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Research Project: Construction Innovation Scholarship Programme 2020-2022

Tony Or

Tony Or

Last updated: 8th July 2022

My research project "New Development of Modular Integrated Construction (MIC) using Special-treated Bamboo for Rapid and Green Construction of Elderly Houses (Bamboo MIC 2022)"

I am Tony Or, Assistant Surveyor and Research Assistant (part-time) from City University of Hong Kong (CityU) and the lead person in-charge of my research project (the scholar). I secured the scholarship funding though the CIOB by submitting my research proposal to the Construction Innovation & Quality Scholarship programme in December 2020. 

I attended a panel interview where I held up my argument for why my project is ideal for a CIOB award and the benefits the research will bring to the CIOB members globally. I secured a £10,000.00 GBP over an 18 month project period from April 2021 and concluding in September 2022. 

My project objectives are to simulate and verify the proposed bamboo MIC (Modular Integrated Construction) for housing, by means of physically modelling, virtual modelling and testing. Although it is not common in developed countries or cities, we are still eager to test its feasibility to be applied in modern cities like Hong Kong. The main objectives are to; (i) conduct and promote environmental conservation while (ii) speeding up the supply of affordable flats and elderly houses.

My team

It is my honour to co-operate with my peers: Yik-ming (Ming) Cheung who is studying Structural Engineering in Year 4, David Ng and Crystal Zhao who are graduated building services engineers in E&M (Electrical & Mechanical) consultant firms. I focus on the cost management, Fengshui aspects and builder’s works coordination. Meanwhile, I, David and Crystal are responsible for entire building architectural and green building design. We are all graduated/ studying at the Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering (ACE) of CityU. 

I would like to show my gratitude and thanks to our supervisors, Prof C. W. Lim, and Dr Ivan Fung, for their long-term support, as well as CIOB’s Senior Qualification Liaison Manager, and primary contact, Hassana Ahmed.

What have we been doing all this time, you may ask?
The key achievements of the current stage include: 
(i)    Site check for bamboo panels ordered, 
(ii)    Procured and cut the bamboo panels into small pieces, 
(iii)    Delivered the panels to the University laboratory, 
(iv)    Cut out the door and window opening of the housing models, 
(v)    Installed the physical prototype and, 
(vi)    Tested the performance of some bamboo panels.

 

The activities in which we have engaged.

Procurement

We learnt to procure from and negotiated with the bamboo suppliers. It was not an easy task since the mistakes in calculation could lead to under/ over-purchase. Site check and measurement were essential to ensure the quality of purchased materials. These acted like the site check by the project manager of a construction project. 

Truck booking

I admit that the arrangement of truck booking had great room for improvement. We called a van 15 minutes before our initial departure time. The van company replied that we need the 5-ton van instead of a medium one. Thus, we needed to wait for extra 30 minutes under hot and stuffy conditions while wrapping the panels.

Delivery

Loading and unloading the bamboo panels to the trucks, from the factory to the University, was particularly challenging in terms of physical strength and persistence. We felt thirsty and sweated severely. Some trolleys were borrowed to transfer to the laboratory with the help of the technician. Since some of the bamboo panels were more than one meter long, we needed to pull and drag along the long corridor.

Panel cutting

Ming and I collaborated closely to produce the shop drawings for bamboo panel cutting. It was a challenge for me since my QS (Quantity Surveying) job was to measure the construction drawings instead of design. We needed to be incredibly careful as they would be referred to to make the physical housing prototypes while some were the testing samples. I highly appreciated my university department for arranging to cut the panels. They also helped to cut out the special shapes for the door/ window openings and testing samples.

Modelling assembling

I spent several nights producing assembly drawings for bamboo house modelling. It was my first time doing such huge modelling independently. I mainly used bolts and hinges for connection since there were just 1:10 models that were quite thin. At times I was confused when I found the bolt connection could not achieve a 100% perpendicular joint between the floors, walls, and ceiling panel. But referring to the technicians’ advice, I applied glue to fix the position of the small pieces. However, I persisted to use bolts and plates/ hinges, otherwise the physical models would be too fragile and collapse under crash and fall.

Testing

We have performed some tests, including the moisture, light reflectance, and compression (perpendicular) tests in our department laboratory. Due to the lack of required special equipment, we needed to request and wait for the manufacturing of mechanical testing equipment. We are at present waiting and I will report back once we have concluded the tests and produced laboratory reports.

Coming stages

We shall perform the following in the coming stages, including to:
(i)    Invite CIOB, scholars and external parties to visit/ audit our work  
(ii)    Produce animation and simulation of the housing models
(iii)    Publish at least two journal/ conference papers
(iv)    Design and produce banners, information leaflets, posters
(v)    Enrol in various exhibitions with our prototypes

We are eager to publish the journal papers and promote our project in the coming few months. Once again, thank you very much to CIOB and Hassana Ahmed, Senior Qualifications Liaison Manager UK, for their full support for our project. I also highly appreciate the final-year civil engineering students Anderson Wai and Rishyanth Botcha in their upcoming parts in assisting the delivery and testing phase of the project. 

Conclusion 

This project serves as the starting block for bamboo modern construction in modern cities like Hong Kong. We believe it can advocate designers, engineers, and contractors to adopt bamboo as a sustainable structural material for new building construction. They shall consider their ethical responsibility in design and construction, not just reducing greenhouse gas during construction, but also cater for the special needs of the elderly. Our vision is to allow 60% of the elderly to live in the bamboo-MIC elderly house with their family or caretaker, instead of living alone or in elderly wards by the end of 2050. They can live happily in the natural built-environment with a cheaper price. I will in due course publish a full research report outlining findings and my recommendations. I aim to reach out to national and international partners and organisations to promote and further collaborate on this important subject matter alongside working with the CIOB’s Hong Kong Hub.