HKU project makes the grade for going with nature's flow

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 June, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 June, 2010, 12:00am

Students at the University of Hong Kong's new Centennial Campus will attend classes close to two giant reservoirs of flushing water serving an estimated 120,000 people.

But they will be blissfully unaware of their watery neighbours because the saltwater is housed in caverns cut into Lung Fu Shan, the mountain at the foot of which the campus will sit.

Thanks to the design, which has won an International Water Association award to be announced in Shanghai today, none of the greenery which coats the slopes has been disturbed because all the work was done inside the mountain.

Global engineering company Black & Veatch (B&V) was employed by the university in 2005 to manage the water reservoirs under the campus' new site.

The campus, being built to the west of the current campus, is due to open next year on the university's centenary.

Two salt or flushing water reservoirs beneath the prospective campus site held 6,000 cubic metres each, five times the amount of water in a standard Olympic swimming pool. Another reservoir under the site held 26,500 cubic metres of fresh water.

Previous consultants suggested that the university cut away a large chunk of Lung Fu Shan to build large tanks where the Water Supplies Department could redistribute the reserves, effectively devastating 6,000 square metres of woodland.

Working with the department, B&V's answer was to build twin caverns with a single entrance inside Lung Fu Shan for the saltwater reserves, and to replace the original salt-water reservoir with a larger one for fresh water.

A senior engineer with the department, Chan Tze-ho, said local residents - 'the primary stakeholders looking after the trees' - would never have agreed to the project if the 280,000 cubic metres of soil and vegetation were to have been destroyed.

Chan said the largely concrete and steel structure was the first such reservoir in Hong Kong.

Project manager Edwin Chung Kwok-Fai said no trees had been touched although some brush might have been removed when building roads to the site. 'We can't stick to the conventional approach,' Chung said.

The design has already won the Innovation and Creativity Award in last year's Hong Kong Awards for Industries.

The project cost the university an estimated HK$500 million, more than a quarter of the cost of the overall Centennial Campus construction, said Louis Chu Yiu-Leung of the university's estate office.