Career Advice Job Market Trend Report

Science Park's jobs alchemy

With construction underway, Phase 3 of the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks (HKSTP) expansion project will provide new jobs for engineers and scientists, as well as employment opportunities for property managers and the construction industry as a whole.

Due to be completed in phases between 2013 and 2016, the additional 105,000 square meters of laboratories, offices and support facilities at the HKSTP is expected to create about 4,000 research and development jobs. During the construction period, the HK$5 billion project is also expected to generate an estimated 5,000 construction-related job opportunities.

Unlike residential, office and commercial buildings, HKSTP laboratories and research facilities require dedicated management, capable of providing advanced services using specialist knowledge. "As part of our property management services, we have a tech services division manned by engineers with the expert knowledge to take care of sensitive instruments such as electronic microscopes and equipment used for measuring semiconductor efficiency," says Anthony Tan, chief executive officer of HKSTP.

The tech services division also employs engineers familiar with managing bio-tech and wet labs where various materials, including chemicals, are handled.

"To ensure we provide the infrastructure and support services required, the professionals that look after our property management have a high level of laboratory experience and technical capabilities," Tan says.

Private property management firms are also hired to look after non-specialised areas of the park.

Tan says that, as well as serving as the hub for innovation and technology development in Hong Kong, the high-tech buildings being constructed to form Phase 3 incorporate a wide range of green applications and technologies. These include energy saving technologies, recyclable materials and designs that make use of natural light. When complete, Phase 3 will provide additional accommodation for about 150 companies, he says.

"As a hub for emerging `green' technologies, it makes sense that we should showcase and practice sustainability through the design and use of our new buildings. We want to show to the wider community how relatively easy it is to construct and maintain sustainable buildings," says Tan.

Fostering the development of environmental and renewable energy technologies is one of the five focused technology clusters pinpointed by the government for development. Other areas include electronics, precision engineering, biotechnology, telecoms and information technology.

As demand for sustainable buildings becomes a broader issue in Hong Kong, developers, government and non-affiliated government bodies have increased the momentum to develop sustainable buildings. Recruitment agencies say there are now far more environmental and sustainable focused opportunities with construction companies compared to a decade ago.

Construction industry and environmentalist groups say the setting up of the Hong Kong Building Environmental Assessment Method (HK-BEAM) by the HK-BEAM Society has been a key driver in promoting sustainable development.

The assessment process involves two stages to enable opportunities for improvement: mobilise different stakeholders to work together, and encourage the introduction of innovative technologies and techniques.

Globally, surveys show buildings account for over a third of greenhouse gas emissions. However, in service-based economies such as Hong Kong, the figure is closer to 70 per cent. Most of these emissions come from energy used for air conditioning and lighting.

Responding to public calls for more sustainable buildings, the Hong Kong Green Building Council and the Hong Kong Construction Industry Council have also taken a bigger role in promoting best sustainable practices in design and construction.

In a presentation to the construction industry this year, the acting chief secretary for administration, Michael Suen, said the government has three roles to play in construction: as a client of the industry for public works projects, as an agent to co-ordinate works projects, and as a regulator.

"The aim is to maximise the whole-life value for financial, environmental and social sustainability over a building's lifespan," said Suen.

"Incorporating 'green' elements [in] buildings and retrofitting existing ones can achieve considerable energy savings," he added. Savings made often outweigh the initial capital cost of buildings," said Suen.