28 October 2016
An artist's impression of the proposed "urban oasis" above the Hung Hom Tunnel toll plaza. Photo: PolyU
An artist's impression of the proposed "urban oasis" above the Hung Hom Tunnel toll plaza. Photo: PolyU

Mega projects that will change how you look at Hong Kong

More than the city’s magnificent urban skyline, Hongkongers can take pride in some of its ongoing mega projects, which are engineering marvels and shining examples of planning and design.

World-class infrastructure is one of the city’s key advantages, and a fundamental factor to its continued success. 

For four years running, Hong Kong remains on top of an infrastructure ranking of 144 economies worldwide by the World Economic Forum, and is the world’s seventh most competitive economy overall.

The government aims to invest HK$70 billion per annum in infrastructure, but other than its long list of housing and transport programs, there are other projects that, although barely coming into public attention at the moment, can send the city to the top of the scoreboard of quality and green living once completed.

Here are some of them:

Green piazza in Hung Hom

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University has been lobbying the government for its bold concept plan to reinvent Hung Hom where its main campus lies: to build a giant green deck, a city balcony, above one of the most severe pollution black spots in town, the Cross Harbor Tunnel toll plaza, which sees 120,000 vehicles passing through on any given day.

The HK$5 billion plan aims to tackle all the problems – worsening air pollution, urban heat island, overloaded footbridge, fragmented connectivity and a lack of open space – with just one solution.

Linking the MTR Hung Hom Station podium and PolyU campus, the proposed multifunctional deck will have three storeys – original traffic lanes of the tunnel and toll plaza on the ground level, a mezzanine floor for air filtration systems as well as air-conditioned walkways and pedestrian access connecting PolyU campus, Hung Hom station and East Tsim Sha Tsui, and a 43,000 square meter top deck, roughly twice the size of the Southorn Playground in Wan Chai, that runs from the harborfront along the Hong Kong Coliseum to the northern end of the Hong Hum station podium.

The deck will serve as an “urban oasis” featuring verdant greenery, an amphitheater, a sports complex, a reflection pool and a cycling track.

Who would not want our city to have this spacious, “floating” scenic boulevard cum piazza right in the heart of the heavily built-up urban area?

For a glimpse of how the concept will come into fruition, PolyU is currently staging an exhibition of its proposal until end-February at its Inno Tower.

Giant reservoir beneath Happy Valley racecourse

Not many horseracing fans may know that the Happy Valley Racecourse has been partially excavated underneath.

A HK$1.07 billion, 60,000 cubic meter reservoir, equaling the combined size of 24 standard swimming pools, is being built some 15 meters below the city’s 170-year-old racecourse. The first phase was finished last year.

The rationale for such an underground reservoir is that Happy Valley and parts of Causeway Bay and Wan Chai, some of Hong Kong’s most affluent residential neighborhoods, are particularly prone to severe flooding when the area encroaches upon the cliffy hillside.

Residents still have vivid memories of the huge flood that submerged almost the entire district, as well as the racecourse, in June 2008 when Hong Kong was hit by one of the worst black rainstorms in history.

The Drainage Services Department figured that the racecourse, being the lowest spot in the area, could be an ideal site for a flood reservoir, considering that expanding existing drainage systems is restrained by narrow roads and congested underground utilities.

The tank will store stormwater from upstream catchment during heavy rainstorms to reduce the peak flow through the downstream drainage systems.

Upon full completion in 2018, the drainage systems in Happy Valley can withstand a rainstorm with an intensity of a 50-year return period.

The reservoir lies beneath the playground encompassed by the race track. To minimize disruptions to racing events and other activities like Happy Wednesday, the work must be carefully synchronized with racing programs.

A ball-picking hotline, for instance, has been set up for pitch players who accidentally kick balls into the work sites, so as to prevent them from trespassing unsafe areas, writes development secretary Paul Chan Mo-po in his blog.

Also, a HK$3 billion, 11-kilometer tunnel running from Causeway Bay to Cyberport in Pok Fu Lam with 34 intakes along the way was finished in 2012. The drainage tunnel is the longest of its kind in Hong Kong, almost as long as the MTR’s Tseung Kwan O Line. It intercepts stormwater from Mid-Levels and discharges it directly into the sea.

“The sewer is the conscience of the city,” said Victor Hugo. When mainland cities like Beijing may be easily inundated after just a thunderstorm, Hongkongers should congratulate themselves for living in a city that constantly builds on its own “conscience”.

Monster central AC systems at Kai Tak

Just imagine all buildings in a central business district no longer need individual air-conditioning units and chilled water will be plumbed from a central, monster plant to produce cool breeze indoors. Space originally meant for separate AC equipment can now be saved for other uses.

The Kai Tak development area in eastern Kowloon will be the site of one of Asia’s first such centralized district cooling systems, worth HK$1.67 billion.

The system produces chilled water, pumped from the sea, at the central chiller plant and distributes it to user buildings for air-conditioning. Saving up to 85 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually, it achieves 35 percent power savings compared with traditional AC systems.

Through 39 kilometers of pipes, the two chiller plants, located on the two ends of the former Kai Tak runway, will have a capacity of 284 megawatts, enough to serve an area of 1.73 million square meters, or roughly the net floor space of 40 30-storey office towers combined, the total planned non-domestic air-conditioned floor area in Kai Tak, according to an Environment Bureau filing to the Legislative Council.

The first phase has been up and running since 2013, cooling government buildings including the new Trade and Industry Department headquarters, the cruise terminal and shopping arcades of two public housing estates.

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More than 120,000 vehicles pass the Hung Hom Tunnel on any given day, making the district one of the mostly polluted areas in Hong Kong. Photo: Jeffery Poon

A giant reservoir is being built beneath the city’s 170-year-old racecourse in Happy Valley. Photo: Minghong

A portion of the finished underground floodwater storage in Happy Valley. Photo: GovHK

The main tunnel of the 12-kilometer drainage system from Causeway Bay to Cyberport. Photo: ARUP

One of the two giant central chilling plants in Kai Tak. Photo: Wing1990hk

EJ Insight writer

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