Data Centre Development in Hong Kong
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Data Centre Development in Hong Kong
  
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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 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.

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

    The requirement can be fulfilled by having two power inputs from either different power companies or different substations of the same power company.
    In fact, there are already a number of high-tier data centres in Hong Kong being served by one power company with two power feeds from different power substations of the company.

  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 2018 figures, there were over 95,000 ICT professionals engaged in various business sectors, with about 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 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.

  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.

  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.

  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.

Statutory Zoning Permission Related to Data Centre Use

  1. 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 (Cap. 131), 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.

  2. What land-use zonings permit data centre development?

    Under OZP, data centre belongs to "Information Technology and Telecommunications Industries" ("IT&T industries") use. 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)")*, "OU" annotated "Industrial Estates" and "OU" annotated "Mixed Use"**; 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) (Cap. 131).
    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.

    * 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.
    ** Only applicable to data centre within non-residential building in the zone or non-residential portion of composite building in the zone.

Conversion of Industrial Buildings to Data Centre

  1. Is it necessary to apply for "waiver" for operating data centre in industrial buildings?

    It should be noted that the lease governing the lot on which the industrial building stands contains restriction on the land use and other requirements. Data centre use may not permitted in some old industrial buildings. If the proposed use is not yet permitted, the owners should apply for a temporary waiver ("waiver") from Lands Department in order to convert such industrial building to operate data centre.

Land Use

Matters Related to Applications and Approvals

  1. Which Government departments are involved for building development for data centres in Hong Kong?

    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 Planning Department, Lands Department and Buildings 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 Planning Department, Lands Department or Buildings Department. The Government is committed to handling enquiries promptly and providing timely and helpful responses. You may also contact us for details. Besides, the applicant may wish to seek professional advice as appropriate.

  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?

    The Buildings Energy Efficiency Ordinance (BEEO) (Cap. 610) under the purview of the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department is relevant. The BEEO has come into full operation since 21 September 2012. For details of the BEEO, please refer to www.emsd.gov.hk/beeo/en/mibec_beeo.html

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

    Based on a study commissioned by the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer in December 2011, the Transport Department has issued a guideline for assessing the parking/loading/unloading requirements of goods vehicle for data centres. Enquiries can be made to Transport Department by email at tdenq@td.gov.hk or you may contact us for details.
    A copy of the Executive Summary of the study can be found at www.datacentre.gov.hk/en/downloads/N98_DE8_2011 Executive Summary.pdf.

  4. Data centres have specific site requirements, such as high headroom, and 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. Is there any requirement or guideline for developing data centres under the Buildings Ordinance?

    The Building (Planning) Regulations (Cap. 123F) stipulates the requirements and control on the development intensity of buildings and the Buildings Department (BD) has issued various practice notes promulgating guidelines for sustainable building design, the policies on the calculations of gross floor area (GFA) of buildings and energy efficiency of buildings to the building professionals. When submitting building plans of any proposed data centres, it is important to provide sufficient information and justifications. BD will take into account all relevant information including the submitted plans of the proposed data centres and the reasons / operational needs. Final approval is subject to BD’s decision. For details, please consult the authorised persons you have appointed or contact us.

  5. 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 Buildings 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: www.bd.gov.hk/doc/en/resources/codes-and-references/practice-notes-and-circular-letters/pnap/APP/APP150.pdf
    You or your authorised person may also contact us for details.