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A campus with community and nature at its heart

Chai Wan Campus for the Technological and Higher Education Institute of Hong Kong (THEi) has won the Sustainable Design and Performance Award (2020 Asia Pacific Leadership in Green Building Awards) for creating an enlightening space which works in harmony with the community. In this blog, Mr. Leung Man-Kit, Director of Sustainable Design, Ronald Lu & Partners (Hong Kong) Limited, discusses the art of building around life to create a space for life to thrive.

The aspirations of The Campus

Chai Wan Campus for the Technological and Higher Education Institute of Hong Kong (THEi) aims to be a green, open, and community-centric learning environment. The site is surrounded by thriving community hubs, including Victoria Harbour, a housing estate, bus depot and elevated railway line. Subject to a building height limit of 65m and an area of one hectare, the project accommodates diverse learning and facilities such as classrooms, learning common, sports hall, laboratories and more.

The twin-tower design faces the Harbour and the towers act as a solar and noise buffer. A campus plaza is located on the first floor, well sheltered by the two tower blocks, with views of the nearby harbour. Skyrise greenery further adds to both shading and views.

Why is the project unique?

The design presents an innovative model of a vertical sustainable campus. It is a symphony of diverse functionalities. The campus aims to be urban microclimate-responsive, neighbourhood-centric and a friend to life — by providing a network of green clusters which support both learning and sustainable living. This enables the campus to foster a flowing exchange of ideas, between academics, environment and neighbourhood.

From a life cycle perspective, spatial, structural and building adaptability are enhanced by loose-fit spaces and large structural grids. To motivate positive user behaviour, a building environmental project assessment dashboard (BEPAD) provides real time measurements of how user groups are performing when it comes to energy saving.

Mr Cheung Hau-wai, Chairman of Hong Kong Green Building Council:

“We are pleased to know that THEi by Ronald Lu & Partners (Hong Kong) received the Award with its outstanding campus design as a vertical community-centric green space, taking into consideration the needs of the students, public and neighbourhood.

“THEi, which is also one of the Awardees of the Green Building Award 2019 in Hong Kong, sets an excellent benchmark for the city’s built environment in achieving high-density-low-carbon sustainable design that leads to positive outcomes for both the environment and people. The winning project is a testimony to our work in transforming Hong Kong to a greener city. It also sets an example and accelerates the development of a sustainable built environment in Asia Pacific.”

Overcoming challenges to finding opportunities

Time was a major challenge. This multi-disciplinary design effort was placed on a tight timeframe. Therefore the inception, concept and design development broke away from a conventional silo-design development and focused on defining key sustainable design performance indicators from cross-disciplinary perspectives. Also used were evidence-based simulations at the beginning of the design stage, which further helped to inform development.

User engagement was key to gaining a life-cycle perspective of how various features should be designed and adapted. The aim was to understand how to add value to the sustainable operation, management, learning and living in the long run.

Despite the timeframe, opportunities were found. One of the greatest of these was recognising how to create a synergised and sustainable network of well-connected, diverse and effective learning spaces within a vertical campus. Each design element creates value. For example, the bioclimatic façade design integrates with the building management system, which in turn enhances daylight harvesting, shading, natural ventilation, noise buffering and providing beautiful views.

The 280-m2 tailor-designed greenhouse of the campus for teaching and research serves as a visual and biophilic amenity. It also recycles CO2 from adjacent occupied functional rooms and provides a higher level of CO2 at 800 ppm to boost the photosynthesis of planting when the greenhouse is not occupied. Skyrise green spaces not only provide comfortable areas but also visual stimuli, because students can see the foliage through glazed classroom walls.

Low embodied carbon materials such as eco-gypsum blocks, sustainable timber, and bamboo flooring have been used. The team also adopted lean design and construction, with no basement excavation, simple and modular construction, and use of acoustic baffles instead of acoustic, decorative ceiling. With the effective passive design and lean design approach, the overall project budget is also in the same order as those commonly allowed for tertiary education institutes.


Setting an example: Sustainable urbanism with neighbourhood-centric planning

The new campus has harmonised a thriving network of community spaces, summarised as “the town, the gown and the industry”. At street level, the previously fragmented community space has been reconnected, allowing the public to enjoy improved   access and walkability through the campus, and into the harbourfront.

Connections to the neighbourhood’s walkway system and public transport network were planned from the earliest design stages. For example, structural piers and linked bridges connect to the walkway via the second floor.

Multi-level skyrise greenery 

The sky-rise greenery design was informed by Solar Irradiance Studies, which focussed on the built forms of the site and surroundings. This in turn helped to inform the planting species to be used and their ideal locations. This practice provides a scientific /   performance-based approach for compact urban sky-rise greening. Communal green spaces account for around 40% of the site’s greenery coverage.

Sustainable landscaping strategies were also employed to enhance the site’s urban biodiversity, including the introduction of over 120 trees and 33,000 shrubs — 60% of the trees, 90% of the shrubs and 53% of the ground cover are native species —   creating habitats for wildlife, while enhancing the campus microclimate.

Lean and smart architecture: towards high performance and greater adaptability

Through various means, the campus has achieved a greater than 20% reduction in energy consumption and over 80% daylight penetration into the habitable space. A smart application, integrated with HVAC systems and smart sensors, also provides a pilot   initiative to create a people-centric sustainable learning environment. Such installations recognise that thermal comfort is dynamic and will provide an ‘on demand’ response to meet the expectations of occupants in an energy efficient manner.

The campus is multi-functional, providing a home for nature, a classroom for students and a hub for the community. In short, this is a masterclass in harmony.


About the awards

The Asia Pacific Leadership in Green Building Awards showcase the achievements of businesses and innovators in WorldGBC’s Asia Pacific Network which are leading the way on sustainability in buildings.

The biennial Awards, first held in 2014, celebrates buildings pushing the envelope in sustainability, companies that have integrated sustainability into the core of their operations, and women leading the green building space.

An independent panel of 12 high-profile judges assessed nominations from Asia Pacific green building councils, and selected finalists in three awards categories:

1. The Business Leadership in Sustainability Award

2. The Women in Green Building Leadership Award

3. The Leadership in Sustainable Design and Performance Award

View the full Award Booklet: Asia Pacific Leadership in Green Building Awards 2020 here.

The winner of each category was announced at an online ceremony on the 3rd December 2020.

For more information contact, Nellie Cheng,