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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Barriers of implementing environmental assessment tools for new buildings: the case of BEAM Plus in Hong Kong

Cheuk-yin Leung

Barriers of implementing environmental assessment tools for new buildings: the case of BEAM Plus in Hong Kong


With over 7 million people living on 1,104 square kilometres of land, HK is famous of her high population density, congested built environment and poor living conditions. In terms of environmental impact, the construction sector in Hong Kong is one of the major sources of pollution and the buildings at operation account for 89% of the city’s total electricity consumption at end-use level.

The private sector acknowledged the urgent need to assess and improve the overall environmental impact of buildings and established the Hong Kong Building Environmental Assessment Method (HK-BEAM) in 1996. The BEAM Society continued to improve the assessment tools throughout the years and the latest version, BEAM Plus v.1.1 (2010.04), was published last year. However, the market penetration of HK-BEAM is unsatisfactory and only about 210 building developments in HK have applied for HK-BEAM certification since its establishment. This dissertation seeks to address the following research questions, How is the current green building rating tool development in the world? What prevents the implementation of BEAM Plus in HK? Then, given an understanding of the barriers of using BEAM Plus, What policies can the HK Government implement to accelerate the market penetration of BEAM Plus certification?

This dissertation studied the best-practice examples of international building environmental assessment tools from the UK and US to understand their development, assessment framework and reasons of high certification rate. To understand the specific situation in HK context, 20 telephone interviews with 8 types of building professionals were conducted to find out their views on the implementation difficulties of BEAM Plus. A barrier scoring system was introduced to quantify the 8 implementation barriers identified. “Site constraint”, “lack of motivation” and “cost” were found to be the greatest barriers and their causes and reasons are discussed in detail.

Possible implementation strategy of green building policies was suggested, aimed at removing barriers identified to accelerate the market penetration of BEAM Plus. Wide range of policy instruments including regulatory controls, fiscal incentives and voluntary and information instruments were recommended, hoping to inject new green building development momentum in HK.


Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.