Infrastructure in mainland China
Project Mingde was established in 2004 by members and alumni of the Department of Civil Engineering, The University of Hong Kong (HKU) to provide education and transportation infrastructures for people living in remote and underprivileged areas in Mainland China. Civil engineering students were encouraged to participate in these building projects to gain valuable all-aspect experiences from project inception to completion. These real-life projects allow students to interact with different stakeholders, such as project donors, villagers, government officials, architects, contractors and consultants. These active engagements stimulate students’ learning interest and curiosity, broaden their horizons and enhance their social and project management skills. Over the past 18 years, Project Mingde has successfully completed 11 building projects and a series of summer camps in Mainland China, Vietnam and Myanmar. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is only one active project in Mainland China – the restoration and expansion of Duling Primary School in Guigang of Guangxi Province. Although no site visit is possible, our summer intern and winter training camp students have made an excellent contribution in finalizing the building design, contracts, building information modelling (BIM) models and virtual supervision scheme. The project had progressed to the construction phase in October 2021.
Renovation work of Saint Barnabas' Society and Home centre
Despite the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Project Mingde strives to seek new experiential learning and community service opportunities locally in Hong Kong. In September 2021, we started our collaboration with Saint Barnabas' Society and Home (SBSH), which is a charity organization based in Sai Wan, near the main campus of HKU. SBSH was founded in 1987 to help the poor, the homeless and the elderly in the western part of Hong Kong Island. It aims to create a caring community by offering a range of services which include providing food, shelter and counselling assistance to those in need, organizing outreaching volunteering works, and hosting after-school clubs and extra-curricular activities for underprivileged children. After years of services, the two-storey SBSH centre in Shek Tong Tsui is showing significant signs of wear and tear, and is in need of a major repair and renovation.
This collaboration with SBSH is the first Mingde project in Hong Kong. In October 2021, the SBSH project team was formed by students, teachers, SBSH representatives, partnering architects and contractors. After several site visits and meetings, we had identified the issues of the SBSH centre. Before any renovation work could take place, detailed drawings of the SBSH Shek Tong Tsui site were required. In November 2021, Dr Alex Lau of the Civil Engineering Department led a group of students to conduct a preliminary land survey of the SBSH site. This allowed architecture students to re-design the front and back yards of the site, which will both be safer to for elderly and disabled people and be better utilized and aesthetically enhanced. The project team also proposed the possibility of installing solar photovoltaic (PV) panels on the roof. The PV panels and a revamped electrical circuit will be able to solve the power shortage problem of the SBSH centre, which is particularly severe during the summer months.
“For the installation of the PV panels on the roof, we first had to measure the dimensions of the roof supporting structure, such as the dimensions and positions of the columns, beams and slabs. It was not straight forward as the structure was hidden above the plasterboards of the false ceiling. After that, we estimated the maximum allowable load, which allowed us to check whether the structure was strong enough to support the specific PV panels. We wrote a report and presented it to the SBSH representatives, the contractor and our teachers”, remarked Sunway Wang, a Civil Engineering student of HKU.
During our inspection, a water seepage problem on the roof was found. A contractor was hired to fix this problem. Upon the successful completion of the roof maintenance work in February 2022, students participated in a water spray test on the roof area to verify the quality of workmanship. Experiencing such a test on a building rooftop is quite special, as Sunway Wang commented, “This project provides precious opportunities for me to have a taste of interesting on-site inspection and maintenance work”.
In January 2022, 18 Architecture and Civil Engineering students participated in a three-day multidisciplinary design workshop. “We team up with architecture students to come up with new designs of the SBSH centre interior and its front and back yards and build models to visualize our designs using paper and cardboards. This shows me the importance of teamwork and communication in a construction project”, said Civil Engineering student Dickson Lui. The students presented their design concepts for the renovation of the indoor area and front and back yards to SBSH representatives. The project team is finalizing the designs with all the stakeholders, and these renovation works will commence later this year.
Like previous Mingde projects, Civil Engineering students will get the chance to do hands-on works on-site during the renovation of SBSH. For instance, they will join forces with Architecture students in prototyping and testing the innovative garden bench design to see if its strength is adequate. They will help to build new planters and other new structures in the front and back yards. They will also assist in implementing new interior layouts on the two storeys, which will utilize space more efficiently, and waterproofing some window frames and walls of the building and the renovated ground floor toilet and bathroom.
For more details about Project Mingde, please visit: https://tl.hku.hk/horizons/mingde/