Many Hong Kong residents cite construction site pollution—dust, smell, noise, and heat—as "unbearable," especially in the hot and humid summer months.
Some climate change theorists estimate that the construction industry produces 39% of the world's energy-related CO2 emissions. While some can be chalked up to the manufacturing processes—cement plants and steel mills—one Korean study showed that approximately 5% comes from worksites.
Construction sites rely on diesel generators, which power large machinery such as cranes. In 2019, Hong Kong's Gammon Construction began replacing diesel generators with lithium-ion batteries called "Entertainers." Some estimate that these batteries will slash carbon emissions by 80%.
"A [diesel] generator in Hong Kong that powers a crane might produce around 140 tons of carbon a year," said Julian de Jonquieres, Ampd's chief operating officer (the company that builds the generators). "The electricity to charge our Entertainers would be around 25 tons."
Other countries join Hong Kong in the race toward carbon neutrality. One 2019 project in Oslo, Norway—a busy street to a pedestrian zone conversion—utilized electric energy and became the world's first 100% zero-emissions construction site. According to officials, the experiment saved 35,000 liters of diesel and 92,500 kilograms of carbon emissions.
Other cities follow suit, including Los Angeles, Budapest, and Mexico City. These cities, previously known for high pollution rates, seek change. Many owners opt for green construction technology.
Hurdles lie ahead for green construction evangelists. Albert Chan, professor at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University's Department of Building and Real Estate, said, "It would be ideal for construction companies to reduce the extra heat and dust they release from the construction sites. But I know it's going to be quite difficult."
Although the cause of climate change remains a hotly debated topic with sound arguments on both sides, some builders seek to reduce carbon emissions with green construction equipment and practices.