URA endorses innovative design for flats aimed at reducing noise pollution

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 November, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 November, 2009, 12:00am

Hong Kong will see its first residential development in staggered form in four years, with the Urban Renewal Authority adopting an innovative approach to reducing noise pollution faced by its redevelopment project in Sham Shui Po.

The project, in Kweilin and Hai Tan streets facing the West Kowloon Corridor, failed to satisfy the government's noise pollution standards, under which at least 80 per cent of the households should not be disturbed by noise of more than 70 decibels.

The project's leading architect, Professor Bernard Lim Wan-fung, said they could have solved the problem by changing the towers' orientation to allow the backs of the blocks to face the corridor, but this was not an environmentally friendly design.

'I also hope to demonstrate to developers that there are alternatives. Hong Kong dwellers deserve a quality living environment,' he said.

Noise pollution could be greatly reduced if the flats faced Hi Tan Street, opposite the West Kowloon Corridor. But Lim said the flats would suffer from excessive sunlight and strong winds throughout the year, leading eventually to increased energy consumption.

The design endorsed by the board yesterday features a staggered pattern that allows larger flats to overhang to reflect noise away from smaller flats on upper floors.

For lower storeys, the design turns the fifth-storey clubhouse and shops into a noise barrier, separating the towers and the corridor. A glass panel is added outside the larger flats to further reduce noise. The unusual design will be applied to towers three and four - out of the five towers - which lie nearest the corridor. Both towers will be about 35 storeys.

Lim said developers seldom designed creative buildings, partly to save on cost and partly due to rigid building regulations, which do not encourage overhanging designs.

'The government will usually ban this design, as the space under the overhang will probably be 'stolen' for building illegal structures or included as living area,' he said.

The overhangs in the project are designed with a slanting platform to ensure the outer space will not be taken for other uses. It is estimated that the design will add 3 to 5 per cent to the construction cost, which Lim described as minimal when compared with the high cost of land in Hong Kong.

Gordon Chan Hing-man, another architect involved in the project, said testing had shown that the design satisfied the noise standards.

The project will have a gross floor area of 66,960 square metres. It has still to go for tender.

The authority's chairman, Barry Cheung Chun-yuen, said the developer taking part in the project would have to follow the concept, and the project comprising 845 flats was expected to be completed in four years.

At yesterday's board meeting, members also agreed to add elderly-friendly facilities to another redevelopment, also in Sham Shui Po, to address the ageing population in the district. Special designs featuring larger doors, lower wash basins, more handrails and wider corridors will be incorporated into one of the three residential towers built in Yee Kuk Street. More than 60 of the 384 flats will be equipped with elderly-friendly facilities, and a social enterprise specialising in services for old people will be provided in the project.

'This is not a new policy. We just want to give an option to affected residents and encourage them to stay and retain their social network,' Cheung said, adding similar measures would be introduced in projects that were started elsewhere.

Ho Hei-wah, director of the Society for Community Organisation and a member of the urban renewal strategy steering committee, said the idea stemmed from good intentions but questioned the effectiveness of the new measures.

'Many elderly people are tenants, who will receive less redevelopment compensation. Can they afford such ... flats at a market price?'