St Andrew’s Church Life Centre, Hong Kong

Aurecon’s smart engineering solutions bridged modernity and history

  • Underground expansion of church facilities, adding GFA 2 875 sq m
  • Aurecon's role: geotechnical and structural engineering
  • Architect & Client: Nelson Chen Architects Ltd

Modernisation is the desire to change and to evolve with the times – but for historic buildings, this isn’t so simple.

Pursuing a vision to extend its ministerial services and thrive against the backdrop of modern living, the century-old St Andrew’s Church in Hong Kong chose to expand its facilities through the construction of the St Andrew’s Church Life Centre. This enables the church to open its doors directly onto Nathan Road – one of the busiest streets in Kowloon and connecting with the local community groups and residents in the area.

The expansion was set to be underground, requiring specialised geotechnical and structural services by Aurecon to avoid causing damage to the heritage listed church. 

To bring this to life, the St Andrew’s Church Life Centre was built in a semicircular space with a gross floor area of 2 875 square metres. This creates a large, versatile facility boasting an 850-seater auditorium and classrooms, while the lower floor amphitheatre serves as a multipurpose space incorporating eight partitioned meeting rooms.

However, the project was not without its challenges. The project team had to find a solution to complete the 12-metre deep basement excavation works, while minimising vibration and ground settlement that could damage the heritage church, including its stained glass windows and the Kowloon British School building next door. The fact that the church sits on shallow foundations and was less than 3 metres from the edge of the excavation made the design far more difficult.

To address this, a mini-pile foundation system was proposed for the building to minimise construction vibration and special equipment was used to control ground settlement.

“The design and construction of excavation and lateral support (ELS) works have always been challenging, especially in the vicinity of sensitive structures,” said Steven Ng, Associate, Geotechnical, Aurecon. “The success of the project depended on the application of meticulous engineering assessments of the subsurface conditions through thorough analysis of the soil properties, comprehensive design considerations, and tight construction controls and supervision during execution of works,” he added.

Ultimately, Aurecon’s smart excavation plan effectively turned the vision of creating a modern community space within a heritage church complex into a reality.

Following its opening in 2015, the modern Life Centre prides itself with a connection to the heritage church through staircases and a lift to the courtyard garden. Completed with newly-planted trees and landscaping, the eco-friendly design also helps enhance insulation and energy efficiency within the building. In fact, the new extension has incorporated numerous best practice and environmental considerations, making it a world-class heritage development.

In the evening, the entrance façade of the Life Centre will light up and beautify the Nathan Road streetscape. The granite finish to the building will also match the historic Lych Gate adjoining the Antiquities and Monument Office.

The expansion project means that the church will continue into the future as a vital element in the life of local community groups and residents. The additional facilities are being used by other recognised charitable organisations including Government, NGOs and Christian organisations.

“This project has meant different things to different people ‒ from the worshippers and nearby office workers seeking shade in the church garden to the elderly people enjoying its peaceful ambience. To the Aurecon project team, it means far more than successfully resolving an engineering challenge to preserve a heritage structure, it means being proud to have helped create a special place in the heart of the Kowloon community and preserve a legacy for future generations,” said John Webb, Client Director, Built Environment – Asia, Aurecon. 

Designed by Nelson Chen Architects Ltd, the St Andrew’s Church Life Centre was cited as an incredible achievement and has won an Honor Award for Architecture from The American Institute of Architects (AIA) Hong Kong Chapter in 2015 and AIA International Region in 2016.

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