By Gemma Walton

As the current vice chair of the CIBSE YEN North East region, I was incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to represent our region on this trip to Hong Kong.

Before my recent move to Dubai, I also sat on the North East Regional committee as the YEN Representative and Education and Careers Champion.

I’ve been very much looking forward to meeting the other delegates from across the UK, Hong Kong, UAE and ANZ regions.

We received such a warm welcome from the Hong Kong CIBSE YEN branch, everyone was very excited to have us here and to spend five days with us showing us their working life and culture.

I was very excited to see how things are done in Hong Kong, and not only how they differ in the UK, but also in China, and the UAE where I have some experience of working within the Cundall offices.

Day 1:


Day 1 opened with some very interesting talks:

Political and Legal Systems in Hong Kong
This first talk provided some background on Hong Kong, how it operates as a country, and the differences between Hong Kong, the UK and mainland China.

Doing business as an Engineer in China
This talk provided an insight into what is required from engineers at each stage of their career in China.  There are three defined grades and there is a need to be assessed at each level (it appears pretty tough!), Assistant Engineer, Engineer and Senior Engineer.

The ICC design and site visit
By 2020, 14 of the tallest buildings in the world will be in China. The ICC is the tallest building in Hong Kong at 490m tall (109 stories).  It is made up of retail space, offices and a hotel on the upper floors.  We had the opportunity to hear from the lead electrical and mechanical design engineers who worked on the project, and the difficulties that were involved in designing a ‘super tall’ building.

The building itself was certainly impressive.  It has been open and operational for five years, which was difficult to believe when we saw the plant rooms and back of house areas.  Everything was so clean you could eat your lunch off the surfaces! (Very different to the UK!).  It has the world’s largest indoor cooling towers (three stories high), 86 lifts (40 of which are double decked) and 38 generators.  After the technical visit, we had a chance to visit the ‘Sky 100’ viewing deck, where we had some great views looking across the harbour to Hong Kong Island.

Wing Chun Kung Fu experience
We attended a Kung Fu class by master Sam Lau. Sam Lau was taught by Yip Man who also trained Bruce Lee. International students come to train with Sam Lau so we felt very honoured that he had time to show us some of the basics. Note – it’s more difficult than it looks!

Day 2

EMSD (Electrical and Mechanical Services Department)
In the morning we visited the EMSD of Hong Kong, who are the Electrical and Mechanical services provider to the government.  The ESDM department provides expertise in design and the operation and maintenance of buildings.  They are very keen to reduce energy consumption using renewable technologies.

Day 2 - EMSD - Roof View

Solar Panels and amazing view from EMSD’s office roof

Kai Tak District Cooling System visit
This was the 1st large scale district cooling system to be implemented in Hong Kong.
The total design cooling capacity is 284 MW, with a total pipe run length around 40km.
So far it supplies a cruise terminal and shopping centre with lots more developments planned (including a hospital, MTR station, police station and more) for completion in 2017.

Zero Carbon Building
In the afternoon we visited HK’s first Zero Carbon building, which was built to raise awareness of the potential of low carbon living in Hong Kong. The technologies used within the building were very impressive, even using locally sourced materials such as bamboo for flooring, staircases and furniture. I was pretty disappointed to find that although they are showcasing the building as being low carbon with their building consumption being considerably low (actual energy consumption while we were in the building was 7.6kW or 5.4W/m²), the building isn’t really occupied, with only a small handful of people using the building it felt more like a museum piece. The building was incredibly warm, inside the temperatures were reaching 28°C. The air conditioning was apparently designed to kick in between 25-26°C, but there was no sign of the air conditioning coming on!

Evening Reception at the British Consulate
In the evening we attended the British Consulate where we met with some very high profile members of the construction industry. It was good to network with both members of CIBSE from the UK and HK branches. Interestingly, I spoke with a woman from the British Consulate who said they had recently been working with Cundall to assist them in winning work in HK.

Day 2 - British Consulate - YEN North East & UAE

Evening with the British Consulate

Day 3

Day trip to Macau
Today took us to Macau, an island only an hours’ ferry ride from Hong Kong. Macau has a population of approximately 640,000 and is around 30sq km in size, so is relatively small. We visited the Venetian Casino, and in particular spent time within the plant rooms. With over 3000 hotel rooms, 1000 AHU’s, 10,000 FCU’s and a total installed capacity of 185MW it’s fair to say that this casino is an incredible size! – The floor area is around 1.11million sqm, equivalent to 94 Boeing 747’s.  We also visited Studio City Casino which is very recently opened, here we saw the electrical switch rooms. This casino was also very impressive in terms of plant size, with three. sets of 11kV transformers, eight 2000kVA generators and 46 main switchboards.

Day 3 - Venetian Plant Room - Size of plant!

Venetian Plant Room

Day 4

13th Asia Pacific Conference on the Built Environment
Day 4 takes us to the annual conference, where there were some very interesting industry speakers. The first topic was Hong Kong’s approach to sustainability where we were offered some insight to HK’s energy target programmes (some similarities to BREEAM and LEED).  ‘The Energy Saving Plan for Hong Kong’s Built Environment 2015 – 2025’ sets a new target of reducing the city’s energy intensity by 40% by 2025 (using 2005 as the base year).

We had lunch at the conference where we had a chance to do some networking with a number of people within our industry, a good amount of which had travelled from across the world specifically to attend the conference.

The afternoon session of the conference opened with John Field, the CIBSE President Elect.  He highlighted the YEN global conference attendees and discussed the global nature of engineering.
He emphasised that we cannot rely on the governments of the world to drive our response to climate change.

The end of the conference gave many of us a chance to experience our first MTR trip.
The MTR is privately owned by Kowloon-Canton Railway Network and MTR, and so fares are relatively cheap (in comparison with the Tube in London and the Metro system in Newcastle).  It has 87 stations and 68 light rail stops.  Approximately 4.7 million passengers use the MTR daily compared to approximately 3.6 million passengers using the London underground per day.

Tonight we had a free evening, so a chance to see HK’s light show on the waterfront and some well-deserved rest after the jam packed schedule so far!

Day 5

Today was our YEN Chairs meeting, which gave us all some time to reflect on the week we’d had.
There was lots of interesting discussions around the table ranging from the differences in working cultures, the projects, and the differences in career paths and goals in the different countries.  We were fortunate to have a wide variety of regions present, with each of us being able to contribute something different to the meeting and discussions.

In the evening as it was our final night, we had a tram party. This was exactly as it sounds – a party on a tram!  We had food, drinks and networking with the YEN HK branch, while the tram took us to the peak, a lookout point across the harbour.  The harbour skyline is very impressive and amazingly lit up, we could also see the hills and mountains which take up a huge part of Hong Kong’s skyline just dotted with the odd light here and there.

A new pride in what I do

This trip has definitely strengthened our links with other YEN and CIBSE regions, not only in the UK but across the globe.  Lots of us are already arranging to meet up again in the future.
We found the Hong Kong region to be very accommodating, enthusiastic and above all, very proud of what they do as engineers.

We can all take something back from our experience in HK, I think the main thing for me is being proud of what I do, what I have accomplished and what I can continue to accomplish working as an engineer.

The trip was very kindly sponsored by Cundall, CIBSE, Ruskin Air Management, and a number of local sponsors in Hong Kong. I also want to personally thank Cundall for recognising this trip as an chance to grow my knowledge and professional network which is essential for Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and encouraging my attendance.

To find out more about careers with Cundall across our 19 offices go to

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Building Services Engineering, Future Engineers, Gemma Walton


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