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Environmentally-friendly prison turns Hong Kong critics green with envy

posted 30 Jan 2011, 06:44 by Mpelembe   [ updated 30 Jan 2011, 06:47 ]

China's first environmentally friendly prison is almost six months old. Located in Hong Kong, the state-of-the art facility has been criticised for providing prisoners with better living conditions than most law-abiding citizens. Those who run the prison however, say they're proud to be a part of it.

HONG KONG, CHINA - The Lo Wu Correctional Facility in Hong Kong is no ordinary prison.

It's a medium security jail that houses 1,400 female inmates.

And it's also been built in an environmentally sustainable way.

The 200 million dollar facility took three years to complete and features a green roof, solar panels, solar water heaters, natural lighting and an enhanced ventilation system.

Senior Superintendent, Sylvia Chung says the improved environment benefits staff and inmates alike.


"I think we as citizens are very much aware a lot more than before the importance how it makes life better. So knowing that, knowing that the place I'm working here, a big institution for offenders, having this kind of set-up, the feeling is good. First of all, the feeling is good. We have a kind of feeling that we are using something from objectives of the society."

Green roofs help to lower the indoor temperature and heat-generating areas like the kitchen and laundry are on the top floor to limit the spread of heat and take advantage of natural ventilation shafts.

The award-winning design, though hailed by human rights groups, has been criticized for favoring criminals over law-abiding citizens.

Opponents argue that while Lo Wu's inmates live in comfortable conditions, many Hong Kong residents live in dark, unventilated public housing estates.

But Chung refutes the claims, saying all new facilities should be similarly equipped.


"The reason we have all this is because we are new. We have the chance, that's all. Old prisons don't have this because I think the focus before is not like this. And not to say, quite a lot of them are not purpose built. At least not prison purpose."

Some of the hot water is heated through photovoltaic rooftop panels and the ventilation system uses fans installed underground to suck air cooled by green turf back into the corridors.

Lo Wu's green features cost less than one percent of its total price.

It's not yet clear how much energy will be saved going forward, but authorities think that rather being the exception, sustainable building will soon become the rule.

Tara Cleary, Reuters.