Q1. What is the purpose of the BEAM Plus scheme?

The purpose of BEAM Plus is to set out a series of best practices (above statutory requirements) that enable the building industry to create more sustainable buildings. By sustainable, it means that the buildings would foster the health and wellbeing of human beings while caring for the local and global environments. Examples of areas covered by BEAM Plus include site planning, site emissions, material use, waste management, energy use, water use, indoor environmental quality, etc. It is a voluntary scheme that gives recognition ratings to green buildings.

It is believed that the existence of a voluntary recognition scheme can attract the industry to do better than the minimum statutory requirements. In the long term, it is conducive to the raising of industry standards.

Q2. The government has established the building energy code. How is the BEAM Plus scheme different from the code?

The assessment aspects covered by BEAM Plus, as shown in the answer to Q1, are far much wider than the government’s building energy code, which focuses on energy only.

BEAM Plus is a rating standard that would give the building a rating such as Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze. For building energy code, it would only give a building a “Comply” or “Not comply” status. Therefore, the two documents are fundamentally different.

Also, BEAM Plus is a voluntary rating scheme with an aim to reward and recognise buildings that adopt best practices higher than the statutory requirements, whereas building energy code is a mandatory standard stipulated by the law. The former is administered by an NGO whereas the latter is administered by the government.

Q3. What does the result “Unclassified” mean? Does it mean “zero effort” or “failed”?

BEAM Plus rating tool has a set of “Prerequisites” that have to be met by all projects. For example, for New Buildings, two of the Prerequisites are to achieve a water saving of at least 10% and to design the ventilation flow rates to meet international standard. If a project cannot meet any one or more of the Prerequisites, the result would be “Cannot be assessed” or “Prerequisites(s) not achieved”. If a project has met all the Prerequisites but has not reached the threshold scores for Bronze rating, the result would be called “Unclassified”. So it can be seen that “Unclassified” does not mean “zero effort” as prerequisites have been achieved.

Also, “Unclassified” should not be construed as “failed” as it is unknown whether the project has attempted to pursue other scores. If the scores are just not attempted, it is not suitable to call it “failed”.

It should be noted that for BEAM Plus New Buildings, starting from Version 2.0, the standard of Prerequisites has been further raised and accordingly, the result “Unclassified” has been renamed “Prerequisites Achieved” to better reflect its true meaning.

Q4. Why is the BEAM Plus scheme divided into New Buildings and Existing Buildings? Is it possible that a green building certificate will not be granted unless and until a building has passed the operation assessment?

The division of the scheme will enable the sustainable performance of buildings at different stages to be recognised individually. Another important reason is: In a typical building development, the party responsible for design and construction of the building is often different from the party responsible for operation and management. For example, the developer of a hotel or school building may not act as the hotel or school operator after the building is completed. In other cases such as residential developments, individual units of the buildings may be sold to many different owners. In that case, it is the owners’ corporation, not the developer, who has the final say on the management of the buildings. Under such circumstances, it is sensible to divide the BEAM Plus scheme into New Buildings and Existing Buildings because the responsible parties for New Buildings and Existing Buildings are often different.

Q5. It is found that some BEAM Plus-certified buildings are not operated in an environmentally responsible manner in a certain aspect. Why does that happen?

We should find out whether the buildings are certified to BEAM Plus New Buildings (NB) or BEAM Plus Existing Buildings (EB). BEAM Plus NB certifies buildings up to the point of construction completion. If buildings are certified to NB, this means that the buildings have performed well in terms of design and construction only. On the contrary, BEAM Plus EB certifies the operation and maintenance performance of occupied buildings in the past several years. If buildings are certified to EB, this means that the buildings have been operated and maintained in a sustainable manner. However, even if they are certified to EB, since the final score is a summation of all scores from multiple aspects, it cannot be ruled out that the scores in these aspects may vary. The emphasis here is to evaluate a building as a whole and not to make a judgement based on one single aspect.

Q6. As far as carbon reduction is concerned, it appears that BEAM Plus Existing Buildings scheme is more important because the life-time emission of a building is much more than that during construction. Then what is the importance of running the BEAM Plus New Buildings scheme?

As explained in previous answers, carbon reduction is just one of the purposes of implementing BEAM Plus. It is not the sole purpose. Other purposes include fostering the health and wellbeing of occupants, caring for the local environment and minimising their construction impacts, etc. Thus, how the buildings are designed and constructed would be equally important. In fact, if a building is certified under BEAM Plus New Buildings, it lays a good foundation for future green operation. Therefore, we should not underestimate the importance of the certification at the design and construction stage.

Q7. How can we know a building’s energy performance from a BEAM Plus assessment result?

Starting from 1 January 2017, the Council has refined the BEAM Plus certificates so that scores of all performance categories are displayed on the certificates, e.g. site aspects, energy use, water use, materials aspects, indoor environmental quality, innovation and addition, etc. As a result, one would be able to know how well a project performs in each and every aspect.

Q8. Greenery such as green walls and green roofs are found in many BEAM Plus-certified buildings. Isn’t this kind of features a pure decoration and it has nothing to do with fighting climate change and environmental protection?

The purpose of BEAM Plus is to set out a series of best practices that enable the creation of more sustainable buildings. By sustainable, it means that the buildings would foster the health and wellbeing of human beings while caring for the local and global environments. Greenery fulfils these purposes in the following ways:

  • Outdoor planting reduces heat around the building, mitigating the urban heat island effect arising from concrete.
  • Green views in an urban setting reduce stress levels for the citizens and are contributory to health and wellbeing.
  • Green roofs provide people with areas for outdoor healthy activities.
  • Greenery facilitates the drainage of storm water, limiting potential flooding.
  • Plants can purify air by reducing the concentrations of carbon dioxide and other pollutants.
  • Greenery provides a habitat for birds and other creatures, helping with ecological conservation and maintaining biodiversity.
  • Vegetation on roofs and facades can enhance the thermal insulation of the building envelope, helping to reduce energy consumption in air-conditioning.
Q9. Is it true that in 2011, the government introduced the 10% gross floor area (GFA) concession as an incentive to attract developers to join BEAM Plus? As a result, a large number of developers are able to make huge profits by participating in green building assessment?

No. GFA concession already existed well before BEAM Plus was launched. Its purpose is to encourage developers to include provisions that are beneficial to the residents and the environment. Later the Buildings Department included BEAM Plus as one of the prerequisites for seeking GFA concession. Besides, a 10% cap was imposed on the amount of concession. It was not an increase of GFA concession from 0% to 10%. Therefore, there was a tightening of the requirement rather than a relaxation.

As we all know, many green features such as plant rooms for green facilities, wider common corridors, communal sky gardens, covered landscaped areas, etc. cannot be included into the saleable floor area. So, they do not directly translate into sales profits. If developers are to provide these facilities, it would be necessary to provide an incentive by exempting their shares in the allowable build areas.

The purpose of the GFA concession for green features is for making those features feasible. It is not for incentivising BEAM Plus.

Q10. As far as green building / green feature incentives are concerned, are those in Hong Kong much higher than Singapore?

When green building certification was incorporated into the building control requirements, the change in GFA concession in Hong Kong in 2011 was from “more than 10%” to “capped at 10%” whereas in Singapore, the change in 2009 was from 0% to “up to 2%”. Beyond its green building certification incentive, Singapore’s original density control regime (Bonus GFA Incentives Scheme) has already allowed Bonus GFA of up to 10% for green features, as shown on website:
https://www.ura.gov.sg/Corporate/Guidelines/Development-Control/Residential/Flats-Condominiums/Bonus-GFA.

From these, it can be seen that Hong Kong is mandating developers to join green building assessment if they wish to apply for GFA concessions. There was no additional GFA concession measure added. For Singapore, a new GFA incentive is used to attract developers to obtain green building ratings at the upper levels. Regarding the amount of concessions for green features, the two places adopt similar magnitudes of concession.

Q11. The current GFA concession mechanism does not take into account the BEAM Plus rating, i.e. the treatment to Gold projects is the same as the treatment to Bronze ones. Isn’t it an unfair approach?

GFA concession mechanism is outside the purview of the Hong Kong Green Building Council. Nevertheless, the Council together with its partner, BEAM Society Ltd, have been working closely with the government to enhance the current system. The Council understands that the current mechanism is just a starting point, which is subject to continual improvement. According to the press, starting from mid-2021, the treatment to Gold projects and that to Silver / Bronze projects would be different. Interested parties may browse a media report at:
https://ps.hket.com/article/2693749.

Q12. Under the current system, is it true that once a project is registered for BEAM Plus, it can get the gross floor area concession without considering whether the project proceeds to complete the BEAM Plus assessment?

No. According to Buildings Department’s requirements, the Applicant has to complete the BEAM Plus Provisional Assessment before it can apply for consent to commence construction works. Besides, within 18 months after issuance of Occupation Permit, the Applicant has to complete the BEAM Plus Final Assessment.

In order to get the results of Provisional Assessment, the applicant’s project must fulfil the Prerequisites laid down in the BEAM Plus Manual, e.g. achieving a minimum water saving, ventilation rates meeting international standard, etc. If any of these is not fulfilled, the result would be “Cannot be assessed” or “Prerequisite(s) not achieved”. HKGBC would not issue the assessment result. As a result, consent to commence works cannot be obtained.

Q13. BEAM Plus Final Assessment is required to be completed after the issuance of Occupation Permit. Can the control mechanism be enhanced (e.g. introduction of security deposit) so that the chance of non-delivery can be minimised?

The said control mechanism is outside the purview of the Hong Kong Green Building Council. Nevertheless, the Council together with its partner, BEAM Society Ltd, have been working closely with the government to enhance the current system. One of the possible measures is the addition of site check before the issuance of Occupation Permit. Security deposit is not the only way to mitigate the problem. The public has to wait for the announcement of the relevant authority in due course regarding what measure would be adopted.

Q14. Is BEAM Plus assessment just a paper exercise? This means that the Applicant only has to provide a plan/design, and it is not known whether the plan/design would really be realised.

BEAM Plus is not just a paper exercise. It is common that BEAM Plus assessment would look for evidence of implementation such as as-built drawings, site photos, testing and commissioning reports, records of waste recycled, measurement records of site emissions, measurement of indoor environmental parameters, etc. For BEAM Plus New Buildings Version 2.0, the Assessment Manual has also added “Site Audit”, which is an extra measure to ensure the planned measures are fully put in place. It is the intention of BEAM Plus New Buildings to grant a rating based on what has actually been built, rather than what is shown on drawings. That is why for new buildings, we have Provisional Assessment based on the design, and Final Assessment based on the as-built status. The BEAM Plus project certification process is not regarded as fully complete until the Final Assessment is completed.

Q15. Is there any source where the public can know the number of projects that have finished Final Assessment?

The Council has been publishing the BEAM Plus Project Directory and related statistical data through the HKGBC website. Both the Project Directory and Statistics are updated bi-weekly. The public can regularly check out the details of projects under all BEAM Plus assessment tools.

Click HERE to view the BEAM Plus Project Directory and Statistics.

Q16. Are there very few projects that have completed Final Assessment?

The projects that have completed Final Assessment are steadily increasing year-on-year, as shown in the chart below. Up to now, more than 300 new building projects have completed Final Assessment.

Number of New Building Projects that completed Final Assessments (FA) in that year

 

In fact, it often takes many years for a construction project to go from BEAM Plus registration to the final completion of the construction. Even after the completion of construction, due to the time required for commissioning, measurement and drafting of documents and reports, the Buildings Department allows 18 months for the developer to complete the Final Assessment. Therefore, at any time, one will always find that projects in the BEAM Plus Project Directory are at various stages, i.e.: some have completed BEAM Plus registration, some have obtained Provisional ratings, while some have obtained Final ratings. It is certain that as time goes by, more and more projects will obtain the Final ratings.

The Council has also conducted a detailed study and found that nearly 90% of the projects were able to commence Final Assessment within 6 years of completing the Provisional Assessment.


View BEAM Plus FAQ in PDF