In 2015 the World Economic Forum ranked Hong Kong number one for the quality of its infrastructure, among 140 global economies.
The city has held the number one spot for six consecutive years. This is a testament to the enormous effort in Hong Kong to build world-class infrastructure and support the ambition to be Asia’s world city.
Continued improvements in infrastructure are crucial if Hong Kong is to meet the people’s aspirations for better quality of life and sustained economic prosperity.
As a small territory at the southern tip of China’s mainland, the socio-economic linkages between Hong Kong and the mainland have resulted in the dramatic growth of cross-boundary movements of goods and people. So our infrastructure planning has to consider more than our own needs.
Hong Kong’s urban districts are also located along the low-lying coastal areas susceptible to the impacts of climate change. So the future of Hong Kong as Asia’s world city – with that top-notch infrastructure status – depends on its ability to face up to many challenges, not least economic and spatial restructuring, regional integration, an ageing population, and climate change.
ICE’s Infrastructure: Shaping Hong Kong report, which was presented to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government by ICE President Sir John Armitt, sets out some recommendations to deal with these challenges. It calls for a long term vision for the city’s infrastructure beyond 2030, integrating whole life carbon assessment and “systems thinking” into decision making, and sharing a common goal across the built environment professions to establish Hong Kong as a regional leader in quality, low carbon urban development.
It also recommends the HKSAR Government, asset owners and the supply chain take actions on two prioritised areas – namely improving energy efficiency in buildings and increased use of retrofit, renewal and lifetime asset management techniques to reduce the demand for new infrastructure. The report argues these actions will help to preserve Hong Kong’s status.
Until now, the ICE’s informing opinion work has largely focused on UK policy. The Hong Kong report is one of a series of projects planned to give the Institution greater insight into infrastructure development and policy around the world, and help to establish the ICE as a centre for international thought leadership on infrastructure.
This work is vital if we are deliver infrastructure that minimises the emission of greenhouse gases. We also need to work together with other professionals and stakeholders to develop a more holistic understanding of the complex relationships between socio-economical, technological and ecological systems. We have to turn a hard engineering approach to tackling development issues, into one that seeks to understand and respect environmental limits.
It is important to appreciate that sometimes “less is more” and explore ingenious ways to enhance or restore the ecosystem in the course of development, minimising resource inputs without compromising the ability to satisfy the various socio-economic needs of humankind.
The challenge for us is to operationalise these principles for sustainability, turning them into viable business practices and project cycles.
- Patrick Chan is ICE Hong Kong director