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Speech by STH at HKIS Property and Facility Management Division Conference (English only)

     Following is the keynote speech by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, at the Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors (HKIS) Property and Facility Management Division Conference cum 10th Anniversary today (May 15):

President Vincent Ho, Chairman Edmond Cheng, the Honorable Tony Tse, distinguished speakers, guests, members of the HKIS, particularly members from the Property and Facility Management Division, ladies and gentlemen,

     Good morning. I am very pleased to be invited to address the Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors Property and Facility Management Division Conference 2015. May I first offer my warmest congratulations to the Division, which proudly enters its 10th anniversary this year.

     Today I see the presence of a number of high-level government speakers in the conference programme, covering a wide spectrum of subject areas. I understand that the Permanent Secretary for the Environment will speak on eco property management, the Under Secretary for Home Affairs on social enterprise development, and the Director of Buildings on healthy buildings. This clearly marks the close collaboration between Government and the Institute, as well as the importance attached by both to sustainable development in Hong Kong.

     Indeed, many surveyors working in government departments are also active members of the HKIS. The Institute provides a very important platform and forum for interaction among professional officials, academia and practitioners at the forefront of the field. The insights they are going to share at today's conference, drawn from their experience and practice, will show us how sustainability can be realised on the ground with excellence. In turn, the changing trends and good practices gauged through such sharing will spur new directions on the policy fronts.

     When I first took office as the Secretary for Transport and Housing in 2012, I summarised my vision for the Transport and Housing Bureau's work in three key words - livability, mobility and connectivity. "Livability" is a concept as wide as "sustainability", the key word of this conference. Sometimes people use the two terms interchangeably in a loose context. In any case, I believe all experts would acknowledge that there are three common aspects in both concepts - environmental, social, and economic.

     Environmental sustainability needs no detailed explanation nowadays. Everybody is talking about it. The general public in Hong Kong is well aware of the concept or the notion and I guess most people embrace it. But it is not just about the money people can save by using less electricity or water through smart building features - of course there is always an inherent economic motive - but increasingly, owners, users and service professionals all seek to play an active role in contributing to a better environment for the community as a whole. Because nowadays we are talking about the third runway of the airport so I use the Airport Authority as an example. The Airport Authority announced in 2012 its vision of making Hong Kong International Airport not just one of the busiest in the world but one of the greenest in the world. Why bother to do this? Because nowadays travellers worldwide also want to be part of a green airport. They want to be part of a green environment.

     Similarly, people want to be part of green living and green culture. They are more receptive to, or even desire, initiatives like green building and renovation methods, carbon audits and advanced recycling measures in property management. Of course, at the end of the day, sometimes there are struggles. I would like to say that sometimes the mind is willing but the flesh is weak, so we have to face a trade-off. But I think in terms of notions, in terms of perspectives, people are attracted by the green mission. This pleasant development, in my view, is brought about partly by education, and partly by your professional efforts to demonstrate the tangible values of sustainability measures and the practical ways to implement them.

     A key incentive and consideration of adopting sustainability measures could be argued as economic sustainability. As the learned audience here knows, green technologies can be rather expensive. Property and facility managers may be talking with an engineer about a solar panel on one line, and handling an agitated financial controller on the other line. Sometimes you don't need high-tech to create a green culture which is at the same time economically sustainable. For example, some Home Ownership Scheme estates in Hong Kong rented out unused planting space to residents, who take joy in growing their own vegetables and flowers. This saves the horticultural maintenance expenses, earns a little income maybe, and makes a beautiful and lively sight. In any case, in the pursuit of sustainability, it takes technical know-how, user understanding, as well as the foresight to determine whether an investment in environmental sustainability will also be economically sustainable or viable. This is where professional advice, from people like you, can have a long-lasting impact.

     Whenever speaking about the management of housing, I often mention three keywords again: hardware, software and heartware. Housing is more than bricks and mortar, is more than LED lights and solar panels. Your professional skills and knowledge form the software, but you also need to have the passion for forging a better community - the heartware. The heartware of property and facility management is what social sustainability is about. Professionals are involved in improving space planning and management to promote social sustainability like inclusion, like catering for people of all races, of all ages, different genders, all this in addition to physical sustainability. For instance, we have built in or retrofitted barrier-free access in all public rental housing estates of the Housing Authority, so that mothers with toddlers and elders in wheelchairs alike feel welcome. I notice that Mr Wong Kit-loong from the Hong Kong Housing Society will talk about "Housing in an Aging Community" later today. This is an increasingly important aspect of sustainability, prompting us to consider how sustainability indicators would interact with demographic changes. We need to make our housing estates and local communities more livable, with easier mobility and better connectivity for residents of all ages.

     As the Chairman of the Hong Kong Housing Authority (HA), let me share a few things that the Authority has done to enhance sustainability. The Housing Authority is probably the biggest property and facility manager in Hong Kong. A major part of the work of the HA is to sustain a housing stock of over 740 000 public rental housing units in Hong Kong. Back in 1999, the HA established its environmental policy to promote healthy living and a green environment, so as to enhance the quality of living for its tenants. The core value of the HA is the provision of quality public housing that is safe, affordable, people-oriented and environmentally friendly. Sustainability considerations are incorporated all the way from planning and implementing housing development, to daily management of the estates, to renovating aging estates. We conduct micro-climate and air ventilation studies in the planning and design stage, and use pre-cast components as much as possible for the construction of the buildings. Our new estates have achieved an overall target of 30 per cent green coverage.

     Nowadays, green building materials are adopted widely. Two-level lighting systems, lift systems with regenerative drive, grid-connected PV systems and rainwater harvesting systems are comprehensively applied in our new developments to save energy and water resources. We conduct various green studies. Our pioneering conversion of marine mud for backfilling and eco-pavers is a notable example.

     In managing and maintaining our housing estates, we actively engage our residents through community educational programmes. Waste recycling is implemented in all our estates. It is encouraging to note the increasingly environment-friendly habits of our residents, with our average domestic waste production per person dropping every year. We conducted a survey on the domestic waste disposed by public rental housing residents on about 130 estates earlier. We found that the domestic waste disposed per person per day has been reduced by more than 10 per cent over three years.

     Since 2013, all our public rental housing estates have obtained certification in the aspect of property management in accordance with ISO 14001 Environmental Management System standard. The HA has also adopted BEAM Plus for planning specific estate-based improvement projects, and implemented the ISO 50001 Energy Management System for facility management and improvement works of the communal areas of public rental housing domestic blocks. In 10 years' time, from 2003/04 to 2013/14, electricity consumption in these communal areas of public rental housing estates has been reduced by more than 20 per cent. You can find the details in the energy-saving booklet which the Secretary for the Environment announced yesterday.

     The Housing Authority is gauging the sustainability performance of different housing block types by using the Hong Kong Quality Assurance Agency's Sustainable Building Index (SBI), a green building rating system to facilitate the identification of areas for improvement and setting of priorities in the formulation of long-term maintenance and improvement programmes. In 2013/14, six public rental housing estates were enrolled, and subsequently obtained the SBI Verified Mark. Last year, a total of 10 estates with about 80 buildings covering the majority of the block type designs were enrolled. Carbon audit has been conducted for 14 typical public rental housing block types, and we are now working to explore further means to reduce carbon emissions.

     So you can see that in order to promote a sustainable living style, we need a series of environmental protection activities, education programmes, campaigns, as well as standards and involvement of the tenants. We do try to boost tenant awareness and participation in reducing waste, recycling of materials and engagement of green initiatives.

     Ladies and gentlemen, surveyors in property and facility management have played a key role in innovation in sustainable property management. Compared to a decade ago, I dare say a lot has been achieved but of course a lot more can be done.

     So what's next? I call upon our surveyors to think big, but not just surveyors, everybody to think big.

     In saying this I refer to the bigger picture of sustainability of a district and the whole city, and eventually, we are talking about global sustainability. At present, sustainability performance is often measured in terms of individual projects. If different estates and facilities in the same district are willing to consider joining district-based initiatives, what you call joining up, we will be able to take sustainability to a higher level. Like what I always encourage my transport and housing colleagues to do, a meeting of minds from different disciplines could lead to innovative ways for the benefit of all.

     Let me give you an example. Overhead walkways between buildings are quite common these days. But in the older days, buildings were meant to serve their specific purposes, as residence, hospitals, shopping malls, offices, town halls, and so on. One day someone came up with the idea of linking buildings up by walkways. That is, create a network for commuting by foot. Then the old environment has been transformed. I can guess that property managers at that time were aware of the management issues when they allowed people streaming through their buildings all day long, but thanks to their open-mindedness, buildings and major public transport facilities have gradually become connected, and that is important in terms of connectivity as well. So that by now, the take-up rate of public transport in Hong Kong is the highest among big cities in the world, at around 90 per cent, I would say this is one of the highest among big cities in the world, making Hong Kong one of the most well-known cases in sustainable transport infrastructure studies.

     Another example is the provision of free charging points for electric cars in some private establishments. We have a lot more to do to provide these charging facilities and we are going to encourage the use of e-vehicles. The convenience for e-car drivers of course can help to promote the use of e-cars and cut down tail-end emissions on the roads, benefiting air quality as a whole. But air quality is only one aspect in my hat as the Secretary for Transport. I also discourage using more private cars so that people have less road congestion.

     A few days ago, on May 12, I went to the Legislative Council Transport Panel to present the Government's response to the Report on Road Traffic Congestion in Hong Kong, completed by the Transport Advisory Committee in December last year. A major attack on worsening road congestion problems in Hong Kong hinges not only on harsher fiscal measures and penalties, but also better transport planning and management and ultimately a change of mindset. While more studies are still needed to come up with details of measures, I can imagine some kind of a breakthrough if, this is a big if, in a congested area, property management of different establishments could work together in sharing available parking information, or co-ordinating commercial tenants' loading and unloading activities so that delivery trucks would not block traffic lanes. With less traffic congestion, we can get better air, happier drivers and passengers, and smoother public transport, improving our city's mobility and connectivity. This would be changed by micro steps which may have a butterfly effect.

     Ladies and gentleman, I leave you with this thought and wish the HKIS Property and Facility Management Division continuing success in the years to come. Your success means better quality of living for our community. I wish you a very fruitful conference today. Thank you very much.

Ends/Friday, May 15, 2015
Issued at HKT 16:45


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