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Green Building & Sustainable Development

From Grey to Green in Asia's Urban Centres

The sectors that make up Asia's traditionally conservative building industry have joined the global green movement with unprecedented numbers of senior level corporate and government mainstays attending the Green Space & Buildings Asia Conference 2007 organised by Facility Media in Hong Kong. All the 'big players', from developers to banks, real estate consultancies and architects, have sent senior personnel to discover how building environmentally friendly spaces is critical to the success of the worlds fastest growing real estate markets.

Speaking on "Green buildings & Global warming" Angela Tam, Author, Sustainable Building in Hong Kong says "We speak as the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change holds an unprecedented meeting in Bangkok to discuss global warming. It's a matter of urgency that the ways in which buildings are built and used are reviewed as part of the solution to global warming, because buildings consume so much energy. It makes sense for the industry as well as the community."

Billions of square feet of commercial and residential properties will be built in China over the next 15 years. Its greenhouse gas emissions are set to top the USAs before long, and green construction and management practices are quickly gaining ground, evidenced by support for this event.

Ben Ridley, Director, BMT Asia Pacific Ltd, sponsoring the Green Space & Buildings Asia Conference 2007, recognises the challenges of incorporating green spaces in new property developments. He says that despite these challenges, there a real desire to change on the part of both industry and government, "In recent years there has been an increasing awareness within Government, local businesses and across the general public of the need for less talk and more action to achieve sustainable development in Hong Kong."

Ridley says evidence that the change has already begun. "From Government we have seen new urban planning guidelines, and a far greater awareness of corporate social responsibility among the business community; while the increased community expectation for integrated urban planning and conservation of natural and built heritage resources was captured in recent media coverage of the Queens Pier / Star Ferry demolition. We feel the Conference is well timed to carry forward the growing debate on urban planning and development, and from it develop new ideas and actions for sustainable development in Hong Kong."

Buildings are about people

KS Wong, Vice Chairman, Board of sustainability, Professional Green Buildings Council, who will speak at the conference on "Global trends: Market transformation for the promotion of sustainable buildings", explains that people who construct and manage urban properties should be playing a bigger role.

"Buildings are meant to benefit people. But we have seen in the recent meteorological records that buildings have collectively modified the urban climate in a way unfavourable to healthy living. It's high time for all of us to rethink the fundamentals of urban living. Much is in the hands of the building professionals. We urgently need to transform the market and put green building practice in the mainstream."

A regional movement

Manit Rastogi, Managing Director, Morphogenisis, an India based architectural practice, says the phenomenon is region wide: "There is immense relevance of a conference of this nature in the current environment when rapid urbanization seems to be the norm across major Asian cities. There is a need for a degree of sensitivity towards the environment in general, especially in the built environment. We have to begin to understand that the built and the un-built cannot be divorced from each other and have to have a sustainable relationship. The conference, we feel, can serve as a forum to bring these issues, which have been actively pursued by the building industry, to the fore and into the general public domain."

Rastogi also emphasises the need to make this a collaborative effort: "No single entity we feel, can be solely responsible for bringing about a radical shift towards sustainable and environmentally conscious design."

Obvious candidates for adopting socially responsible building initiatives include architects, developers and building owners. "Similar attempts on part of the facility managers, landscape consultants, façade engineers and even occupants of buildings can all lead to a more sustainable more balanced approach to how we build and how we live," said Rastogi.

"It used to be that the only people who attended events on green buildings and design were environmental consultants or businesses who already had green building programmes underway. The success of Green Space and Buildings Asia Conference 2007 proves that sustainability has moved into the mainstream even in the most traditional of sectors", said Claire Saeki, Managing Director, Facility Media, organiser of the conference, who notes that attendees are coming from locations as far away as Korea, India and Mainland China.

Dr Sujata S Govada, Director, Urban Design & Planning Consultants Ltd explains why green is the way forward: "Well designed high quality open/green spaces within the urban core add long term value and need to be remaking and repositioning the city. Well connected and networked open/green space design will provide great places to live, work and play thereby help improve the quality of life for the people and create a sense of belonging within the community."

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