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Issue 23 - September 2012


Table of Contents

Staff Promotions

The Faculty of Construction and Environment has recently promoted 10 of its academics, with 4 of them joining the rank of Professors, 5 becoming Associate Professors, and 1 as Assistant Professor. Congratulations to them all for their noteworthy achievements, which have helped to place PolyU amongst other world-leading universities in the construction and environment field. Click on their photos below for their biographies and future plans.

Promotions to Professors

Prof. Chiang Yat Hung

Prof. Chung Tse Ming

Prof. Patrick Y. Du

Prof. Mak Cheuk Ming

Promotions to Associate Professors

Dr Meng Ni

Dr Lu Lin, Vivien

Dr Guo Hai

Dr Agachai Sumalee

Dr Xia Yong

Promotion to Assistant Professor

Stephen D. Mau, Esq.


Air quality tops research agenda of CEE Prof.

For more than a decade, Prof. Frank Shuncheng Lee of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) has researched the air we breathe for clues to its quality. With data collected from carbon-sensitive equipment, he could now analyze the source and constitution of air pollutants in about half an hour, which has helped the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region revised the existing Air Quality Index to be more in line with international air monitoring standards. Last revised in 2009 by the Environmental Protection Department, the Air Quality Index now considers respirable particulates in the air to be 2.5 micrometers or less (PM 2.5), down from 10 micrometers or less (PM 10). Scheduled for submission to next year's Legislative Council, the draft revision is expected to be officially implemented in 2014.

Prof. Frank Shuncheng Lee

Not surprisingly, his research found that roadside air pollution was rather severe, with nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide as some of the usual suspects behind the pollution. Having compared the pollution at various times and locations, his team concluded that at least 60% of particulates came from diesel vehicles. Sometimes results could be as high as 70%. With the high population density and the close proximity of tall buildings, vehicular emissions had nowhere to go but accumulate on street corners, leading to the poor air quality by the roadsides. To reduce vehicular emissions, the government has plans to subsidize bus companies which make use of recycled products and switch to hybrid or electric buses, but Prof. Lee believes upgrading diesel vehicles and regular car maintenance could be more effective in that regard.

Although electric vehicles are touted as environmentally friendly, they do not eliminate the problem of air pollution. Their impact on carbon reduction is minimal due to their reliance on electricity for power, which indirectly adds to the emissions from power companies. Greatly exceeding vehicular emissions is the amount of sulfur dioxide released by cargo and passenger ferries plying their way between mainland China and Hong Kong, which have so far eluded government monitoring. Prof. Lee added that PolyU has provided expert advice to the government every now and then, believing the air quality of Hong Kong is not too bad when compared with the rest of Southeast Asia, but there is still room for improvement vis-a-vis international standards.

Besides studying outdoor air quality, Prof. Lee is also concerned about indoor air quality, which could be improved by adopting simple measures like turning on a fan whenever we cook, using recycled building materials, not smoking indoors etc. To ensure harmful substances are not released into the air inadvertently, PolyU has a laboratory that conducts environmental testing on building materials such as wooden planks, ceramic tiles, paints, even carpets and fabrications for podiums. The aims are to check whether more than 40 chemicals such as volatile organic compounds and formaldehyde etc. are present in the built environment, and if so, that their levels don't exceed international safety standards. Housing developers and suppliers of building materials have been providing samples of their wares to be tested, after which certification is given by the lab if they do not pose any threat to human health. Prof. Lee pointed out that consumers should always choose pre-tested recycled building materials, increase indoor ventilation, and avoid smoking indoors to minimize internal air pollution levels.

Human health can also be endangered by foul-smelling odours. To address this issue, CEE has a laboratory that analyzes odours, especially those coming from landfills and waste recycling stations. According to Prof. Lee, it only takes 15 minutes to analyze samples of air quality after they have been collected. Analyses of the odours and their sources can help the government deal with the horrible stench coming from landfills. He thinks the use of incinerators to address the problem of waste disposal is quite feasible due to their relative efficiency in terms of time and their control by air monitoring systems.

Testing in the Odour Research Lab is done by the olfactory equipment of both humans and machines, which are stored with the information of more than 50 different compounds and the various smells from different landfills, construction sites, wastewater plants etc. Since smells are like fingerprints, they can be more easily identified by "digital noses" than those of humans, who can take more time. In addition to analyzing foul smells, the lab also conducts testing for commercial products like candies, fragrances, wines etc. to ensure their smells are up to standards.

Young BRE scholar delivered 2 keynote lectures at international conferences

Dr Meng NI, who has only recently been promoted to Associate Professor, already enjoys a significant international reputation in his research field. During the past summer, he delivered 2 keynote lectures at two international conferences. The first one was on 10 July 2012 in Shanghai, where he talked about his thermal and electrochemical modeling of solid oxide fuel cells at the Advanced Energy Technology Conference organized by the University of Hong Kong, East China University of Science and Technology, and Sinopec. The second one was on 24 August 2012 in Prague, at the 63rd Annual Meeting of the International Society of Electrochemistry (ISE), which is one of the most influential conferences in electrochemistry and attracted more than 1600 participants from all over the world. Dr Ni's keynote lecture at the meeting was on solid oxide fuel cells, from thermal modeling, to electrode microstructure reconstruction and simulation. Solid oxide fuel cells are promising electrochemical devices for efficient power generation. Both his talks generated tremendous interest from the audience in the Q&A session.

More information about the ISE annual meeting and conferences can be found at the ISE website:

BRE academic on committee for housing strategy of HK

Prof. Eddie Hui of the Department of Building and Real Estate has been invited to serve on the Long Term Housing Strategy Steering Committee of the Hong Kong Government, which will address the changing needs and priorities of the community in terms of housing policies and practices. It is mainly concerned with meeting the demands for housing from both the public and private sectors. To that effect, it will make appropriate recommendations to ensure that the policies and practices are aligned with the policy objectives and priorities of the Chief Executive.

Prof. Eddie Hui

BRE student takes time out for Olympic experience

Competing at the Olympics is every athlete's dream, including PolyU student Lin Po Heung, who took a year off from her studies in the Department of Building and Real Estate to pursue that dream. Her passion for the sport of fencing began when she was still in secondary school. Since then, she has been a regular in fencing competitions. To qualify for the Olympics was no mean feat. In the past year, she had been competing at an international level almost every month to accumulate the necessary points. Her training took her to Nanjing and the U.S., where she was exposed to different fencing styles. Even though she lost to a Japanese opponent at the Olympics, she still learnt from the experience. With no major competitions on the horizon, she will immerse herself in her studies for the coming year, but plans to continue her training, so she could be ready for the next regional games.

Lin Po Heung

Orientations for new students

An orientation for newly-admitted students to the taught postgraduate programmes of FCE was held on 14 September 2012. Nearly 130 students were on hand for the Dean's welcoming speech, which was followed by an introduction of the four departments respectively by Prof. Geoffrey Shen, Head of the Department of Building and Real Estate; Dr N. K. Fong, Associate Prof. of Building Services Engineering; Prof. C. S. Poon, Associate Head of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering; and Prof. X. L. Ding, Head of the Department of Land Surveying and Geo-Informatics. Break-out sessions for students to meet their programme leaders were also available. It was an informative afternoon for all who attended.

In a similar event, a common orientation programme for our Faculty's freshmen was held on 12 September 2012. More than 1,200 were admitted to begin their studies this month. The student turnout rate was about 56%, which was better than last year. The launch of the broad discipline in Construction and Environment coincided with the transition to a 4-year university curriculum. 59 students enrolled in the broad discipline programme, which will give them a chance to narrow their interests before they move on to a more specialized one.


Library Workshop & Online Information Literacy Programme

Workshops & online programmes allow you to learn essential search skills for your teaching, learning and research needs.

Customized Workshops

  • Workshop Content:
    • Understanding the research process, information cycle, and development of search strategies
    • Recognizing plagiarism, and acquiring skills for citation management/analysis
    • Finding and using books, scholarly articles, reports, technical data, standards and patents, theses,
      conference proceedings, newspapers, reviews, statistical data etc. in various formats and platforms
    • Searching and locating quality information on the Internet
    • Evaluating information
    • Understanding economic, legal and social issues involved in finding and using information
Online Information Literacy Programme consists of 4 modules: (1) Selecting information sources, (2) Searching for information, (3) Evaluating information, and (4) Managing information. Students who have completed the quizzes with an average score of 75% or above will be awarded a certificate.

Faculty Public Lecture

The Faculty of Construction and Environment was honoured to have the following speaker giving a public lecture at PolyU:

Prof. Manfred Ehlers

FCE Public Lecture
"New Developments in Automated Change Detection from Very-High-Resolution Remote Sensing Data"

Prof. Manfred Ehlers, Professor for GIS and Remote Sensing, Institute for Geoinformatics and Remote Sensing (IGF), University of Osnabrueck, Germany

Date: 11 September 2012 (Tuesday) (Details)

Forthcoming Events

FCE Public Lecture:
Performance of Asphalt Paving Mixtures Containing Reclaimed Asphalt Pavement (RAP)

Date & Time: 12 October 2012 (Friday), 3:45 pm - 4:45 pm
Venue: Room Y306, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

First International Conference on Performance-based and Life-Cycle Structural Engineering (PLSE 2012)
Date: 5-7 December 2012
Venue: Regal Kowloon Hotel, 71 Mody Road, Tsimshatsui, Hong Kong

The 5th International Symposium on Transportation Network Reliability (INSTR)
Date: 18-19 December 2012, Hong Kong
Venue: The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

PLSE 2012 Academic Vacancies - FCE   HKPolyUFCE

Copyright © 2012 Faculty of Construction and Environment, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. All rights reserved.

Faculty of Construction and Environment Department of Building and Real Estate Department of Building Services Engineering Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering Department of Land Surveying and Geo-Informatics