URA eyes composites for rehab of Central Market building

October 23, 2017 15:21
After inspections, the Central Market building was found to be too old and too fragile for traditional reinforcement. New ideas and new technologies are needed, according to the URA. Photo: HKEJ/URA

The Urban Renewal Authority (URA) is considering fiber-reinforced polymer (FRP) composites to rehabiltate the Central Market building.

In a blog post on Sunday, URA managing director Wai Chi-sing, who is also a structural engineer, said the authority is studying FRP to reinforce the original structure and increase its loading capacity without the need for any drastic changes.

FRP, which is still new to Hong Kong, is a high-strength material made of high-performance fiber, Wai said.

It is seen as highly suitable for rehabilitating the Central Market which has been in disrepair for many years.

Built in 1939 and located between Queen’s Road Central and Des Voeux Road Central, the building was given a Grade III historical building status in 1990 by the Antiquities Advisory Board. It ceased operation in 2003.

In March, the government announced that the URA will be responsible for conserving and revitalizing the building. It was officially handed over to the authority on Oct. 10.

But after inspections, Wai said the building had been found too old and its structure too fragile for traditional reinforcement.

He said new ideas and new technologies are needed.

FRP is used in manufacturing parts of airplanes and cars and should also apply to construction, although there has not been too many studies on its fire-resistant capability, according to Professor Teng Jinguang, who heads the Research Institute for Sustainable Urban Development of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

He said FRP will function like a tight suit on the building’s internal structure to protect and strengthen it.

Teng, who is a pioneer in the study of the material, said a team at the university is studying FRP to ensure it is safe to use as a building material.

If plans go ahead, the Central Market could be the first building of its kind to use it.

Meanwhile, the URA is set to submit a proposal regarding the revamp of the Central Market building to the Buildings Department any time soon.

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