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Issue 31 - May 2013


Table of Contents

PolyU's performance in civil engineering ranks among top 20 in the world

In the latest Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings by Subject, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) has made a great leap to move up from the 50th place in 2012 to the 16th place in 2013 in the discipline of civil and structural engineering.

More impressively, PolyU tops the world in terms of the two objective research performance indicators – citations per paper and the H-index which measures both the scientific productivity of our researchers and the apparent scientific impact of our research.

Professor Jin-Guang Teng, Dean of the Faculty of Construction and Environment, was pleased to note that PolyU has been ranked among the world’s best institutions in the subject area of civil and structural engineering and on par with such as Imperial College, University of California at Berkeley, and the University of Tokyo. He further explained that the subject area is broadly defined by the ranking methodology to include such sub-disciplines as Environmental Engineering and Construction Management. The ranking is therefore a significant recognition for the hard work of colleagues not only in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering but also in the entire Faculty.

“I would like to thank all colleagues of the Faculty, as well as friends and colleagues within and outside the university, for this achievement,” said Professor Teng. “We will not rest on our laurels; knowing where our strengths and weaknesses lie, we will do our best to further improve our performance in the future,” he added.

The Faculty of Construction and Environment at PolyU is the only one of its kind in Hong Kong that is fully devoted to supporting the advancement of construction industry. It is home to 110 academic staff members at Assistant Professor and above levels who work with nearly 400 full-time researchers (including MPhil and PhD students) on a wide range of problems to address some of the major issues facing the society such as building energy efficacy, air quality and solid waste management.

The Faculty’s research reputation is evidenced by its success in securing competitive funding from the General Research Fund (formerly known as the Competitive Earmarked Research Grants) of the Hong Kong Research Grants Council (RGC) and attracting the best and brightest PhD students supported by the Hong Kong PhD Fellowship Scheme. The number of grants they won has consistently been around or above 40% of all grants awarded by the Hong Kong Research Grants Council in this category since 1994/95. The four departments of the Faculty have also attracted 27 PhD Fellowship recipients as compared to 16 who have joined the four other civil engineering/construction departments in sister institutions since the launch of the PhD Fellowship Scheme in 2009.

Launched in 2011, the annual QS World University Rankings by Subject is a comprehensive guide to a range of popular subject areas. The rankings series reveals the top 200 universities in the world for 30 individual subjects.

2013 Global Leadership Forum for Construction Engineering
and Management Programs

On 11 and 12 May 2013, about 20 leading academics from around the globe converged on the campus of PolyU for the 2013 Global Leadership Forum for Construction Engineering and Management Programs (GLF-CEM), which was established two years ago to facilitate the exchange of ideas and collaborative research in this field. After two annual meetings at Purdue University, it was PolyU’s turn to host this international event, and the local organizing committee chaired by Prof. Geoffrey Shen, Associate Dean of the Faculty of Construction and Environment (FCE) and Head of the Department of Building and Real Estate, delivered a programme that was very well received by all the delegates and observers who were in attendance. With a focus on the challenge of setting the research agenda for the CEM community, the forum had three interrelated sessions: (1) long-term fundamental and scientific research questions to be answered by the CEM community as a whole; (2) issues and topics in CEM for the next decade, and (3) how multi-disciplinary research collaborations can address the key issues faced by the CEM community. The forum also included an opening speech by Prof. Jin-Guang Teng, Dean of FCE, and a keynote presentation via video conference by Prof. Rodney Culver Hill of Texas A&M University. Many thanks go to the members of the organizing committee for their hard work in making this a successful event. The committee consisted of Zuhaili M. Ramly as the secretary, and Shanshan Bu, Chris Jingke Hong, Chen Lu, Sean Yi Peng, Dr Maggie L.Y.N. Tang, Hao Wang, Zhao Yuan, and Helen Wei Zheng as members.


CEE academic rewarded with top honors at international expo for inventions

At the 41st International Exhibition of Inventions of Geneva on 10 -14 April 2013, Prof. Ni Yiqing and his team have garnered a Grand Prize and a Gold Medal for their Intelligent Ship-bridge Anti-collision Surveillance System, which was developed with funding provided by the Research Grants Council of the University Grants Committee and the Transport Bureau of Zhejiang Province in China. 

The innovative system functions as a ‘black-box’ for bridges to provide a full record of ship activities near the bridge area and impact to the bridge structure. Incorporating Automatic Identification System (AIS) and smart vision-based monitoring technology into the security of a bridge, this system can actively monitor vessel traffic, evaluate the route of ship movements and send out warning signals to the ships likely to collide with the bridge. Novel piezoelectric sensors are embedded in the bridge as well to enable a new technique for direct measurement of the impact force and post-collision damage evaluation.

The result of a collaborative venture from 2010 to 2013 by PolyU’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, the Intelligent Structural Health Monitoring R&D Centre of PolyU’s Shenzhen Research Institute, and the Zhejiang Provincial Transport Bureau, the system can be put to good use in sea-crossing and river-crossing bridge structures. Congratulations to Prof. Ni and his team!

LSGI academic received the 2013 CSNC Excellent Paper Award

At the 2013 China Satellite Navigation Conference (CSNC) held on May 15-17 in Wuhan, Dr George Zhizhao Liu from the Department of Land Surveying & Geo-Informatics (LSGI) received an Excellent Paper Award for his paper “The First PPP-based GPS Water Vapor Real-Time Monitoring System in Pearl-River-Delta Region, China.” Co-authored with Research Associate Dr Min Li, the paper presents their research findings of developing the first atmospheric water vapor real-time monitoring system for the Pearl-River-Delta (PRD) region using the latest Global Positioning System (GPS) Precise Point Positioning (PPP) technique. Based on their technique, the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere over the PRD region can now be quickly and accurately computed from GPS satellite signals. Since April 2012, PolyU researchers have been supplying their atmospheric water vapor data to meteorological agencies around the PRD region to support their daily services and research, including the Hong Kong Observatory, Macao Meteorological and Geophysical Bureau, the Guangdong Meteorological Bureau and the Shenzhen Meteorological Bureau. In its first year, the Excellent Paper Award was given to only nine recipients out of 629 paper submissions. Congratulations to Dr Liu for winning such a competitive award. His research was supported by the General Research Fund (GRF) of the Hong Kong Research Grants Council (RGC).

Dr George Zhizhao Liu

CEE academics contribute to design standards

Dr Yong Xia and Prof. You-Lin Xu from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering have the recent honor of contributing to the writing of Design Standard for Structural Health Monitoring Systems (CECS 333: 2012), the first ever text on standards in the field of structural health monitoring in China.

Coordinated by Prof. Hong-Nan Li of the Dalian University of Technology, the important project is co-authored by leading scholars from seven academic and industrial institutions of China, including The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. The final draft has been approved by the China Association for Engineering Construction Standardization and implemented since 1st March 2013.

Organized into seven chapters, the standards cover topics related to sensor selection and placement, data acquisition and processing, data transmission, data storage and management, and structural condition identification and assessment. Congratulations to Dr Xia and Prof. Xu for their significant work, which will no doubt enhance the safety of structures all over China.

Industry adopts findings of Construction Safety Research Group

A recent publication by the Construction Industry Council has established guidelines to improve site safety for working in hot weather, which include the provision of rest periods that is based to a large extent on the findings of a heat stress study by the Construction Safety Research Group headed by Prof. Albert Chan, Associate Dean of the Faculty of Construction and Environment. According to the research, the productivity of construction workers can be enhanced by appropriate rest periods during the hot summer months from May to September. Details of the findings have been published in a paper entitled “Optimizing work-rest schedule for construction rebar workers in hot and humid environment” in Building and Environment, an international journal of building science and its applications. Congratulations to Prof. Chan and his research team, whose meaningful work has implications beyond the ivory tower.

Prof. Albert Chan

CEE academics invited to serve on committees of environmental research projects

To strengthen collaboration and exchange between scientists in China and an integrated Land Ecosystem --- Atmosphere Processes Study (iLEAPS) project under the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP), a Chinese committee based on the China Working Group of 2006 was recently formed. After many discussions and nominations from related groups, about 10 senior scientists were invited to serve on the China Advisory Committee, and around 30 outstanding young scientists were selected as members of the first China Committee. As the only representatives from Hong Kong, Prof. Tao Wang and Dr Hai Guo, both of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, had the honor to be part of the China Advisory Committee and China Committee respectively. In addition, Prof. Wang is also a member of the International Scientific Steering Committee and a vice chair of the China Committee for International Global Atmospheric Chemistry, another core project of IGBP. Their appointments are testimony to their strong scholarly reputation and expertise. Congratulations to them both.

Prof. Tao Wang
Dr Hai Guo

BRE academic sought after by government bodies

Prof. Eddie Hui of the Department of Building and Real Estate has recently been appointed to serve on the Vocational Training Council Real Estate Services Training Board for two years from 1 April 2013 and the Urban Renewal Authority Board as a non-executive director for three years from 1 May 2013. He will bring his expertise to bear on the work of these government bodies. Congratulations to Prof. Hui for these noteworthy appointments.

Prof. Eddie Hui

BSE academic receives merit award from HKIE

To showcase the contributions of engineering to society and recognize the innovations of engineers, the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers (HKIE) held an Engineering Week 2013 during 20-28 April 2013, where the work of Ir Prof. Yang Hong Xing and his team members, Dr Lu Lin and Mr Chen Jian, were honored with a Certificate of Merit in the Technology category. Their inline hydroelectric generating system for urban water pipelines works in confined conditions and was deployed in 2011 by the Water Supplies Department.  

The 11-strong panel of judges included the President of the HKIE, Ir Prof. Choy Kin Kuen, and representatives of various government and professional organizations, including the Development Bureau, the Construction Industry Council, and the Hong Kong Green Building Council. Congratulations to Prof. Yang and his research group for the innovation.

Projects supported by CII-HK/ PolyU Innovation Fund

To support innovative research projects related to the construction process and/ or construction management, the Construction Industry Institute – Hong Kong (CII-HK)/ PolyU Innovation Fund was set up in 2009 with a HK$ 4 million donation from CII-HK and a matching amount from PolyU.  For 2013, it is supporting, wholly or in part, the following 6 projects:


Project Title: Framework for quantifying the Transaction Costs (TCs) of the Green Building (GB) project delivery: A case of Hong Kong Real Estate Development Process (REDP)

Prof. Edwin CHAN, BRE
Dr Lennon CHOY, BRE
Prof. Ghani KHALID (Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Overseas Collaborator)

Funding Decision: Supported with $300,000
The research project aims to develop a framework for quantifying TCs of GB and confirm the typology and chronology of transaction costs (TCs) incurred in the real estate development process (REDP) of green building delivery in Hong Kong.  The prototype framework from this proposed research has the potential of leading to a bigger scale of comparative research with our collaborating research institutions of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM), Malaysia and Institut Teknologi Bandung, Indonesia to develop a joint proposal to apply for funding from Asian Development Bank or World Bank.


Project Title: Strengthening of reinforced concrete columns by high performance ferrocement using dry-spraying technology
Investigators: Dr Eddie LAM, CEE
Funding Decision: Supported with $300,000
The objective of this study is to develop a method of strengthening square reinforced concrete columns by high performance ferrocement ("HPF") using dry spraying technology. There are two components of the objectives.  First, establish a confinement theory on strengthening square (and rectangular) reinforced concrete columns by HPF. Second, develop a method to apply HPF in replacement of the concrete cover using dry spraying technology.  To achieve the Objectives, experimental studies, data analysis and desk top studies will be carried out by (a) conducting loading tests on full-scale square columns to ascertain the load carrying capacities of the existing columns; (b) designing HPF with high tensile strength and conduct direct tensile tests on HPF specimens implemented using dry spraying technology; (c) conducting loading tests on full-scale square columns strengthened by HPF using dry spraying technology and (d) developing design procedure and guidelines on selecting the appropriate HPF to meet the structural demand.


Project Title: The Impact of Construction-induced Ground Borne Vibration and Noise to Sensitive Structures and Facilities

Dr Songye ZHU, CEE
Dr Yong XIA, CEE

Funding Decision: Supported with $300,000
The objectives of the project are (a) to quantify vibration source strength for a variety of construction methods through on-site vibration monitoring; (b) to establish semi-empirical propagation models for ground-borne vibration and noise with consideration of frequency-dependent attenuation and probability distributions; (c) to simulate vibration levels of generic buildings and underground pipelines induced by construction activities with consideration of plan distance, vibration source depth, soil conditions, soil-structure interactions, non-uniform ground excitations; (d) to assess the impact of various construction activities with regard to three limit states: structural safety, human feeling and sensitive facilities and (e) to evaluate the effectiveness of various vibration mitigation measures in protecting sensitive equipment.


Project Title: Recycling Timber and Bamboo Construction Waste into Activated Carbons and Wood-Plastic Composites

Dr Daniel TSANG, CEE
Prof. Chi-Sun POON, CEE

Funding Decision: Supported with $300,000
The overarching goal of this project is to transform the non-inert construction waste materials (timber/bamboo waste, in particular) into useful resources for environmental and construction utilization in Hong Kong. To ensure there will be a measurable success of the project, specific objectives at different stages are suggested as follows: (a) Identify operational challenges and critical success factors for timber/bamboo waste recycling; (b) Evaluate the economic, environmental, and sustainable implications of timber/bamboo waste management options; (c) Develop the optimal conditions for converting timber/bamboo waste into activated carbons for environmental applications and (d) Determine the best mixture compositions for producing recycled wood-plastic composites for construction applications.


Project Title: Development of a novel solar heat-reflective insulation material based on hollow glass micro-balloon cores with hierarchical porous rutile TiO2 coating

Prof. Hongxing YANG, BSE
Dr Lin LU, BSE
Dr Yuanhao WANG, BSE

Funding Decision: Supported with $399,400
The main aims and objectives of this project are to develop a novel SHR1 based on HGT for the construction industry and to demonstrate the technical feasibility of manufacturing the novel paints using processes compatible with volume production. The objectives are summarized as follows: (a) To develop a novel synthesis strategy of the highly crystalline rutile type HOT by using hydrothermal reaction method combined with the rotary evaporation method and sol-gel method.  (b) To produce a series of the SHRI prototype products based on solar heat-reflective insulation materials that have the reflectivity of at least 95%.  (c) To gain an in-depth understanding of the growth mechanism of highly crystalline TiO2 hierarchical nanostructure by combining the characterization of X-ray diffraction (XRD), field emission scanning electron microscopy (FESEM), transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and other characterization technology, such as Raman spectroscopy and Fourier transform infrared (FTIR).  (d) To study the relationship between the heat reflectance and heat insulation of the developed rutile HOT composites and different TiO2 film thickness via the UV-Vis-NIR reflectivity and FTIR.  (e) To analyze and evaluate the effects of reflected heat and infrared reflectance by establishing a mathematical model of interface between the TiO2 and hollow glass micro-balloons.  (f) To use the information above to identify the key process parameters impacting on production performance in both heat insulation and heat reflectance.  (g) To develop an instrument for measuring these Parameter.


Project Title: Development of an innovatively anchored stone cladding system for building construction

Dr Jian-Guo DAI, CEE

Funding Decision: Supported with $500,000
The proposed project aims to establish an innovatively anchored stone cladding system for building construction, in which the stone panel acts as the permanent formwork of concrete, while the dovetail grooves made in the inner side of the stone panel facilitate mechanical connection between the stone panel and the hardened concrete. Hereafter the connection is termed as "the stone-to-concrete connection" for brevity. The focus of this research project is the strength and durability of the connection, which is the key to the success of the cladding construction technology to be established. The specific objectives of the project are as follows: (a) To design and optimize the geometry of dovetail grooves to realise a reliable self-locking connection between stone panels and concrete; (b) To investigate the durability of the stone-to-concrete connection subject to water immersion and freeze and thaw action; (c) To demonstrate the robustness of the optimized stone-to-concrete connection under tension and shear through full-scale tests; (d) To investigate the performance of reinforced concrete (RC) walls decorated with the new stone cladding system subjected to wind and seismic loading through full-scale tests; (e) To form construction guidelines for the innovatively anchored stone cladding system.

This is the final round of competition for the CII-HK/PolyU Innovation Fund, which will distribute a total of HK$2,099,400 for the 6 projects above. Keep up the good work!

New subject on High Speed Rail & Planning

A new elective subject with 3 credits, CE501 High Speed Rail (HSR) and Planning, has been offered for the first time to seniors and postgraduates for the 2012/13 Summer Term.

Scheduled for three consecutive weekends from mid-June 2013, the subject provides an integrated approach that covers both the engineering and non-engineering aspects of HSR planning by introducing students to HSR passenger transport systems, including station and route selection, capital cost estimation, operation and maintenance costs estimation, ridership forecasting, economic analysis, project implementation and financing, environmental impact analysis, and project management and reporting. The curriculum is based on an advanced, graduate-level class at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and will be co-taught by Prof. Tsung-Chung Kao and Dr M. Rapik Saat, both of whom also teach there currently.

Prof. Tsung-Chung Kao Dr M. Rapik Saat

Similar versions of the subject were offered to industry practitioners and graduate engineers in the summers of 2011 and 2012. They have proved very popular for purposes of continuing professional development.     

Interested students from the Postgraduate Scheme in Construction and Environment (programme code: 04001) may online register CE501 via eStudent during the add/drop period from 10-15 June 2013.  Other interested parties may enroll the subject through subject-based admission by completing the form as137 which is downloadable at and return it to Faculty Office via fax 2362 2574 before commencement of the class.

FCE Summer Attachment Scheme 2012/13

5 academics from the Faculty of Construction and Environment will have the opportunity to conduct research at overseas institutions as part of the Summer Attachment Scheme, which was launched last year to encourage academic staff to engage in worldwide collaborative research. Below are the names of the globe-trotters who will be jointly supported by FCE and their respective departments in their research endeavours.

We wish all of them a successful and fulfilling summer.

Applicant (Dept) Hosting institution(s) Funding allocated Attachment period
Dr LEE Henry Po-Heng (CEE) Cornell University

CEE: $32,117.7
FCE: $32,117.7

15 June-15 Aug 2013
Dr DAI Jian-Guo (CEE) The University of Tokyo

CEE: $27,684.5
FCE: $27,684.5

30 June-16 Aug 2013
Dr GUO Hai (CEE) The University of Western Australia

CEE: $32,026
FCE: $32,026

15 July-31 Aug 2013
Dr WANG Yuhong (CEE) North Carolina State University

CEE: $12,817.8
FCE: $12,817.8

14 July-13 Aug 2013
Dr LAI Wai Lok (LSGI) Federal Institute of Materials Research
and Testing (BAM)

LSGI: $15,498.2
FCE: $15,498.2

7 June-9 July 2013


Faculty Public Lectures

The Faculty of Construction and Environment was honoured to have the following speakers giving distinguished lecture and public lectures at PolyU:

Prof. Antonio Nanni

FCE Public Lecture
"Extending the Life of Concrete Structures: Institutional Activities and Innovative Technologies"

Prof. Antonio Nanni
Professor and Chair, Department of Civil, Architectural & Environmental Engineering,
University of Miami

Date: 2 May 2013 (Thu) (Details)

Prof. Jerry Schnoor

FCE Distinguished Lecture
"Water Sustainability in a Changing World"

Prof. Jerry Schnoor
Allen S. Henry Chair in Engineering, Co-Director,
Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research,
University of Iowa

Date: 22 May 2013 (Wed) (Details)

Dr Kevin Huang

FCE Public Lecture
"Solid Oxide Fuel Cells for Advanced Energy Storage"

Dr Kevin Huang
Associate professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering,
University of South Carolina

23 May 2013 (Thu) (Details)

Dr Sami Rizkalla

FCE Public Lecture
"FRP for Sustainable Precast Concrete Structures"

Dr Sami Rizkalla
Distinguished Professor of Civil Engineering and Construction
Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering
North Carolina State University, USA

31 May 2013 (Fri) (Details)

Forthcoming Events

Summer School for Outstanding Postgraduate and Senior Undergraduate Students
Duration: 30 July to 8 August 2013
Location: The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hung Hom, Kowloon, Hong Kong, China

12th International Conference on Sustainable Energy Technologies (SET2013)
Date: 26-29 August 2013
Venue: Chiang Chen Studio Theatre, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Academic Vacancies - FCE     HKPolyUFCE
Faculty of Construction and EnvironmentDepartment of Building and Real EstateDepartment of Building Services EngineeringDepartment of Civil and Environmental EngineeringDepartment of Land Surveying and Geo-Informatics

Copyright © 2013 Faculty of Construction and Environment, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. All rights reserved.