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How education can change people’s attitudes about waste disposal

04 November, 2014

Edwin Lau

The Council for Sustainable Development is heading in the right direction with plans to charge according to the amount of waste each household disposes of. This will be the best incentive to drive down waste generation. However, the council and the Environment Bureau seem to worry about whether people will act properly and not dump their waste in public areas when legislation is in place.

They seem to have forgotten how effective a tool education can be – more effective than policing – in changing attitudes about social and environmental issues. Some think education takes a long time to achieve results. It really depends on the approach. Government propaganda on TV won’t work; constant public engagement and provision of convenient recycling facilities will.

Two recent success stories show how Hong Kong people can change their attitudes about the environment once they have a better understanding of the problems and the eco-friendly options available.

Case one is our four-week trial in a private residential building to educate tenants on what to do in a waste charging simulation exercise. We worked with the group Greener Action to educate tenants and set up systems to separate items for recycling before putting the remaining waste into designated bags every evening and recording their weight. Some 90 per cent of tenants took part; the amount of waste for disposal was cut by up to 30 per cent.

The second success is our food waste recycling trial in public housing. To get tenants to reduce waste seems mission impossible in the minds of senior government officials, who believe only regulations can make tenants act.

We approached the estate management to inform them of our waste crisis, and took them to visit – and smell – our landfills and food waste recycling plants, and encouraged interaction with our trained staff and volunteers to motivate them to act.

Senior officials found it amazing that, after our education processes, housewives, the elderly and young parents alike put their food waste into a small bucket, and brought it downstairs every evening to pour into a special bin for a food waste recycler to take away. In a year, around 250 tonnes were collected from over 940 households.

In Taipei city, the government organised more than 300 meetings to educate and motivate citizens to turn a once-unwelcome policy into a habit for most citizens. Such habits have helped bring down the waste disposal amount by 60 per cent since the introduction of waste charging in 2000.

Recently, an international insurance company asked whether other plastic items, besides bottles, could be put in recycling bins for plastic. The public may generally be more environmentally aware these days, but many still do not fully understand the simple steps to go green. Education can help.

Of course, we need the government to establish the green “hardware” to treat our waste to extend the life of our landfills. But what we badly need is waste charging legislation coupled with public education. That will motivate everyone to cut waste, reuse and recycle in order to pay as little as possible. Education does not require spending billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money.

The Council for Sustainable Development is due to submit its recommendations to the Environment Bureau soon, and it proposes to allow certain types of buildings to begin with a less effective scheme (charging based on the amount of waste per building) if they cannot immediately adopt the mode of waste charging per tenant. There may be a need for such arrangements but, within a year or two, the whole city should have adopted the best method to cut our waste as much as possible to tackle this crisis.

Lamma islanders warned over pile of waste they cleared from beach

02 November, 2014

Lana Lam

Far from the heart of Occupy Central, one woman is battling the government bureaucracy over accusations of a different kind of illegal occupation.

Long-time Lamma Island resident Jo Wilson, 45, has drawn the battle lines over the Yung Shue Wan waterfront rather than roads and government buildings.

Fed up with seeing piles of litter strewn along the coastline, the mother of two started a 42-day clean-up project, picking up all manner of rubbish that had washed on to the shore, with the help of dozens of volunteers.

Every morning since September 21, Wilson has gone to the beach, laboriously sieving sand to separate bits of glass, plastic and polystyrene as well as collecting construction waste.

Yesterday was the 42nd and final day – the figure is a nod to the number of kilometres that marathon runners cover during a race.

But little did she suspect that her sustained efforts – along with those of parents and children who have given up their time – would be rewarded with a warning from the Lands Department.

Two weeks ago, she was startled to find a letter from the department on top of a large pile of rubbish that volunteers had collected and placed in a corner.

The letter stated that the debris had to be moved as it was an “illegal occupation” of the land.

“Does that mean we are all liable to prosecution for cleaning up?” Wilson said.

She contacted several government departments and was met by a wall of bureaucracy, with reasons including that the area was not gazetted as a beach and interdepartmental confusion over responsibility for the rubbish.

Eventually, she found Food and Environmental Hygiene Department staff to help collect the rubbish.

A spokeswoman for the Lands Department said it knew about the clean-up but received complaints about the waste pile. Issuing the notice was routine procedure, she added.

Wilson said it was not the first time she had come up against officialdom.

About five years ago, she helped form local advocacy group Living Lamma. They wrote dozens of reports on environmental problems on Lamma and submitted them to the relevant Legislative Council bodies, but the group’s efforts were futile.

“We wrote reports; it didn’t work. We cleaned up beaches; it didn’t work,” she said.

So she decided to take matters into her own hands.

“We’ve occupied the beach with love and peace,” she said, in a nod to the official name of the Occupy Central movement.

“It will continue and I will continue. We’ve got to have a new normal, but what we need is participation.”

On Friday, a group of children from the Banyan House preschool joined Wilson to clean up the area. Maeve Cheng accompanied her three-year-old son Tak to pick up rubbish as well as good practices: “If you learn from an early age that you should recycle, it becomes a habit.”

Children around globe worry about education, environment: poll

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Education, food and the environment are top concerns for children around the globe, and particularly for youngsters growing up in developing countries, according to an international poll released on Tuesday.

Half of children, aged 10 to 12, in emerging nations who were questioned in the Small Voices, Big Dreams survey cited education, followed by food, clothing and shelter as the areas they would focus on as leader of their nation to improve children’s lives.

“We’re always surprised and inspired to see how much emphasis children in developing countries put on education,” said Steven Stirling, executive vice president of ChildFund International, a children’s advocacy non-profit formerly known as the Christian Children’s Fund.

“It shows the depth of maturity of children, who clearly understand the connection between education and changing their worlds for the better,” he added in an interview.

Providing food, clothing and shelter was the top response given by children from developed nations, and the environment and was a concern for everyone.

The findings are based on online interviews with 6,204 children from 47 nations in Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe. The children were also asked about their aspirations, experiences with disasters and environmental concerns and priorities.

Although one third or more of children in developing countries had experienced natural disasters such as floods, drought or fires, pollution was a bigger worry for them.

Children in poorer nations worried about global warming but youngsters in rich countries did not list it as a concern.

Sterling suggested that global warming might be less of a worry in richer nations because children in developing countries are experiencing more natural disasters that have a greater, negative impact.

“Their ideas for environmental solutions were encouraging: across the world, nearly half of children said they’d either plant more trees, build additional green spaces or decrease littering to help improve the planet,” he said.

“Complex social problems affecting children are better addressed if children are part of the solution,” he added.

Children from developing nations also differed sharply with those from developed nations when it came to career aspirations.

More than half of children in developing countries said they wanted to be a teacher or healthcare professional, while those in developed countries, whom Stirling noted often had the luxury of choosing a career, wanted to be a professional athlete.

But when asked, “What are you most afraid of?” the worldwide response was the same — animals.

The full results of the survey can be found at

(Reporting by Chris Michaud; editing by Patricia Reaney)

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Climate Change In Hong Kong And The Role Of The Private Sector by Richard Welford – 17 Dec 2008

Greenhouse gases emitted in the last century is still present in today’s atmosphere and is unlikely to be reabsorbed into oceans and forests until the middle of the 21st century. Yet we continue to add carbon dioxide to our environment at an increasing and alarming rate. Even if all emissions stopped today, carbon dioxide levels could take 50 to 150 years to reduce, during which time we will continue to experience the impacts of climate change. Since emissions are set to increase for some time yet we are clearly going to see accelerations in climate change trends requiring ongoing mitigation and adaptation measures.

If greenhouse gases (GHGs) are not drastically reduced, then the world faces a significant temperature change and potentially irreversible damage to the planet’s ability to buffer extreme changes in our climate. Tackling climate change therefore requires mitigation measures that limit the magnitude of further climate change and avoid catastrophic consequences by reducing GHG emissions. In response to this CSR Asia and the University of Hong Kong have recently published a report on climate change adaptation in Hong Kong. This article concentrates on the private sector’s role in that adaptation.

Climate change is inevitable and therefore there is a need to examine adaptation measures that can manage the challenges presented by changes in the climate that we will experience in Hong Kong. Such measures include an important role for the private sector.

Climate change will mean that Hong Kong will experience a warmer climate, at times with significantly more rainfall but will also face the risk of seasonal water shortages. Hong Kong will also experience a significant increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, such as heat waves, tidal surges, typhoons and very heavy rainfall. Sea levels will continue to rise for decades. The impacts of these changes on Hong Kong will be increased risks of flooding, droughts and dangerously hot weather. There will also be secondary and indirect impacts, including an increased risk of infrastructure damage, ground instability and landslides, and further increases in dangerously poor air quality periods. This will all impact on human health and quality of life and pose significant risks for the economy of Hong Kong.

It is important that Hong Kong begins to recognize the risks of climate change and puts into place both mitigation and adaptation measures now. Early anticipatory adaptation will be more effective and less costly than retrospective, emergency action. Although the scale of climate change risk is uncertain, it is increasingly clear that like many of the world’s leading cities, Hong Kong faces huge changes as a result of climate change and that adaptation measures must become a strategic priority.

In Hong Kong adaptation will be needed to deal with the following issues:

  • Extreme weather events including heavy rainfall, high temperatures, sea-level rises, tidal surges and super-typhoons.
  • Flooding, overstrained drainage systems and groundwater pollution leading to possible disease, damage to property, soil degradation and personal injury.
  • Decreasing water availability and periods of drought, increased water evaporation.
  • Heat waves and dangerously hot days with the potential to cause death, severe health problems and economic losses through damage to infrastructure.
  • Health impacts and rising social inequities with the poorer suffering more health problems associated with heat exhaustion, respiratory problems and pollution effects.
  • Threatened ecosystem services through impacts on wetland areas and other crucial ecosystems which affect species distribution, spawning, flowering, water retention and replenishment.

Hong Kong is particularly vulnerable to climate change because of the agglomeration of people and assets in a small area. Hong Kong is also highly dependent on importing food, water, energy and products for the territory to thrive. All these facets of life in Hong Kong will be impacted by climate change and there is therefore a need for Hong Kong to become more resilient to the full impacts of climate change over coming decades. Unless it builds this resilience it will easily lose its competitive advantage as both people and businesses move to alternative destinations.

Hong Kong’s position as a world city could easily be undermined unless it not only tackles climate change but also takes on a leadership role, providing the skills that the world needs to cope with a changing climate. There is a role for all sectors of society including the government, NGO community and the private sector in ensuring that the economic prosperity of Hong Kong is protected therefore.

Hong Kong’s ability to remain as a world city will be in part a function of how it prepares for and adapts to climate change. It needs to be able to continue to provide a base for internationally competitive firms in the finance and business sectors as well as attract new investment. To do this, it will need to be able to train, attract and retain high quality human resources. In achieving this, Hong Kong will have to be able to invest in developing the quality of life it offers to its residents and current and future workforces.

Hong Kong is ranked the seventh most vulnerable megacity on a natural hazards risk register for the world’s 50 megacities. Most risks are weather related and include tropical storms, flooding and sea level rises. Only Tokyo, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Osaka, Miami and New York rank above Hong Kong in terms of risks and in many cases this is because they have a high risk of earthquakes.

In the context of the many facets of climate change identified above, Hong Kong will need to ensure that it is seen as a safe and secure place to do business. It will have to identify its main risks associated with climate change and to begin to work on them now. It should take its world city status seriously and demonstrate leadership in mitigating and adapting to climate change.

One of the most important business sectors in Hong Kong is the financial services sector. This sector is hugely exposed to climate change because of its links to assets that are put at risk by climate change. One problem is that the impacts of climate change are beyond the time horizons upon which many of these businesses base their decisions. Yet, taking action now will reduce risks later. This is something that many companies currently fail to grasp adequately.

Of course, different segments of the financial services sector will experience differing risks and opportunities. Assets vulnerable to climate change risk losing value and fund managers may be held accountable for not considering climate change impacts sooner. The insurance sector has a clear role to play in climate change risk management. Weather-related insurance claims have risen steadily over the past decade and are set to continue to do so. Many more assets are going to become uninsurable, however.

Both life insurance business and general insurance business are exposed to climate change risks through the people and assets that they insure and the portfolio of assets they own to pay for insurance claims. General insurers face two key risks. Firstly, an increase in the number of claims being made due to changes in the frequency, intensity and location of extreme weather events. Secondly, a potential devaluation of the capital assets they own to pay out on claims. Both put significant pressure on the sector meaning that insurers may decide not to provide cover for certain risks, may decide on the need to raise premiums which some people may not be able to afford, may raise excesses on certain risks, leaving some people still vulnerable and require those seeking insurance to take steps to reduce the risk of making a claim through mitigatory actions.

Apart from finance, Hong Kong is a large logistics hub with international trade the bedrock of many of its activities. Climate change will significantly impact on this sector both directly and indirectly as supply chains become more vulnerable.

Hong Kong’s skyline might be part of its world city status but it also poses a risk as freak weather incidents, sea levels rises and flooding begin to impact real estate. There are therefore huge implications for building design, construction, maintenance and facilities management. However, many of the buildings most at risk from climate change are old, poorly managed and home to some of the most disadvantaged groups.

Businesses will also be impacted by many of the human dimensions associated with climate change. If Hong Kong fails to address the impacts of climate change it can rapidly become an unattractive place to live and work impacting on the quality of the workforce available to employers. But climate change may also be associated with changing lifestyles, changing patterns of consumer demand and changing expectations on the part of a wide range of stakeholders on the activities of business in the territory.

If Hong Kong continues to want to be positioned as a world city it will have to demonstrate leadership on climate change issues. Located at the heart of a typhoon zone, Hong Kong could position itself as a leader on climate change adaptation in the region as well. A new partnership between government, civil society and business will be needed if Hong Kong is not to lose its global position and competitiveness to other locations less at risk from climate change.

The business community, in particular, needs to respond to both climate change risks and possible business opportunities by undertaking climate risks assessments, carbon foot-printing, developing climate change strategies and preparing a business continuity plan.

It is urgent that Hong Kong recognizes the risks of climate change and puts into place both mitigation and adaptation measures now. Early anticipatory adaptation will be more effective and less costly than retrospective, emergency action. Although the exact ramifications of climate change risk remain uncertain for Hong Kong, it is increasingly clear that like many of the world’s leading cities, Hong Kong faces huge changes as a result of the impacts outlined in this report. Adaptation measures must become a strategic priority for both government and the private sector if the full impacts are not to impact on the competitiveness of the economy.

Levels of awareness in Hong Kong in relation to climate change remain relatively low. There is a need for education and capacity building initiatives amongst individuals living in Hong Kong and organisations impacted by climate change. This should involve community-based adaptation planning and capacity building for the private sector to put into place both climate change mitigation and adaptation measures.

There is a need for more research into the possible impacts of climate change on Hong Kong and the most cost effective adaptation strategies that should be put in place. Such research should include risk assessments of the impacts of climate change on all facets of society.

There is also a need for Hong Kong to demonstrate a degree of leadership on climate change issues if it is to maintain its reputation for a high degree of competitiveness and innovation.

The full report can be found here.

Wong Video Targets Wheezy City

Clara Mak – SCMP | Updated on Nov 08, 2008

Like a lot of people living in Hong Kong, Magic Boy director Adam Wong Sau-ping suffers bouts of hay fever. But instead of just blowing his nose into an endless number of hankies, he chose to address the issue of air pollution, which he believes triggers the reaction.

His concerns are probably justified. A recent Greenpeace report states that frequent exposure to air pollution can lower resistance to respiratory diseases and also increase chances of developing conditions such as asthma and bronchitis.

Greenpeace added that the Hong Kong government’s Air Pollution Index, its daily measure of air quality in the city, doesn’t quite reflect the reality. The index has been neither reviewed nor updated in the past two decades to match the World Health Organisation (WHO) standards, so Greenpeace has launched its own “Real Air Pollution Index”.

Meanwhile, Wong (pictured) filmed a short video to help promote the Greenpeace campaign. The 33-year-old recruited a group of children, whom he shot undertaking various activities around the city.

“At the beginning of the video, these 10 lovely children went out after they were reassured by the weather report that the air quality on the day was suitable for them to do outdoor activities,” he says. “So, they went out taking deep breaths in Kwun Tong, running in Sha Tin, blowing balloons in Central, playing music with a pianica and singing on the Tsing Ma Bridge.

“But by the end, you will hear these children coughing and wheezing because the current index just simply does not reflect the true air quality level here. We are using a standard that is some 20 years behind and far below the WHO standard,” Wong says.

Living in the busy district of Mong Kok, Wong has developed ways of dealing with air pollution. He takes a few steps back when he waits to cross the road to avoid breathing in fumes and he rinses his mouth with water when he gets home to prevent a sore throat.

Air pollution, he says, is as serious as the recent Chinese milk powder scare. “It’s like telling a child the milk he drinks is contaminated with melamine. The difference is if you don’t drink the milk every day or eat a large quantity of White Rabbit candies in one go, you probably won’t develop a kidney stone or die. However, you can’t choose not to breathe even though the air is polluted. It’s just scary.”

Wong tries to protect the environment by using fewer plastic bags and recycling plastic bottles. He says he was heavily influenced by Japanese animation master Hayao Miyazaki’s films which often touch on environmental subjects.

“One of his films, Nausicaa of The Valley Of The Wind [1984], talks about the friendship between an insect and a human. The eyes of the bug go red when it is angry and turn blue when the people are being friendly to it. It taught me the relationship between nature and human beings and how the two should live together peacefully.

“Besides, we are not here to conquer the world,” he says.

To watch Wong’s video and to learn more about the Real Air Pollution campaign, visit

Blue Skies Warrior

As an industrialist, Dominic Yin learned all he needed for his new calling – environmental evangelist

Barclay Crawford – Updated on Jan 20, 2008 – SCMP

Dominic Yin has taken nearly a lifetime to find his true calling. The former industrialist and entrepreneur, 66, now describes himself as an environmental evangelist.

He handed over the control of his companies to his son, Benjamin, in 2000, and in the past seven years, he has attended close to 200 conferences, seminars, panels and other environmental-related discussion groups – all funded from his own pocket.

Mr Yin began his working life at the Dah Chung Industrial Company, a manufacturing firm, in 1966. On returning to Hong Kong from Taiwan in the 1980s, he established trading and investment company Trigo Enterprises and was active in a number of other businesses in Hong Kong, Taiwan and on the mainland. Since 2000, he has formed a number of environmentally focused companies.

This journey, he defends China against US politicians who question the emerging superpower’s commitment towards tackling its environmental problems. On the other side, despite being a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Committee, he is still just as comfortable standing up to top party officials who are standing in the way of environmental progress on the mainland.

Mr Yin has just established the Hong Kong Association of Energy Services Companies (Haesco), a collection of businessmen, engineers and other professionals and concerned citizens determined to improve energy efficiency and protect the environment.

The long-term goal of the group is to bring the “blue skies back to Hong Kong”, but they are focused on bringing their experience to help find clean production solutions and energy efficiency projects. The organisation’s backers believe it will be able to offer solutions to companies and governments who want help in becoming sustainable and energy efficient.

“We can work very quickly to get a success in energy efficiency,” he says. “I can assure you that if we get strong support from the government and society, we will get back our white clouds.”

They want experienced business owners, students and all those concerned with improving energy efficiency in Hong Kong, the mainland, and indeed Asia, to join. More than 40 corporations and individuals have signed up and the number is expected to grow quickly, as the appetite for change in Hong Kong is strong, Mr Yin says. Many members own the factories on the mainland which have contributed to the environmental problems there and want to find another way.

Mr Yin says many companies and governmental organisations want to do something for the environment but are unsure where to start.

He says there is no reason that a developed and wealthy Hong Kong, with its growing environmental awareness, could not become a world leader in green production technologies, driven by profits rather than just goodwill.

Members include local and international energy firms that can help factories upgrade production technology, use less energy and improve their pollution controls. The group has 12 specific projects for the coming year, including a hospital in Shenzhen.

Mr Yin finds it hard to pinpoint what led him to the cause he now pursues so zealously. Partly it was friends such as Steve Wong, now the vice-chairman of Haesco, who first discussed energy efficiency with him while they served together on the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce in 1999. At the time, he admits, he knew little.

“But for my age, I’m learning fast,” he says, laughing. “I can make speeches anywhere.”

The end of the decade was also a time when many were looking to the future. At heart a manufacturer, he says he believed there would be five important technological issues which would need new ideas, thoughts and research – information technology, new materials, aerospace, bacterial diseases and, finally, environmental technologies. “The other four were out for me. IT? I’m too old for that. In Silicon Valley, they consider 30 as too old. In aerospace, China and Japan are all over that,” he says, “and with new materials, you need billions of dollars. So, I was left with environmental technology.”

Another major factor on the path to environmental enlightenment also came with wanting to do something with his life that stood him apart from his father. He did not want to be seen as just the son of C.C. Yin.

From humble beginnings, Yin Chi-chung first built his fortune in pre-communist China. By the end of the Japanese occupation, he owned many factories, a bank, transport company, and two newspapers. So on May 19, 1941, Dominic Yin was born into a family of considerable influence and wealth in the Chinese wartime capital of Chungking (now Chongqing ) in the middle of the struggle against the Japanese.

After China fell to the Communists, the family moved to Taiwan and bought factories from the Japanese. In the 1950s he was kicked out, accused of being a communist because he had met senior party members in Shanghai in the 1930s.

The family set up home in Hong Kong, and Mr Yin dutifully followed his father’s advice by studying management and engineering in the US before joining the family business.

However, Mr Yin had inherited some of his father’s stubbornness, and the two clashed, so he moved back to Taiwan and made his own path and fortune in manufacturing.

But he was still not happy. At the back of his mind was a nagging desire to contribute to society. When he arrived back in Hong Kong in 1984, he again thought that he wanted to do something different from his father. “Money to me is not that important. I really wanted to do something that was meaningful,” he says in the booming voice that betrays his passion for Peking opera. “I came back and I was thinking and I did a little business. At that time, my children were small, and I had to make some money; otherwise, how could I make the money to send them to the US? I had to spend US$100,000 a year on tuition.

“I wanted to do something better than my father. That is good motivation.”

The former industrialist, entrepreneur and patriot is not being conceited when he makes this statement. Old friend and engineer John Herbert, who is also a director of Haesco, says that Mr Yin is a practical man, with no airs and graces, who talks straight and doesn’t have the time for building a lasting monument to his ego. Despite the determination to forge a better environmental future, Mr Yin has no doubts about how potentially long and hard the path will be.

“Most of the entrepreneurs are so busy making quick money and do not have the social responsibility to do something for the environment,” he says.

“If you go to any high-rise in Hong Kong, you will find there is no such thing as environmental efficiency. I was talking to one of the big developers and asked him why he wasn’t educating the buyers, but this son of a gun said: `Firstly, I don’t want to hear it, and secondly, do you think the buyer will believe it?'”

Then there is the mainland, where rapid development has seen a focus on money before all else.

“The only thing they believe is to take money from your pocket and put it in their pocket,” he says. “That is the only thing they believe. No matter what kind of method, that is what they want. That is my experience of China. But business development at the cost of social and cultural development is not good.”

Mr Yin says this can be seen in the corruption in the government. There is often no interest in the outside world.

“Many of them don’t like classical music, art or theatre. They like karaoke sung by pretty girls,” he says.

Mr Yin points to the continued desertification of the mainland, which is happening at a rate of 3,000 sq km each year. There are 400 million people living – and destroying – areas which are under threat. “We really have to influence the government because if we don’t do anything for China, I don’t know how many years [it will be] before the whole of China becomes desert,” he says. “They are not stupid, and they know there are problems that need to be solved. I will just have to sleep less and work harder.”

And tomorrow he is off to the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi.

Global Concerns Lead To New Programme

Teachers, architects and town planners will now be able to get a better understanding of environmental issues

Mary Luk – Updated on Jan 12, 2008 – SCMP

Why is air pollution in the Pearl River Delta so bad these days? How will climate change affect us? Is Hong Kong at risk of a tsunami? Do we have a secure long-term water supply? Has Hong Kong’s old landslide problem disappeared forever? How big an earthquake can we expect?

The Education Bureau, which is responsible for school curriculum, has responded to these growing concerns by introducing earth sciences into the new curriculum of the University of Hong Kong’s (HKU) Postgraduate Diploma in Earth Sciences, the first programme of its kind in Hong Kong.

Andrew Malone, the university’s director of Applied Geoscience Centre, who contributed to the drafting of the new curriculum, said a cross-section of other universities were consulted in balancing and composing the content.

He said the course provided learning opportunities for school teachers requiring higher education in the earth sciences to enable them to teach the new senior secondary school curriculum which comes into effect next year.

The courses on integrated science, chemistry and geography in the new curriculum include a significant earth sciences component.

In integrated science there is “Water for living, Earth as a System, Weather, Energy and Air Quality and Exploring the Materials World”. Chemistry contains a module on “Planet Earth, Rocks and Minerals” and the geography course contains two elective modules on “Dynamic Earth” (earthquakes and plate tectonics) and “Weather and Climate”.

Professor Malone said the diploma also offered architects, engineers, surveyors and planners information about essential earth sciences to help them build a better and more sustainable Hong Kong.

“The programme provides more comprehensive knowledge on the various latest aspects of earth sciences to these professionals who are not likely to have learned them all in their early days of professional training at university. They might have studied some of them, but not specifically on Hong Kong’s situation. Our new programme, however, is tailor-made to Hong Kong’s needs,” he stressed.

He said town planning, for example, was related to environmental science protection and many environmental issues were connected with the Earth. A professional town planner who wanted to understand where pollution in Hong Kong came from must know the science behind the environmental problems. If they believed the source came from the mainland, they must understand how the wind blew and picked up particles in the Pearl River Delta that affected Hong Kong.

“Narrow town planners are those who don’t realise what happens in Hong Kong. They look at the maps in a two dimensional way. But good town planners should see the world – such as steep hills – in a three dimensional way. They must understand how nature affects the sites they plan. Professional town planners are expected to be able to think about these important impacts on Hong Kong.”

Similarly, he added, a competent architect would consider if the site under construction would be affected by typhoons – which is also related to earth science. The postgraduate diploma programme provided participants with basic science knowledge and looked at related issues more globally, he explained.

The programme will take 20 full-time (one year) and 20 part-time (two years) students.

HKUST Programme In Intelligent Building Technology And Management

Learn about structures of the future now

HKUST programme puts focus on construction of intelligent buildings that can help keep overheads down

Jacqueline Tsang – Updated on Jan 12, 2008 – SCMP

Buildings are no longer just large constructions of concrete and steel – the newest and fastest-growing trend in the building services industry is that of the much-touted intelligent building.

“Intelligent buildings will serve as the new standard for building design in future,” said Qiu Hui-he, director of the master’s of science programme in intelligent building technology and management at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST).

He said the improved waste management, cost maintenance and work efficiency were among the many reasons why more people were looking to these intelligent buildings as the benchmark for future building construction.

The general definition of an intelligent building is one that contains an electronic network which monitors all the lighting and mechanical systems in the structure, thereby controlling costs and reducing energy wastage.

However, Professor Qiu said that while some buildings in Hong Kong, such as the HSBC Central headquarters, The Center and the Cheung Kong Center had some “intelligent” components in their design, a building must satisfy a list of criteria in order to qualify as a fully intelligent building.

“The concept of intelligent buildings began with an eye to human comfort,” said Professor Qiu, “At that time, temperature and lighting were the main concerns.”

He said temperature played a significant role in working efficiency in an office. “It has been shown that 21 degrees Celsius is the optimal temperature for maximum work activity,” he said, explaining that chillier surroundings stimulated people to work faster. “Setting the thermostat to a comfortable 25 degrees, on the other hand, will likely result in overall lethargy in the workplace.”

Intelligent buildings also opt for light emitting diode lighting, and the switch from fluorescent to LED lighting systems benefits residential and office buildings. It is more suitable for applications that go through frequent on-off cycles, making it ideal for home use because it won’t burn out as easily as fluorescent lighting. LED lighting also has a significantly longer life span and emits more light per watt, thereby reducing costs and saving energy.

Other environmentally friendly systems in intelligent buildings include controlling indoor air quality through the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions, and keeping external toxic emissions to the minimum. In designing these buildings, Professor Qiu said there was high demand for construction materials that were more reusable and less toxic, as companies tried to keep their buildings as “green” as possible.

“Research is also being done on waste classification in residential buildings,” the professor said, “Rather than relying on people to sort their recyclable waste materials, we’re aiming for an automatic system that will classify waste accordingly.”

Space utilisation and cost maintenance are also part of the extensive list of criteria a truly intelligent building must fulfil. “In an intelligent building, the space is utilised to its maximum potential,” Professor Qiu said. “Piping and air-conditioning are more strategically placed to increase usable space.”

As for cutting costs, the professor said intelligent buildings employed systems that had a longer life cycle, as with the switch to LED lighting, thus minimising costs from system repairs and maintenance.

Safety is also a key factor in intelligent building design, and the safety systems in Hong Kong buildings are equipped with fire preventive measures. Intelligent buildings in the US, however, often included anti-terrorism and biological devices to better suit defensive needs.

Professor Qiu said that intelligent buildings did not necessarily have aesthetic appeal like the hi-tech facilities that Hongkongers often expected.

“People often have the misconception that exterior design is an integral part of what it is to be an intelligent building,” he said, explaining that while most intelligent buildings were aesthetically pleasing, he did not consider hi-tech visual appeal to be a necessary feature.

The professor said students taking the intelligent building technology and management programme acquired a multifaceted education through classroom training, independent study and internships.

“We have internal and external faculty members involved in the programme,” Professor Qiu said. “They often bring current or past building projects to class for the students to observe and discuss.” There were also opportunities for learning outside the classroom, and the professor explained how students had six independent study credits that they could allocate according to their interests.

“These are practical projects that can range from the mechanics of LED lighting to the evaluation of energy consumption in Hong Kong. The students may choose as they like, so long as they conduct these studies under faculty supervision.”

HKUST also offers an optional internship programme, and the majority of students who take advantage of this opportunity are from the mainland – they make up 40 per cent of the student population. “Unlike the local students, who presumably have considerable experience from their work in related industries, these mainland students have little to no work experience in their fields, and a large number of them sign up for internships every year,” he said.

Professor Qiu saw infinite potential in the future of intelligent buildings. He said that research was being conducted on the possibility of a building having its own self-diagnostic system.

“With the central network controlling a large number of systems it’s immensely difficult to pinpoint the location of the problem when something goes wrong. A self-diagnosing building would be able to define where the trouble areas are.”

Professor Qiu also suggested that the reality of home networking systems was not too far off.

With the right technology, a resident could remotely control appliances at home with a personal digital assistant, he said, and a simple phone call could turn on the air-conditioning to cool the room before arrival, or even turn on the TV and lighting. Research was also being done on at-home health monitoring at residential buildings, allowing residents to stay updated on their daily health status.