By 2046, Hong Kong will need 4,800 additional hectares of land to accommodate its growing population, which is projected to peak at 8.22 million in 2043, up from 7.49 million in 2020. Hong Kong’s government sees land reclamation as one way to address its population growth while transforming the city into a smart, green and more resilient city.
But land reclamation from the sea involves overcoming several major challenges, including rising sea levels, minimising the environmental impact on the marine environment, accommodating the associated increase in industrial traffic, the need to import specialist materials, and funding this capital-intensive process.
My colleague, Dr. Sing-Lok Chiu, Technical Director at Aurecon, discusses many of these challenges and what they mean in a recent thinking paper here.
At Aurecon, we believe one potentially significant way to overcome the challenges presented by land reclamation is to adopt holistic solutions that help cities become more resilient to the physical risks created by climate change, whilst also offering environmental benefits.
Across the industry, we see a growing movement towards a Whole Life Cycle Perspective to land reclamation. This approach considers specific sustainable and environmental issues in each stage of the planning, design, construction, operation, maintenance, rehabilitation and end-of-life phases of a land reclamation project.
It is a process of continual questioning at each stage of the project, asking: what could we do to reuse, reduce and recycle to make the land reclamation process more sustainable? At Aurecon, we approach the Whole Life Cycle Perspective process with nine key considerations:
As Hong Kong moves towards a more sustainable future, new developments can harness best practice from previous projects to ensure the city becomes more resilient to the physical risks created by climate change and more sustainable overall. A good example of a project is the Tung Chung New Town Extension.
This development demonstrated a strong level of ecological engineering where engineering solutions were integrated with ecological appreciation to create natural ecosystems to enhance habitat establishment and its ecological functions.
Specific design features in projects can deliver ecological benefits too. For example, the vertical seawalls that surround reclaimed land can include cavities and pots in their design to provide refuges and habitats for marine fauna and flora to colonise and grow.
In addition, mangroves can be planted on the shores around projects to provide coastal protection and to enhance marine organisms’ ability to form an inter-tidal ecosystem. The deployment of artificial reefs, bio-bricks and rehabilitation of seagrass beds along the shorelines can also benefit nearby fisheries and ecological resources too.
As we explore more reclaimed land projects, there are a host of other eco-engineering innovations we can consider too, for example creating artificial wetlands to treat anthropogenic discharge.
Aside from ensuring a strong focus on sustainable design, at Aurecon, we believe another crucial factor in maximising the long-term success of land reclamation in Hong Kong is leveraging digital tools.
By harnessing the advances, we see in digital engineering, we can take full advantage of the environmental and economic benefits within developments. From Building Information Modelling (BIM) to virtual reality (VR) to drones, digital tools are a great way to enhance the holistic process in a sustainable manner:
As Hong Kong is being progressively transformed into a smart, green and resilient city, there are myriad options available to improve the land reclamation process.
By using the Whole Life Cycle Perspective approach, combined with eco-engineering methods and digital tools, Hong Kong can optimise the design and development of land reclamation projects to reduce waste and minimise the impact on the environment while ensuring the city is more resilient to changing conditions and be better prepared for a successful future.
Fredrick Leong is an Executive Director, Environment & Planning, Greater China, at Aurecon, an international engineering, design and advisory firm. He has more than 20 years of experience as an environmental consultant, specialising in environmental impact assessment, sustainable design, green building assessment and certification; industrial pollution control, environmental monitoring and audit; environmental due diligence, land and marine contamination assessment and remediation; waste management, landfill gas hazard assessment, indoor air quality in Greater China and regionally around Asia.
Fredrick also serves as the Committee Member of Environmental Division of the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers (HKIE), and the Hong Kong Branch of The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM), UK.