The Architectural Services Department (ArchSD) designs, constructs and maintains the majority of government buildings and public facilities, from office buildings, community centres, markets to parks, playgrounds and public open space. Do you know, however, that the ArchSD is also responsible for restoring and maintaining a lot of old buildings with historical, architectural and cultural significance? For two weeks in a row, I am inviting colleagues from the ArchSD to talk about the department’s work on historic building maintenance.
The various aspects of maintaining historic buildings
The ArchSD has all along attached great importance to building safety and heritage conservation. Speaking of government-owned historic buildings, Senior Maintenance Surveyor (Heritage) of the ArchSD, Ms LAU Ling-yee, Liny, explains that the work involves a number of aspects: 1) Managing minor repair works reported by building operators; 2) Arranging for contractors to conduct regular inspections on high-risk structural elements, such as timber structures, ceilings and windows, and immediately arranging for repair if found necessary; 3) commissioning building consultants to conduct surveys on building condition, to be used as references for preventive maintenance works in future; and 4) carrying out preventive maintenance work once every four to five years to ensure that historic buildings are well preserved and structurally safe.
The Warehouse Teenage Club in Aberdeen
As most historic buildings are built of bricks and timber Ms Liny LAU points out that the biggest challenge in their maintenance work is to protect the buildings from the adverse effect of rain and the natural environment. An example is the Warehouse Teenage Club, a Grade 2 historic building which was formerly the Aberdeen Police Station, situated on a seaside slope in Aberdeen. The ArchSD completed preventive maintenance work for the building compound last year, which includes restoring the Chinese timber-framed tiled roofs of two of the buildings, removing vegetations growing on the red-brick external walls, re-pointing the joints, and so on. Nevertheless, vegetations are now growing again. Another problem is the close distance from the compound to the slopes behind it, which allows for only a narrow space for access in between, making it difficult for the operator to clear fallen leaves from gutters on the roof eaves. That has led to seepage in the building following the rainy season.
Meeting the challenges of weather and the natural environment
In fact, the operator needs to put extra effort before the rainy season into clearing branches and leaves fallen on roofs, ensuring that gutters are free from obstruction. Assistant Clerk of Works of the ArchSD, Mr. Victor WONG, adds that to prevent obstruction, maintenance personnels have to regularly clear the gutters between external walls and tiled roofs. Not doing so might lead to seepage from the roofs and in long term jeopardise the safety of timber-framed structures in the historic buildings. Moreover, wooden components and railings on external walls are prone to mould and rust with exposure to rain; therefore, the department conducts anti-mould and anti-rust work regularly to preserve their appearances.
ArchSD upholding the principle of “preservation”
Regarding the interior of the compound, Ms Liny LAU tells us that the indoor timber floor of the Warehouse Teenage Club had been attacked by termites, because of that, the ArchSD had to first remove the decayed wood, carry out preservative treatment and install termite baits before it could restore the timber floor. In addition, in restoring and repairing old buildings, when the ArchSD and operators come across installations and components with special features, such as fireplaces and ceilings, they will preserve and restore them in the most suitable way following the principle of “preservation”.
Using new technologies to boost maintenance efficiency
Currently, the Property Services Branch of the ArchSD is responsible for the upkeeping of 74 government-owned monuments, 135 graded historic buildings and many sites with archaeological interest, which include Chinese and Western style buildings, lighthouses, Han tomb, pillboxes, forts, rock carvings and lime kilns, etc. In repairing and maintaining historic buildings, the ArchSD stays abreast of times and carries out research on the use of new technologies such as drones to inspect the buildings, in order to boost maintenance efficiency and performance.
Conserving old buildings in cooperation with operators
Centre-in-Charge of the Warehouse Teenage Club, Mr. Byron WONG says to us that they do find it difficult to upkeep this historic building compound without a heritage conservation expert on the operation team. Thankfully, the ArchSD is there to give them advice. If the buildings are seriously affected by typhoons or rainstorms, the team will report to the ArchSD. Working closely as a team, both parties hope to keep this compound in its best condition. He tells us that, thanks to the ArchSD, they are able to give the public a place to hang out in.
Apart from refurbishment, fitting-out, alteration, addition and improvement works on historic buildings, the Property Services Branch of the ArchSD also carries out emergency repairs. Next week, I will invite two other colleagues of the ArchSD to talk about how they stand by around the clock to attend to historic buildings damaged in unexpected incidents.
Legislative Council General Election Polling day
Separately, today is the Legislative Council General Election polling day. We have a total of 153 candidates contesting 90 seats to be returned by three constituencies. The polling hours are from 8:30 am to 10:30 pm. This is the first LegCo election held under the improved electoral system. No matter which constituency you belong to, please fulfil your civic responsibility and cast your vote to elect patriotic councilors who are sincere to serve the people.
19 December, 2021Back