Configuring land of the future

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 June, 2012, 12:00am


Underground, above the ground, and under the sea - Hong Kong's Civil Engineering and Development Department (CEDD) surveyors play a vital role in shaping, preserving and making the best use of the city's landscape.

'For those looking for a combination of indoor and outdoor work, joining the CEDD surveying division provides a challenging and varied environment, and offers excellent career opportunities,' says Li Siu-wai, CEDD senior survey officer for engineering.

'Qualified surveyors conduct feasibility studies, investigations, as well as design and construction supervision work across a variety of projects,' says Li.

Much of this work, he explains, is carried out as part of the advisory services the CEDD provides to other government departments, including drainage services, highways, and water supplies.

CEDD surveyors evaluate survey methods, carry out survey planning and design, and prepare survey specifications and method statements. The survey division also offers professional advice and technical support for engineering and marine surveys, such as those conducted after a shipwreck or in response to an emergency.

'When necessary, our surveyors carry out investigations during natural disasters arising from major landslides and flooding,' Li adds. 'Land is one of Hong Kong's most valuable assets and touches every aspect of our daily life, so surveyors need to have a strong sense of responsibility,' he says.

Owing to retirements, and an increase in large-scale government projects, there is a rising number of vacancies for surveyors these days, notes Li. When recruiting, the division looks for enthusiastic candidates who are preferably geomatics and survey engineer degree holders. Graduates from the long-running Master's of Science in Geomatics programme at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University are frequently recruited.

The minimum academic qualification for entering the survey officer for engineering grade is possession of a higher diploma in geomatics, or a diploma or higher certificate in land surveying and cartography from a Hong Kong university, the Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education, a technical institute or college, or the equivalent.

New recruits are not necessarily required or expected to gain professional qualifications recognised by the Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors.

George Wu, principal survey officer for engineering, says leadership abilities and good communication skills are also valued. 'Outdoors, surveyors usually work in small teams that need to be co-ordinated. If they are working in the New Territories, surveyors often need to talk to villagers so they need good communication skills,' Wu adds.

Like other professions, technological advances have led to new specialisations and the use of cutting-edge technology. For instance, through the use of emerging technology, a complete series of 1:1000 scale maps covering the whole territory of Hong Kong are available in digital form. Wu says that to ensure surveyors are familiar with new technology, the surveying division provides in-house or third party bespoke training programmes.

Meanwhile, the survey division is evaluating unmanned aerial systems (UAS), which look like model aircraft fitted with sophisticated survey equipment. 'The technology will allow us to make more detailed surveys of hard to access places and provide relevant parties with more information,' says Ng Thuan Chanh, a CEDD senior surveyor who has been working with UAS.

For marine surveying efficiency, the division uses special tools for hydrographic surveys to determine the position of underwater objects and assess damage to seawalls and breakwaters.

'We still need to operate from a boat, but hydrographic surveying equipment makes our work more efficient,' says Pang Mei-ho, also a senior CEDD surveyor who specialises in marine surveying.

CEDD land surveyor Joanne Kiu says the ability to produce computer animation for civil engineering projects enables visual impact assessments to be made, and also facilitates public consultations.