Encourage technological innovation in engineering to raise quality of life
2016 is a year of many unexpected changes for global politics and economy, like the Brexit decision in early summer and businessman Donald Trump being elected as the President of the United States. These changes have told us that the world as a whole is at a critical juncture to shape our future together. To promote technological innovation and enhance Hong Kong’s capability for sustainable development, the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (EMSD) organised the EMSD Summit 2016 at the Hong Kong Science Park last month. The Summit attracted more than 300 overseas and local experts from various sectors to exchange experience and ideas, so as to spark our imagination and put forward innovative proposals to develop Hong Kong into a sustainable and regenerative smart city.
Themed “Imaginovate Hong Kong”, the Summit covered six main areas, including “Building in Future City”, “Home for Tomorrow”, “Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability”, “Future City Transportation”, “Power up for Tomorrow’s City” and “Hong Kong in 2066”. The panels discussed a number of topics, including global climate change, latest trend of urbanisation, infrastructure development in Hong Kong, and more. I encouraged the participants to think out of the box and invited the academics, enterprises, community stakeholders and the Government to bring into play their creativity together so as to introduce technological innovation to raise our quality of living in future.
Encourage regenerative design
Professor Steve Rayner from the University of Oxford said in his speech that we must turn the concept of “damage control” into the idea of “regenerative sustainability” in order to meet the various challenges. The “mitigation and adaptation programme” can reinforce the community’s capacity for reducing carbon emission and coping with the pressure of climate change, while maintaining the quality of public services and normal socioeconomic activities. We must, however, strengthen our resilience which, together with innovative thinking and macroscopic perspective, can help change our planning, infrastructure and lifestyle in the face of climate change, making Hong Kong a more flexible and liveable city.
Explore sustainable ways of living
Hong Kong is currently facing the challenges arising from an ageing population. We should, therefore, think about how the living standard of the elderly can be improved through technology, and smart living technology can provide them with safer and more desirable health monitoring services. Different things can be associated with one another by our boundless imagination. For example, the internal organs of crabs are protected by their exoskeletons, and the nerves and soft tissues attached to the exoskeletons can work together to facilitate their movement. Likewise, we can make use of the advancement of electronic, communication and mechanical design to come up with portable and ergonomic exoskeletons that can facilitate the daily living of the elderly.
Another example is the direct current distribution system that is a safe, convenient and modern way of power transmission. Nowadays, most of the home appliances, including LED illuminations, computers, television and audio equipment are powered by direct current. Even higher-voltage electrical appliances like air-conditioners, washing machines and cooking appliances can also be powered by direct current. Direct current, therefore, is in fact a more convenient way of power supply. Nowadays, renewable energy and green technologies can be widely installed and applied in households, while solar panels and electric vehicles may be widely used in the next few years.
Moreover, the research and development of autonomous vehicles has become the hottest topic in the automobile industry in the past decade. Although autonomous vehicles may still seem like something straight out of science fictions, many industry analysts and carmakers have predicted that truly autonomous vehicles will be running on public roads around 2020, providing a better and cleaner environment for our new generation.
Create a future city
At the summit, five young and visionary engineers from the EMSD discussed and proposed some feasible ways to cope with climate change. Apart from using the existing infrastructure, they also introduced the concept of human migration to the sea.
With imagination, we can achieve regeneration by adding contemporary elements and design techniques to traditional concepts. Take for example the Netherlands, one of the most densely populated countries where two-thirds of its land is susceptible to flooding. Its Government has, therefore, devised a large-scale flood protection scheme, which includes the building of sand dunes and dams, as well as carrying out land reclamation. Flevoland, the largest artificial island in the world, was created to protect the citizens from the threat of flooding.
With centuries of expertise and extensive knowledge in flood management, the Netherlands is capable of giving assistance to or sharing experience with other countries. The “water village” concept, a new design mixed with traditional ideas proposed by the Netherlands, can be found in Tonlé Sap in Cambodia and Aberdeen in Hong Kong. “Floating houses”, also designed by the Dutch, cater for their housing needs while offering viable land solutions for the Netherlands by utilising recyclable materials and modern technologies. Of course, we should not indiscriminately replicate others’ practices as the actual circumstances vary place by place. However, these practices may still be regarded as alternative ideas.
Hong Kong is a city that is full of creativity and is actively promoting innovation. If we can act boldly to put aside our pre-determined mindsets and frameworks so as to seek breakthroughs, build mutual trust and partnership and to seek common ground with one another, I believe that we will be able to create a more flexible, sustainable and liveable city for our next generation.
25 December, 2016