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LCQ21: Light pollution caused by sunlight reflected by glass curtain walls

     Following is a question by the Hon James To and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Paul Chan, in the Legislative Council today (January 28):


     It has been reported that some motorists have complained that at dusk, the glass curtain walls of the International Finance Centre reflect sunlight from a low angle right in front of them, making them unable to keep their eyes open and thus affecting road safety. Some residents of the Yau Tsim Mong District have also complained that the glass curtain walls of the International Commerce Centre reflect sunlight into their homes, affecting their daily lives. Regarding light pollution caused by sunlight reflected by glass curtain walls of buildings, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the number of complaints received by various government departments in the past five years about light pollution caused by glass curtain walls of buildings, broken down by government department and the District Council district in which the building is situated, together with the names of the buildings involved; among the complaints, of the numbers of those made by residents and motorists respectively;

(2) besides the Environmental Protection Department, whether other government departments are responsible for handling and following up such kind of light pollution complaints; and

(3) whether the government departments concerned will take follow-up actions after receiving such kind of complaints; if they will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?


     The Buildings Ordinance (BO) provides for the planning, design and construction of buildings and their related works, regulating mainly the structural and fire safety, as well as hygiene and other aspects of buildings. In particular, the Building (Construction) Regulations (B(C)R) under the BO set out the material, design and construction requirements of glass curtain walls. The requirements are, among others, that curtain walls shall safely sustain the combined dead loads, imposed loads and wind loads, and shall be constructed of non-combustible materials. However, there is no express provision in the B(C)R to regulate the reflection of sunlight by glass curtain walls. Regarding the three-part question, my reply is as follows:

(1) Relevant departments have not maintained statistical information on complaints about the reflection of sunlight by glass curtain walls of buildings. Regarding the buildings mentioned in the question, the Buildings Department (BD) received in 2012 complaints referred by the Environmental Protection Department about the glass curtain walls of the International Commerce Centre (ICC) reflecting sunlight into the flats of nearby estates. However, BD has not received any complaints about reflection of sunlight by the glass curtain walls of the International Finance Centre.

(2) and (3) In general, upon receipt of a complaint about the glass curtain walls of a building, BD staff will conduct an inspection, investigate if the glass curtain walls involve building safety issues or unauthorised building works, and take enforcement action as appropriate.

     Regarding the ICC case, in view of the concern of the residents of the relevant estates, BD has relayed to the then authorised person (AP) responsible for the ICC project the request of the residents for the owner to take appropriate mitigating measures. BD has learnt from the AP that the owner of ICC had appointed an expert to conduct a study on mitigating measures and would consider applying non-reflective materials to the curtain walls on certain floors to improve the situation.

     Moreover, BD promulgated a new guideline in September 2014, requiring that the glazed portion of the building envelope (such as curtain wall and window) of residential buildings and residents' recreational facilities should have an external reflectance (i.e. the percentage of daylight reflected from a glass surface) of not more than 20 per cent as one of the pre-requisites for the granting of gross floor area concessions for residential buildings. The new guideline will take effect in April 2015. BD is also considering extending the application of a similar guideline to commercial buildings. BD is consulting the building industry on the proposal.

Ends/Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Issued at HKT 14:30


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