TENDERS for construction and design contracts worth more than $15 billion will be invited by next March, according to the Works Branch. The bumper public works package covers nearly 140 projects, including some announced as part of the $91.5 billion five-year infrastructure spending programme outlined in Governor Chris Patten's policy speech last month. A total of 14 projects are valued at $400 million, while most of the others are less than $100 million. Among the largest are four projects to improve water services in the Tai Po and Butterfly Valley districts of the New Territories. These include the design and construction of a water aqueduct, a reservoir, two treatment plants and pumping stations with water mains. The deals will help ease contractors' fears about a dearth of work once construction of the airport core programme is complete. They will also help to maintain Government spending on public works past the June 1997 handover. Consultants, including architects and quantity surveyors, have the lion's share of work with a selection of jobs covering landslide prevention, drainage and building design. One of the most prestigious schemes on the list is the design of a film archive and leisure centre at Sai Wan. The 42-month project includes both the main design contract and building services. Local Chinese design firms are likely to be involved with the building projects. Most of the civil engineering schemes entailing roads and drainage would appeal to British consultants in the territory. These include Maunsell, Binnie, Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick and Halcrow Asia Partnership. Key schemes are a centralised incineration faci-lity for special waste and the north-west New Territories refuse transfer station. The projects have been given approval just as spending on public works is reaching its peak. Government figures for the first quarter of 1995, the latest available, show $7.89 billion of publicly funded work was completed. A total of $8.76 billion worth of private sector schemes were finished during the same period. Official statistics also show the number of manual workers employed in the industry is also on the increase. From 52,000 workers in 1993, the lowest level for more than 10 years, employment exceeded 64,000 by March 1995. This is still a long way from the 90,000 working in the construction industry in 1982.