The 20-year project that dazzled at the ICE Awards

The huge environmental infrastructure project, which won the Edmund Hambly Medal at the ICE Awards in 2018, was decades in the making, but will deliver benefits to the local community for years to come. 

Hong Kong harbour.
Hong Kong harbour.

In early March 2018, with the support from the Development Bureau of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the Drainage Services Department participated in the 2018 Edmund Hambly Medal organised by ICE, with our largest-ever environmental infrastructure project, the Hong Kong Harbour Area Treatment Scheme (HATS).

This international award is a prestigious recognition of a project for its promotion and contribution of sustainable development in civil engineering. 

Having known that our project HATS was going to run for the award, members of the HATS project team were overwhelmed with excitement. 

We were thrilled and at the same time filled with apprehension about competing alongside other world-class mega projects.  

A mega project that always had the future in mind 

The HATS is the largest environmental infrastructure project ever undertaken in Hong Kong.  The whole project was delivered in two stages spanning more than 20 years.

A variety of sustainability elements had been incorporated in the project and all these are essential features satisfying the criteria of the Edmund Hambly Medal award.  

While the submission requirements looked simple - a citation of about 500 words depicting the highlights of sustainable development and efficacy of the project - it was definitely a challenge to cover precisely the complexity of this mega project in a short article. 

'Our first international ICE competition'

It was the first time we participated in an international award competition under the ICE.

During preparation, we repeatedly examined the significance of each design or construction element relevant to the award.   

In addition to satisfying the technical requirements of sewage treatment, the project team aimed at delivering the HATS project with state-of-the-art technologies and innovation.

These included using the inverted siphons in sewage conveyance to reduce the energy consumption of pumping sewage, and using diesel-electricity engine and on-shore electricity supply when berthing by the sludge transportation vessels to reduce carbon emissions. Sludge was also incinerated to achieve conversion of waste to energy.  

Including other elements of sustainable development, for example, land-saving and renewable energy, the HATS project clearly possessed the essential features to be eligible for the award. 

Global recognition

Gaining recognition from the ICE, an internationally-renowned professional institution, the project finally won the Edmund Hambly Medal, and the project team was so honoured to join the awards ceremony in October 2018 to receive the award in the ICE’s elegant and gorgeously decorated Grand Hall. 

What amazed us was that a panoramic view of the Stonecutters Island Sewage Treatment Works, the foremost iconic construction of HATS, was the backdrop for the ceremony. To us, this further affirmed the recognition of the HATS project. 

Major, long-lasting achievements

Having overcome all kinds of difficulties and challenges, the HATS project was eventually completed after decades of hard work.   

The project significantly reduces the pollution level in the Victoria Harbour. The beaches at the western part of Hong Kong could also be re-opened for public use.   

In 2017, the cross-harbour swimming race, which had been suspended for 40 years due to water pollution, resumed in the central waters of the Victoria Harbour, enabling the people of Hong Kong to relive their memories.   

All these have motivated us to continue with our quest for engineering excellence and to strive for sustainable development for the benefits of our future generation. 

Nowadays, while people are enjoying the fragrant ambience of the Victoria Harbour, we should pay our tribute to the former fellow engineers who worked on HATS.  

Their respectful foresight and perseverance in promoting and delivering this landmark project substantially improved the water quality of our precious Victoria Harbour for the enjoyment of the public. 

Do you know a civil engineering project or person that deserves international recognition like HATS? Enter them into this year's ICE Awards before the closing deadline of 23 April 2019.

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