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ᐅ Turning the Impossible to Possible Together: Speedy Construction of the Community Isolation Facilities

Dream big, think big – together, we can turn mission impossible into reality. In 32 days, with the strong support from the Central People’s Government (CPG) and the Liaison Office of the CPG (LOCPG), the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government (HKSARG) delivered 20,400 beds in six Community Isolation Facilities amid the early days of the fifth wave of the COVID-19 outbreak. Both the scale and the speed of the entire construction project are unprecedented. Apart from adoption of advanced technology, it takes much team work to give birth to this miracle in the history of the Hong Kong construction industry and provide such quantity in a short time with high efficiency.

At the “CIC – See What I See” event, Ms. Winnie Ho, the designated Secretary for Housing has shared with us the success ingredients of this legendary journey in her capacity as Director of Architectural Services. In hindsight, she sees this massive challenge as a “life-saving mission” that could benefit every one of us in Hong Kong in the battle against COVID-19.

Collaborative Leadership Ignites Team Spirit

Walking back the memory lane, Winnie said the key to success was the strong support of the CPG. It only took the team seven days to complete the Tsing Yi Community Isolation Facility, which could house about 1,300 quarantine units and offer around 3,900 beds. Winnie said that the sourcing of beds could be “a big headache”. But thanks to the staunch support from the CPG, the team could find factories to produce all the necessary equipment and components for the facilities within a short time.

Winnie recalled that with the rapid development of the outbreak, the whole project team raced against time. For example, the supply of water, electricity as well as drainage services have been indispensable to construction work on-site. At that time, the leaders of the LOCPG, the HKSARG as well as project contractor China State Construction International Holdings Limited personally supervised and conducted many multi-party meetings with the goal of resolving problems immediately. Winnie’s team read up blueprints, finalised plans and liaised with colleagues from relevant government departments to ensure that the work could be done on time. This kind of intense communication motivated all teams to work closely with each other. Together with the resources and the highly skilled team pulled in by the contractor, the first phase of six quarantine camps finished construction and entered into service in just 32 days.

Winnie felt that all parties involved in the project shared the same mindset and vision. Leaders took up the roles of “commanders-in-chief” and “deputy commanders-in-chief” in the team, shouldered their responsibility and streamlined the workflow with a determination to prioritise the construction work. Such team cohesiveness enhanced efficiency and performance. Every time when Winnie raised a problem, the team would put up their hands and respond, and contributed immensely by coming up with effective solutions. With this high level of mutual trust, the team morale was high.

One of the big challenges of the project has been that there was no precedent to follow. The design of the quarantine units and ancillary facilities had to reach the same standard as the existing regulations and requirements, and also to meet the actual needs of operational teams. Seamless coordination work was essential. The management team was required to work on and review the design, oversee construction materials production and monitor on-site work simultaneously.

These episodes demonstrated the importance for everyone in the team to understand the mission and purposes behind their work, especially as the construction project engaged a maximum of 15,000 workers at the same time, with half working in the factories in the Mainland and the other half in the work sites in Hong Kong. Without this kind of calling, it would be challenging to make sure everyone is marching towards the same goal.

“Time is life. We are saving lives. With this mindset, we are not taking this merely as another construction job – it is a life-saving mission to help Hong Kong get rid of COVID-19,” Winnie said. “It’s possible. We call this the ‘Spirit of Community Isolation Facility’(方艙精神). This spirit comes collectively from this big group of people. We didn’t set out with a spirit in mind at the beginning. But in the end, this emerged.”

When there is a will, there is a way. The construction speed for the first phase of six Community Isolation Facilities was 60 times faster than that in 2020. Between February and March 2022, around 600 beds were added every day while that in 2020 was 10.

Launching ground for pioneering construction technology

Apart from the determination of each and every single team member, the widespread use of technology accelerated the workflow at construction sites of these Community Isolation Facilities. Many construction related technologies are ready for use, what matters the most is how users could manifest the full potential of technologies to serve their own purposes. In a sense, these sites are the launching grounds for pioneering construction technology. After careful experimentation on large scale projects, innovation and insights come up naturally. The building of quarantine camps proves that the construction industry can enhance quality and speed, without compromising the safety and environmental standards.

Winnie mentioned that the quarantine camps have adopted Modular Integrated Construction (MiC) units to minimize the on-site work time. Workers would simply connect these units to water, electricity and sewage systems available on site.

The use of MiC units encountered a new logistical challenge. To deliver these units within a short window of time, the construction team had to rely on delivery via sea transport. Each shipment could send around 30-40 units to the construction sites. That meant there was a need for more barging points and China State had to build them quickly.

Winnie added that another thing her team learnt this time was that the factory could produce MiC units at a rate faster than the construction site could digest. That created a demand for holding sites. At one of the project sites, there were as many as 10 holding sites to store the MiC units to be deployed. One mega project of another government department had a works site located on one of the holding sites, and the officers agreed to move out within two days. “I’m so grateful. At that time, everybody gave us their strongest support and understanding,” Winnie said.

Under this arrangement, the Digital Works Supervision System could come in handy. The system allows users to keep track of the origin, delivery, and latest status of all MiC units in one glance. It keeps users fully informed real-time.

Technology can provide users a new perspective. The use of drones allowed Winnie to inspect the site from the sky. At one construction site, she relied on drones to check the handling of wastes, for confirmation that proper procedures were implemented. Moreover, drones could “fly” with the lighting system to allow operations to continue at night, which was particularly useful for such an urgent project which required many workers to work around the clock.

"Looking at the image captured by a drone at height is even better than seeing the site on the spot,” Winnie said. “When I stand on the spot, I just see a lot of mud. But when you fly a drone, you can see anything you want to see."

China State also made use of their own developed Defect Monitoring Tools to speed up the handover process. Given that quarantine camps are highly repetitive in terms of structure, the company has developed a mobile application to allow users to tick the boxes in the checklist at ease and organise any necessary follow-ups.

In one case, there were some defect items for improvement at one project. With the mobile application, workers knew where and how to tackle those problems, e.g. putting back signages and fixing a loosened handle. They could then take a picture to show the work done. The supervising team thus could stay in the office and check the progress from their mobile devices, saving the efforts for another round of on-site inspection. Within three hours, more than half of the issues were solved.

Setting up a Common Data Environment (CDE) to collect, manage and disseminate data and project information throughout the project lifecycle is gaining traction and attention in the construction industry. “It is essential to continuously collect data about and identify common defects, analyse how they can be fixed and improved,” Winnie said.

Caring culture in practice

What touched Winnie deeply was the caring culture in the construction sites and Community Isolation Facilities. While the workers spent their energy and time to finish their work to look after the people of Hong Kong, they were also being looked after. The care stations on the ground, ranging from hair salons to canteens, are still vivid in her mind.

The Community Isolation Facilities also arranged celebration of Children’s Day, Easter and Ramadan to bring a festive atmosphere to the occupants. A cartoon character “Hero of Community Isolation Facility(方艙俠)” was created by the operator Security Bureau to bring in positive energy and for easy communication with the occupants. Winnie and her colleagues also often use instant messaging apps stickers of the Hero to encourage each other.

Construction 2.0 driven by the younger generation

Looking forward, “Construction 2.0” is not a squishy concept. It is our future that we can fully grasp.

One day, Winnie talked to a smart guy who was serving as a team leader at the information technology department at China State. She assumed that he would have studied relevant disciplines such as IT and computer, but turned out he started as a rather common frontline construction expertise. This smart man managed to turn his interest into skillsets applicable to advancement of construction work. Winnie still found this example inspiring.

Indeed, many young engineers that came from government departments, the public sector and contractors said that their exposures in this project were eye-opening. The MiC method impressed them the most with its ability to shorten lead time and raise productivity. So long as young people could equip themselves, they could continue to serve the Hong Kong society at different roles.

Keeping the spirit

“You can see the team members are so proud of their work in building this facility to protect Hong Kong,” Winnie said. “I am very proud of my team. At that time, everybody faced a lot of difficulties. But not one of them said ‘no’, nor being hesitant. They all came in immediately when I called upon them.”

Winnie’s team is still working on two Community Isolation Facilities construction projects, one in Penny’s Bay and the other one in Kai Tak. Both are scheduled to finish within this month. Maybe there will be new challenges, but attitude determines success, no doubt the “Spirit of the Community Isolation Facility” will prevail and the team can overcome all the upcoming new challenges, with one united goal and the generous support from our country.

ᐅ Get Ready for High Productivity Construction!

Being the 9th most expensive city to build, Hong Kong’s construction industry is at the same time facing challenges in manpower shortage with its ageing workforce. With “Northern Metropolis Development Strategy”, “Lantau Tomorrow Vision”, and other infrastructure developments in the pipeline, it is expected that the annual construction expenditure will reach HK$225 billion to HK$345 billion in the coming decade. Is Hong Kong ready for it? As part of the Construction Industry Council (CIC)’s continuous effort in promoting a more efficient industry environment, we have invited Ir John KWONG, Head of Project Strategy and Governance Office of the Development Bureau (DEVB), to share with us the way Hong Kong should move forward to achieve high productivity construction.

 

ALL IN for a Livable City

As the Chief Executive, Mr. John LEE, has proposed, his goal is to improve efficiency and increase the quantity of housing and land supply. He intend to introduce a broader adoption of Modular Integrated Construction MiC and Building Information Modeling (BIM) in public housing projects in order to speed up the housing supply. John KWONG foresees that Hong Kong will have a persistent demand for construction service, workforce, and aspirations of fast delivery, we also need to overcome challenges of high construction costs.

 

Work Smart, Not Hard

During his presentation, John KWONG pointed out that the industry need to achieve high productivity construction through less manpower requirement, shorter construction time, lower construction cost and better sustainability and safety performance. He suggested that adopting advanced innovative construction technology is apparently a must for us to achieve more with less effort while MiC and Multi-trade integrated Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing (MiMEP) are the solutions. Several government projects’ adoption of MiC and MiMEP has proved that these technologies helps to improve construction efficiency.

 

Advantages Backed by Data

In December 2020, the University of Hong Kong studied the performance of MiC pilot projects, and found that most critical indicators performed better when compared to conventional construction methods. The result shows us that those technologies do not only save construction procedures and staffing on-site but also shorten construction period and reduce project cost.

 

Measured the performance of the MiC pilot projects

Economic Performance Critical Concrete MiC Steel MiC
Superstructure construction to occupation Shortened by ~ 30% Shortened by ~ 50%
The unit cost of building ~ 6% lower ~7% lower
Overall labour cost ~ 45% lower ~ 70% lower
Defect frequency Largely reduced Largely reduced
On-site labour productivity ~ 100% improved Over 400% improved

 

Let the Result Speak for Itself

A number of MiC projects were completed in Hong Kong, industry practitioners are recognizing the benefits of MiC and were awed by the record-breaking time used to set up the Community Isolation Facilities during the fight against the fifth wave of pandemic.

Using the 5th phase of the CityU Student Hostel project in Ma On Shan as an example, John illustrated the benefits of MiC as it potentially shortens the construction time by almost 30%. To build this 3-tower project with about 2,000 beds with conventional construction methods, the construction period could be 36 months; a contractor proposed to that the whole project can be completed in 24 months with MiC method. “We are hoping to see the success of this project as it demonstrates how a construction project can succeed with MiC.” John shared. We can see that MiC method can shorten superstructure’s construction period by 10 -14 months, especially for tall buildings.

 

The Revolution Has Begun

John is proud that the Hong Kong is moving faster than expected to achieving our target in MiC adoption. With the advancement in MiC technology, Hong Kong will be able to complete a lot more modules on or before 2029. As we increase the speed, efficiency and quantity delivered, the team must also adopt innovative technologies to enhance productivity and accuracy.

Besides the design, construction and operation team, a project involves many other contractors in different construction services. Therefore, extensive use of BIM and common data environment (CDE) will be essential to improve efficiency of design and production, as well as enhance construction safety and risk management.

CDE is pivotal in maintaining the industry’s sustainable development while utilisation of BIM allows the project team to identify conflicts and figure out solutions in advance to ensure a safe and smooth construction. Once the designs are ready, different prefabricated parts will be produced overseas simultaneously. Completed assemblies will be delivered to the site and handed over to the operation team. These technologies dramatically reduce the construction period and staffing; furthermore, it helps create a safer working environment for frontline workers. The CIC hopes to set a benchmark in the construction industry with these good examples.

 

Let’s Ride on the Wave with Supporting Mi Policies

Mi technologies is an upcoming high-value-added industry with tremendous potential, covering areas in design, manufacturing, trading, information technology and logistics. In addition, the industry development attracts advanced technology investments, arousing the interest of more digital technology and engineering talents in Hong Kong. Therefore, Building Department has set up the “Pre-accepted Modular Integrated Construction System” to build up the MiC supply chain for the industry to support wider application of MiC in Hong Kong.

To develop the “Mi” industry in Hong Kong, CIC and DEVB are planning to assess the Mi ecosystem for high productivity construction. In order to ensure the proposal meets the needs of the industry, the entire industry should advise on different levels (design, production, construction, and installation). We should also consider integrating the Great Bay area into practice to grow the market and fulfil the needs of Hong Kong.

John shared that Mainland China is also picking up the pace of change in the Mi industry. The Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development (MoHURD) published a new technical guideline on design, manufacturing, installation, quality and maintenance management and stated that modular construction is the new development of the precast. He foresee that more opportunities will arise in the Mainland for MiC construction.

MiMEP is also valuable to our industry with the advanced development of Mi technology. The DEVB is looking forward to MiMEP’s rooting in Hong Kong. “When we look into MiMEP, we realised that is a high value add for Hong Kong.” John said.

More than 70 MiC projects are under construction; CIC will produce individual cases for benchmarking internationally and share success stories of the industry in order to encourage advancement. CIC is also looking at beefing up its Mi education programmes to train the technology and engineering talent on MiC, MiMEP, BIM, and CDE projects etc.

 

High Productivity Construction is the Future

Facing the persistent demand for construction services and other challenges, John suggested that the industry should focus on 3 solutions:

1. Off-site prefabricated

2. MultiTrade integrated and module maximisation

3. Plug and Play

John reminded us that high productivity construction is the ultimate goal. New technologies can bring significant benefits to the long-term development of Hong Kong’s construction industry in all aspects as it helps to cut down the cost and on-site manpower requirement while improving productivity, safety performance, quality and sustainability. Therefore, John and his team have confidence in the success of MiC and expect to set a bigger goal when MiC becomes mainstream in Hong Kong. CIC is also excited about the transformation and the opportunities to bring a new chapter to the construction industry.

ᐅ Riding into the Future on Digital Transformation and a World-Class Railway Network

In recent years, the Construction Industry Council (CIC) has been motivating the industry to undertake digital transformation and use digital technologies to enhance efficiency, reduce costs and resolve labour shortage issues. Not long ago, the Council invited Dr Jacob Kam, Chief Executive Officer of Mass Transit Railway Corporation (MTR), to share how the corporation is using digital transformation to plan and build the next generation of MTR lines.

  

Building for people – a business philosophy for operation

Since its inception, the MTR has maintained a business philosophy of "Building for people". Its mission is to connect communities, offer safe, comfortable and convenient railway services to Hong Kong residents, and drive Hong Kong's evolution as a metropolis.  

 “On the mainland, there is a saying that ‘building railways is building cities’,” stated Dr Kam, citing the Tung Chung Line and the Airport Express Line as examples. The lines have connected Tung Chung and Hong Kong’s airport to urban areas while providing land for property development. Since the launch the lines, Tung Chung has developed from a fishing village into a new town which will eventually accommodate more than 300,000 people.

Elsewhere, another project to redevelop the Siu Ho Wan Depot will open up a large area for building 20,000 public and private housing units. 

The MTR business philosophy of “Building for people” is also evident in its determination to upgrade services continuously. Compared to railway operators worldwide, the train  service performance level of MTR is among the highest in the industry, with 99.9% of passenger journeys achieved on time. 

However, Dr Kam expressed that the company’s pursuit of excellence doesn’t just stop there: “We are striving for 100% on time.” Though the international railway industry has stated it is impossible, Dr. Kam is confident that “if it is ever achieved, it will be achieved in Hong Kong.”

Develop a common data environment 

Following a new direction of "Go Smart Go Beyond", the MTR has studied and adopted smart technologies and innovative solutions, merged technologies with its people-centric business philosophy, and continuously improved the efficiency of every aspect of its business. One of its key digital initiatives was to develop a Common Data Environment (CDE) to integrate complex and disparate engineering data.     

In recent times, several railway construction projects – including the Tung Chung Line Extension, Tuen Mun South Extension and Northern Link – have been initiated as outlined by the Railway Development Strategy 2014. Their scale is huge, and their challenges and complexities comparable to other large-scale construction projects. 

In view of this, Dr Kam said, “We are building a CDE to collect all kinds of information and data about project life cycles and contain it in a single source of truth.”

The CDE can consolidate documents from contractors, construction plans, design diagrams and so on a single platform. It also allows users to review BIM three-dimensional models and any project modifications, progress and records, facilitating monitoring and follow-up actions.  

 “The CDE also enables us to do analysis, data analytics, forecasting and more,” Dr Kam added. For example, forecasting and avoiding design conflicts regarding beams, columns, steel bars and other elements can save time on redesigning and schedule adjustments, increasing the probability of projects being completed on time.  

The MTR plans to develop its own CDE first and an industry-wide one next, creating better connections for practitioners to share and exchange data.

 

All-round application of digital technology

In recent years,  the MTR has introduced a variety of digital management systems with functions ranging from project planning, cost control, design, DfMA and the application of MiC, to routine railway operation and repair. Ultimately, all these systems enable passengers to reach their destinations smoothly and quickly.   

“We are building a data lake to store and monitor data related to customer service, asset conditions, operations and maintenance, in order to enable smart maintenance, smart operations, and more importantly, smart customer service,” said Dr Kam. 

For instance, MTR has upgraded its mobile app to offer real-time information to passengers. One of the more popular functions include station alighting and interchange reminders, as many passengers focus their attention on their mobile phones and may forget to alight at the right station.

For maintenance and asset management, MTR uses an all-in-one smart platform to collect train and railway data for real-time analysis, enabling them to avoid possible failure events and perform maintenance in advance.

The MTR has also introduced a series of carbon neutral pilot designs which use digital technologies. These range from installing transparent solar panels at Hin Keng Station, to an AI-controlled chiller, and an electromagnetic braking system which generates electricity that can be used by stations.

 

Moving forward in solid partnership 

Looking forward, the MTR will simplify station design to further adopt DfMA and accelerate digitalisation to establish partnerships across industries. Dr Kam firmly believes that the company cannot create and upkeep a world-class railway network alone,but shall rely on an orchestrated effort of experts and all industry.  

“To promote DfMA, digitalisation, strong stakeholder engagement and new engineering contracts, we need to partner with the whole industry, experts, government, regulators, technology providers and others,” Dr Kam declared.  MTR will continue collaborating with a variety of partners to build a world-class and sustainable railway network and services, allowing Hong Kong to move forward into the future.

 

ᐅ Thinking out of the Box - Technology Propels a New Era in Landscape Architecture

When talking about modular construction, rectangular boxes come to our mind most of the time. During a visit to CIC-Zero Carbon Park, Mr. Paul CHAN, President of the Hong Kong Institute of Landscape Architects and Vice-chairman of Landscape Architects Registration Board shared his latest proposition of applying Mi-infinity concept in transitional housing projects and the latest technological advancement in the landscape architecture arena.

Showing Care Through Mi∞

It is a landscape architect's job to create an enjoyable and functional living space, be it a permanent residential development or transitional housing. With Paul’s extensive experience in creating various functional space as well as his eagerness in technology adoption, Paul shared that Mi-infinity concept matches perfectly with the need of transitional housing projects. He said that transitional housing projects are, most of the time, built on a very small piece of land among completed buildings or establishments which can only be used for a short period of time. The offsite production feature of modular construction enables minimum disturbance to surrounding environment and a speedy establishment or removal process which is ideal for transitional housing projects.

From modular housing units, Paul took the idea further as he noticed residents' need for community facilities. With reference to similar facilities around the world, HKILA's Workgroup on Transitional Housing pulled together professionals from the construction sector, experts from the social welfare sector and users to explore possibilities and make the best out of the limited space available in the transitional housing projects. Paul is proud that the brainstorming sessions bore fruit, as variety of multi-functional space was created.

Flexibility to the Max for the People

Paul also mentioned that this successful application has inspired many other projects into considering "Mi-Landscape". Taking CIC-Zero Carbon Park as an example, Paul envisioned some modifications in the park with modular recreation facilities to add more vibrancy to the park. He said multi-functional modules and adjustable furniture and fixtures are now available where modules can serve as a market or playground in the morning and be transformed into a cinema at night. We can even install solar panels on the modules so that the modules will be self-sustainable and reduce carbon emission.

In fact, back in 2017, Hong Kong has already welcomed its first Mi-Self-Service Library Station in Sai Wan Ho. Other Mi-community facilities, like the Star Gazing Facilities in Sai Kung and Skylight Market in Tin Shui Wai were subsequently completed in 2019 and 2020 respectively, showcasing to the construction industry the infinite possibilities of modular construction.

Technology Applied Across Landscape Life Cycle

Paul believed that modular construction, as well as other construction technology, is the way forward for every role in the construction industry. In the old days, technologies were only used to visualise design effects. With advancement in technology and practitioners' competency, construction technology is used widely in landscape architect's work, from landscape surveying, designing, to facilities management.

Paul highlighted that technology played an important role in forecasting potential conflicts between planned design and the natural environment. For instance, drone mapping and point cloud modelling helps to collect data with high accuracy in a quick aerial survey while ground penetrating radar gives information on what's under the surface of the ground. Landscape architects will be well informed of the natural terrain in the planning stage of the project and plan ahead necessary actions needed to realise their plan.

Building Information Modelling (BIM) is also a common tool for landscape architects nowadays. With the help of BIM, various work plans can be incorporated into the same interface where all parties can project clashes and plan better. Paul shared his experience in a stormwater storage pool project built under a park that BIM has prevented a lot of problems in their planning stage. Given the complexity of the project, both structural and infrastructural considerations are important aspects of the project and BIM has helped the project team to plan the public space, staff routing, wires and waterway etc. which are very complicated Paul is pleased that with BIM's help, the project team can visualise the project outcome and that inspired the team to further innovate with more idea to improve the project result and came up with creative ideas to make use of the pool area when it is not in use.

Once facilities are completed, facilities management can make use of geographic information system (GIS) mapping to record and manage the facilities. Paul shared that he was involved in a project to develop a dashboard system to record trees conditions around the city as part of a campaign to encourage public understanding of trees. GIS provided valuable information to the team for selecting the right area for the campaign. The dashboard system was used to update the government's tree database for maintenance and repairs work. Paul said such system would be particularly useful after a typhoon hits the city.

These are only a few examples of technology adoption in landscape architecture to save efforts. Paul envisioned a lot more extensive technology application will be inspired by the successful projects. The CIC hopes that if landscape architect can inject sustainable elements into their plan, Hong Kong will be able to reach carbon neutrality sooner.

Get Ready for the Age of Mi-Landscape Architecture

Innovative technology adoption in landscape architecture is expected to gain importance in the decades to come. As such the biennial Best Landscape Award for Private Property Development organised by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department has included use of new construction techniques and modern construction solutions as well as use of new technology in maintenance as its judging criteria.

It is also the government's vision to promote advanced construction technology and at the same time collect environmental data for better planning, Paul believed that Hong Kong landscape architects should catch on this global trend and grasp this golden opportunity to modernise the trade and create better landscape for the city we love.

ᐅ New Technologies Opening New Directions in Urban Renewal

The construction industry has been actively promoting Construction 2.0 reforms as a means of addressing future challenges. Similarly, urban renewal works, which are closely related to the construction industry, have also been implementing comprehensive reform in recent years. The CIC has invited Ir WAI Chi-sing, Managing Director of the Urban Renewal Authority (URA), to share how the URA has addressed the problem of urban decay and opened up a new direction for urban renewal through innovation, digital transformation and cross-sector cooperation.

Urban Renewal Lags Behind Urban Decay

“In the past few decades, urban renewal has very much been outpaced by the rate of urban decay,” said Ir WAI. According to URA records, the average age of buildings being demolished and replaced is 50 years. Currently, Hong Kong has approximately 12,000 buildings older than 50 years of age. Over the next two decades, the number will increase to 25,000. Ir WAI fears that even if the URA accelerates renewal work, they will be unable to catch up with renewal demand fuelled by the pace of urban decay. Taking Yau Ma Tei and Mong Kok (Yau Mong district) as examples, 65% of the area’s approximately 3,000 buildings are over 50 years old. The estimated cost of acquisition and compensation equates to more than HKD1,100 billion, which the URA is unable to bear alone. Additionally, the renewal potential of a building decreases over time, which reduces the private sector’s interest in participating. A further consideration is that in Hong Kong, there are gaps to fill in building maintenance, including requirements to enhance the regulatory system, property owners who lack knowledge and organisational capacity, and owners’ corporations which lack sufficient financial reserves. All the above have aggravated the situation of urban decay. Facing this daunting challenge, in recent years the URA has, like the construction industry, made multiple changes and implemented new initiatives. They want to rectify the situation with new ideas.

Developing new materials to extend service life

One of the most important initiatives is the adoption of innovative building materials that extend the lifespan of buildings and slow the pace of urban decay. As the first engineer to be a Managing Director of the URA, Ir WAI has used his expertise and turned to civil engineering technologies to inject fresh thinking into construction projects.

As Ir WAI pointed out, the design life of buildings is currently based on a wind load return period of 50 years. If this could be prolonged to 60 or 70 years, the building service life could be longer. “As engineers, we all know in civil engineering, the design life is 120 years. So, it may not be appropriate to simply adopt this design life in building, but it may be time to review the building design code,” He said.

As a result, the URA has commissioned a study across the expertise of the civil engineering and construction industries. It is examining the feasibility of elements and technologies common to civil engineering projects – including use of a longer design life and more durable materials such as higher-grade concrete and coated rebar – and their effectiveness in prolonging the service life of buildings.

Launching Internal Digital Transformation

While encouraging the application of innovative technologies, the URA has embarked on its own internal digital transformation. Ir WAI said: “The use of Building Information Modelling (BIM) is now mandatory in all URA projects, serving as a common platform for communication and collaboration.”

The Shanghai Street/Argyle Street and Central Market projects exemplify the effectiveness of BIM. As well as preserving and revitalising buildings of historical value, new facilities have been added that meet the requirements of modern construction. The URA used BIM to integrate information such as construction design, structural engineering, mechanical and electrical engineering and plumbing facilities over the whole building life-cycle. BIM also aided in identifying structural incompatibilities between old and new designs, allowing the team to resolve issues early and save time and cost.

To facilitate urban renewal planning, the URA developed a unified GIS-based planning system known as URIS. URIS integrates geographic information and data such as land use, planning requirements, development density, etc, and visualises such information on a map. This enables the URA to precisely devise suitable renewal plans for different districts, and also helps to obtain higher operational effectiveness in the project cycle.

The URA also plans to adopt artificial intelligence (AI) for URIS and BIM to automate the approval process for general building plans. In light of this, the URA requests its staff to attend AI-related training.

Cross-sector Collaboration to Promote Urban Renewal

The URA has been active in working with different sectors to seek innovative urban renewal solutions. “Since I joined the URA in 2016, I have been saying that the extent of URA achievement is contingent on the success of building rehabilitation,” Ir WAI stressed. If aged buildings can be maintained in good condition and design life prolonged, the pace of urban decay can be slowed down.

In view of this, the URA has been enhancing property owners’ building maintenance knowledge and the standards of rehabilitation technologies. With the support of the construction industry, they established a one-stop Building Rehabilitation Platform to provide comprehensive building rehabilitation related information and technical support to property owners. The URA has also worked with the Lands Department to introduce amendments to the Deed of Mutual Covenant provisions pertaining to URA projects. These require owners to draw up regular maintenance plans and allocate money in reserve for their execution. The URA has also worked with the Home Affairs Department and multiple NGOs to help property owners set up owners’ corporations to facilitate the coordination of maintenance work.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank the construction industry because they were active in the process of setting up the Building Rehabilitation Platform,” said Ir WAI. He expects that as the relevant measures become effective and successfully raise general awareness of building rehabilitation, the construction industry will have to train up skilled workers to meet demand for repair works.

To encourage private sector participation in renewal projects, the URA commissioned the Yau Mong District Study and has adopted area-based strategic planning to form a renewal blueprint. The blueprint also introduces new planning tools such as street consolidation area and transfer of plot ratio. Street consolidation areas forming large-scale redevelopment zones and transfer of plot ratios of residential and non-residential areas can flexibly respond to the public’s needs and cope with changes in the market.

Summing up, Ir WAI said that although the new initiatives and collaboration can enhance its effectiveness, urban renewal still faces many challenges. In future, the URA will step up the pace of innovation, and hopes that the civil engineering and construction industries will continue to collaborate on new solutions.

ᐅ 15 Years of Building Hong Kong: The CIC Leads the Industry towards a New Digital Era

Established in 2007, the Construction Industry Council (CIC) has been nurturing numerous talents and leading the industry to overcome challenges over the years. To celebrate the 15th anniversary of the CIC, the “Celebration for the 15th Anniversary of the Construction Industry Council and the Hong Kong Construction Exhibition Grand Opening Ceremony” was held in M+ of West Kowloon Cultural District on 31st October. The Guests of Honour, the Honourable John LEE, Chief Executive of HKSAR Government, Ms. Bernadette LINN, Secretary for Development, Ms. Winnie HO, Secretary for Housing and Ir Ricky LAU, Permanent Secretary for Development (Works), together with Ir Thomas HO, Chairman of the CIC and Ir Albert CHENG, Executive Director of the CIC officiated at the opening ceremony.

Hong Kong Construction Exhibition to Showcase the Development of the Industry

“In the past 15 years, the CIC worked hand-in-hand with the industry to construct and develop Hong Kong. With the theme of “The Past and the Future”, the “Hong Kong Construction Exhibition” showcases the development of the industry and provides a glimpse of state-of-the-art technological applications. Guests were greeted with the “Building ∞ Future” Digital LED Runway once passed by the welcome backdrop. The L-Shaped Digital LED Runway was 14m in length and was divided into 4 zones. Videos were played on the LED wall to showcase advanced construction technologies of different building stages, namely “Pre-Construction”, “Off-Site Construction”, “On-site Construction” and “Smart Facility Management and Liveable City”. Guests could thus have a better understanding of how technologies could benefit the whole building lifecycle. For instance, footage of modules prefabrication are shown in the “Off-site Construction" zone while “Smart Facility Management and Liveable City” Zone has demonstrated how the application of 5G, BIM and IoT could contribute to extending buildings’ lifes.

Interactive Safety Hologram

Stepping out from the Digital LED Runway, the guests would enter another exhibition zone where the exhibits of the MiC Model and Self-Compacting Backfill Material, as well as the “Hong Kong Past and Present”: Transparent LED Walls were placed. The Double LED walls has taken visitors on a journey to review the past and the present of over 60 Hong Kong’s landmarks and iconic infrastructures, such as the Peak Tower, the High Island Reservoir, the Double-arch steel bridge for Cross Bay Link and the Habour Area Treatment Scheme.

Life first and foremost, an Interactive Safety Hologram was set up to promote the safety information of the industry where guests could interact with our 3D Safety Ambassador to learn about different safety practices and related innovations of the industry. The Hologram has caught the attention of the Chief Executive, as he actively interchanged ideas with our Ambassador to understand how technologies could be put in real practices and help improve safety standards of the construction sites.

A Promising Future Ahead

The promising development of the construction industry is the results of the government support and the combined efforts from our practitioners. As Mr. John LEE, Chief Executive of HKSAR Government addressed, Hong Kong is destined to rise further as a city of boundless opportunities and Hong Kong’s annual construction volume is expected to grow to $300 billion in future. He said that the Government will press on with formulating measures to uplift the productivity of the construction industry, drive the development of high productivity construction methods, such as Modular Integrated Construction (MiC), across the industry.

Talents are the root of development and the industry must work whole-heartedly to nurture the next generation in order to boost productivity. Ir Thomas HO, Chairman of the CIC mentioned in his opening remarks that, in the year 2021, more than 60,000 practitioners were trained and helped alleviate labour shortage. The CIC will fully support the Policy Address, continue to train new talents and introduce more construction advanced technologies. The CIC will make every effort to boost the productivity of the industry and support the development of infrastructure in Hong Kong. He also announced that the CIC would co-organise the “Design for Future, Build for Life” publicity campaign with the Development Bureau to uplift the image of the industry and attract new blood.

Energetic Musical Performance

As the grand opening ceremony was unleashed by the 3D videos, the atmosphere was further livened up as the guests, including industry leaders from all sectors, were treated to the musical performance by the young and energetic dancers, which featured the development of Hong Kong construction industry in the past decades.

ᐅ Smart Technologies Transform Zero-Carbon Practices for Building Carbon-Neutral Cities

To promote sustainability and help Hong Kong reach its net-zero carbon goal by 2050, the Construction Industry Council fosters efforts to drive the development of green buildings by inviting relevant parties to exchange ideas and devise effective strategies. Recently, the Council invited Kevin O’Brien, Chairman of the Business Environment Council and Chief Executive of Gammon, to share insights on how smart tools and innovative building and digital technologies will enable the industry’s green and low-carbon transition, and how this will contribute to Hong Kong’s net-zero goal.

Three ‘Zero’ Strategies for Carbon and Waste Reduction

As this summer’s high temperatures showed, Hong Kong is very much feeling the effects of intensified global warming. “This September was the hottest on record in Hong Kong,“ Kevin noted. He stressed that immediate action was required to prevent temperatures becoming intolerable.

In its Hong Kong’s Climate Action Plan 2050, the HKSAR government proposed the goal of net-zero by 2050 in response to global warming. Two strategies under the Action Plan – Energy Saving and Green Buildings, and Waste Reduction – are closely related to the construction industry. Construction work and buildings do make a major environmental impact, accounting for 39% of carbon emissions, 36% of energy consumption and 40% of drinking water pollution globally. New construction consumes 40% of raw materials globally, and annual construction waste is expected to reach 2.2 billion tons globally by 2050.

In response, the Council has proposed a ‘Three Zero’ strategy of zero energy waste, zero landfill waste and zero waste of resources. From these goals, strategic guidelines for waste and carbon emissions reduction can be developed, leading to a sustainable model for construction, fostering a circular economy, and stepping up the pace of the industry’s green transformation.

According to Kevin, smart and innovative technologies will be needed to implement that transformation effectively: “We’ve got modern design and we end up with modern assets, but I think sometimes in the industry, we’re stuck with 19th century processes. What we need to be moving towards is adopting modern processes, much as other industries have done.” Kevin believes that by applying smart engineering to design can make a difference.

Smart Tools Realise Energy Savings and Zero Carbon

Greenhouse gas emissions and embodied carbon are at the forefront of the industry’s efforts to reduce emissions and save energy. As Kevin pointed out, construction processes generate greenhouse gas, while materials such as cement and steel also produce embodied carbon. Conservative design approaches can further exacerbate the problem. Thus, implementing an energy saving, zero-emissions construction model is a key component of the larger transformation.

A primary task is to calculate the carbon emissions of the construction process. “We do have some tools that help us understand the challenges – we’ve got the CIC Carbon Assessment Tool,” Kevin noted. Free of charge, the tool was developed jointly by the CIC and more than 200 experts from the industry. It helps users evaluate the carbon performance of buildings, all the way from raw material extraction to the end of construction. Kevin added that use of the CIC Carbon Assessment Tool together with BIM’s automated carbon assessment tools has helped the industry to adopt a waste reduction and energy-saving construction mindset. Further impetus to development of low carbon construction will be added if developers select low carbon materials.

The next task is to replace on-site diesel power with low-emissions energy. For example, Gammon, will soon introduce its first electric crawler crane. He also suggested reducing energy usage in completed buildings by using smart systems and better usage of data.

Innovative Technology to Achieve Zero Waste to Landfill

Innovative construction technology is also helping to drive the industry’s low-carbon transformation. Kevin highlighted the Council’s promotion of Mi Infinity (i.e. implementing modular construction in different aspects), which helps to achieve the goal of zero landfill waste.

As he explained, MiC transfers much of the construction process offsite, to a more controllable environment. Apart from streamlining the on-site construction process, it also helps to reduce the risk of error and the corresponding incidence of waste. The reduced packaging involved in offsite construction helps to reduce waste even further.

Currently, many construction projects have adopted MiC, including public housing, the privately developed Tonkin Street project, City University’s student accommodation at Whitehead, and the Terminal 2 expansion at Hong Kong International Airport.

Kevin was pleased to note that the government is supporting the idea of turning waste into resources by establishing the Pilot Biochar Production Plant in Eco Park. The plant will convert wood waste from construction projects into biochar for multiple uses. This will not only drive a circular economy, but also helps to achieve the goal of zero landfill waste in the long run.

Digital Technology Facilitates Zero Waste of Resources

Kevin said that digital technology is integral to reducing wastage of resources and has led the industry into the era of lean manufacturing. For instance, software such as Autodesk Building Information Modelling (BIM) would enable design revisions to be executed and reviewed, and inconsistencies identified and corrected, at the design stage rather than on-site, where they would create enormous waste. BIM can also facilitate a more efficient use of construction materials, and allow for buildings’ operational performance to be optimised.

Kevin stated that rather than demolishing and rebuilding, redeveloping and re-using existing buildings – such as in the cases of Tai Kwun and Central Market – can also help to reduce waste and carbon emissions. “Whenever we’re reusing an asset, we’re reducing the end-of-life carbon. And not only that – we’re providing something for society to enjoy about the cultural heritage of the city that we love,” he said.

Although such innovations impose ‘green premiums’, these increasingly come with what Kevin termed ‘green opportunities’. As he pointed out, such factors as Hong Kong Stock Exchange requirements for listed companies to publish Environmental, Social and Governance reports, mainland China’s peak carbon and carbon neutrality goals, and pressure and monitoring from international environmental organisations, have made ‘green’ and ‘low carbon’ a major global business trend. Green mortgages, bonds and related supporting schemes – such as the Council’s own Sustainable Finance Certificate Scheme, which provides favourable conditions for the development of green construction – are now commonplace.

Kevin expects that green and low-carbon construction will gradually become a prerequisite for Hong Kong’s buildings and infrastructure. But for today, he urged the industry: “I am afraid that listening is not good enough, and there is enough talk; it is time for us all to do something today. “

ᐅ Building Intergenerational Transport Infrastructure to Enhance the Liveability of Hong Kong

A transportation network is one of the essential pillars of any city’s development. Recently, engineer Mr. LAM Sai-Hung, Secretary of Transport and Logistics, spoke with the construction industry about the far-reaching strategic transportation plan for “bringing forward infrastructure construction and increasing development capacity” as outlined in the Chief Executive’s 2022 Policy Address. The plan outlines strategies for building a future liveable city, enhancing quality of life, and providing excellent opportunities for the adopting of new technologies to the construction industry.

 

A blueprint for a highly effective transportation network

A key element of a liveable city is a highly effective transportation network which will also enhance public’s quality of life. Mr. LAM pointed out that people in Hong Kong are accustomed to checking the traffic condition map before leaving home, and try to avoid the congested routes marked in red. “The more red we get, the more work we (the Transport and Logistics Bureau) need to do,” he said.

According to Mr. LAM, the government has been aggressively upgrading the transport network. Ten railway lines have been completed during the last two decades, while major projects such as the Railway Development Strategy 2014 plan’s the Tung Chung Line Extension and Tuen Mun South Extension are about to commence. Trunk Road T2 and Cha Kwo Ling Tunnel are nearing completion, and developments such as the widening of the southbound section of Ting Kau Bridge and the Kau Yi Chau Artificial Islands project are at the planning stage.  

“We feature a total of six road projects in the just announced Policy Address,” Mr. LAM said. These comprise three main roads – the Northern Metropolis Highway, Shatin Bypass and Tseung Kwan O-Yau Tong Tunnel – and three strategic railways: the Hong Kong-Shenzhen Western Rail Link, Central Rail Link and Tseung Kwan O Line Southern Extension. 

The new transport network, Mr. LAM said, “… meets local commuting needs, supports the economy, facilitates integration with the Greater Bay Area, and enhances the overall competitiveness of Hong Kong”. These projects, together with the Northern Metropolis Development Strategy, the Lantau Tomorrow Vision and other large and small infrastructure projects, are expected to boost total construction output to HK$300 billion and open the way to the industry’s adoption of new technologies.  

Northern Metropolis – the future Modular Integrated Construction (MiC) hub

Another element of a liveable city is capacity to increase land and home unit supply, allowing citizens to own a home. To this end, the Northern Metropolis is a key initiative. 

Mr. LAM described the government’s plan for a highway connecting the Northern Metropolis to Tin Shui Wai in the west and Kwu Tung North via San Tin: “The Northern Metropolis Highway links the Metropolis to its east and west”. He also pointed out that the Hong Kong-Shenzhen Western Rail Link connecting Hung Shui Kiu with Qianhai will promote integrated development between Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area.  

Apart from meeting the travel needs of Northern Metropolis residents, transport connections will also help to develop the area into a MiC hub. In recent years, the CIC has actively promoted MiC to accelerate the supply of home units. This has been met with a positive response from the Government. The Policy Address suggests establishing a cross-departmental steering committee to streamline related approval processes and remove barriers for the industry. The Government has also accepted the CIC and industry’s suggestion to make land in the Northern Metropolis available for the manufacture and storage of MiC modules. Apart from encouraging cooperation with the Greater Bay Area and speeding the supply of home units, these initiatives will help strengthen the industry’s leading role in the adoption of MiC across the region. 

Infrastructure projects offer opportunities to adopt new technologies

As Mr. LAM pointed out, Hong Kong’s infrastructure plans are not devoid of challenges, such as money and resources; but on this, the industry can refer to its past experience of the Hong Kong Airport Core Programme. He remarked: “If our predecessors could do it, why can’t we – and the next generation?” 

The CIC and industry have already prepared for such challenges. For the past 15 years, the CIC has worked closely with the industry to transform traditional work processes into the current workflow incorporating digital technologies to enhance safety, efficiency, quantity and quality. The CIC has spared no effort in promoting digitalisation in the industry and has received a positive response from the Government.

For instance, the CIC has promoted Building Information Modelling (BIM) by offering related courses at its Hong Kong Institute of Construction and holding CIC BIM Competitions, workshops and seminars to enhance the industry’s level of proficiency. The Policy Address has recognised the digitalisation trend, announcing that it will devise a roadmap for the industry’s use of BIM in preparing building plans for submission to departments for approval. It further facilitates the optimisation and transformation of the industry to build a smart city. 

The Government has also offered support for the Common Data Environment (CDE), which is another key focus of the Council. CDE collects overall project lifecycle data, such as BIM, and saves the information at a single source, greatly facilitating its consolidation and analysis. The Government will further promote digitalisation to optimise workflows, enhance efficiency, productivity, data consolidation and studies via CDE. CDE, BIM and the Digital Works Supervision System (DWSS) are to be trialed in some public works projects.

Other examples of new technology applications include the 200-metre double-arch steel bridge of the Tseung Kwan O Cross Bay Link. The span of the bridge is the largest and heaviest in Hong Kong, constructed with high-strength steel. Its components were prefabricated in Nantong near Shanghai and delivered to Hong Kong in batches for assembly.

In meeting the challenges of the future, innovative technologies are only part of the picture; a talented workforce is also essential. “In Hong Kong, there are 15 professional engineers per square kilometre,” said Mr. LAM. To cultivate more talent, the CIC will leverage the Government’s HK$1 billion fund to usher in new blood and enhance the industry’s proficiency through the Institute of Construction.

Looking ahead, with its new technologies and talent, the industry will be pulled together to meet the challenges of developing an efficient transport network, a liveable city and a better future for the people of Hong Kong.

ᐅ Making Use of Spatial Data to Develop Smart City

"Spatial data" may sound abstract to the general public, however they are closely related to our everyday life. Ir Thomas HO On-sing, Chairman of CIC and Ir Albert CHENG, Executive Director of CIC have visited the Geospatial Lab (GeoLab) located in Kwun Tong to understand the latest development of spatial data in Hong Kong, and had a fruitful discussion on how the construction industry could be benefited from the development of digital smart city.

The HKSAR Government published the “HK Smart City Blueprint” in 2017, which put forth different initiatives to enhance and expand existing city management measures and services. The Common Spatial Data Infrastructure (CSDI) serves as an infrastructure to provide easily accessible spatial information which could contribute to the smart Hong Kong, and it is being applied in different aspects, for instance map application on smartphones and Building Information Modeling (BIM).

 

Launch of CSDI Portal

As emphasised by Sr. CHAN Yue-chun, Head of Spatial Data Office (SDO), Development Bureau (DEVB), CSDI is more than a system but helps to set standards, “With the help of the policies, different Government departments were asked to submit annual spatial data plans to set out the datasets they plan to release, and we hope to standardise the data to make them more accessible.” The CSDI portal has already been made available to the public, and over 500 spatial datasets from various government departments are made available initially since end 2022. Sr. Chan said the number is encouraging and he looks forward to more high quality datasets to bring convenience to the public. "CSDI is like a supermarket that categorises different goods, information and the ways of usage are also clearly labelled. CSDI is also an infrastructure, just as the water supply system. We are not offering all kinds of drinks to the public, but we can ensure that high quality raw material, i.e. water, is offered to make drinks like iced tea.”

To explore initiatives by making use of spatial data, SDO invited more than 100 members from different sectors (academia, transport companies, professional institutions, IT experts, NGOs, etc.) to join several design thinking workshops to come up with a list of Proof-of-Concept (PoC) that can demonstrate the use of spatial data for bringing social benefits and improving daily lives of the general public.

One of the PoCs is Smart Navigation Tool for the Visually Impaired/People in Need aiming to facilitate both indoor and outdoor navigation in a seamless journey with audio instruction. With the support from various NGOs, MTR Corporation, iconic shopping malls in Kowloon East, SDO together with Energizing Kowloon East Office (EKEO) of DEVB and Lands Department (LandsD) collaborated and developed the PoC. The concepts as well as the prototypes of this PoC can be shared with the public for development and further scale-up. For example, this PoC has been integrated, as one of the modules named “Walk Assistant”, in the “My Kowloon East” (“MyKE”) App developed by EKEO. “MyKE” is a mobile application for Kowloon East, aiming at promoting Smart City initiatives and the concept of "Walkable Kowloon East".

3D Digital Map is Underway

CSDI’s application is beneficial to our everyday’s lives, and maps are the medium that best present spatial data. Plain map is often used in the past while a 3D digital map is more informative and precise. The Lands Department has been developing 3D digital maps, which comprises the 3D Pedestrian Network, the 3D Visualisation Map and the 3D Indoor Map.

According to Sr. YIK Wai-fung, Chief Land Surveyor/Technical (Survey and Mapping Office/Headquarters), LandsD, up till March 2022, the 3D Pedestrian Network has already covered publicly accessible places in urban areas of the territory and on five main outlying islands. Walkways in rural areas and hiking trails in Country Parks are also included. On the other hand, the 3D Visualisaton Map and 3D Indoor Map is under development in 3 phases, a pilot project to produce the indoor maps for 158 buildings primarily located in Kowloon East has been completed. LandsD plans to produce the same for 1,250 buildings across the territory by the end of 2023.

The 3D Visualisation Map will be able to manifest Hong Kong’s cityscape by showing the exterior features of terrains, buildings and infrastructures through images and position data collected data via vehicle-based Mobile Mapping System, aerial photographs and mobile mapping backpack, etc.. With the help of the 3D Visualisation Map, users could then grasp the full pictures of the buildings and the districts, the coordinate data is also useful in assessing the transportation routes of the prefab-modules.

Government BIM Data Repository

The DEVB announced that from 2018 onwards, capital works projects with project estimates more than $30 million shall adopt BIM. According to Sr. YIK, the LandsD has taken over the operation of the Government BIM Data Repository (GBDR). As of July 2022, 30 sets of capital works projects’ design and as built BIM data are stored in Repository and Sr. YIK explained that LandsD would register, standardise the data, and transform them to open formats. In addition, Sr YIK explained that potentially users could leverage the design data in GBDR in developing 4D maps by linking the BIM models with construction stages and estimates in manpower and material requirements to assist the planning of capital works projects.

STEAM Workshops for Families for Building a Smart City

To better promote the application of spatial data, DEVB established the GeoLab in Kwun Tong in 2021. Workshops and talks, such as “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning for Smart City Development", “Application of BIM/GIS Integration” and theme talks on “Environment and Health”, were held to encourage the public, start-ups, and the young generation to make use of spatial data in developing smart applications, and to stimulate the development of smart city. Sr. CHAN said that GeoLab offers a place for the young generation to learn about spatial data, despite the impact of Covid-19, GeoLab seizes every opportunity, for example a “STEM Parent-child Workshop” on creating an Interactive Web Mapping Application was held in April 2022 when schools were suspended.

ᐅ Mi∞ - Building Happiness for All

Earlier, Mr. Paul CHAN, President of the Hong Kong Institute of Landscape Architects shared his view on applying the Mi-infinity concept in the landscape architecture arena of transitional housing. Through the flexible use of the modular construction concept, to complement features of transitional housing, the team has successfully designed various multi-functional space ideas for transitional housing, maximising the benefits of the Mi-infinity concept.

During our discussion, Paul also shared his vision Mi-Landscape with CIC-Zero Carbon Park as an example, in which he suggests adding recreation facilities with multi-functional modules in its open space. To realise the possibility of Mi-Landscape, we unveiled the "MiC Play Unit" during "Construction Month 2022" themed "Leading Towards Carbon Neutrality". A series of splendid programmes and an outdoor green market to promote low carbon living is held throughout the month and do come and enjoy "MiC Play Unit".

Explore the Variety of Combination Practice to Improve the Environment and Living Space

The MiC Play Unit located in the Zero Carbon Park is truly a sign of the flexibility of the Mi-infinity concept construction method. It adopts multiple pre-fabricated and readymade components which can be assembled and dismantled easily. The same components can be reconfigured depending on the size and shapes of all kinds of outdoor play spaces, and are particularly relevant to the context of Hong Kong, including sites for transitional housing. It can be of great help in reducing construction materials, which the rationale behind echoes the slogan of this year.

Eco-friendly Modules Realising the Concept of Low Carbon Living

Carbon reduction is one of the hottest environmental issues around the globe. One of the major highlights of the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference held this month focused on extreme climate and natural disasters. In 2022, the world is facing more extreme weather and unprecedented natural disasters, mainly due to the rapid development of industrial activities, resulting in excessive greenhouse gas emissions. We have to forge our way to effectively reduce carbon emissions and strengthen sustainable development and other green businesses for a better future. The demonstrative set of "MiC Play Unit" also integrates green and eco-products which are designed to be modular. They are designed for self-cleansing and can remove PM2.5, provide thermal insulation and improve the micro-climate in Hong Kong.

"Build" the Community Attentively to Strengthen Cohesion

In addition to MiC and environmental considerations, the exhibits are also equipped with "check-in booths" and children's play areas, adding potential for cross-generational integration to the MiC Play Unit! On the other hand, the award presentation ceremony of the first "ZCP Green Heroes" Award Badges Programme and CIC-ZCP Minecraft Competition were also held inside the Park. I am pleased to see the Park filling with laughter and welcoming a group of energetic Green Heroes and students. The event also features two exhibitions, namely "Construction Materials and Technology" and "Construction Site Daily Life and Safety", which discuss topics such as common building materials and sustainable development construction materials in Hong Kong. I truly believe that our younger generations would enjoy this rewarding experience, which is also the "happiness" that the CIC has always strived to provide to everyone in Hong Kong.

In recent years, the CIC has actively advocated the digital transformation of the construction industry, and at the same time held various seminars or workshops to promote new construction technologies to the public. Going forward, we are in an even better place to help upgrade the transformation of the industry, speed up the housing land supply, and take care of the needs of the people of Hong Kong, thus building Hong Kong into a smart city.

ᐅ Building an Airport City to Seize Greater Bay Area Development Opportunities

Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) is a leading international aviation hub. Recently, the Construction Industry Council (CIC) invited Council Member Ir Ricky Leung, Executive Director, Engineering and Technology at the Airport Authority (AA), to share how the AA is enhancing the airport’s competitiveness to drive economic growth in Hong Kong.

Building an Airport City

The Outline Development Plan for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area proposes differential development and positive interaction between Greater Bay Area airports to develop a world-class airport cluster. In 2019, the AA announced its strategy to transform HKIA into an Airport City to further consolidate and enhance Hong Kong’s status as an international aviation hub.

The plan aims to transform HKIA ‘from city airport to Airport City’: a new destination and landmark integrating a variety of commercial activities with its function as an air transport centre.

Ricky explained: “Despite the aviation industry being hit by the COVID-19 pandemic over the last three years, the Airport City plan has made significant progress since its announcement in 2019. When it’s completed, the airport will be transformed into a new landmark for Hong Kong and one of the key growth engines for its economy.”

Leveraging on Geographical Advantage

The Airport City vision is to create a synergistic effect by consolidating economic activity at the airport and its neighbourhood. This will be achieved by fully utilising the airport’s unique geographical advantage and the opportunities afforded new infrastructure. The project is in line with the Tomorrow Lantau plan and will enhance Hong Kong’s ability to seize on the vast development prospects of the Greater Bay Area.

Raising Passenger and Cargo Throughput

The Airport City plan includes multiple developments and facilities. After a concentrated effort by the construction industry and others, HKIA’s third runway went into operation last year. The full Three-Runway System is expected to be completed by 2024.

“With the Three-Runway System, it is estimated that HKIA will be able to handle 120 million passengers and 10 million tonnes of cargo annually,” said Ricky.

Developing Functions for an Airport City

SKYCITY, adjacent to the airport terminal and the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, is a prominent part of the Airport City project for enhancing its “functionality”.

“SKYCITY will be a world-class retail, dining and entertainment destination. Together with the expansion of AsiaWorld-Expo (AWE), a number of hotels, the geographical advantage of HKIA and the Bay Area’s ‘one-hour living cycle’ concept, SKYCITY will become a vibrant lifestyle hub drawing Greater Bay Area visitors to travel via HKIA,” said Ricky.

At the centre of SKYCITY is the 3.8 million square-foot 11 SKIES, which will be Hong Kong’s largest retail, dining and entertainment destination. It will offer more than 800 shops plus 570,000 square-feet of experiential entertainment facilities, seamlessly connected by footbridges to AsiaWorld-Expo (AWE) and the new Terminal 2.

Building the Second Phase of AsiaWorld-Expo

In last year’s Policy Address, the government proposed to strengthen Hong Kong’s status as an international trade centre by fostering development of the MICE industry. Accordingly, the AA is now developing the second phase of AWE to increase its event and exhibition capacity.

“BIM (Building Information Modelling), CDE (Common Data Environment) and MiMEP have been used throughout the design phase to facilitate construction and future maintenance of the AWE Phase 2 development,” Ricky noted.

Innovative technologies can effectively enhance productivity, and demand for professional services has been rising in line with large infrastructure construction. To meet this need, the CIC has been working closely with the government and educational organisations to provide BIM and MiC training to construction practitioners. The government has also reserved space in the future Northern Metropolis for storage and fabrication of MiC modules. In the long run, Hong Kong will become the MiC hub for the Bay Area.

Improving Airport City Connectivity

The 200-metre Sky Bridge connecting Terminal 1 to the T1 Satellite Concourses was completed and opened last year. It is the world’s longest footbridge inside an airport over a live taxiway, and is high enough for a ‘superjumbo’ A380 to pass underneath.

Now passengers can easily stroll to the T1 Concourse using automated walkways, with no need to catch a shuttle bus.

As Ricky explained, “By widely adopting off-site prefabrication and DfMA (Design for Manufacturing and Assembly) for building Sky Bridge, we minimised disruption to an operating airport environment.”

In alignment with the Greater Bay Area concept, the AA is also progressively enhancing HKIA’s cross-boundary connections with other Bay Area cities. SkyPier Terminal, which will commence operation in Q2, will offer seamless land-air transfer services to travellers.

“With the launch of SkyPier, passengers can do the upstream check-in at the Greater Bay Area, use the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge to come to the SkyPier Terminal in the airport’s restricted area, then proceed to their boarding gates without going through immigration and customs in Hong Kong,” Ricky explained.

Next to the SkyPier Bonded Bridge will be the Airportcity Link, the first autonomous transportation system in Hong Kong, shuttling visitors between SKYCITY and the artificial island at the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge Boundary Crossing Facilities.

To cement Hong Kong’s leading position as a cargo gateway, the AA is building a new airside intermodal cargo pier and HKIA Logistics Park in Dongguan.

Realising an Ambitious Vision

“Airport City will inject new energy into Hong Kong’s economy, enabling it to better integrate and capture Greater Bay Area development opportunities. I appeal to all of you to continue providing support to the development of the HKIA from a city airport to an Airport City,” Ricky stated.

With major infrastructure projects coming one after another and the volume of construction projects increasing, the CIC will continue to promote the wider adoption of innovative technologies in various projects to improve site safety, efficiency and quantity. It will continue to work with the industry to take Hong Kong’s economy to the next level.

ᐅ Innovative Mindsets to Steer Changes

The construction industry not only builds the cities, but is also responsible for creating a sense of livability and happiness for the public. Speaking at the "Hong Kong Housing Society International Conference 2023" in mid-April, Ir Thomas Ho, Chairman of the Construction Industry Council, suggests that in addition to using "Modern Construction Methods" to improve efficiency, practitioners should also change their mindsets by putting the needs of the total asset lifescycles into considerations during the design stage, and to enhance site safety by adhering to the "Four Commitments" in order to achieve a sustainable development as well as a sustainable workforce.

Echoing the theme of "A Vision for the Future: Liveable Communities for Sustainable Living of Multi-Generations”, Ir Ho believes that there’s an urge for the industry to change its existing mindset in order to cater the needs of the public. “We cannot expect new results from old methods, so if the industry wants to meet the needs of the public, we must adopt different construction methods and embrace a different mindset."

MiC to Lessen On-site Manual Works

The essence for housing development is on " Enhancing Speed, Quantity, and Efficiency." Hong Kong on one hand will embark on numerous large-scale construction projects. However, the construction industry on the other hand is also facing labour challenges, the industry has to upgrade in order to keep up with times. The CIC has released the report on “Improving Time, Cost, and Quality Performance of the Hong Kong Construction Industry”, Ir Ho cites the report in stating that if the industry fully utilises Building Information Modeling (BIM), Modular Integrated Construction (MiC), and Multi-trade Integrated MEP(MiMEP), it could save tens of thousands of workers. He further cites the example of the Student Residence at Wong Chuk Hang Site for the University of Hong Kong, which used MiC to significantly reduce on-site construction processes. "The project only needed six workers to complete the building in four to five months. Otherwise, it would have required at least 50 workers to work on formworks, rebar, and concreting on-site. The figures speak for themselves, and this is the path we must take." Currently, there are about 100 projects in Hong Kong that have adopted MiC. Ir Ho believes that though Hong Kong is slightly behind the world in MiC development, we shall soon catch up with the trend once it is matured.

Design for Total Life Asset Lifecycle

Innovation without an innovative mindset is just a rehash. Ir Ho suggests that the industry needs to break away from the current practice of fragmented works, and to fully consider the needs of different parties of the total asset lifecycle. "I have visited many construction sites, such as The Henderson, Jat Min Chuen’s Elderly Home, and the How Ming Street Redevelopment project. The needs of property management, safety, productivity, and sustainability are all taken into account from the design stage.” The Tonkin Street Redevelopment Project was also mentioned for its consideration of worker safety by placing the air conditioning platform on the terrace, reducing the need for scaffolding during maintenance. He also cited "The Henderson" as an example, commending the project for employing IoT and other technologies to assist in management. With a tablet in hand, one can fully understand the building's electricity usage, facility operations, embodied carbon, etc. to improve management quality and efficiency.

Four Commitments to Improve Safety

Talent is the foundation of the construction industry, but the challenge of labour shortages has overshadowed the development of the industry. Ir Ho hopes that the industry can adhere to the ‘Four Commitments’: Design for Safety (DfS), defining stakeholder roles and responsibilities, formulating temporary construction management plans, and applying Smart Site Safety System (SSSS) to improve construction safety. Starting in April, the "Construction Innovation and Technology Fund"(CITF) has increased its funding for SSSS applications. With successful cases on hand, Ir Ho believes that SSSS is proven to improve safety, alongside with the support of the policies and financial incentives, he urges the industry to seize the opportunity to improve safety performance, attract new talent, and achieve a ‘sustainable workforce’. "I hope everyone can change their mindsets. As the leaders of the industry, you can definitely save lives if actions are taken!"

ᐅ  A New Perspective on Construction: Innovative Technologies for Building a Green City

In recent years, Hong Kong real estate developers have been boosting their sustainability by leveraging smart technologies in construction. Recently the Construction Industry Council (CIC) invited Mr Robert CHAN Hong-ki, Executive Director of Sun Hung Kai Properties, to discuss how the private sector uses innovative technologies to support development and realise the vision of a liveable smart city. .

Two Sustainable Construction Projects

In recent years, the CIC has been actively promoting a “Three Zero” strategy comprising “Zero Energy Waste”, “Zero Landfill Waste” and “Zero Accidents”. It has also encouraged the industry to adopt technologies such as Building Information Modelling (BIM), Multi-trade Integrated Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing (MiMEP) and Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA) to enhance construction efficiency and reduce wastage of building materials towards the goal of zero waste. .

With the vigorous promotion of CIC, private developers are also making better use of innovative technologies to improve their projects’ sustainability. Some prominent examples include the KTIL240 commercial development on How Ming Street, Kwun Tong (How Ming Street project), the Wetland Seasons Park, and the Wetland Seasons Bay (Tin Shui Wai Wetland project) residential development.

BIM Reduces Construction Material Waste

As CHAN explained, the How Ming Street project used BIM 3D building simulation software to consolidate information from the whole construction cycle, including design, structural engineering, and electrical and plumbing infrastructure. This application enhanced planning, design and coordination and realised the vertically integrated business model concept. .

“During the whole construction cycle, smart technologies increased construction activity, minimised mistakes and avoided double handling,” said Mr. CHAN. BIM allows facility management to foresee and solve any possible conflicts in the construction plan before work begins, helping to save time and cost while reducing material wastage. .

BIM can be applied along with MiMEP and DfMA to further enhance efficiency and reduce wastage. For example, during the basement excavation planning stage for the How Ming Street project, structural support parts, bolts and nuts, and the staircase were prefabricated using the BIM 3D model, then shipped to the site for assembly. To streamline the work progress, the same process was extended to include the air handling unit room, water pipes and cable containment. .

Before construction began, engineers also used BIM to plan related processes and explain the construction steps to workers to improve site safety. Besides design and construction work, BIM also helps to provide detailed information for facility management and maintenance, including a 3D drawing of pipes in the walls and future operation and maintenance simulations. .

Green Buildings – Co-existence of Development and Conservation

Technology is a key to the development of smart green buildings. As CHAN pointed out, the How Ming Street project uses new building management systems with artificial intelligence (AI) to monitor and regulate air-conditioning, lifts, lighting and indoor air quality, reducing energy consumption by 60%, water consumption by 40%, and increasing ventilation by 30%. The project consequently met the requirements for BEAM Plus, LEED and WELL certification. .

As for the Tin Shui Wai Wetland project, CHAN stated, “We believe that it is a conservation and development coexistence.” .

CHAN further related that the project sites near Wetland Park nature reserve employed a special barrier to minimise their noise impact. To further reduce the site’s environmental impact and increase its cleanliness and safety, pre-cast concrete paving slabs laid on the haulage road reduced traffic dust. The project’s other sustainable features include a stepped elevation design, Z-shaped layout, breezeways, earth toned façade and non-reflective glass, all of which help the buildings blend with the surrounding environment. The result is a residential development that balances nature with smart technology and elevates the image of Tin Shui Wai. .

Integrating New Development with an Old Community

CHAN expressed that real estate development should not only meet the public’s living, working and entertainment needs, but also fulfil the social responsibility of improving surrounding facilities and the environment to enhance liveability and happiness, as advocated by the CIC. “Because we are building a project within a community, we need to connect them to it,” he states. .

CHAN pointed out that in both the How Ming Street and Tin Shui Wai Wetland Seasons project, the team communicated and coordinated closely with government, district councils and local stakeholders in the hope that they could be integrated with and benefit the existing community. “This is collaboration not only for the developer, for the landowner, but for government departments and local stakeholders as well,” he said. .

For example, the How Ming Street project is located in a former industrial area with narrow traffic- and pedestrian-packed roads. Therefore, the project team collaborated with the Transport Department and District Council to widen How Ming Street from a two-lane to a three-lane carriageway, change some streets from one-way to two-way, and build a footbridge connecting Ngau Tau Kok MTR Station to improve pedestrian flow and accessibility. .

An Orchestrated Effort for Sustainable Development

CHAN said that applications of advanced technologies could attract young people to join the industry. For example, the How Ming Street project team included several professionals in their twenties. Chan also believes that sustainable architecture has become a significant development trend that will only become even more important in the future: “I think it is not only the future of property development, but of the industry, practitioners and the community.” .

Ms Winnie HO, Secretary for Housing, urged the industry to act immediately to embrace smart technologies, develop sustainably and build a more liveable city: “I believe that from planning and design, to construction technologies and building materials, everyone here can contribute to building a greener and better Hong Kong. So, as long as the government, private sector and professional institutions work together, we can improve this city and become a model for Asia and even the world.” .

ᐅ Transform to Embrace the Golden Decade Ahead

Over the next decade, the annual construction volume in Hong Kong is expected to increase to $300 billion per year. However, if the industry cannot keep up with the pace of growth in terms of human resources and technological advancements, it may miss out on the opportunities of the "Golden Decade". Speaking at the Hong Kong Construction Conference organised by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), Ir Thomas HO, Chairman of the Construction Industry Council (CIC), reminded the industry to prioritise high-quality development. He also encouraged the industry to learn from and liaise with mainland counterparts, in exchanging experiences and cooperating in search of excellence.

In his speech on "Performance and Prospects - Hong Kong’s Construction Industry," Ir HO pointed out that due to various factors, Hong Kong's development has lagged behind over the past 20 years. Despite the fact that the development plan over the next decade is poised to catch up by increasing land and housing supply, he emphasised that the industry should not only place focus on speed but also on quality, “don’t just look at how fast we can do, but how much wellbeing and how much sustainable development we can bring to the community.”

Forging Collaboration within GBA

Construction is not a one-person job, and teamwork is the key to success. Enjoying the locational advantage, the supply chain in the Greater Bay Area will certainly boost the development of Modular Integrated Construction (MiC) in Hong Kong. After the traveller clearance resumed normal earlier this year, the CIC has organised several exchange tours to the Greater Bay Area, leading delegations of industry practitioners to visit mainland counterparts and different construction projects. Citing the examples of Far East Facade, China State Construction Hailong Technology Company and the indemnificatory housing project in Zhangkeng, Longhua District , Ir HO praised the rapid development of the mainland construction industry. "The MiC indemnificatory housing project in Longhua had five blocks of 28-story buildings built in just 363 days. They completed everything within a year." Ir HO said. He further praised the project for fully adopting digital management, and one is able to monitor the construction site through real-time panels that can even reflect carbon emissions and carbon footprints, which is an unprecedented progress. Ir Ho urged the local construction industry to collaborate with their mainland counterparts, complement each other's strengths, and "let’s combine 2 giants together, make it 4 giants, this is what we should do.”

Digitalisation and sustainable development are the focus of the construction industry. At the end of this year, the CIC will hold the "International Forum and Exhibition on Sustainable Construction", and the "Charter of Sustainable Construction" will also be signed on this occasion. Ir Ho urged industry leaders to actively participate to achieve the goal of "carbon neutrality by 2050." He also mentioned that 60 companies have signed the "Charter on Construction Digitalisation" last year, and he hoped that more companies will participate this year to demonstrate their determination to apply digitalisation.

Four Ways to Tackle Safety Issues

Safety issues are a top priority in the construction industry. Ir Ho emphasised that if the industry cannot make progress in safety issues, all efforts will be in vain. Over the past 20 years, the number of construction-related deaths has remained in the double digits annually. Ir Ho called for actions from the industry to be more proactive in adopting Design for Safety (DfS), defining stakeholders' roles and responsibilities, formulating temporary engineering management plans, and applying Safety Smart Site Systems (SSSS).

Talent recruitment is another focal point of the industry. Ir Ho stressed that the key to attracting fresh blood is to build a positive image of the construction industry among the public. The CIC has launched the "Design for Future Build for Life" campaign to promote the industry through television programs and other channels. "The young people want to be seen to be important and we have to let their families feel proud,” he said. In addition, Ir Ho believed that the industry should provide a clear career path to practitioners “newcomers, semi-skilled and skilled workers should be offered the ladder of progression. This will help them to have a vision of the promotion path, and some of them can also attend degree courses as well. This is what the CIC and the Development Bureau are doing, but we also need everyone in the industry to work together towards this goal."

ᐅ Leveraging Innovative Technology for Improved Efficiency Concerted Efforts Opens New Horizon

The Construction Industry Council (CIC) has been encouraging the industry to enhance productivity and site safety by applying new technologies such as Building Information Modelling (BIM), the Internet of Things (IoT) and Modular Integrated Construction (MiC), and to this end has provided master classes on relevant subjects to nurture industry executives. Recently, the CIC invited Donal CHOI, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of ChinaChem Group, to share his views on how technologies such as MiC can improve construction efficiency and benefit society as a whole.

Challenges and Opportunities Faced by the Construction Industry

With multiple large-scale infrastructure projects in the pipeline for the coming decade, Hong Kong’s construction industry is set for a new golden era – one that will bring its own set of challenges.

CHOI remarked, “New infrastructure projects and developments will boost construction volume to HK$30 billion annually for the next decade. However, this expansion comes with multiple challenges for the industry.” First among them is the ageing workforce, exacerbated by the fact that young people do not understand the industry and hence are not interested in joining, which further affects productivity and efficiency. Moreover, number of construction occupational accidents reaches double digits annually. This underlines the necessity of facing up to construction site safety problems in order to attract more new blood to the industry.

The industry is also looking to eliminate the impact of environmental pollution caused by construction processes. According to a survey, building activities account for around 70% of the total carbon emissions in Hong Kong. The waste and noise created by construction processes also affect lives in nearby communities and the natural environment. With the expansion of construction volume, the industry is also facing the issue of quality control, such as craftsmanship defects caused by workers. The industry must ensure construction quality and quantity to meet market requirements and set standards.

In recent years, construction processes have also been disrupted by climate change, driving up the costs. Effective monitoring of project progress and expenditure has thus become an important issue.

Innovative Technologies Pave A New Way

On many of these foreseeable challenges, CIC has already worked closely with the industry to promote new technologies and embrace future opportunities. “Some of these technologies could potentially lessen or even eliminate the difficulties we are facing,” said CHOI.

Primarily, in the age of e-economy, digitalisation has become vitally important for all industries. The construction industry has gradually realised the power of digital transformation with the application of new technologies such as the Common Data Environment (CDE). As for BIM, in the long run, it will not only benefit the construction industry, but also help property owners and management companies to improve operating efficiency and reduce day-to-day operational and maintenance costs.

Furthermore, by leveraging digital tools such BIM and CDE, the industry can apply to government departments for project approvals more conveniently and ensure that applications meet specified criteria, thereby reducing approval time and costs.

The Internet of Things and Blockchain can help the industry to collect real-time data and information on relevant projects, reducing time and manpower spent on such repetitive processes while improving data safety and reliability. In fact, BIM can also be applied to other construction cycle processes such as e-tendering. In the future, BIM could even enhance the efficiency and reduce the cost of sourcing by helping the industry source materials, facilities and services globally. Currently, e-submission and automation are not used extensively in the industry. If the industry can make better use of these technologies, work efficiency, quality, quantity and accuracy can be further improved.

The industry is already using new technology to reduce carbon emissions at the construction stage. For example, some companies have cut carbon emissions by using battery energy storage systems for emergency power generation, as well as big data to enhance real-time monitoring and analysis.

The Many Advantages of MiC

MiC is bringing multiple benefits to the construction industry. Since MiC moves part of the construction process to factories, reduces construction processes on-site. On-site work can be done at the same time while modules are prefabricated in factories allowing construction time 30% faster than traditional methods. Also, on-site demand for labour can be reduced by 70%, on-site noise can be reduced by up to 75%, and construction waste and pollutants can be reduced by around 68%.

MiC enables construction components to be prefabricated and assembled remotely, in a factory with a controlled environment safe from the effects of weather. This alone improves construction site safety and lowers costs.

Affected by various factors including production quantity, the cost of MiC construction could be higher than traditional methods, but in the long run, it can potentially reduce on-site construction time and cost while improving quality. ChinaChem is working with Urban Renewal Authority on the Tokin Street re-development project at Cheungshawan – the first private sector project to adopt MiC. ChinaChem will also utilise MiC for another project at Tung Chung comprising five 46-storey towers with a total of 2,000 residential units.

However, CHOI expressed that some challenges still remain for MiC in Hong Kong. If the government provided policy support to diminish the construction cost of using MiC – such as by increasing the gross floor area exemption and height limits – there could be a greater industry incentive to adopt the technology.

The government has accepted the CIC’s and industry’s suggestion to study the feasibility of reserving land in the Northern Metropolis for MiC modular production and storage, and to promote cooperation within the Greater Bay Area to improve the MiC supply chain. “MiC is an option to improve our housing quality, protect our environment and ensure that we have a competitive city and a high quality of life. However, in the end, innovative technologies can only handle part of the challenges,” CHOI stressed. “Apart from using those technologies on construction processes, a change of mindset is also required to move us forward and make Hong Kong a more liveable city.”

Supporting the Industry to Seize Opportunities

The CIC will continue to promote the industry’s implementation and extensive use of innovative technologies. For instance, the CIC will continue to provide training to on-site workers and management staff to improve their understanding of the operational and management processes of new technologies such as MiC. By helping workers to develop, the industry will be better able to embrace the opportunities created by new tech.

At the same time, CIC will also work with partners in the Greater Bay Area on the application of new technologies and MiC to open up these new opportunities.

As Thomas HO, Chairman of CIC, emphasised: “Construction is an art of collaboration and connection; we cannot build alone, but we do it together with our partners.”

ᐅ Ushering in a New Era of Artificial Intelligence to Enhance the Efficiency of Hong Kong’s Construction Industry

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is advancing at an incredible pace, with ChatGPT in particular creating a global buzz in recent months. The Construction Industry Council (CIC) has encouraged the local industry to widely apply innovative technologies -- including AI – in building projects to enhance efficiency, quality and quantity.

Recently, Professor Ma Yi, a world-class scholar in computer vision, Director and Chair Professor of HKU Musketeers Foundation Institute of Data Science, and Professor of University of California, Berkeley Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department, was invited to a CIC See What I See seminar to share his expertise on AI and its potential for the construction industry.

Promoting the Industry with AI

Professor Ma began his talk with a brief overview of AI research over the past 80 years, giving the industry audience a clear understanding of the concept.

He pointed out that AI’s greatest benefit is to automate labour-intensive work, allowing workers to focus on higher value missions to improve productivity. In this respect, AI and other automation technologies could alleviate the labour shortage problem and benefit traditional industries such as construction.  

Said Ma: “In recent years, the construction industry around the world has faced the problem of a shrinking and ageing workforce. In mainland China, the construction labour force has been decreasing every year, which has pushed up costs. So, the introduction of AI and automation is imperative. Hong Kong cannot miss the opportunity to adopt AI in its construction industry.”

Understanding AI Accurately

At the same time, automation cannot fulfil every function in the industry. In the construction industry, said the Professor, AI and automation cannot currently replace human craftsmanship or creativity. Similarly, it is too early to say whether widespread concerns that AI might replace human workers altogether will prove to be true. As he pointed out, many concerns stem from fundamental misunderstandings of the term ‘AI’. While the technology seemed to be developing at an awesome pace in the past decade, it was in fact still lingering at the stage of forming mechanical perception, recognition and memory functions. Memory is not a kind of intelligence. When a machine has no creativity, no ability to predict future conditions or to generate objects, it cannot be said to possess a superior wisdom.

According to Professor Ma, AI is currently ‘passive’, without the ability to think independently, nor consciously learn from the outside world. Basically, it is a machine that still requires human direction and control. It is very premature to worry about AI attaining consciousness and ruling the world.

Master Class Participants Share their Knowledge

The Master Class series organised by CIC has proven popular among construction industry experts. Graduates of Master Class on AI joined a panel discussion in the event to share their learning experiences.

Henry Wong, Chief Construction Manager – Civil, MTR Corporation, pointed out how his company has been adopting technologies such as AI and digitalisation to a variety of service areas. The relevant strategy includes three pillars: firstly, to develop Building Information Modelling (BIM) and the Common Data Environment (CDE) so that construction projects may be digitalised; secondly, to digitalise project management so as to control progress and expenditure; and thirdly, to enhance site safety and control quality and quantity through AI and digitalisation.

SY Liu, Manager of Digital Solutions, Asia, from Atkins, pointed out how AI could be adapted by the construction industry. He believed that automating the process will help regulate production according to the needs of the project, and will allow for more accurate predictions of project performance and operating costs. Leveraging AI could also eliminate human error and handle large amounts of data.

Joanne Kiu, Senior Land Surveyor/Spatial Data Infrastructure from the Development Bureau, shared information of the Common Spatial Data Infrastructure platform set up by the HKSAR Government to develop Hong Kong into a ‘smart city’. The platform aims to facilitate the effective exchange of high-quality, up-to-date spatial information and services among government organisations, enterprises/professionals, scholars and the community. Users are able to view, share and use the spatial data from different government bureaux/departments and public organisations.

 “CIC is leading the way in promoting AI. When we were working on the group projects, we adopted AI in construction by using a large amount of 3D environment data for AI in design, especially in design optimisation“, said Kiu.

Encouraging Industry to Embrace the New Generation of Intelligence

Rather than eroding the construction industry, AI strengthens its ability to analyse data, monitor site safety and instantly spot unusual working patterns, all of which helps to improve efficiency.

The CIC will continue to promote AI and encourage the industry to adopt innovative technologies for a wide variety of work. At the same time, the CIC will communicate with partners across the Greater Bay Area on the application of AI and other innovative technologies such as digitalisation, and to learn from each other and jointly improve the industry.  

Ir Thomas Ho, Chairman of the CIC, concluded: “There’s much more AI can do in construction, including cost prediction, design optimisation, project planning and more. AI has become a major trend in all walks of life, and the construction industry is no exception. CIC will encourage the industry to use these technologies widely and is committed to training practitioners and giving them up-to-date skills to embrace this new era of AI and help to drive Hong Kong’s development as a smart city.”

ᐅ 2023.12.11  Innovation: The key for the world to tackle climate change

Climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing humanity, and it is imperative that we find ways to adapt to the changing environment. With the aim to foster discussion and new ideas among the industry, Construction Industry Council recently invited Professor David Gann, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Development and External Affairs) from University of Oxford and the Chair of the UK Atomic Energy Authority to discuss the role of innovation in helping our built environment adapt to the climate crisis.

Pressing Need for Innovation


Our world is now in an era of both crises and opportunities. At the beginning of the sharing, Prof Gann first highlighted the construction industry's resource-hungry nature and the urgency to reduce carbon emissions and invest in renewable energy sources. “In the last 20 years, we have burnt 50% more fossil fuels globally. To achieve net zero in 2050, we will have to displace 11,000 mega tonnes of carbon emissions with renewable energy, which is equivalent to building the largest offshore wind farm – or a major nuclear power plant - every day for the next 30 years. And that would require an investment of 10 billion pounds every day till 2050.” Prof Gann said. And this results in a pressing need for innovation in the construction industry, particularly in the areas of sustainability and digital modelling. He stressed that the industry must take a more proactive approach to sustainability.

To achieve this, Prof Gann suggested that the industry should embrace new technologies and processes, particularly in the areas of AI and digital tools. He cited ITER, the world’s largest fusion plant project as an example. A new design, a robotic handling system which helps integrate materials for the fusion machines are in place for the project. In the last few years, a lot of start-ups have been deploying novel tools and techniques such as virtual design tools in the project. NVIDIA, world’s best chip manufacturer for AI is now working closely with Oxford University & Atomic Energy Authority to develop a new design environment so that they can work concurrently on complex design options for STEP - the UK’s first-of-a-kind fusion powerplant to be built at West Burton, Nottinghamshire, UK.

Although new technologies and tools are now available for us to integrate around cost, time and quality, Prof Gann emphasized the importance of attracting and developing talented individuals who can leverage these tools to drive innovation and integrate sustainable. solutions in the industry. That will require a cultural change in the industry where leadership is responsible in setting the tone of working together. He observed that Hong Kong is now on the right path with the successful introduction and adoption of Modular Integrated Construction (MiC) and Building Information Modelling (BIM) in the industry. With these digital tools, the construction industry can reduce reliance on labour, particularly on larger sites while reducing cost and improving quality of work.

Adaptable built environment

According to Prof Gann, we need to think creatively about how we can maximize the potential of today's designs to create more adaptable and sustainable structures. He emphasized the importance of an integrated design environment, such as a digital twin, that allows for a comprehensive view of all parameters at once. The construction industry, a significant contributor to carbon emissions, needs to play a big part in reducing its carbon footprint. He suggested that value engineering be used to identify the most adaptable, long-term, and high-quality materials – rather than simply reduce initial capital costs. He also stressed the need for a clever configuration of design to maximize the potential of today's structures.

Beyond innovation

Policy innovation is as important as innovation itself. To foster innovation, the industry has to work closely with the authority and regulators. Prof Gann used Oxford University’s vaccine development project as an example that they succeeded in shortening the development time during COVID – from 12 years to 1 year - with the support of regulators. It’s important for the world to create international standards and regulations that stimulate innovation and drive investment to the right places.

 

On the other hand, Prof Gann agreed that innovation can play a big role in improving the safety of construction projects when there is more collaboration and engagement with workers on the ground. He stressed that it is important to involve people in the process of developing and deploying new technologies.

 

Sustainable energy

In the sharing Prof Gann also discussed the potential of fusion energy, which he believes will become commercially viable by 2050. However, he cautioned that we cannot rely solely on that to solve the climate crisis. We need to find solutions that are commercially viable and that can be implemented quickly, such as wind farms, nuclear power, and carbon capture. Concerning the built environment, we need to find ways to reduce energy consumption in energy-hungry buildings such as hospitals, construction plants, and equipment.

 

Finally, Prof Gann noted that the young people coming into the industry will face many challenges that require them to innovate. He is happy to learn about the exciting time for the construction industry in the next ten years, particularly with the aggressive railway projects in Hong Kong. But he thinks that Hong Kong is also facing a similar situation with the UK in terms of labour shortage.

 

In conclusion, Prof Gann shared a lot of his experience on sustainability as well as the situation in the UK with the participating members. He emphasized the importance of innovation – particularly generative AI - in helping our built environment adapt to the climate crisis. And he believes that technology will never plateau, that we should all keep working on innovative ideas and technologies to solve the crisis together.

ᐅ 2024.01.04  Accelerating the Building of Hong Kong’s ‘Mega Future’

In recent years, the HKSAR Government has increased the supply of land and housing units while promoting infrastructure through studies for the Northern Metropolis development, Lantau Tomorrow and a number of transport and other projects. It is estimated that the Hong Kong construction industry’s construction output will increase year-on-year to HK$300 billion and will develop towards building a liveable city.

The Construction Industry Council (CIC) invited the Honourable Regina IP, Executive Council Convenor and Legislative Council Member, to be the keynote speaker earlier at a CIC-See What I See event. IP shared her opinions on the theme of ‘Hong Kong’s Mega Future’ and the implementation of future large-scale infrastructure projects in Hong Kong.

Land is fundamental for community development and for building a liveable city. Therefore, society expects government to increase the land supply to meet economic and housing development needs.

As IP pointed out, the latest SAR government and the Legislative Council have already stepped up the pace in this regard; in the past year, over HK$100 billion of funding has been allocated for public work projects. In the future, the government will focus on funding infrastructure projects that promote development in Hong Kong.

 

Overcoming Policy Challenges to Speed up Infrastructure Development

In the past, Hong Kong has encountered many policy issues in the implementation of construction projects, which has to a certain extent slowed the city’s development. IP explained that the government recently moved to streamline the development process by drafted and submitting the Development (Town Planning, Lands and Works) (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 2022 to the Legislative Council.

At end of 2022, the Development Bureau proposed amendments to six town planning and land related ordinances. In response to social demand for land and housing, regulations for the six areas were revised in a comprehensive draft approach, deliberately simplifying the current land creation process and compressing development timelines. Such an approach should increase the speed and efficiency of creating land and building housing units.

IP further explained: “If the Bill is passed, it will play a positive role in accelerating land supply. When the suggestions are implemented, it can reduce the time required to turn a plot of ‘primitive land’ into ‘spade-ready site’ from six years to four years for general projects. As for the planning of large-scale projects such as New Development Areas – previously called ‘New Towns’ – timelines will be drastically reduced from about 13 years to seven years, significantly enhancing project development efficiency.”

IP added that the government has proposed to shorten the Town Planning Board’s planning process from three rounds of consultation to one, and the statutory timeline for submission and approval of draft plans from ‘2+9’ to ‘2+5’ months.

 

Currently, reclamation projects in Victoria Harbour are subject to the Protection of the Harbour Ordinance. The government has suggested to the Legislative Council that small harbour improvements which do not exceed 0.8 hectares or non-permanent reclamation works such as landing steps and pier improvements could be exempted by director-level government officials without needing legislative procedure.

In another proposal, reclamation plans could be gazetted and objections handled before completing an Outline Zoning Plan, allowing plans to advance by at least nine months.

IP further believes that the ordinance amendments could offer more protection to those affected by town planning and land resumption.

 

Northern Metropolis – A New Engine to Drive Hong Kong Ahead

IP also focused on future planning for the Northern Metropolis. Set to be the basis of Hong Kong’s future strategic development, the Metropolis includes 300 square miles of land in Yuen Long and Northern District. It is estimated, when developed, the Northern Metropolis could accommodate about 2.5 million residents, providing about 930,000 housing units and 650,000 work positions.

To improve the Northern Metropolis’s connections with other districts – and especially the Central business district – the government is implementing public consultation on the construction of three strategic railways and three main roads: a Hong Kong-Shenzhen Western Rail Link (connecting Hung Shui Kiu and Qianhai), a Central Rail Link, a Tseng Kwan O Line Southern Extension, the Northern Metropolis Highway, Shatin Bypass and a Tseng Kwan O-Yau Tong Tunnel. Among these, the Hong Kong-Shenzhen Western Rail Link will fully utilise the frontier advantages of the Northern Metropolis and help promote the integration of Hong Kong with the Greater Bay Area.

One development priority of the Northern Metropolis is to build the Sun Tin Technopole at the Lok Ma Chau Loop, which is expected to become an innovation and technology hub in Hong Kong and create more than 100,000 jobs.

The Sun Tin Technopole is comprised of an innovation and technology park and Sun Tin city centre, where about 50,000 housing units will be built to accommodate a population of 150,000. It is expected to be occupied in 2031 the earliest. The area of the innovation and technology park is equivalent to 17 Hong Kong Science Parks.

IP believes that development of the Northern Metropolis is of great strategic importance. Traditionally, Hong Kong has faced development difficulties due to land boundaries. The Northern Metropolis breaks that predicament, which will help Hong Kong integrate with the Greater Bay Area. Hong Kong people may even work or retire within the Greater Bay Area to improve their quality of life. IP expressed hope that the public and private sectors will work together to develop the Northern Metropolis, tap the potential of Hong Kong’s land and accelerate the pace of development.

 

Strengthening Bay Area Collaboration to Ensure Future Development

With an increase in infrastructure projects on the horizon, the construction industry requires an increase in manpower. According to the Manpower Forecast for Hong Kong Construction Industry released by the CIC in early 2023, there will be greater demand for construction labour. It is estimated that by 2027, there will be more than 50,000 vacancies in Hong Kong’s construction industry, of which 40,000 will be for skilled workers. 

The shortfall in manpower has directly affected infrastructure projects and threatens to hinder Hong Kong’s economic recovery, development and livelihoods. Therefore, the government recently announced a maximum quota of 20,000 foreign workers to ease the labour shortage in both the construction and transportation industries.

Ir Thomas Ho, Chairman of the CIC, remarked that “… the industry is now in urgent need of hands. We cannot let the labour shortage pull us away from our mega future. For the sake of construction development and the hope of bringing liveability to our people, the CIC will continue its serious efforts to explore closer collaboration between regions.”

Looking forward, the CIC will work closely with the industry to support the government’s policies, create a better living environment and promote sustainable economic and social development in Hong Kong by enhancing construction productivity. 

ᐅ 2024.01.24  Safety Is All About Your Attitude

Safety is the cornerstone of the construction industry. Ir Thomas Ho, Chairman of the Construction Industry Council (CIC), spoke at the “CIC-See What I See Luncheon”, “HKCA/HKICM Joint Conference 2024" and the “Lighthouse Club International Construction Conference” to share his thoughts on the future development of the construction industry. Over the past year, safety performance of the construction industry has drawn attention from the community. Ir Ho stressed that the industry must accord high priority in maintaining construction safety, and urged our practitioners to learn from the painful lessons. 

Correct the Malpractices

Despite the achievements made in technological applications, digitalisation and sustainable construction in year 2023, industrial accidents happened during the course, casting a shadow over the industry. After reviewing the accidents that happened last year, Ir Ho shared his five observations on the practices of the industry, and urged the industry to correct the mistakes.

  • On-going dynamic risk assessments is imperative. As site conditions are constantly changing, dynamic risk assessment should be carried out continuously to allow workers to identify risks quickly, and to take action to eliminate them as soon as possible. 
  • Industry members should pay extra attention to working at height to ensure proper safety measures are in place.
  • Supervisors and safety officers must be diligent in conducting inspections and oversight to minimise the occurrence of accidents.
  • Fatal zones with access restriction are vital. With increasing lifting operations, lifting route and fatal zones must be properly planned and set up to alert workers and to reduce risks.
  • Site management are recommended to use “C-Helmet” to identify older workers of age 60 and above, and to give extra care by assigning personnel for supervision and support

Establishing a Safety Culture

Ir Ho believes that the pain point in construction safety is the result of lack of "safety culture". Therefore, measures such as holding morning assemblies are necessary to change the mindset of workers and improve construction safety in the long run.

Ir Ho emphasised the importance of starting the day with proper preparation. Inspired by the practices in Japan, Hong Kong Institute of Construction has implemented the practice of holding daily morning assemblies whereby workers will practice the use of safety harnesses to build up muscle memory through repetitive actions. Additionally, safety officers will then lead workers in groups to conduct dynamic risk assessment. The CIC has compiled reference materials for morning assembly and the industry is encouraged to adopt these practices to reduce the likelihood of accidents. A number of construction companies including Chevalier, Gammon, Hip Hing and Unistress have implemented safety morning assembly routine to let frontline workers build up a safety habit.

Maintaining construction site safety is a collective responsibility, and it requires collaboration at all levels. Site management should conduct regular site visits to understand the frontline conditions and lead by example, emphasizing safety from the top down and establishing a role model..

The CIC has designated 2024 as the "Year of Safety" and is urging the industry to prioritise the well-being of workers. Ir HO stressed that without proper safety measures, all efforts and plans would be in vain. It is in his hope that the construction industry will make significant progress towards safety goals in the coming year.

ᐅ 2024.02.01  Total Digital Transformation for a Better Future

The advent of new technologies help transform our way of work across all sectors, and the construction industry is no exception. The Construction Industry Council has recently invited Dr. Will CAVENDISH, Global Digital Services Leader of Arup to share on how these emerging technologies can help the construction sector evolve, and shared how professional bodies and industry associations could help shape the path towards digitalisation in the construction sector.

Ir Thomas HO, Chairman of the CIC, started the sharing session by outlining mega projects such as “Tomorrow Lantau,” and the Northern Metropolis, are set to reinvigourate the construction industry. But as Hong Kong’s construction sector enters its “golden era,” the traditional technologies with which the industry has relied on for years will surely be insufficient to compliment the industry’s expansion.

 

Emerging Technologies to Help Shape Our Future

New technologies, such as AI and machine learning, generative designs, smart sensors, digital twins and so much more, are essential in helping the construction industry adapt to a continuously developing society.  These new tools can help in aspects ranging from building designs, asset management, assessing risks, to even combating crises. Dr. CAVENDISH believed that, through properly utilising these new tools, the construction industry will have no trouble meeting the needs of the people in the foreseeable future.

Modern City Requires Modern Design Methods

As sustainability has become one of the priorities of the construction industry, tools like machine learning and generative designs are in prime place to optimise designs for sustainable infrastructure.

From a building designs perspective, builders of today are now needing to conform to an increasing set of requirements, as gross floor area, along with improvements in shading, insulation and building materials are now taken into consideration. Tools like generative designs then, help by providing a series of innovative solutions that takes into account all the design criteria set out by builders.

On a larger scale, Shanghai is a prime example in how these digital tools could help maximize the use of the land, as the builders could then take the city’s natural landscape and the terrain’s “micro-features” into account when designing the city’s drainage system, in order to take advantage of the natural gradients for sewage treatment, which could then help conserve the city’s energy.

As for Hong Kong, a 3D city map for East Kowloon has allowed for future city planning, thanks to the map’s ability to integrate the various assets of such a big metropolitan area into one continuous map. These are but a snippet of examples to show how enormous is the potential of these digital tools, that could bring about a revolutionary change in how builders design cities going forward.

Project Management Revolutionised By New Tools

With these state of the art inventions, the construction industry is about to undergo a holistic transformation in managing assets. Through installing new monitoring equipment such as smart sensors, potential faults and points of failures can be anticipated and addressed ahead of time. Dr. CAVENDISH put Queensland as example, where the road networks are monitored by AI, which aimed to detect any defects on the road surface. Coupled with an intelligent repair system, complaints from road users regarding road defects have been drastically reduced.

 

Digital Insights Key to Realise Sustainability Goals

Sustainability and circularity often goes hand in hand with technological advancements. Dr. CAVENDISH denoted that “going green is about electrifying buildings, and then find ways to generate green energy.” And with sustainability now a major focus, these newly acquired technologies can help achieve these sustainability goals more easily than ever. By installing smart sensors that could detect and measure the actual rate of degradation amongst different structures, and analyzing the acquired data in comparison with the projected figures with machine learning, the longevity of such assets could be extended considerably. Dr. CAVENDISH pointed out that the life expectancy for bridges can be safely extended by 15-20 years based on estimates from the data acquired, which could help drive costs down, and to maximize the use of existing materials, one of the key pillars of sustainability and establishing a circular economy.  

CIC Plays Vital Role in Consolidating Efforts

Dr. CAVENDISH described the construction sector as an “enduring industry,” as the industry as a whole now undergoes a transformation, and is experiencing a fundamental change in how the industry operates. Only through working with the government, can such holistic transformations in the way the industry operates be implemented. And the CIC will be pivotal in connecting the industry and speak as one voice with the government, in order to emphasise the needs and demands of the industry, and push for breakthroughs where needed.

Looking ahead to the future, Dr. CAVENDISH denoted that it would take substantial commitment and collaboration for these opportunities to bear fruit. However, with the help of entities like the CIC, the foundations with which success in digitization will build on could be set in stone. And hopefully, the industry could reap significant and fruitful rewards, whilst satisfying the people’s needs.

Last Updated: 2024-02-16 09:42:44