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Insights Why sustainable construction is the answer to Hong Kong's housing crisis

Hong Kong is experiencing a housing crisis. Demand for homes is far outweighing supply, and there is an increasing need to provide for the growing and ageing population. So why is sustainable construction the answer to Hong Kong’s housing crisis, and what can we do about it?

With green building driving key energy efficiencies through the integration of green technologies, whilst simultaneously reducing carbon emissions and lowering operational and energy costs long term, Hong Kong will begin to see positive change. At AtkinsRéalis , we are no stranger to designing and delivering sustainable buildings; we’re on a mission to transform society for future generations and we foster a culture where the brightest and most innovative minds come together to help us do it.

image of a model building and construction plans

What is the housing problem in Hong Kong?

Although Hong Kong boasts more skyscrapers than anywhere else, it is lacking in the number of homes it has to offer. With an annual home supply of around 38,000 and a population of 7.5 million, it is estimated that 210,000 people in Hong Kong are living, often illegally, in subdivided apartments inside old buildings which are no longer serviceable, yet still being charged high costs. The government has a target to supply 43,000 homes annually, but with an apparent land shortage, this is set to be a challenge.

According to the results of the 2016 Population By-census, the Hong Kong Resident Population is projected to increase to a peak of 8.22 million in mid-2043 and in order to provide for this, homes need to be built at a faster rate. However, it is critical that homes are built in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals which address pressing issues such as climate change, energy consumption, inequality, health and wellbeing and a lack of clean water and sanitation.

However, challenges create opportunities. Hong Kong is becoming more environmentally aware and, therefore, shifting towards investing in sustainable construction to tackle the housing crisis.

What is sustainable construction?

The Global Construction 2030 report states that over the next decade, construction output will increase by 85%, yet to accommodate the growing and ageing population around the world, millions of housing units still need to be built.

In Hong Kong, buildings are responsible for consuming a large portion of energy, electricity, water and materials, claiming around 60% of the total carbon dioxide emissions each year. There is no easy solution to Hong Kong’s housing crisis, but sustainable construction is a viable way forward.

When we talk about sustainable construction, we often refer to green building. According to the Hong Kong Green Building Council, green building is the practice of ‘reducing the environmental impact of buildings, and enhancing the health and wellbeing of building occupants by optimising the use of energy, water, and other resources to avoid waste’. In addition, by adopting the use of renewable energy and eco-friendly materials, such as cement substitutes, we can minimise carbon emissions. Alongside this, renewable energy can be used in construction on housing projects by installing solar panels to absorb sunlight; a measure encouraged by the government to utilise green energy.

A thriving green building movement

Sustainable construction is not a new agenda in Hong Kong. In 1999, intentions were stated regarding finding ways to increase prosperity and improve the overall quality of life while reducing pollution, waste, and the burden on the environment, to help preserve common resources. Since then, assessment tools such as BEAM Plus have increasingly been implemented in construction in Hong Kong to certify green building and measure their environmental performance. This is immensely beneficial for architecture professionals during the planning and design of sustainable housing in the region.

The Architectural Services Department have devoted considerable effort towards adopting innovative, sustainable and smart building designs to drive the efficient utilisation of energy, material and land resources. By using these design approaches, which utilise building architecture to provide energy-saving benefits, Hong Kong is demonstrating its commitment to building a sustainable future and ensuring our future generations can continue to live and thrive in a clean and green environment.

Transform society for future generations at AtkinsRéalis

Despite the progress that Hong Kong has made, there is still a distance to go. At AtkinsRéalis , we’re on a journey towards Net Zero Carbon and recently announced our vision for engineering a sustainable society - our approach to addressing the complex issues facing society, such as the housing crisis in Hong Kong.

We want to deliver creative and innovative solutions and we’re looking for bright and innovative minds to help us do it. If you’re looking for a challenge and you want to make a real difference, browse our available jobs in Hong Kong or sign up for our alerts so you’ll never miss an opportunity.