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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


Considerations in Choosing Hong Kong to Set Up Data Centres


Statutory Zoning Permission Related to Data Centre Use


Conversion of Industrial Buildings to Data Centre


Matters Related to Applications and Approvals

  1. Is there any assistance from the Government that facilitates the data centre operators' early application for approvals and permits in respect of setting up data centres?
  2. Data centres generally have mechanical and electrical installations like cooling equipment and standby generator. What are the statutory requirements in respect of these installations in Hong Kong?
  3. Given data centres in general do not have much loading and unloading activities, can data centres provide less goods vehicle parking?
  4. The headroom of data halls for data centres are generally over 5 meters. Will it be counted once only for gross floor area (GFA) calculation by the Buildings Department?
  5. Data centres usually require large areas of supporting facilities such as transformer rooms, UPS (uninterruptible power supply), backup power generators, oil tanks, air-conditioning systems and fire safety systems. Would these facilities be included in calculating the gross floor area (GFA) under the Buildings Ordinance?
  6. Finding enough space for transformer rooms is always a challenge of converting industrial buildings, either in whole or part, to data centres. What facilitation measures are available from the Government?

 

Considerations in Choosing Hong Kong to Set Up Data Centres

1.

Is it possible to get dual power supply in Hong Kong from two power companies (utilities) as the companies serve separate geographical territories?

 

Yes, in theory it is possible, but practically it is not required. Electricity supply in Hong Kong is highly reliable, exceeding 99.999%. The two power companies, CLP and HK Electric have adequate capacity and backup in electricity generation and in the transmission and distribution networks, which assured robustness and reliability of supply. Both companies have more than one generator and CLP has more than one power station. Furthermore, the two companies are connected at transmission level with sufficient capacity to provide emergency support to each other in the event of generator failure. The average duration of unplanned power interruptions per year per customer in Hong Kong was 2.6 minutes or less over the past few years.

The Uptime Institute has recently clarified that its Data Centre Site Infrastructure Tier Standard does NOT require two power utility inputs to achieve the Tier IV standard1.

 

1
See http://uptimeinstitute.com/component/docman/doc_download/5-tiers-standard-topology for more information about Uptime's Tier Standards.
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2.

Must a Tier 4 data centre have dual feeds from different power companies?

 

No, neither the Uptime Institute Tier Standard nor the Telecommunications Industry Association Telecommunications Infrastructure Standard for Data Centers (TIA-942) Standard requires dual feeds from different power companies to achieve Tier IV/4 standard.

The Uptime Institute Data Centre Site Infrastructure Tier Standard does not require two power utility inputs to achieve the Tier IV standard. On the other hand, the TIA-942 Tier 4 requirement on Electrical "Utility Entrance" is "Dual Feed from different utility substations" (Table 10, Annex G, TIA-942, April 20052).

In fact, there are already a number of high-tier data centres in Hong Kong, and some are being built. Being served by two utility feeds from different substations of the same power company, they satisfy TIA-942 Tier 4 requirement in this respect.

 

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3.

Can my company recruit sufficient qualified IT professionals to operate data centres if my company sets up the same in Hong Kong?

 

In Hong Kong, there is ample supply of agile and highly qualified ICT and data centre professionals. According to 2012 figures, there were over 78,000 ICT professionals engaged in various business sectors, with over 5,000 in operation services relevant to data centres. Most of the ICT professionals in Hong Kong speak English, Cantonese and Putonghua and have good understanding of international and Mainland business.

The HKSAR Government works closely with the industry and the education sector and provides them with necessary support to ensure sufficient supply of ICT talents to meet demand. Every year, over 3,000 ICT students graduate from our eight higher education institutions. Training institutions such as the Vocational Training Council and the Hong Kong Productivity Council also offer training in IT service management and professional training in Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL), which helps enhance the skills of data centre staff and enable them to acquire professional qualification in this area.

In addition, our immigration policy facilitates professional expatriates from all over the world to work in Hong Kong. You can also easily source technical expertise from the Mainland as and when required.

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4.

Can data centres in Hong Kong be supported by sea water cooling?

 

Sea water cooling systems are in use for water-cooled air-conditioning systems in some office buildings in Hong Kong. The installation of sea water cooling systems is considered on a case-by-case basis, and depends on the topography and location of the buildings concerned. Where sea water cooling systems cannot be built, fresh water cooling towers systems could be considered for water-cooled air-conditioning systems of data centres.

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5.

Given that Hong Kong is located near the Pacific Ocean "Ring of Fire", is earthquake a significant risk?

 

Hong Kong is not located within the "Ring of Fire" or any major earthquake zone. Most of the earthquake epicentres that cause felt tremors in Hong Kong are situated outside the territory, and no locally felt earth tremor has ever caused any casualty since records began.

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6.

Hong Kong is affected by typhoons every year. Is damage from the associated wind, flooding and landslides a concern?

 

While there are typhoons in the summer months, Hong Kong is not located in areas prone to extreme storm activity. Hong Kong is also well prepared for typhoons. The buildings are built to a standard that can withstand the strongest typhoons, public awareness of typhoon risks is high, and government departments are ready to provide assistance when necessary. There has not been major damage or flooding caused by typhoons in recent years.

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Statutory Zoning Permission Related to Data Centre Use

7.

What is Outline Zoning Plan, and how is it relevant to setting up data centres in Hong Kong?

 

In Hong Kong, land is zoned for different purposes. Outline Zoning Plans (OZPs) are statutory plans prepared and published by the Town Planning Board (TPB) under the Town Planning Ordinance, showing the permitted land-uses and major road systems of individual planning scheme areas. Areas covered by such plans are zoned for such uses as residential; commercial; industrial; open space; Government, institution or community uses; green belt; conservation areas; comprehensive development areas; village type development; open storage or other specified purposes.

Attached to each OZP is a set of Notes setting out the uses which are always permitted ("Column 1" uses) in a particular zone and other uses for which the TPB's permission must be sought ("Column 2" uses). The explanatory statement is not a part of the OZP but it is an important component of the OZP since it reflects the planning intentions and objectives of the various land-use zonings on the plan.

Data centres can only be built on land that matches the permissible uses under OZP. List and contents of the OZPs throughout the territory are available in TPB's Statutory Planning Portal.

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8.

What land-use zonings permit data centre development?

 

Under OZP, data centre belongs to "Information Technology and Telecommunications Industries" ("IT&T industries"). According to the Master Schedule of Notes adopted by the Town Planning Board (TPB), "IT&T industries" are "Column 1" use, which are permitted as of right, in the following zones of OZP: "Commercial", "Industrial", "Other Specified Uses" ("OU") annotated "Business" ("OU(B)")3, "OU" annotated "Industrial Estates", "OU" annotated "Mixed Use"4 and "Residential (Group E)"5; while in "Comprehensive Development Area" zone, "IT&T industries" are "Column 2" use that requires planning permission from TPB under Section 16 of the Town Planning Ordinance (TPO).

In other zones where "IT&T industries" are neither a "Column 1" nor "Column 2" use on the OZP, proposed data centre use would require application for amendment to the OZP under Section 12A of TPO.

Besides zoning permission, it should be noted that development of a site is subject to the terms and conditions of the land lease governing the site.

 

3
Industrial buildings are an important source of supply for data centre premises. In Hong Kong, most industrial buildings fall within "Industrial" or "OU(B)" zone.
4
Only applicable to data centre within non-residential building in the zone or non-residential portion of composite building in the zone.
5
Only applicable to data centre within existing industrial or industrial-office building in the zone.
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Conversion of Industrial Buildings to Data Centre

9.

How important and popular are industrial buildings for data centres?

 

Industrial buildings are a source of accommodation for data centres in Hong Kong. To our knowledge, there are at least 15 Tier 3 data centres currently housed in industrial buildings, five of these involving wholesale conversion of the entire industrial building.

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10.

How does the "waiver scheme" benefit data centres?

 

Data centre use is not permitted in some old industrial buildings and lease modification is required for change of use. Under the waiver scheme, Lands Department has streamlined the procedure for processing these applications expeditiously. The waiver fee is charged according to a set of standard rates. For more details, please refer to Lands Department's LAO Practice Notes Nos. 5/2001, 5/2001A, 9/2002, 2/2003, 1/2008 and any further Practice Note on the subject. .

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11.

Where can one find the existing industrial buildings suitable for redevelopment or wholesale conversion into data centres?

 

Interested parties may obtain information on ownership, building condition, building age and number of storeys of individual industrial buildings as well as predominant uses and vacancy of individual industrial areas is available in Appendices 5 and 11 of the "The Final Report on Area Assessments 2009 of Industrial Land in the Territory" prepared by the Planning Department. This report contains other useful information on the industrial buildings in "Industrial" ("I") and "Other Specified Uses" annotated "Business" ("OU(B)") zones in Hong Kong.

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Matters Related to Applications and Approvals

12.

Is there any assistance from the Government that facilitates the data centre operators' early application for approvals and permits in respect of setting up data centres?

 

The processing of a building development including data centre may involve the seeking of a planning permission or lease modification/waiver and building plan approval. The Buildings Department, Planning Department and Lands Department process the relevant planning, building approvals and approval under lease according to their respective authorities.

Often the applicant may wish to settle the fundamental planning, land and building issues of a development proposal at an early stage so that they can proceed with confidence. To facilitate early understanding of these fundamental issues, applicants may make use of pre-submission conferences or enquiries to or approach Buildings Department, Planning Department or Lands Department. The Government is committed to handling enquiries promptly and providing timely and helpful responses. Besides, the applicant may wish to seek professional advice as appropriate.

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13.

Data centres generally have mechanical and electrical installations like cooling equipment and standby generator. What are the statutory requirements in respect of these installations in Hong Kong?

 

The new Buildings Energy Efficiency Ordinance (Cap. 610) under the purview of the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (EMSD) of the Hong Kong Government is relevant. The Ordinance aims to promote enhancement of the building energy efficiency in Hong Kong through the following:

  1. Mandatory implementation of Building Energy Code (BEC) in prescribed buildings: The BEC stipulates the minimum energy efficiency design standards for the 4 key types of building services installations, covering air-conditioning, electrical, lighting and lift & escalator installations. "Prescribed buildings" cover, among others, commercial buildings and common area of industrial buildings (i.e. excluding individual units), where data centres may be set up.
  2. Mandatory implementation of energy audit according to the Energy Audit Code (EAC) in commercial buildings: The EAC stipulates the minimum technical requirements of energy audit for the above-mentioned 4 key types of central building services installations (i.e. excluding installations serving individual units) in commercial buildings.

The Ordinance comes into full operation on 21 September 2012. For details of the Ordinance, please refer to http://www.beeo.emsd.gov.hk/en/mibec_beeo.html.

To comply with the Ordinance, the owner/tenant/occupier of a data centre in a prescribed building should engage a Registered Energy Assessor (REA) under the Ordinance to certify that its building services installations comply with the BEC if such installations are provided in new buildings constructed after September 2012 or fall within the scope of major retrofitting works as defined in the BEEO. For the register of REA, please refer to the following website:
http://www.beeo.emsd.gov.hk/en/rea/search_rea.php.

Apart from the above requirements, periodic inspection, testing and certification of the electrical equipment in data centres are also required by the Electricity Ordinance (Cap. 406). Please refer to the following for more information:
http://www.emsd.gov.hk/emsd/eng/pps/electricity.shtml,
http://www.emsd.gov.hk/emsd/eng/pps/electricity_feipt.shtml, and
http://www.emsd.gov.hk/emsd/eng/pps/electricity_faq_on.shtml#wr2.

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14.

Given data centres in general do not have much loading and unloading activities, can data centres provide less goods vehicle parking?

 

Based on the study commissioned by the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer in December 2011, the Transport Department has recently issued an internal guideline for assessing the unique parking/loading/unloading requirements of goods vehicle for data centres. Enquiries can be made to Transport Department for details. The contact is Mr. C. W. CHENG, email: cwcheng@td.gov.hk.

A copy of the Executive Summary of the study can be found at http://www.datacentre.gov.hk/en/publication_study.html.

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15.

The headroom of data halls for data centres are generally over 5 meters. Will it be counted once only for gross floor area (GFA) calculation by the Buildings Department?

 

When submitting general building plans of any data centres to the Buildings Department for approval, it is important to provide sufficient justifications, including the operational needs of high headroom of the data halls. Otherwise, the Buildings Department may consider such data halls constitute more than one storey and require the counting of GFA for the floor level of the halls and also the space above. For details, please consult the authorized person you appointed for the proposed data centres.

   

16.

Data centres usually require large areas of supporting facilities such as transformer rooms, UPS (uninterruptible power supply), backup power generators, oil tanks, air-conditioning systems and fire safety systems. Would these facilities be included in calculating the gross floor area (GFA) under the Buildings Ordinance?

 

Part III of the Building (Planning) Regulations stipulates the requirements and control on the development intensity of buildings and the Buildings Department (BD) has issued various practice notes promulgating the policies on the calculations of GFA of buildings to the building professionals. When submitting plans of any proposed data centres to the BD for approval, it is important to provide sufficient information and justifications for BD’s consideration. For details, please consult the authorised persons you have appointed for the proposed data centres.

   

17.

Finding enough space for transformer rooms is always a challenge of converting industrial buildings, either in whole or part, to data centres. What facilitation measures are available from the Government?

 

In July 2013, the Building Department has promulgated a revised Practice Note, APP-150, announcing measures that will help address the issue. In essence, it is announced that, subject to conditions, redundant car parks already not accounted for gross floor area, can be considered for converting into special electrical and mechanical facilities such as transformer rooms in proposed conversion of part or whole of existing industrial buildings, including those for data centres. Details of the measures and the applicable conditions can be found from the Practice Note in the following link:

http://www.bd.gov.hk/english/documents/pnap/APP/APP150.pdf

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