Ex-weather official urges limits on glass walls in buildings

February 11, 2019 16:53
Lam Chiu-ying, former director of the Hong Kong Observatory, says the government and citizens both need to do their part to help tackle the problem of climate change. Photo: RTHK News video/screenshot

The government should consider some changes in the buildings ordinance in order to curb carbon dioxide emissions from the construction sector, with the focus on restricting the use of glass walls in buildings, a veteran meteorologist said.

Lam Chiu-ying, former director of the Hong Kong Observatory, said on Sunday that although Hong Kong still experienced some cold days this winter, with temperatures dropping under 12 degrees Celsius, the city witnessed the strange sight of azaleas blooming during the winter months, rather than wait until spring.

Temperatures are rising and the effect of global warming is gradually becoming evident, Lam told a Commercial Radio program, calling for efforts to reduce glass walls in buildings to improve their energy efficiency and help curb cut emissions.

The remarks came after data from the Observatory showed temperatures in the city on Wednesday and Thursday were the highest ever seen on the second and third day of Lunar New Year since the bureau began keeping records in 1884.

In 2008, when Lam was the head of the meteorological agency, he predicted that Hong Kong may not experience any cold days, or days when temperatures fall to 12 degrees or below, ever again sometime from 2020 onwards.

Lam pointed out in the radio interview that the government as well as the general public can do their part to help deal with the climate change problem, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

As far as the government is concerned, the former observatory chief called for revision of the existing Buildings Ordinance so as to discourage developers from equipping residential and commercial buildings with as many glass walls as they want.

Lam described as a "bad trend" in the past decade or so for developers to use much more glass in building the properties, according to RTHK.

According to Lam, people in buildings that adopt glass walls tend to suffer from higher temperature because such walls would make them similar to artificial greenhouses, where it is hard for the indoor hot air to dissipate.

The situation forces people to switch on air-conditioners much more, which then produce more carbon dioxide.

Lam suggested that developers should replace glass with thermal insulation materials or bricks that are more environmentally friendly.

In response to Lam’s suggestion, Stewart Leung Chi-kin, who chairs the executive committee of the Real Estate Developers Association of Hong Kong, said it remains to be proved that glass walls are the real culprit behind the rise in temperatures.

Glass used in new buildings nowadays are anti-reflective and heatproof, he said, adding that developers will be more than happy to make changes if there is a proof of sufficient scientific data to back up the theory that glass buildings are adding to the heat problem.

Felix Li Kwok-hing, president of the Hong Kong Institute of Architects, said the government has some guidelines in place in relation to putting up glass walls, but agreed that it’s not necessary for buildings to use glass for every wall.

As for the general public, Lam called on people to cut waste and the amount of garbage, consume less food imported from far away, such as Brazilian chicken wings, and do as less online shopping as possible because there would be more carbon emissions during the transport process of goods.

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