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Balanced approach to development

Completing a major construction project is much more than simply building the structure. International engineering and design companies such as Arup also have to deal with the demands, expectations and concerns of clients, government regulators, local residents and environmental groups.

Arup director Sam Tsoi identifies the most significant differences in the approach his company would take to a project today as opposed to 10 or 20 years ago. "Clients are more aware and the public have much higher expectations. This can be seen in the objections to recent environmental impact assessments. This results in a much longer period between project inception and the start of construction, and a great deal more expenditure on environmental mitigation," Tsoi says.

He thinks most markets have comparable environmental standards. "In certain areas, mainland China's environmental regulations are more stringent than those adopted in Hong Kong. Not surprisingly, the difference tends to come in the level of application and enforcement," Tsoi says.

Arup, which is in the process of delivering the world's largest sewage treatment facilities on Stonecutters Island, and the largest district cooling system at Kai Tak, has taken several steps to meet these standards.

"Much of our focus is on devising sustainable solutions and helping our clients adapt into the future, ensuring our work leaves a lasting legacy," he says.

The company has received government accreditation for its environmental management system, and provides training in sustainable design, planning and construction through lunch talks and Arup University courses.

"We pioneered the first eco-city design back in 2006 for the Dongtan project in Shanghai," Tsoi says.

He has some words of advice for those with the appropriate qualifications to meet the challenges facing his industry.

"Environmental engineers and scientists should be equipped with the necessary skills to resolve conflicts between development and environmental issues," says Tsoi.

"A balanced approach to embracing social, economic and environment considerations are the essential foundation for progressing towards sustainable development, while best-practice technology should be applied to minimise impact.

"People considering a career in our industry are expected to have a broad knowledge of sustainability and the capability of developing at least one subject area into a technical speciality," he adds.