In Hong Kong and cities around the world, ecological issues such as pollution and the effects of climate change, coupled with an expanding global population, continue to put pressure on the availability of valuable natural resources. In response, many societies have begun adopting the philosophy of sustainable design, in which living spaces, commercial buildings, and other built-up areas are designed around the principles of low energy consumption, reduced environmental impact, and low material cost, all without compromising comfort and quality of life.

One of the places where sustainable development has gained popularity is Hong Kong. Following the establishment of the Hong Kong Green Building Council and its BEAM Plus rating, more than 800 buildings have been registered under sustainable development projects. We met with two influential players in the Hong Kong sustainable design scene, for their perspective on the recent developments.

 


 

Rowena Gonzales, founder of HK-based award-winning interior design firm Liquid Interiors

 

How do you create concepts for sustainable design?

It all starts in the pre-design phase where we get to know our clients and discover their main priorities.  Then we share the benefits of healthy and eco design for their personal health and for the planet and focus on their personal needs. Through this process we tailor the best match for them.

 

How do you change people to move towards a sustainable design?

There is a big misconception that sustainable design costs significantly more than traditional interior design. This may have been the case 5 years ago however the availability of materials in Asia has improved greatly. Nowadays, if you are looking for mid-range quality there is little to no difference in cost. 

 

Which features or elements are the most common ones when it comes to creating something sustainable?

The main features that we focus on in terms of sustainability are Indoor Air Quality, Energy Efficiency, Water Efficiency, Waste Reduction and Non Toxic and Responsible materials.

 

Can you give us 5 tips on how to easily implement sustainable design?

  • When purchasing new furniture, go to furniture suppliers that use responsible and non-toxic materials.
  • Use LOW VOC Paint, sealants and adhesives.
  • Change your light bulbs to energy efficient dimmable type.
  • Use double layer window coverings - one thick black out and one sheer. At night time thick window covering can also help with insulation if your windows have a draft. During the day a sheer can let light in while reflecting heat.
  • Select energy efficient Appliances and air conditioning using the Hong Kong Energy Efficiency Label or Energystar certification.

 

Liquid Interiors


 

Henning Voss, founder of real-estate development and consultancy group Vivid Living

 

As an investor do you see that people are adapting to sustainable design?

I have been in Hong Kong now for over a decade and can definitely see a trend towards using more sustainable building materials, upcycle products, people buying water filters and indoor air purification systems. Overall I think that the general population is ahead in terms of adapting sustainable design. However, property developers in Hong Kong are traditionally conservative and haven't realized this potential yet.

 

Is there a demand in the market to for such projects and what might be drivers in Hong Kong?

Yes. More and more people in Hong Kong want sustainable and health-focused design to minimize the impact on the environment and create a healthy living environment for themselves and their loved ones. Air pollution, lead water scandals, a higher degree of environmental awareness, climate change etc. drive this change and growing demand for sustainable living spaces.

 

A common perception is that designing and developing in a more sustainable way is costly which makes it more difficult to adapt. Is that actually the case?

In my experience, a sustainable renovation costs approx. 15% more than a standard renovation. However, materials such as bamboo and cork can be more cost efficient than conventional building materials, and also don’t off-gas any unwanted pollutants. Another cost saving measure can be to upcycle and recycle materials to avoid construction waste. If more property developers would jump on the bandwagon and apply sustainable design, costs would drop significantly.

 

Vivid Living


 

Top examples of sustainable design in Hong Kong worth exploring

 

Some fascinating edifices and spaces in Hong Kong have been given the green treatment. We take a look at 4 of the best examples in the region that represent the diversity of sustainable design:

 

1. Zero Carbon Building – Kowloon

The very first structure in Hong Kong to have a completely zero carbon footprint, complete with its own renewable energy sources, HK’s first urban native woodland, a Building Management System, and waste-to-energy biodiesel usage. Open to public.

 

2. Yau Ma Tei Theatre – Kowloon

One of Kowloon's most historically significant buildings, the pre-WWII Yau Ma Tei Theatre has been converted into the Xiqu Activity Centre. Focusing on the conservation of its valuable heritage the building features various applications of sustainable design, including a fully-revamped structure, with restored tiles and a new steel support system. The building's distinct local identity is seen in the restored Chinese fir purlins, featured entrance columns, and classic arch.

 

3. Siu Sai Wan Complex – Hong Kong Island

Situated on the site of a former British Intelligence Centre close to the Chai Wan end of the MTR's Island Line, Hong Kong's Eastern District features the residential Siu Sai Wan Complex. Among the green innovations across its two blocks, the design includes an atrium-based layout for natural lighting, rainwater collection for green roofing irrigation, low-E glass, and artificial lighting controlled by photo sensors.

 

4. New HK Academy Sai Kung – New Territories

From its educational principles to the innovative design of its facilities, Hong Kong Academy’s new Sai Kung campus is at the forefront of green sustainability. Solar-powered rainwater collectors supply campus flora with water, while low-E glass allows for natural lighting and reduced heat gain, so as to reduce the stress on the building's air-conditioning. 

 

The goal of a more environmentally friendly Hong Kong is intrinsically linked to the development of sustainable design within construction. To preserve resources and lessen the impact on the local and global environment, we must continue to make the philosophy of sustainable design a vital part of building Hong Kong's future.

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