Not to disclose too much, but we are back to Hong Kong with three towers at different stages of submission to Building Department for building permit. After being a 'design consultant' in China and Vietnam for so long, we are glad to be back on our home turf with a complete involvement from our side throughout all stages of the design and construction.
China still offers tremendous opportunities of design. It is a testing ground still for new ideas, yet for foreign architect it stays put at the idea stage only. Site visits and meetings during construction stages stay alibi and are mainly for catching up and personal bonding. We have been debating (and trying) to setup office in China as well, but were limited by too many factors that didn't allow us to run effectively a design AND built office.
We decided last year to become rather local (and work in markets where we can accompany the construction more frequently) and start building again with a hands on approach, being involved at all times throughout the process from design to planning to construction. Being back in Hong Kong, projects are more intense as in front of our doorstep and the complexity of planning is met by very mature clients and markets, that pull together a large consultant team in order to built projects.
One of our projects in Central is aiming for BEAM Plus Platinum (the highest Hong Kong green label certification). One of the requirements is the reduction of waste and material for which reason the project is tested structurally in a wind tunnel testing facility in order to qualify the potential environmental forces that meet the building. Yet, we have never been to such test lab and yesterday it was the first time our office visited the venue. We were obviously very excited by the lab, surprised by the enormous effort that is put into testing the structure under wind load and stunned by the beauty of the facility.
The lab is a long tube with a model of the project at the end in front of a set of industrial suction fans. At the other far end a perforated tubular wall lets the air being sucked in and stabilised the wind flow. A grid of plastic cubes simulates the resistance on ground. When the fans start spinning, a wind speed of 50m/sec is generated, measured through the model and translated into a digital model.
Besides the interesting new experience, the testing has an serious environmental dimension to it. The simulation helps to testify the structural calculation, helping in 90% of the cases to reduce structure further to the initial calculation by the engineer and provide enough data to built more efficiently with less material. When we talk about sustainability, it is not the green walls that matter but the intelligent planning, complex simulations and use of materials that define whether a project is 'truly green' or not.