Sceptical public says floor area for green features should be cut

HONG KONG: The public is sceptical about the effectiveness of green features in new buildings and wants the government to limit the floor area allotted to them, a consultation has found.

When calculating the gross floor area of a building, a developer is granted exemptions for the green features and amenities added to it, which allows the firm to build more flats on the site.

The government commissioned the Council for Sustainable Development in June last year to collect the public's views about this policy.

The council's chairman, Bernard Chan, said on Feb 11 it had received about 1,600 written submissions from the public, professional institutes and developer representatives. Only 347 of the submissions were from individual members of the public. Media coverage and records of public forums were also compiled.

Chan said preliminary analysis shows that most of the members of the public who expressed their views wanted to limit the floor area allotted to green features like balconies and sky gardens.

The public was also concerned about the transparency of sales practices, Chan said, as some homebuyers were not made aware that developers were making them pay for some of the exempted floor area as part of a flat's price.

Chan also said it would be necessary to strike a balance between the public interest and the benefits received by the residents, since exempted green features would increase a building's size, which might affect airflow in the district.

While reducing the floor area exemptions granted to developers, architects should be allowed flexibility of design so as to encourage creative building designs, Chan said.

The council is expected to submit its recommendations to the Development Bureau by June.

"We heard the people's voice. The challenge lies in striking a balance," Chan said.

Asked if the consultation had received a lukewarm response from the public, Professor Bernard Lim Wan-fung, head of the council's support group, said the consultation had received more public submissions than those it had held in the past.

The council has already engaged all interested parties, including green groups like Green Sense and the Conservancy Association, he said. -  South China Morning Post


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