SustainableHDCities brings together researchers from HKU Faculty of Architecture, Faculty of Engineering and Faculty of Science to create a lab that specializes in multi-scale environmental modeling and built-environmental physics and other science. Multi-scale means building-interiors, single buildings, clusters of buildings, spaces between buildings, up to the entire city envelope, mega-city regions and systems of cities. It has projects that look at built environmental performance at the microbial level, such as transit systems and bank notes as urban pathways for pathogens, and at the urban system scale, for example, modeling pollution performance across the entire Chinese settlement system. SustainableHDCities is part of the network of building, architectural, environmental and urban physics research labs in National University of Singapore, Cardiff University, Tianjing University, Tongji University, University College London, CUHK and Cambridge University.

Research Questions

The SustainableHDCities lab will address a range of research questions, including:

  • How can we develop new experimental methods and tools for dealing with the big data sets associated with health, building metrics, and modeling outputs, in the built environment?
  • How can we link physical and social sciences in the urban built environment? Can we develop indicators across both?
  • What is the appropriate level of detail for building modeling (linking buildings and microclimates), and how can this be validated?
  • How can building and neighbourhood scale projects be linked to macro-scale urban environments and climate?
  • How can we better integrate low carbon and sustainable technologies into building and urban scale design?
  • How can bottom-up demand-side considerations be better understood, and linked to top-down supply driven strategies (energy, water, environmental quality, etc)?
  • What are the barriers and opportunities that affect the speed of transition of green policies into practice?

Research Activities

SustainableHDCities research activities will focused across four areas, as indicated in the diagram below.

  1. Built Environment Data Collection
    Data will be collected within the urban built environment, for specific locations, including information on building form and layout, energy use, urban transportation, social aspects and health data. Data (physical and socio-economic) may be collected as part of a research ‘measurement’ project, or data could be accessed from web-based data sets.
  2. Built Environment Data Bank
    Techniques for big data-base construction and management will be developed, using data informatics, for the collection, analysis and visualization of large data sets. It will be used in combination with Built Environment Data Collection above, to facilitate the modeling and analysis activities considered under Built Environment Data Analysis Links will be developed to external built environment urban scale data bases. Methods of anonymising data sets, for example, associated with social and health data, will be developed.
  3. Built Environment Data Analysis
    Models and analysis techniques for urban and building scale will be developed in areas including, urban micro-climate, energy and low carbon design, health, well-being and comfort.
  4. Engagement
    Engagement will focus on working in partnerships with Industry and Government to ensure maximum impact of research outputs. This will include design research projects associated with real building and urban-scale projects.

Research Topics

The following list of research projects have been identified, which relate to existing staff activities and future research aspirations (main staff leads in brackets):

Combined micro-climate and built environment energy modeling: Urban scale models for simulating micro-climate and buildings will be combined to address research questions associated with, external and transitional comfort, air quality, and built environment energy performance, related to high density cities. This can be extended to consider urban scale mobility and accessibility, and other urban infra-structures, in relation to building design and spatial planning. Current work combining research at HKU and WSA will be developed to look at case study areas in Hong Kong, with possible application areas in Sai Ying Pun and Wanchai. (Staff: Jianxiang Huang, Weijen Wang, Weifeng Li)

Urban ventilation and outdoor comfort:  To develop modeling relating to outdoor ventilation, breezeways, and outdoor thermal delight. This will link to research on larger scale city climate at HKU Engineering (Staff: Youguo Li) and Chinese University (Staff: Edward Ng).

People-centred EcoCity planning and design: To develop physical and socio-economic evaluation tools for Ecocities. This will focus on a bottom-up approach to EcoCities, linking with existing communities and infrastructure. Work with existing communities includes understanding the environmental performance of urban villages and split units for low-income groups, and designing interventions that improve conditions whilst protecting from gentrification. Examples include the Pingdi low carbon city, Hong Kong split units (Aberdeen) and Shenzhen urban villages (Staff: Du Juan’s lab).

Healthy City: To investigate environmental issues relating to social and health aspects of high density cities, focusing on space and place, including: livability standards, housing policy, housing and amenity space for the elderly, accessibility and mobility, walking space, green space, housing standards and social networks. This work will link to work carried out by DUPAD (Staff: Rebecca Chiu, Chris Webster, Chinmoy Sarkar).

Performance Aspects of Transitional Spaces in Urban: To investigate the quantitative and qualitative analysis of the courtyard typology in selected contemporary buildings in warm humid climates and the adaption of vernacular principles for urban and rural developments. Also, to carry out a Post Occupancy case study evaluation of ‘sky-courts’ in the Hong Kong Community College HKPolyU (Staff: Weijen Wang).

Hong Kong Podium Regulation Revision (by invitation from the HKI): To investigate the environmental and architectural performance relating to the Hong Kong podium typology regulations, to identify performance related outcomes for different design options (Staff: Weijen Wang).

Environmental Assessment of the Projecting Bay Window: To carry out a quantitative and qualitative analysis of the projecting bay windows in high-rise residential buildings. This would be the first in a series of research directed at elements of building enclosure (Staff: Chad McKee).

Policy to Practice Workshop: To organize a workshop with research, government and industry partners (in Hong Kong and mainland China) to explore the transition of the built environment low carbon agenda from policy to practice (Staff: Phil Jones).


The above research activities will require funding. Some activities may already receive funding, others relate to proposals under development, and some will require fresh proposals. Some internal funding will be required to support pilot studies and provide research support staff. This would include:

  • PDR Building Science researcher to support the modeling development and measurement at building and urban scale. The candidate should have a design appreciation, together with a background in building physics. Experience of publishing in high impact journals and research proposals should be essential.
  • Software support for the development (code writing) of model and big data banks, for example, linking energy and micro-climate models. Initially an estimated 6-12 months RA time would be needed. The RA should have some experience / interest in software development for built environment energy and environmental performance analysis.
  • Seed funding to cover travel, and small items of equipment and consumables, needed to support preliminary research work.