Upcycling – Hong Kong’s Refurbishment Project Boom

Posted by Richard Poulter on Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Walk along any high street and you’re bound to come across upcycled furnishings and furniture. Upcycling has become the latest trend, but it isn’t just for interior decorating – the construction industry is also a major upcycler, but using structures instead of sideboards. Nowhere is this more evident than Hong Kong, where refurbishment projects abound  to keep up with the glitzier and more glamourous modern buildings.

What’s Driving Refurbishment Projects in Hong Kong?

Urban renewal projects in Hong Kong are about more than just looking swanky, though. The Urban Renewal Authority’s 2011 Strategy stated that there were 4,000 buildings aged 50 years or older in Hong Kong. That figure was estimated to rise by 500 a year over the next decade – making it now closer to 8,000 aging buildings.

Many of these buildings are in a poor or unsatisfactory state, creating a risk to public safety. In addition, the needs of Hong Kong’s citizens have changed since many of these buildings were built, requiring a re-think to make them more sustainable, maintainable, and fit for purpose, while also preserving heritage. Achieving this balance is a unique challenge for civil engineers, project managers and construction managers – one that new build projects often can’t replicate.

What Refurbishment Projects Are Available?

The government’s strategy is to redevelop, rehabilitate, revitalise, and preserve heritage wherever possible (called the 4Rs). This approach means considering ways to redevelop, restructure or re-plan buildings, rationalise land use, and enhance the townscape, while also improving safety to modern standards.

Housing redevelopments in Hong Kong were able to apply for the recently launched Operation Building Bright 2.0 in late 2018, which is a HK$3 billion subsidy pot for property owners to conduct repair works. A further HK$2 billion subsidy pot is also available for residential fire safety improvement measures. When Operation Building Bright was originally launched in 2009, the estimated gross value of construction work for these repair initiatives was around HK$16 billion, making it an attractive market for civil engineers, quantity surveyors, project managers, and construction managers.

But it’s not just houses that are being redeveloped. Many public and commercial buildings are also in need of renewal, such as The Helena May Club – an Edwardian building that was refurbished to provide modern services in a grand, historic structure rich with heritage. Another prime example is The Fleming Hotel near Victoria Harbour, which was redesigned to transform this 1970s building into a 66-room boutique hotel.

Are You Up for a Challenge?

On a new build project, you have a blank canvas on which to create a building. Refurbishment projects, on the other hand, require skill and vision in order to work within the constraints of the existing building while still achieving the desired outcomes – a tall order. If you’re a civil engineer, quantity surveyor, estimator, or project manager who wants to stretch their skills, then refurbishment and renewal projects could be the job for you. Get in touch with Richard Poulter for an informal discussion about the vacancies we are currently recruiting for on some of Hong Kong’s most interesting refurbishment projects.

About the Author

Richard Poulter
Construction Recruitment Director, Hong Kong
I am responsible for the recruitment business in Hong Kong, Asia, and the Middle East. I was a civil engineer and project manager for 15 years before becoming a construction industry recruitment consultant in 2004. I am based in the Hong Kong office and specialise in placing professionals in engineering, project management, planning, HSEQ and risk.
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Email: richard@maximrecruitment.com