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Modelling builds image of future Hong Kong

While the engineering discipline is one of the world’s oldest, engineers are always looking for new ways to improve processes, systems and efficiency. Following a global trend, and supported by the government, Hong Kong’s construction industry is progressively using Building Information Modelling (BIM) to manage project information, from preparatory work to construction and operational stages.
Lee Shing-see, chairman of the Construction Industry Council (CIC), says BIM is not just a three-dimensional drawing tool, but a new way of using technology to better facilitate project management, construction-process control and cross-disciplinary collaboration. In a nod to rising demand for staff competent in BIM, Lee says the CIC is taking a leading role in promoting training and usage.
The CIC has initiated “BIM Year 2014”, a programme of events to promote and help the industry embrace opportunities created by BIM technology. It is also taking steps to set up a BIM training centre and laboratories to accredit programmes offered by training institutes and standardise their quality.
“With the tight manpower situation, it is important that we harness the potential of new technologies to replace labour-intensive work while creating other skilled positions,” Lee says. He adds that by pursuing such a strategy, Hong Kong will be in a position to develop a more efficient, highly trained workforce with skills that are valued around the world. 
While still in the primary stage, BIM is already used by the Housing Authority, MTR Corporation and Hong Kong Airport Authority, and major construction firms like Gammon Construction, Hsin Chong and Paul Y Engineering Group.
Lee says the CIC is also investing in R&D to see how new technologies can be harnessed to further improve site safety and automate monotonous jobs to improve productivity. Construction firms are using mobile apps to monitor workflow progress, produce reports with photographs, and carry out safety inspections. Mobile apps can even be used to check scaffolding is erected correctly to prevent accidents and provide safe working conditions. 
To keep the public better informed about the construction industry, the CIC opened its first service centre in Nam Cheong MTR station, to provide information about training courses and job vacancies and make it easier for personnel to complete or renew their registrations. “We are now undergoing one of the busiest periods of construction in Hong Kong’s history and the forecast is that this activity level is to continue for the coming 10 years,” Lee says. “There has never been a better time to consider a career in construction.”
Dr Andy Ng, programme director of the two-year Associate of Science in Construction Engineering and Management (ASc CEM) course at City University, agrees. “The average age of construction industry workers is about 50, so there are attractive opportunities for anyone coming into the industry,” he says, adding that about 20 per cent of the course’s students are female.
The City University programme aims to equip students with in-depth knowledge on design processes, construction technology, quantity surveying and management skills – all required for careers in building and other forms of construction. It also offers a broad-based foundation for further academic studies and career development.
“Most of our students go on take additional industry programmes or choose an area where they can specialise, including project management, construction engineering, contract administration and quantity surveying,” Ng says.
With the construction industry using a wider variety of technologies than ever before, Ng says the ASc CEM programme is being reviewed to include more ways to integrate technology learning into the programme.