With social and demographic factors transforming local communities, the standards of Hong Kong's housing are improving.
As a major provider of property developments and management services, the Hong Kong Housing Society (HKHS) is constantly creating alternatives attuned to society's challenges.
Along with its various plans to improve living conditions, HKHS has rolled out the building management and maintenance scheme (BMMS) to promote the proper management and maintenance of private properties. The HK$3 billion campaign aims to offer one-stop services, including education, free professional advice and financial assistance, to encourage owners of the properties to adopt long-term management practices.
"Currently, there are numerous old private buildings without owners' corporations (OCs) to ensure that necessary repair work is done," explains Margaret Chan, director (corporate services) of HKHS. "Through the BMMS, our staff approach residents and guide them to establish and run an OC to ensure that appropriate building maintenance and management are implemented. In fact, conservation of existing units, which avoids unnecessary demolishing and rebuilding, is an important step in protecting the environment."
Long before mass public awareness of the importance of environmental protection, HKHS had already incorporated a number of green ideas in its development and management projects. In 2002, it became Hong Kong's first organisation in housing development awarded with ISO14001, the internationally acclaimed certification that indicates quality standards and sustainability in environmental management systems. In 2003, the same certification was also achieved by the organisation's property management function.
"We keep integrating environmental considerations, from the planning and design, to the construction and operation of our housing projects, such as Verbena Heights in Tseung Kwan O, and focus on city revitalisation for greening and beautifying the streets in districts like Sham Shui Po, Tai Po and Sai Kung," Mrs Chan notes.
When demolition works are required for HKHS's projects, a hydraulic crusher is employed to reduce noise by at least 15 decibels and facilitate sorting of demolition waste. Metal and other materials that are extracted are then reused to reduce the consumption of timber at construction sites. Water spray is also provided during the operation to minimise dust generation.
When it comes to property management, an array of environmentally friendly measures have been introduced in HKHS-managed properties. In addition to large-scale greening, such as planting on slopes, paths and rooftop gardens in estate areas, lighting, air-conditioning and lift systems have been modified to minimise electricity use and carbon dioxide emissions.
In a concerted effort with the Environmental Protection Department and the Housing Authority, HKHS has been running a waste-recycling programme for over a decade. Initially, only used paper and aluminium cans were collected, with plastic bottles a later inclusion. Now, the campaign has gone the extra mile and become the "Super 3R" recycling programme. It helps to preserve resources and cut down on junk by separating domestic waste at source using collection bins at every estate and apartment block in the territory.
"Apart from the year-round recycling scheme, we also join forces with non-profit organisations such as Friends of the Earth, in a variety of activities to reprocess objects like used books, clothes, printer cartridges and moon cake tins. As a staunch supporter of environmental movements, HKHS will continue to actively participate in these waste management and recycling programmes," Mrs Chan stresses.
Lai Tak Tsuen, an eight-block estate accommodating 8,000 residents and managed by HKHS, is a model example. Three years ago applications of electronic ballasts, time switches and energy saving fluorescent lamps, among other measures, were introduced into Lai Tak Tsuen. Since then the estate has reduced its use of water, electricity and paper by more than 10 per cent and increased waste recycling by 11.5 per cent. This won the Grand Award at the 2005 Hong Kong Eco-business Awards in the Green Property Management (Public Housing) category. The awards recognise the collaboration of its residents and management team in promoting green initiatives.
Beyond its core business operations, HKHS's environmental efforts are also extend to its own workplace. In its head office at the World Trade Centre, green office practices are adopted to save energy, reduce paper consumption and waste, increase recycling and improve indoor air quality. "We are proactive, taking action such as adjusting the office temperature to a comfortable range," Mrs Chan says. "As an organisation taking environmental responsibilities seriously, we need to ensure we are doing the right thing all the way through."