LIFE+ Magazine Issue 1

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Innovation and Sustainable Living


Rethink over Liveability

Hong Kong architects call for a rethink over redistributing land, people and the environment to achieve better liveability at the 17th Venice Biennale International Architecture Exhibition, which can be previewed online.

This year’s Hong Kong Collateral Event at the 17th Venice Biennale International Architecture Exhibition will highlight issues concerning the redistribution of land, people and the environment and explore ways to make Hong Kong a better place to live.

The Venice Biennale International Architecture Exhibition is a major event in the architecture industry, showcasing outstanding works of architects from all over the world and facilitating architectural cultural interaction. It is also regarded as the “hall of fame” for contemporary architectural art.

Taking part in this year’s Hong Kong Collateral Event is a record number of 54 companies and organisations, forming 21 exhibit groups. Each group is composed of young architects, entrepreneurial designers, artists, researchers, academics and those working for NGOs. They were given a task to propose innovative ideas centred on the theme of Redistribution: Land, People and Environment, and how to make the most of limited resources to make Hong Kong a more liveable city.

The Hong Kong Collateral Event is co-organised by the Hong Kong Institute of Architects Biennale Foundation and the Hong Kong Arts Development Council in partnership with the Hong Kong Institute of Architects (HKIA) and lead sponsor, Create Hong Kong of the HKSAR Government.

Owing to Covid-19, however, the event has been pushed back to later in 2021. Prior to the live event, a virtual exhibition is now being staged so that audiences can immerse themselves in the architecture as if they were “there”. In addition to the virtual exhibition, a series of monthly webinars started in August. This continuing series discusses various topics related to the pandemic, to living spaces and to other social issues with other renowned architects, exhibitors and guests.

An Institute of Transient

One exhibit, “An Institute of Transient”, emphasizes the fact that despite Hong Kong’s past success as an economic powerhouse, the city lacks an overall vision that encourages a culture to be subconsciously cultivated by its people and embodied in the built environment.

In order to sustain the cultural logic of the transient and allow social progress, a programme of re-organisation of servant space is required to regenerate new space, explained Benny Lee, Co-Founder of BREAD studio and curator of the event, during a special media preview of exhibits held in L’hotel Nina et Convention Centre earlier in October.

Collisions and Connections: Redistributive Design for Visionary Typologies

Designed by Savannah College of Art and Design and The Wharf Group, “Collisions and Connections: Redistributive Design for Visionary Typologies” was inspired by Hong Kong’s clustered verticality where environmental and agricultural initiatives develop. The installation resembles megastructures that combine the lessons of bamboo scaffolding, vernacular stilt houses and iconic rounded-corner tong laus, with hubs that offer the diversity of Hong Kong streets.

These collisions and connections generate visionary typologies for our future, said Donald Choi, Executive Director and CEO of Chinachem Group, also the Chief Curator of the event.

All exhibitors have addressed both the many challenges and opportunities Hong Kong faces today, and shared their thoughts on how to best use available land resources and take advantage of the Guangzhou-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area network to improve liveability, Choi added.

In addition, the teams have provided their creative opinions about the pressing problems surrounding Hong Kong’s ageing population, and possible global talent migration options aimed at increasing diversity and overall competitiveness.

Fluid, Tales of the City, Boxed in Life – Ephemeral Architecture

Paul Mui, Co-Founder of BREAD studio and another event curator, explains the story of “Fluid, Tales of the City, Boxed in Life – Ephemeral Architecture”, designed by Arielle Tse, Oval Partnership and Technological and Higher Education Institute of Hong Kong. The installation combines the three elements to form an ephemeral art to address the issue of people and environment in Hong Kong, he explained.

“The installation’s backdrop consists of light fabric and a sea of pink foam, signifying a solid, yet transient surrounding. The installation prompts the audience to imagine how people live, move and interact with our built and natural environment.”

Rediscovering Rural Sustainability

“Rediscovering Rural Sustainability” was designed by a group formed by HSBC, “On Earth” Art Project, Policy for Sustainability Lab, Centre for Civil and Society and Governance at the University of Hong Kong (HKU).

According to Yu Ka Sing, an exhibit Curator and Assistant Professor at the HKU, the installation was inspired by Lai Chi Wo, a traditional Hakka village located in a remote valley in Hong Kong. It explores the rural-urban and human-environment interconnection from four interactive perspectives. It highlights the importance of rural sustainability within the wider city context, and explains the significance of building collaborative sustainable communities for long-term sustainable living.

How Covid will reshape building design

The unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic has profoundly changed the way we work, live and entertain. White-collar workers have been given the option to do their jobs remotely. When stuck at home during city lockdowns, people rely on online shopping and home-delivery services for daily essentials and other purchases. All of these changes have created new habits. People’s sense of personal space and need for hygiene and sanitation has been radically altered.

Future architectural design and space planning will service these social demands, said Choi. “We will see blurred boundaries among shopping, leisure and living. Future shopping facilities will be more decentralised and integrated into our communities. Since working from home has become the new normal and is increasingly accepted by employers, future home design will take the ‘home office’ into consideration.”

It is already evident that viruses can spread through the air and drainage. This means that people spending more time indoors – even at home – might be at risk of exposure. It is also shown that viral contaminants can spread through water or sewage pipes.

To address these new concerns, Choi believes that future home design will promote natural ventilation and let in more fresh air, and that building drainage system design will be improved to prevent pathogens from spreading through the drainage system.
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Liveable Home: A Smart, Green and Inclusive Neighbourhood in the Making

The Anderson Road Quarry development offers the promise of an inclusive community in an environment that is as lovely as it is unique.

Here in the foothills of Fei Ngo Shan, also known as Kowloon Peak, lies the emerging Anderson Road community. The location, a former quarry site known as Anderson Road Quarry (ARQ), was envisioned in 2012 as “a green and liveable community that meets the territorial, district and local needs by providing land for residential, commercial, recreational and community uses,” according to the Planning Department of Hong Kong.

Birth of a convenient new community

ARQ occupies an elevated position in the foothills of Fei Ngo Shan, with a ridgeline more than 200 metres above sea level. Since the 1950s, ARQ in East Kowloon supplied aggregate, asphalt, stone and concrete to the Hong Kong construction industry until the land was returned to the government in 2016. The 88-hectare site is now undergoing a transformation to become a sustainable community with a planned population of about 30,000 people. Construction began in December 2016, and residents are expected to populate the neighbourhood from 2023-24 onwards.

Kowloon Peak’s hidden gem with strong connectivity

This is a visually prominent location from southern Kowloon and the northern shore of Hong Kong Island. Tucked off Clearwater Bay Road, the location is just moments from the Kowloon East CBD, enjoying elevated views over the city into the Victoria Harbour in the distance. It is only a short drive from Sai Kung, where you can go deep into country parks or hop on a boat

The open space in ARQ covers an area of about 21.5 hectares. To promote community engagement, a city park, known as the Quarry Park, is being built. Covering 8.5 hectares of green space, the park will include the core part of the development, providing a green promenade and a recreational area. It is

intended to be a regional park with a quarry museum and a centre of leisure and sports. The quarry museum will be a rock cavern development exhibiting the quarrying history, while rock caverns will be used for commercial activities such as wine cellars, spas and restaurants, to help boost the local economy.

In addition to ARQ’s green initiatives, a new bus-to-bus interchange will be constructed at the toll plaza of the nearby Tseung Kwan O Tunnel, to address surging demand for public transport and mitigate the impact of new traffic generated by ARQ development. A series of associated off-site road improvement works, and pedestrian connectivity facilities is likewise proposed to enhance pedestrian connectivity between the ARQ site and the surrounding neighbourhoods.

Smart, walkable community

Developed within the “Smart Green Resilient” (SGR) planning framework, ARQ boasts smart city initiatives with an emphasis on walkability and sustainability. Smart initiatives include pedestrian walkable networks, cycling networks with shared/rental bikes, interactive bus-stop concepts and smart phone apps, all of which can be used to encourage residents to use convenient and healthy ways to commute within the area, thus helping to reduce vehicular transportation and emissions.

In its report on the State of Sustainable Built Environment (2017), the government praised ARQ’s water management systems, noting that its “low impact development will help to create a leisure oriented, socially integrated and harmonious community... a blue-green infrastructure, integrating water planning with landscape and urban design.”

Inclusive community

The SGR principles satisfy many master-planning principles that Rina Ko, a Registered Architect and Research Associate at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Jockey Club Institute of Ageing, attributes to an inclusive community, including safe mobility and activity; an environment that fosters confidence and independence in activities of daily living; a community that supports cognitive ability and reduces anxiety; and finally, well-being: an environment that promotes sense of contentment.

“An inclusive community promotes respect to all people in the community, of different backgrounds, abilities and interests; it values diversity and engages all people in decision-making process that affects them while ensuring equal access to all resources and opportunities,” said Ko. “It’s vital to a city’s well-being – and is an important element of an SGR city.”

“A mind-set of inclusiveness among policy makers, planners and all decision makers should be cultivated,” she said. That way, a community, bringing together people representing different groups, can make decisions collaboratively.”

ARQ will be a dynamic showcase of green and sustainable thinking; a vibrant new community at the forefront of Hong Kong’s transition to an SGR city.
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Innovation: Developers Embrace Digital Transformation

Digital transformation improves more than an organisation’s operational efficiency; it also helps the organisation move up the value chain. Of a total of 188 real estate companies from Europe, America, Asia and other regions surveyed by KPMG in early 2020, about 58% report that they currently have a digital strategy in place, representing an increase from 52% in 2018-2019. In addition, approximately 95% of real estate companies said they have plans to undergo a digital transformation.

In response to this trend, Hong Kong’s property developers have accelerated their digital transformation plans to improve their competitiveness while contributing to the building of smart cities. Fostering change in corporate culture is critical to the success of driving digital transformation, which is why Chinachem Group has created a Business Transformation and Innovation department to digitalise its core business processes and promote the use of proptech.

“First, we use technology to strengthen our marketplace edge; and second, we aim to formulate new business models and explore new revenue streams. We may even invest in promising start-ups that show traction in the market for new income streams.”

Fostering an innovative culture and mind-set

For digital transformation to be successful, it is difficult to rely on one or two departments alone; it requires cultural change as well. Outsiders such as consultants may not understand the pain points of on organisation, whereas the department in charge truly understands where the problems lie and know what solutions may be realistic. As a result, digital transformation is not confined to technological innovation; rather, it requires a radical employee shift in mind-set. Digital transformation can only succeed when an organisation perceives change as a core value and, likewise, when employees embrace innovation.

Citing his company as an example, Damien decided to work with Chinachem Group’s Human Resources Department to launch a programme known as “Innovation Ambassador” in order to encourage employees to innovate and drive change in corporate culture. He confessed that before joining the Group, he thought that digital transformation might be difficult in a traditional organisation like Chinachem Group, which has a long-running history of success. It turns out his worries were unfounded.

“Hongkongers are never afraid of innovation. For instance, during the pandemic this year, we set up an inter-departmental task force to fight the coronavirus using technology. From hand-washing fluid to thermometers, the task force’s members were immersed in up-to-the-moment research and discussions,” said Damien. “Our hotels decided to use robots for room service. We even studied the feasibility of using AI-enabled robotics to transport luggage to different rooms. All these were new approaches for us.”

Finding the right business solution

Chinachem Group is now running on the fast-track to digitalisation, and its Finance and Human Resources departments are using System Applications and Products (SAP). Chinachem Group is also the first Hong Kong company to use Building Information Modelling (BIM), Aconex and Novade to help digitalise the construction industry. Chinachem Group also actively supports the local start-up ecosystem. It works with accelerators to encourage start-ups to create innovative solutions, thereby enabling the industry to address specific challenges and meet a variety of new demands. At the same time, the Group signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Smart City Consortium in July 2020 to promote the development of a smart city. Currently, Chinachem Group is planning on its very first IoT equipment safety standard.

With regards to future development, Damien explained that Chinachem Group would begin the second phase of the deployment of SAP to centralise and streamline the Group’s business processes and information flow and upgrade its existing leasing management system.

Grow with start-ups

Chinachem Group will also connect local and overseas stakeholders to let them know the Group is eager to embrace innovation. “We hope to make us part of the larger tech ecosystem so that start-ups will approach us. We also look for opportunities to co-invest in start-ups with venture capital funds. This way the entire start-up ecosystem is aware of our commitment to digital transformation and by doing this, we will create a better future,” said Damien.

One recent example of Chinachem Group’s work is the introduction of the Enertainer, a battery-storage system created by a local start-up, for the construction site at Anderson Road. “Traditional diesel generators are the most usual power source for remote construction sites because connecting to the grid is extremely difficult. By using the Enertainer, we were able to run all equipment without fumes or noise of diesel generators on site and reduce carbon emissions by 85%. This is one of the reasons we promote the use of clean energy wherever possible in our site works,” Damien explained. There are more examples. For instance, the Group was the first private sector company to introduce the ‘kNOw Touch’ contactless panel developed by the Hong Kong Productivity Council (HKPC).

“For start-ups and companies undergoing digital transformation alike, it is common to fail, but those who fail fast tend to succeed faster,” said Damien. “Therefore, there must be a procedure, or what is known as Minimum Viable Product (MVP), to allow them to review, correct, and restart. Traditional organisations do not have this mind-set or culture, but we often remind our colleagues that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Sometimes it’s not a big deal to fail, but the most important thing is we learn from our mistakes. Have a plan B, so that we can cope with uncertainty and timely respond with agility.”

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