Issue 4 - February 2010
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Prestigious national award for Dr Chau Kwok-wing of CSE
Dr Chau Kwok-wing

This year four distinguished scholars from tertiary institutions in Hong Kong have been bestowed with the State Science and Technology Awards (SNSA) organized by the State Council; one of them was Dr Chau Kwok-wing, Associate Professor of the Department of Civil and Structural Engineering, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. The selection process was highly competitive; more than 120 entries had been received for this national honour which aimed to recognise excellence in basic and applied research in natural science.

Dr Chau won a SNSA second-class award on the strength of a joint research project "Multiobjective decision making and rainfall-runoff prediction theories for complex flood control system for reservoirs", which had been nominated by Liaoning Province. Dr Chau had worked in collaboration with Prof. Cheng Chun-tian of Dalian University of Technology and Prof. Li Deng-feng of Dalian Naval Academy. Together they have developed a sophisticated theory which takes into consideration different factors related to the prediction of rainfall and flooding. Apart from analyzing massive data, they have made use of fuzzy logic sets, pattern recognition theory and the uncertainty principle in developing this new theory which underpins an optimal model of flood control system for reservoirs.

This ground-breaking theory also provided the solid foundation for the subsequent development of a reservoir flood control operation system, which has also been pioneered by Dr Chau and his team. Taking 60 reservoirs and four river basin floodwater forecasting systems in the Chinese mainland as models, new technology is applied to this invention which emphasizes practicability and efficiency in the prevention of floods.

The newly invented flood control management system is capable of analysing and forecasting floodwater level based on the knowledge of the decision-makers, historical flood control cases and real-time information. This will in turn formulate flood control proposals and facilitate timely decisions. Due to its expandable nature, this system has proved to be effective and highly practicable, with an accuracy in forecast of higher than 90 per cent.

The system has been successfully applied to the flood control system centred at the Three Gorges Reservoir for flooding system planning, and at the Liao River, Hun River and Tai River for real time operation of reservoirs. Enabled by this breakthrough, the authorities concerned can now control flooding effectively and plan ahead for generation of hydroelectricity as well. This novel system is also installed in 100 medium to large-sized reservoirs in the Chinese mainland.

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PolyU researchers strike gold in China International Industry Fair

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) has recently won the coveted Gold Prize at the 2009 China International Industry Fair held in Shanghai, for its "Mega-structure Diagnostic and Prognostic System" which made its debut appearance at the Fair.

The national event has showcased more than 5,000 innovations of 1,860 exhibitors from 19 countries and territories. Among them, only four Gold Prizes were selected for outstanding innovations with unique design concept, breakthrough in technology and autonomous intellectual property. It was the first time that the national event presented a Gold Prize to a tertiary institution from the Hong Kong SAR.

The "Mega-structure Diagnostic and Prognostic System" was developed by an inter-disciplinary project team led by Vice President Prof. Ko Jan-ming and Dr Ni Yi-qing of the Department of Civil and Structural Engineering. The system can identify at the earliest stage the structural damage accumulated over time and assess structural health immediately after natural disasters. It is now being applied on the Sutong Bridge crossing the Yangtze River and the Guangzhou TV Tower --- the highest TV tower in the world.

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Presidential Citation Award for Prof. Geoffrey Shen

Prof. Geoffrey Q.P. Shen, Chair Professor of Construction Management and Head of Department of Building and Real Estate, Faculty of Construction and Land Use, The Polytechnic University of Hong Kong, has received the Presidential Citation Award from SAVE International for his “energetic and engaging effort to enhance value research and education”. SAVE International is the premier international society devoted to the advancement and promotion of the Value Methodology, (also known as Value Engineering, Value Analysis, or Value Management). Value Methodology is recommended by the HKSAR Government in major public projects in Hong Kong.

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A New Book by Prof. Shengwei Wang

The Faculty of Construction and Land Use, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, would like to extend the warmest of congratulations to Prof. Shengwei Wang, Chair Professor of Building Services Engineering, on the recent publication of his new book Intelligent Buildings and Building Automation by Taylor and Francis.

Intelligent building (IB) and building automation (BA) systems play an essential role in most sophisticated modern buildings. Monitoring and automatic control of building services systems are important to ensure that the design objectives are met in operation. Drawing on his many years of experience in teaching students in the disciplines of building services engineering and of facilities management, Prof. Wang is convinced of the absence of a comprehensive reference book addressing IB and BA systems, the associated technologies, as well as their implementation - specifically from the perspectives of engineers in building services, or in heating, ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC), as well as of facilities engineers and managers.

Intelligent Buildings and Building Automation explains the state of art in IB/BA systems and technologies. It addresses the following key issues:

  • Progress and state of the art in IB/BA systems, and their configuration and integration.
  • BA network, including wired/wireless local area networks (LAN) and Internet, communication protocols and standards as well as their applications.
  • The interfacing and integration of BA subsystems with building services systems.
  • Process control and tuning of local control loops.
  • The control and optimization as well as the operational characteristics of typical HVAC systems, including air-conditioning systems and central chilling systems.
  • The automation systems for lighting- system control, security and access control, and fire safety control.

Intelligent Buildings and Building Automation is not a handbook listing all of the systems and technologies, but, as the above list indicates, is primarily intended as a reference text for engineers and students in building services engineering. It is to provide them with a clear understanding of IB/BA systems, the associated technologies and the issues concerning their applications. Because of these considerations, Prof. Wang has given priority to readability and effectiveness in the selection and organization of his materials to assist the reader’s learning.

Congratulations to Prof. Wang again for bringing out a work which fills a gap in the teaching and learning of IB/BA systems and technology.

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New Advances for the Research Programme Funded by Sun Hung Kai Properties

The research programme funded by Sun Hung Kai Properties (SHKP) has now ended its fourth of the five years as originally planned. Funding has totaled HKD 20 million to date, and a further 5 million is expected to fund the 5th year. Led by Mr Mike Wong and Mr S.K. Au Yeung, six SHKP members attended an annual feedback meeting with the five project leaders at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) on 8th December 2009. The meeting was also attended by Prof. Jan-ming Ko, PolyU Vice President who initiated the programme more than four years ago, as the then Dean of the Faculty of Construction and Land Use (FCLU), Prof. Michael Anson, also a former Dean of FCLU who has been serving as the PolyU coordinator of the programme over the past two years, and Prof. Jin-Guang Teng, the current Dean of the Faculty.

The five projects are in the fields of ‘Renewable Energy Source Technologies’, led by Prof. H.X. Yang of the Department of Building Services Engineering (BSE); ‘Energy Efficient Control for A/C systems’, led by Prof. S.W. Wang of BSE; ‘Durability of Concretes Made with Recycled Aggregates’, led by Prof. C.S. Poon of the Department of Civil and Structural Engineering (CSE); ‘Advanced Water Treatment Technologies’ led by Prof. H. Chua of CSE; and ‘The Characteristics of Customers for Housing in Southern China’, led by Prof. C.M. Hui of the Department of Building and Real Estate. Below are more details concerning the individual projects.

Some of Prof. Yang’s funding supports alternative energy demonstration projects; these are open to the public at Ma Wan Island Park. The funding also serves to support research into solar photovoltaic power generation technology ground coupled heat pumps and vertical axis wind turbines intended for installation on buildings. Prof. Yang reported his advances in these fields and also on his progress with dye sensitized solar cells, a research which he has undertaken in collaboration with the Sun Yat-Sen University.

Prof. Wang has long studied control systems for better utilization of air conditioning plant in buildings. His project under the SHKP funding scheme has enabled him to step outside of the laboratory, so as to work on real air conditioning systems in a real building. He has worked as an independent commissioning agent on the International Commerce Centre (ICC) building. Optimal strategies have been developed for pumps, fresh air control, cooling towers and plume abatement. CO2 sensor technology is also deployed. The total energy saving resulting from the optimal strategies is about 7.0 million kWh per annum, or about 18% of the total energy consumption without such measures.

Prof. Poon’s project is a recent starter - only commenced in May 2009. He has a strong background in practically oriented research in the area of recycling and is the inventor of paving blocks now used all over Hong Kong, made from recycled materials and possessing also of the ability to take pollutants out of the atmosphere. Thanks to the work of Prof. Poon and others we already know quite a lot about the short term properties of concretes using recycled crushed concrete as aggregates in structural and non-structural concrete. However, there is still a lot to be learnt about its durability properties. Prof. Poon’s SHKP funded work will help overcome this lack. The feasibility of using fine recycled aggregates to replace sand in mortar will also be investigated. 

Like Prof. Wang and Prof. Yang, Prof. Chua is also indebted to SHKP funding and involvement, which have enabled him to combine laboratory research with field testing on real water features using his advanced TiO2 treatment technologies. This year, his work has concentrated on water features common in building estates, such as fountains, swimming pools and water storage tanks. In previous years, Prof. Chua had made successful improvements on grease traps; his solutions are both more effective and cheaper than the common chlorine dosage techniques for disinfecting water features.

Working in a totally different and non-technological realm of Real Estate Economics is Prof. Hui. His research is to compare the characteristics of Hong Kong people, Guangzhou people and others in Guangdong province in the domain of property purchase decisions. He has produced a lot of data of direct value to the SHKP marketing professionals; on the more academic front, the more direct involvement in the real estate world has produced new academic insights.

As is often the case, any practically oriented research field moves faster when academics and the practical men of business can work together more closely. This research programme funded by SHKP is certainly supporting this thesis, and suggests that more programmes of this type would benefit Hong Kong greatly. The newly created Construction Industry Council (CIC), which has been derived from the Construction Industry Review Committee (CIRC) report of 2001, should certainly take note. The report effectively requires CIC to generate a research culture across the Hong Kong construction industry and not just within the academic community. This SHKP model is a good showcase of one way in which industry and academia can work hand in hand to the benefit of all involved.

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CSE staff playing a part in the 863 Progamme

Dr Y.Q. Ni, Dr Y. Xia and Prof. J.M. Ko from the Department of Civil and Structural Engineering of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), are in collaboration with researchers from Shanghai Construction Group, Tongji University, and Shanghai Jiaotong University, to work on the the project “Technologies for condition monitoring and reliability control of super-tall buildings during construction”, under the National High-tech Research and Development Programme (863 Programme).

This collaborative research aims to enhance the safety and reliability of super-tall buildings during their construction stage. It will establish a comprehensive closed-loop construction control system with capabilities of prediction, realization, monitoring, assessment and control. The PolyU team is responsible for the sub-project “Real-time monitoring and condition assessment of super-tall buildings during construction”. Through field monitoring of environmental factors, external loadings, internal forces, and displacement of super-tall buildings, this sub-project will develop a real-time system integrating monitoring, wireless transmission and remote control, data processing and analysis, and system identification. It provides fundamental information for other sub-projects regarding structural reliability assessment and construction control.

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Air Quality Studies by Dr Hai Guo of CSE
Dr Hai GUO, Air Quality Studies, Department of Civil and Structural Engineering

On 26 October 2009, the results for the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC)/ Research Grants Council (RGC) Joint Research Scheme (JRS) in 2009 were announced. Among the 23 successful applications, Dr Hai Guo, Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil and Structural Engineering, was the only one from The Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

The NSFC/RGC Joint Research Scheme is highly competitive. In 2009, the NSFC/RGC received 281 qualified applications for the Joint Research Scheme from a variety of research fields. After an initial assessment by both the NSFC and the RGC, 58 joint applications were shortlisted for second-round review. The joint assessment meeting for the final decision took place in September 2009. After a stringent review by experts selected by both parties, 23 projects were finally selected via ballot.

Dr Guo has jointly applied for the NSFC/RGC grant with Prof. Xinming Wang of the Guangzhou Institute of Geochemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences. The aim of their project is to study the atmospheric halogenated hydrocarbons in the Pearl River Delta. Grid sampling in the region and simultaneous sampling at three selected mountain sites in the region will be conducted to understand the source regions, emission sources and atmospheric transport of halogenated hydrocarbons in Southern China. The project has been funded HK$678,900 for the Hong Kong side and ¥350,000 for the Chinese mainland side.

In addition to the NSFC/RGC grant, Dr Guo has also successfully secured a RGC General Research Fund of HK$1,268,903 and an ECF (Environment and Conservation Fund) grant of HK$ 1,279,360 in 2009.

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A Major Fund for Prof. Geoffrey Shen and His Team

Prof. Geoffrey Q.P. Shen, Chair Professor of Construction Management and his team have recently received a grant of HKD2,076,000 from the Pneumoconiosis Compensation Fund Board in Hong Kong, to conduct a major study, entitled `An evaluation of the effectiveness of current dust control practices in the construction industry in Hong Kong’. Prof. Shen can boast of a team of experts in the area, comprising of Prof. Li-Yin Shen and Dr Ann Yu from the Department of Building and Real Estate, in the Faculty of Construction and Land Use (FCLU), at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), Prof. Tao Wang from the Department of Civil and Structural Engineering of FCLU, and Mr Wong Yuen-Wah from the Department of Applied Physics at PolyU.  Also belonging to the team is Dr Weisheng Lu from the Department of Real Estate and Construction at the University of Hong Kong.

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The 15th Conference of the AsiaConstruct Network

On the 19th and 20th October 2009, a team from The Faculty of Construction and Land Use (FCLU), The Hong Kong Polytechnic University took part in the 15th AsiaConstruct Conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The team was led by Dr Y. H. Chiang of the Department Building and Real Estate (BRE), Prof. Stephen Mak (BRE), Dr Patrick Lam (BRE) and Prof. Michael Anson (Emeritus Professor, FCLU), and presented two papers. The first was a review of the Hong Kong construction industry structure and performance over the past year, while the other was a description of “value chain management“ as it currently exists in Hong Kong within the construction procurement process.

The Faculty was one of the six founding members present in 1995 at the Inaugural meeting of the Asian Countries Network, a meeting which had been set up by the Research Institute of Construction Economy, Japan. Through BRE, FCLU represents Hong Kong within this Asian Countries Network and has done so for the last 15 years.

The Network meets annually, with members taking turns to host the event. The BRE Department, on behalf of FCLU, hosted the Conferences of 1997 and 2006. About 10 countries are regular participants, while others are more occasional.

AsiaConstruct activities so far have comprised the sharing of information between member organisations on the state, structure and performance of their different construction economies, on an annual routine rolling basis, and presentations of existing construction industry practices within the member countries, towards enhancement of the performance of Asian construction as a whole.

In Malaysia, however, the AsiaConstruct Network took a significant step forward by agreeing to also undertake its own collective research studies in future. The Hong Kong team was invited to progress this initiative, whereby in depth country comparison studies will be made, with individual member countries contributing a share of the research effort as appropriate. To kick-start this initiative, the FCLU team will design and lay the groundwork for one such research study. Its proposal will be considered for approval at the 16th AsiaConstruct Conference in Hanoi, Vietnam, in October 2010.

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A Visit by Malaysian delegates to BRE to learn about partnering practices

Over the past decade, partnering has been acknowledged in Hong Kong as an innovative and non-adversarial approach to the procurement of construction services in the industry.  The Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB), a statutory body established by the Malaysian Federal Government in 1994 has identified Hong Kong as the city having the experience which would benefit Malaysia for the implementation of partnering in the construction sector.  The CIDB has been entrusted with the responsibility of coordinating the needs and wants of the industry to increase its competitiveness.  A delegation led by Mdm. Sariah Abd. Karib, Senior General Manager of CIDB, visited the partnering research team at the Department of Building and Real Estate (BRE), the Faculty of Construction and Land Use, The Polytechnic University of Hong Kong to learn about the partnering practices in Hong Kong.  In a workshop held on 13 November 2009, Prof. Albert Chan gave an overview of partnering research at BRE. This was followed by a presentation by Dr Patrick Lam to compare the partnering practices in the public, private and infrastructure sectors.  Dr Daniel Chan then introduced some partnering incentivization schemes.  Finally, Dr John Yeung presented a computerized partnering performance system (CPPIS) to measure partnering success.  The CIDB delegation was very impressed by the research work conducted by the BRE’s partnering research team.  The workshop successfully concluded with plans for future collaboration to foster closer cooperation between CIDB and the BRE’s partnering research team.

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FCLU eLearning Forum

A eLearning forum was held on Saturday, 5th December 2009, to focus on teaching and technology. About 50 members of staff from across the Faculty of Construction and Land Use (FCLU), The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), gathered in the Senate Room to discuss how to make the best use of eLearning technologies for their respective discipline areas. The Dean of FCLU, Prof. Jin-Guang Teng, first gave a report on the Faculty’s current status, with an emphasis on its research strengths and a recognition that there were some areas for improvement, of which the need to attract more high-quality applicants for the academic programmes of the Faculty was one. Prof. Teng noted that building a reputation for teaching excellence and innovation was one way to help achieve this. In this context, he invited Mr Peter Duffy, 3C (3 Concurrent foci, a) Collaboration, b) Community, c) Context) Project leader, from PolyU’s Educational Development Centre (EDC) to address the forum about the use of eLearning and how to blend it with teaching.

Several key messages emerged from Mr Duffy’s presentation:

  • Technology should compliment existing teaching approaches and be “blended” with face-to-face teaching.
  • Technology will not replace the teacher but can help make their job easier by providing tools that help students to more effectively and efficiently achieve the desired learning goals.
  • Technology is already being used extensively in the Faculty, but there are many other opportunities to extend its use in a teaching and learning context.

Short presentations from each department of FCLU followed to illustrate how eLearning is currently used within the Faculty. These were given by Dr Barbara Leung (BRE), Dr Chao Tung Yo (BSE), Dr Eddie Lam (CSE) and Dr Baki Iz (LSGI). Each presentation showcased a different use of technology to support and enhance teaching and learning in the Faculty.

After the presentations, there was a brief discussion in small groups of some key questions related to eLearning. Its purpose was to collate information for future development in the Faculty in the area of eLearning. This information, having been collected from the participants at the end of the forum, will go into a report on the possibilities for future eLearning developments, which will be presented to the Dean by the 3C Project leader in early 2010.

Given that there are few occasions when members from different departments in FCLU can come together, the forum was an excellent opportunity for colleagues to keep abreast of innovative methods of teaching in other areas. It was also an opportunity for them to explore the possibilities for adopting eLearning in their own teaching, and to have a say in how this should happen in the Faculty.

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Eye-opening experiences for BEM students
Study Tour in Spain
Student Exchange Workshop in Korea

Study Tour in Spain

From the 25th to the 30th of May 2009, a group of year 2 students studying the BSc(Hons) in Building Engineering and Management (BEM) at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University went to Barcelona and Valencia in Spain for a study tour. They were accompanied by Dr Michael Yam and Dr Steven Tsang of the Department of Building and Real Estate, in the Faculty of Construction and Land Use. The tour had been organized by a committee of students, who balanced technical/academic visits with cultural visits/sightseeing.

The study tour ran very successfully. The group visited several organizations and institutions as follows. 

  • Fargas Associats Arquitectes (architecture firm)
  • Contratasy Obras Empresa Constructora, S.A.(contractor firm)
  • The Agora (construction site)
  • The Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família (construction site)
  • Universitat Politécnica de Catalunya (university)
  • Universidad Politécnica de Valencia (university)
  • Network of International Civil Engineering Students (student union)

The programme for this study tour comprised of seminars, laboratory visits, construction site visits, and gathering with local students from Spain. Although this tour had only a duration of 6 days, the benefits which the students reaped had been immense in that it opened their eyes to the global village. The highlight of the study tour was the visit to Mr Josep Maria Fargas Falp, the founder of the Fargas Associats Arquitectes. His designs demonstrated to the students how buildings could be made more sustainable and their life cycles more cost effective. It happened that Mr Fargas was interviewed by TV3, at the time when students visited his studio and architectures. “What interests me most when designing a building is to make sure that it lasts longer than a common building", he told the reporters.

Sustainability in the building & construction industry has been a hot topic for years in Hong Kong. It is expected that students who took part in this Spain study tour could make good use of their knowledge thus gained.  

Student Exchange Workshop in Korea

In late September of 2009, another group of Year 2 and 3 students of the BEM degree programme spent 3 days at the University of Seoul. They, together with some students from the University of Seoul, and others from Osaka University took part in the 4th ‘Asian Coalition for Building Science and Construction Engineering 2009 Workshop’ (ACBC 2009 Workshop).

The ACBC Workshop has been an annual event since 2006. Its objective is for the students from the three universities to interact and collaborate, so as to enhance their adaptation to globalization. The theme of the 4th workshop was ‘High-Rise Building in Asia’. At the end of the workshop, the students from Hong Kong, Japan and Korea had to present in three groups their ideas and knowledge acquired; an exercise which also gave them the chance for a greater exposure to other cultures and practices. Although the workshop ended, the academic networking and friendship thus formed should be helpful to all the students concerned not only in their local contexts, but also when they work abroad.

Altogether 19 students participated in this workshop. They also visited Northeast Asia Trade Tower (NEATT) in the Incheon Free Economic Zone (IFEZ) which was still under construction, and on completion would be Korea’s tallest building. On top of the benefits in academic terms, students from Hong Kong also experienced campus life at the University of Seoul, and enjoyed authentic Korean cuisine as well. 

With such eye-opening experiences, the students who went on both tours would certainly bring new ideas to their academic community, and in turn benefit the society at large.

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Faculty Distinguished Lectures and Public Seminars
Dr Rudi Seracino
Prof. B.F. Spencer
Prof. Zhao Xiao-Ling
Dr Richard Sandor
Prof. Yongguan Zhu

The Faculty of Construction and Land Use was honoured to have the following speakers giving distinguished lectures and seminars at PolyU:

Dr Rudi Seracino, Associate Professor, North Carolina State University; gave a seminar on “Applications of Fiber-Reinforced Polymer Materials in the Prestressed/Precast Concrete Industry”. (7 Dec 2009)

Prof. B.F. Spencer, Jr., Nathan M. and Anne M. Newmark Endowed Chair of Civil Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; was speaker at a seminar on “Smart Sensing Technology: A New Paradigm for Structural Health Monitoring”. (11 Dec 2009)

Prof. Zhao Xiao-Ling, Head of Department, Department of Civil Engineering, Monash University; gave a seminar titled “Concrete-Filled Tubular Members and Connections”. (15 Jan 2010)

Dr Richard Sandor, Father of Carbon Trading; gave a Distinguished Lecture on “The Evolution and Convergence of Environmental and Financial Markets: The Chicago Climate Exchange Global Experience”. (20 Jan 2010)

Prof. Yongguan Zhu, Director General, Institute of Urban Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences; gave a seminar titled “Towards Sustainable Urbanization”. (27 Jan 2010)

Prof. Ahsan Kareem, Robert M. Moran Professor of Engineering, University of Notre Dame; was speaker at a Distinguished Lecture on “The Audacity of Change: A Transition to Nonstationary and Nonlinear Era”. (27 Jan 2010)











Prof. Ahsan Kareem

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