Henderson Land Development is to adopt innovative construction methods for new housing and commercial projects in a bid to increase efficiencies and cut labour costs. The company has set up a three-member research and development team under the project management department to study the use of new construction technology. Under the leadership of project management department assistant general manager David Yau, the team has visited Singapore, Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, France and the mainland to look at construction methods. Mr Yau said the visits explored construction techniques which differed from the conservative and labour-intensive methods used in Hong Kong. Saving time and controlling construction costs had become more important, especially after the property market correction, he said. The advantages of using different types of design-and-build systems were not only cost-effectiveness, but also improved quality and environmental aspects, he said. As a result of the visits, the company is considering different design-and-build systems, including wall formwork, column formwork, climbform, stairform, post-tensioning and pre-cast concrete. Project management department deputy general manager Simon Fok said the proposed residential-commercial redevelopment project in Tai Kok Tsui would be Henderson's first large-scale project using aluminium system formwork. The project would provide 3,288 units of about 500 square feet each or a gross floor area of 1.72 million sq ft. Mr Fok said aluminium system formwork instead of traditional timber would help cut costs and reduce waste. The better project delivery also would facilitate project management, he said, pointing out this could help minimise loss of time and material. The design-and-build method, which required less skilled workers, also would help address the tight supply of skilled labour. The first phase of five residential blocks in Tai Kok Tsui was scheduled to be completed at the end of 2002 and another five blocks in the second phase were scheduled for completion at the end of 2003, Mr Fok said. Henderson's joint-venture residential project at Tung Chung Station used the aluminium system formwork while drywall for internal partitions was used in its residential project, Metropolitan Rise, in To Kwa Wan. Drywall installation could achieve better structural characteristics, resulting in reduced wall thicknesses and an increase in the unit's efficiency rate, Mr Fok said. While some other major developers used different system formwork building methods, they were still not yet widely adopted by the market, he said. As a result, the use of system formwork was still more expensive than traditional building methods, he said. But Mr Fok believed prices would come down once the new construction methods became more widespread. Henderson also planned to introduce ready-made bathroom units - commonly used in Japanese housing projects - into future residential developments, he said. However, Mr Fok said time was needed for industry players and prospective homebuyers to accept these new systems. During the past decade, developers had not put much effort into bringing new construction technology into Hong Kong as prospective buyers rushed to buy homes during the market boom times, he said. But now, buyers are becoming more demanding and price-sensitive. Developers also needed to spend wisely amid the market downturn.