A conversation with Vice President (Campus Development and Facilities) Mr Simon Wong - Paving the way for a smart, vibrant campus
An accomplished architect, Mr Simon Wong had assumed senior management positions in sizable organisations and listed companies before joining PolyU as Vice President (Campus Development and Facilities) in May 2022. He is responsible for spearheading the development and implementation of strategies to enhance campus space and environment, as well as the management of facilities to meet the University’s growing needs. With more than 30 years of experience in the public and private sectors, he had led major development projects such as InnoCell, the first high-rise building adopting Modular Integrated Construction technology in Hong Kong.
What attracted you to join PolyU? What is your impression of its signature red-brick architecture?
The University’s red-brick architecture is iconic, symbolising its close ties with industry and society. Nowadays, there are more contemporary buildings on campus; they have enhanced PolyU’s image as a modern university. I have noticed that many people like taking pictures of the Jockey Club Innovation Tower designed by world-renowned architect Zaha Hadid. The building has enhanced PolyU’s international status.
On a personal note, I studied at the then Hong Kong Polytechnic for two years in the mid-1980s, after graduating from secondary school, and had a strong bond with fellow students. I even met my wife here. In those days, we schoolmates had a strong sense of belonging to the institution.
Can you share some of the initiatives under the University’s master plan of campus development?
One major development is the campus expansion project at the Ho Man Tin slope. The project involves the construction of a new academic building to provide more than 10,000m² floor area to meet the healthcare training needs of allied health services in Hong Kong. It will also include a hostel building providing accommodation for about 1,300 students.
With the University’s further emphasis on interdisciplinary research, more laboratory facilities that can drive the development of technology and innovation are indispensable.
Our campus redevelopment projects can present us with a challenge, as we must avoid causing disruptions to campus operations. We have to make careful planning for those projects.
We are also exploring how to enhance the communal spaces on campus, for example, by creating more leisure spaces where staff and students can mingle, learn and share with each other, or even busk together. The aim is to foster a stronger sense of belonging among the PolyU community and to optimise the use of campus space.
I hope that my experience in property design and planning as well as construction innovation could help steer the development of our campus.
Mr Wong shares his vision on PolyU’s campus development with colleagues in the Strategic Planning Forum.
What is your vision for a smart campus?
A smart campus is one with extensive adoption of Internet of Things (IoT). Our blueprint is to first develop a backbone for the system that uses smart technology to enhance efficiency, save energy and help reach the goal of carbon neutrality.
Through the installation of sensors and the gathering of building data, we can switch off the air conditioning system in rooms when no one is using them. Through artificial intelligence, we can adjust the temperature of rooms automatically according to the pattern of use of those rooms, if rich data are available.
How can PolyU researchers’ expertise be used to support the development of a smart sustainable campus?
PolyU researchers have long been working in the fields of smart energy, smart cities and sustainable urban development. I found when I was working in the private sector that there were many research talents at PolyU, and the University also has extensive collaboration with the construction industry. I do hope to work with more professors here so we can create a positive impact on society.
I will try to integrate the research work of professors on new technology that is ready for adoption. I am keen to promote the use of new technology.
Based on your extensive professional experience, what is your advice for young people and students who aspire to be successful architects, or master planners?
Attitude is the key to success. It is important to have a ‘can do’ spirit, determination and innovative thinking. Have a sense of mission in what you do, and try to develop a broader perspective. Think about ‘we’ instead of ‘me’.
Interdisciplinary knowledge is also crucial nowadays. Do not limit yourself to knowledge in one field alone, but try to acquire broader knowledge.
Do you have a motto that you live by?
Give meaning to your work by regarding it as a mission, rather than just a task to be completed. Another motto is "When there is a will, there is a way."
How do you spend your free time?
I enjoy watching movies and travelling. When travelling, I like observing people’s lifestyles, learning about the history of ancient buildings. I love visiting markets because they tell a lot about people’s lives in a different culture.