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Masterplanners consider heritage and environmental impact

Published on Thursday, 07 Jul 2011
Illustration: Bay Leung

In recent years, every development project proposal seems to have been attacked by protesters who want to voice out their thoughts on land use. The public has become more concerned and vocal about the potential impact on the environment, heritage sites and the community.

These issues present a challenge to Pearl Hui, Aecom's senior masterplanner, whose job is to balance the benefits of different stakeholders when making development plans. "Land, building, ecology, economy and the local culture are the main things that I take into account when making plans," she says.

Hui visits the site and conducts baseline research before making a plan. The site may be undeveloped land or an area of redevelopment.

"I have to understand the site physically, learn its culture and history to make my plans. I work closely with engineers and architects to ensure that my plan is feasible," she says.

Masterplanners are employed by the government's planning department, the housing authority and consultancies. They are required to have an education background in urban or town planning. The University of Hong Kong offers a master of science degree in urban planning. Fresh graduates usually start off as assistant masterplanners. They are required to get an accreditation from the Hong Kong Institute of Planners.

Degree holders need to have four years of related work experience and go through a board interview to be accredited. Master holders need two years of experience and pass the board interview.

A masterplanner starts with technical work such as drawing up the design plan. As he gets more experienced, he is required to handle management work. "A senior masterplanner is like a project manager who has to co-ordinate manpower, channel communication between masterplanners and other professionals such as engineers and architects, and monitor the entire project," says Hui.

She adds that Hong Kong's relatively small urban area does not mean limited opportunities for masterplanners. In fact, the city's small and densely populated area provides good training for those who want to test their limits. "If you can make it in Hong Kong, you can make it anywhere," she says.

"Many old districts will undergo redevelopment. There will be new town developments and the government has plans to increase land supply. Masterplanners will be in demand," Hui adds.

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