Foul play in Hong Kong’s green building sector

Directors of a Hong Kong not-for-profit with a monopoly on green building assessments may have approved incentives worth billions for projects in which they had a vested interest, the South China Morning Post has reported.

The conflict-of-interest allegations were revealed in leaked documents involving directors of the BEAM Society (BSL), which runs the BEAM Plus green building assessment scheme.

In exchange for incorporating sustainability features, the scheme has allowed developers to increase the gross floor area of projects by 10 per cent without paying the government an extra premium, as a way of encouraging green development in Hong Kong.

But many of BSL’s 25 directors are from companies in the construction and property sector, and it is alleged that these directors approved plans or projects in which they had a vested interest.

Public criticism of the situation centres on the fact that a private organisation with no government oversight was handed such a monopoly.

The Hong Kong Green Building Council, responsible for certifying that developments are registered and have undergone BEAM assessment by BSL, also came under attack, accused of pushing up the price of BEAM Plus certification.

“I am totally aghast at the lack of government regulations to oversee both BSL and the council when they have been given this special privilege to manage a scheme that involves exceedingly vast public interest,” Democratic Party lawmaker Wu Chi-wai told the South China Morning Post. “This is a blatant case of government-business collusion and will undermine public trust in the government’s drive for green buildings.”

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