codes (BECs) for new and existing buildings by 2010 to improve energy efficiency and to combat global warming. The government will launch 3-month public consultation.

"As voluntary compliance with a higher energy efficiency standard does not appear to be forthcoming in Hong Kong, we consider it necessary to pursue mandatory implementation of the BECs to complement market-driven changes," said Edward Yau, Secretary for Environment.

Electricity accounts for about half of total energy consumption at end-use level in the city, while 89 percent of electricity is consumed by buildings.

The first 10 years of implementation is expected to save approximately 2.8 billion kilowatt-hour of energy, reducing 1.96 million tons of carbon dioxide emission.

Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (EMSD) started operating the voluntary Hong Kong Energy Efficiency Registration Scheme for Buildings since 1998, but only 187 non-government premises registered.

New commercial buildings and residential areas and industrial buildings, as well as existing buildings undergoing major retro-fitting works will have to comply with the BECs.

Major retro-fitting should involve more than 50 percent of the gross floor area or replace major components of installations.

Developers, building owners and property management companies must comply with the regulations and submit self-declaration to EMSD to demonstrate compliance with energy-efficiency standards. Energy audits should also be conducted once in 10 years afterwards. Developers would be issued a certificate of compliance by EMSD.

EMSD would also review and update the BECs once in five years.

The implementation would cover about 30 new commercial buildings and 300 new residential buildings constructed annually, EMSD said.

Lauding the government's efforts, Hahn Chu, environmental affairs manager of Friends of the Earth said the measures would help combat global warming effectively.

Gabrielle Ho, project manager of Green Sense, suggested mandatory implementation of the BECs for existing buildings which do not undergo major retro-fitting works with grace time till 2015.

The government also proposed a voluntary tier-system under which buildings exceeding the minimum building energy efficiency standard by a prescribed percentage would be awarded an energy mark.

Chu, however, suggested the government offer tax incentives to developers and property owners as an added impetus to attain a higher standard.

Agreeing with the government's suggestions, the Hong Kong Institute of Architects' board of local affairs chairman Wong Kam-sing said the government should encourage the developers in way of mandatory system rather than an optional one.

"Three percent to five percent of the construction cost may have to be incurred in return for about 10 percent to 15 percent annual saving in energy bills," Yau said.

Wong said it would be the developers' social responsibility to bear the cost to conserve the environment and the insignificant cost would not affect the housing price, which is subject to market demand.

The implementation would improve energy efficiency as well as raise the image of developers, Environment Bureau said.

(China Daily HK Edition December 29, 2007)

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