Creative Learning Module (CLM) for Architecture and Surveying students

Project Title: Creative Learning Module (CLM) for Architecture and Surveying students

Principal Investigator/Team: Anderson Lee(Co-PI), Christopher Webster (Co-PI)

Funding Body: HKU Teaching Development Grant(TDG); FoA dean‟s start-up fund


Creativity Learning Module (CLM) is a stand-alone workshop to complement and enhance the teaching and learning experience of our undergraduate students. CLM is an un-assessed, compact and freestanding module that focuses on helping our students become aware of their personal attributes and natural roles in teamwork. As well as facilitating discovery and awareness of own and others‟ strengths and weaknesses in group situations, we expect the experience to help students make more out of the remainder of their academic programmes. CLM will empower students by helping them to better understand their own characters, which in turn will help them to develop the emotional intelligence and social behavior required to achieve a more rewarding learning experience throughout their academic life at HKU, particularly but not confined to, team work.


Our students currently graduate are equipped with the professional knowledge required to handle the demands of their respective disciplines. A formally facilitated learning experience designed to enhance their emotional and social behavioral qualities will, we believe, enhance their initial comprehensive and professional educational and equip them for a lifetime of learning and leadership.


The evaluation of the programme indicated that objectives were broadly met for those students who completed the programme and there was evidence of positive impact and change related to the 7 specific objectives. The quantitative analysis was limited due to low response and attrition rates. However, qualitative comments indicated that students had benefitted, learnt and made positive changes in diverse areas.

There was a challenge with disengaged students in the first run and there was considerable drop out during the two days. This was likely the result of a number of factors including: students delayed arrival very late in Shanghai on the night before the programme; a very late and unsatisfactory start to the workshop, in part due to very poor internet connection during the administration of the initial self-efficacy survey and tiredness and annoyance on the part of the students. This prevented a tight and engaging start to the two days. The students were also less willing to engage and mix across the two disciplines than was anticipated, so the mixed discipline groups were not well received.

During the first workshop the facilitators adjusted the programme to increase relevance and engagement and to allow more choice but in the end a smaller group of committed students from both disciplines remained for the duration of the two days and were overall highly engaged.

Changes were made to the second run of the programme, such as: requesting students to complete their self-efficacy surveys prior to the programme, making the students to apply for and to be admitted to the workshop and adjusting the content, framing and delivery of the workshop.

Overall, these changes resulted in a more positive and engaging experience, a better learning environment and arguably better outcomes and impact for the students.

The response rates for the pre-programme self-efficacy surveys was high for both workshops but the dropout rate during the first workshop resulted in much lower response rates for the 1st post programme self-efficacy survey and a very low response rate for the 2nd survey, 6 weeks later. The rate was better for the second workshop but, despite a series of reminders, there was still a high attrition rate for the 2nd post programme survey since the particpants (all BAAS 4) have left the university and entered the job market.


Two-day workshop at the HKU Shanghai Study Centre(HKUSSC) in Shanghai during Fall 2015 – Creativity Learning Module (for 30 (BAAS 3)students and 30 BSc(Surv) students)

During the workshops, students were provided with:

  • Guidance in goal setting.
  • Detailed interpretation of their own data.
  • A framework for understanding themselves and for understanding others (i.e. the range of different motivations, behaviors and needs to enable them to calibrate their own).
    Experiential learning through two collaborative creative exercises.
  • A framework for understanding different aspects of and expressions of creativity.
  • A model for communicating with others based on the other person‟s broad underlying needs.
  • A range of perspectives and advice on making career choices, transitioning into the marketplace and developing their careers in line with their motivations and strengths; advice on and practical applications of their career matching data.
  • Reflection booklets were used throughout the two days for students to capture their learning and action points.

Two-day workshop in Hong Kong during Spring 2016 – Preparing Yourself for the Marketplace Workshop (for 15 (BAAS 4) students)

In this second workshop, the students were also:

  • Introduced to a methodology for explaining themselves to others, e.g. in an interview, personal statement, to new work colleagues, managers etc.
  • They captured their key motivators, de-motivators, styles, stress triggers and reactions and preferred activities and contributions to projects and work contexts and practiced articulating these to each other.
  • Given some insight into how to identify their „blind spots‟ in terms of broad perspectives such as strategic/innovative thinking, admin/systems, selling/communicating and delivering results.
  • Provided with guidance on how to build their own resilience and strength given their personal underlying needs.
  • This workshop included the option for students to have a one on one mentoring session relating to their
    self-understanding and career direction/choices.

Students were asked to complete 3 self-efficacy surveys (one immediately before the programme, one immediately after and one 6 weeks after the programme. They also completed an evaluation of the programme at the end of the workshop. Data from these surveys was analyzed to evaluate the impact of the programme on student‟s levels of self-awareness and confidence in the areas of self-regulating their learning, seeking support, career direction, leading and working in teams and demonstrating creativity.

Anticipated impact:

The programme was shown to be effective for the participating students in terms of the topics covered and the benefits gained. These could inform the curriculum and improve learning outcomes in the following ways:
-Enhancing the experience of students working in project teams. The simple data relating to individual style, need and preferred contribution as well as style of communication would enable students to work more productively together with less misunderstanding and conflict. Taking one or two hours at the start of team projects to explore and share differences would provide significant benefit.
-Supporting students to adopt effective learning strategies based on their profiles could impact their academic achievement.
-Providing teaching staff with data on their students‟ styles and preferences would provide staff with the insight to support individual students or to tailor their teaching methodologies to engage with diverse students more effectively.

Producing Food and Enhancing Community in the City: Using a Hybrid Design-land Economy Approach to Investigate the Barriers to Urban Farming in Hong Kong

Principal Investigator: H.K. WEE (PI), Chris WEBSTER (Co-PI)
Funding body: GRF


The Mercer Quality of Living Index shows a correlation between the liveability of a city and its ability to support a society of excellence. Hong Kong ranks sixth in the 2012 Mercer Infrastructure Ranking, but is well outside the top 50 on the same Quality of Living Ranking. One of the critical and highly visible areas of liveability is the amount of green available to a city, which is also the reason why Chinese cities have implemented a hard rule of a fixed green ratio in all new urban developments as a shortcut to attaining green city status. However, much urban landscape in China quickly falls into disrepair and where the will and fiscal revenue is available to support highly green urbanscapes, as in Singapore, the costs can become unsustainable. This research takes a new look at the idea of productive agricultural urban green space and asks whether HK can develop an innovative sustainable greening model. The innovative nature of the proposed model is its linking up of community, technology, and property rights. The project is suitably and innovatively located jointly in the Department of Architecture, the Division of Landscape Architecture and the HKU Ronald Coase Centre for Property Rights Research.


  1. Identify and survey workable pockets of private and public land, and multi-level surfaces for cultivation within the pilot study area in the Western District of Hong Kong. Propose a network of spaces that permeates through the urban farms, in order for communities to flourish around them.
  2. Focus on planning feasibility in accessibility, circulation, solar orientation, and waste management, using established engineering solutions for high-intensity food cultivation. This pilot area must demonstrate complex traits in both physical and social terms, combining high-tech and traditional farming methods, in order for it to benefit the rest of Hong Kong, once success is demonstrated on some levels.
  3. Investigate the institutional mechanisms that allow the blending of private property rights, public property rights and common rights necessary to make systematic urban agriculture a reality.
  4. Position Hong Kong in a unique position in the discourse of food urbanism, by virtue of its particular model of engineering land-technology-property rights for improved food security and increased land utility.
  5. Demonstrate the role of design and planning in overcoming the typically binding contraints of urban agricultural development, and thereby creating win-win-win (private-public-communal) gains in urban environments.


  • From the perspective of the history of Asian urbanism, food urbanism is not an accidental research hypothesis, but an inevitable frontier in urban technology and land economy. The benefits of urban agriculture in Hong Kong include the following:
  • Liveability: In the long-term, it is crucial that there is greater selectivity in how we plan and plant in our cities, in order to obtain more productive and sustainable results of greening.
  • Community Building & Public Space: As spaces in the city are made available for food production and consumption by the local community, there will be opportunities to employ these newly identified spaces as a series of inter-connected public spaces.
  • Carbon Footprint: Hong Kong relies on importing 90% of our perishable food. It is an economically viable solution currently, but the high carbon footprint of our consumables suggests that it is not sustainable in the long-run.
  • Food Safety & Security: Food security ranks unusually low in Hong Kong because of the availability of cheap produce from China. This complacency will alter in the years to come, as China responds to global food shortage in the next ten years. (Rosin, et al., 2012)
  • New Economy & Employment: A mature and stable urban agricultural economy will not only generate new forms of employment and a trickle-down effect, but will also make our economy more resilient to fluctuations in the global market due to an increased diversity. (Miazzo, et al., 2013)

A critic of campus town planning methods in China: Environmental design to address crime and violence problems in GuangZhou campus town

Title: A critic of campus town planning methods in China: Environmental design to address crime and violence problems in GuangZhou campus town

Team: Bin Jiang, He Zhan (Co-PI, MLA student), Matthew Pryor (Co-PI), Chris Webster (Co-PI)

Project Funder: Faculty of Architecture seed fund


Guangzhou Higher Education Mega Center (HEMC), Guangzhou University Town is an area featured by higher education institutions, located on Xiaoguwei Island in Guangzhou, China. It was opened in 2004. With an area of approximately 17.9 km2 and 3.53 million square meters of indoor space, the complex is capable of accommodating 350 to 400 thousand people.

However, lots of bad news about safety issues has been reported in the recent years. On June 29, 2015, two dead bodies were found at the campus. This scary news reminds us of an important issue—safe campus landscape.

In this research, the CPTED concept is utilized as an important design reference. CPTED short for crime prevention through environmental design, refers to a way, by which people can eliminate the impacts of the space environment on criminal acts, strengthen punishment and psychological factors, enhance the difficulty for implementing criminal acts, reduce the opportunities of successful criminal acts, and further succeed in preventing crime.

At present, the author has collected 565 valid questionnaires whose feedback indicates that the campus is actually quite dangerous. Specifically, 51 people (10%) have met crime cases at the university town before, and 65% victims are female. Numerous data show the urban design and landscape are important factors triggering the occurrence of crime.

The ultimate goal of this research is to provide a new design solution or strategy for the university town in Guangzhou. The results indicate that it is a good way to review the development of university towns in China. Besides, the successful experience can be beneficial for the campus planning in the future.



Project title: Green=walkable?: measuring the associations between green space morphology and walking patterns in London among 20,000 respondents in the LTDS.

Project team: Chris Webster (Co-PI), Chinmoy Sarkar (Co-PI), Matthew Pryor (Co-PI), Dorothy Tang (Co-PI), Scott Melbourne (Co-PI), Zhang Xiaohu (Co-I), Ashley Kelly (Co-I).

Project funder: HKU URC-PDF 34th round; FoA dean’s start-up fund; DLA.


Green-space and walking behaviors are intuitively connected. Landscape architects, urban designers and planners tend to use rules of thumb in allocating green space to new and re-fashioned urban spaces, based on inherited wisdom, instinct and a general understanding that ‘proximity to green is good’. This project aims to provide an evidence base for more refined green infrastructure morphologies by quantifying the associations between green morphology and walking. It uses data from London Travel Demand Survey (LTDS) of 2009/10, which administered a one-day travel diary recording route, purpose, timing and mode (broken into discrete stages for 20,000 households systematically sampled from across the city). Green space quantity and morphology was measured from 0.5 metre resolution Blue Sky colour infrared image (NDVI vegetation index), a UKMap spatial database identifying individual street trees, parks and key points of interest (POI) and the Ordnance Survey Integrated Transport Network layer for street networks. Logistical and continuous multi-layer regression models were run to investigate waking behavior (distance walked, routes taken, divergence from shortest path, walk-no-walk) as a function of green space morphology, controlling for PoI, slope, socio-economics, crime, traffic and accessibility.


Specific hypotheses tested include: a positive relationship between street trees and walking; and a positive relationship between park size and walking.


Results so far include the finding that street trees have a measurable effect on distance walked for commuting and on the decision to walk/not walk; and that large parks tend to have a depressing effect on distance walked and the walk/not-walk decision in commuting.


Published so far:

  • Chinmoy Sarkar, Chris Webster, Matthew Pryor, Dorothy Tang, Scott Melbourne, Zhang Xiaohu, Liu Jianzheng. (2015) Exploring associations between urban green, street design and walking: Results from the Greater London boroughs. Landscape and Urban Planning, 143, Nov, 112-125. (IF 3.04)
  • Webster C, Sarkar S, Melbourne S, Pryor M, Tang D, Kaffay N, (2015) Green equals healthy? Towards an evidence base for high density healthy city research. Landscape Architecture Frontiers, 3(1) pp 8-24.
  • Melbourne S, Webster C, Sarkar C, Xiaohu Zhang, Chiaradia A, Does green space size and size distribution matter in optimizing walking performance of cities? Submitted May 2016.
  • Tang D, Webster C, Zhang X, Sarkar C, Does greenery influence walking route choice: a study of 20,000 LTDS participants in London. To be submitted April 2016.
  • Pryor M, Kelly AS, Webster C, Sarkar C,  Quantifying urban greenery. Submitted June 2016.

Anticipated impact:

We hope that this work will set a new standard for the scientific calibration of green-space standards and design doctrines; providing evidence, for example, for decisions about the size-distribution of green spaces in a new city or new neighbourhood and about which parts of a city’s road grid to target in a street tree investment program.

Relationship between access to healthcare and dental services, built environment and dental health within the UK Biobank

Project title: Relationship between access to healthcare and dental services, built environment and dental health within the UK Biobank. 5

HKUrbanLabs research cluster: Healthy CitiesHD

Project team: May Wong (PI), Chris Webster (Co-I), Chinmoy Sarkar (Co-I), Coleman McGrath (Co-I), Edward Lo (Co-I).

Project: UK Biobank application arising out of UKBUMP database.

Abstract: (in preparation for submission as a UK Biobank application)

Anticipated outcomes: 3 publications in high impact journal with the potential for a grant application under URC PDF/RAP scheme co-bided by Dentistry and Architecture.

5Note: This is a HKUrban Lab – DENTISTRY collaboration arising out of core UKBUMP work.

Human – built – natural environment research pillars & synergy. Conceptual urban health niche model of risk clustering and risk pathways - Gene, micro biome, built environment and the corresponding individual health niche (adapted from the Health Niche model of Sarkar, Webster & Gallacher, 2014). Conceptual model developed by Dr C. Sarkar. © Chinmoy Sarkar & Chris Webster

Microbiome – Built Environment project

Project title: Microbiome – Built Environment project. 4

HKUrbanLabs research cluster: Healthy CitiesHD

Project team: Gianni Panagiotou (PI), David Baker (Co-I), Chris Webster (Co-I), Chinmoy Sarkar (Co-I), Seth Denizen (Co-I).

Project funding: Hong Kong University Seed Funding for Basic Research.


Two proof-of-concept pilot studies co-funded by Deans of Architecture and Science. These involve:

  • Relationships between microbiome of Hong Kong’s MTR and underlying urban connectivity. This links to a similar study underway in New York’s Subway and examines ecological patterns of species sampled from MTR hand-rails via indices of ecological dissimilarity and diversity and relates them to underlying urban connectivity.
  • The distribution of anti-biotic resistant pathogens (ABRP) will be assessed via their circulation through bank notes at key locations, especially hospitals within Hong Kong. The hypothesis for the study will be to examine the relationship between ecological distance between the microbiome communities at the chosen sites (as measured by Bray-Curtis dissimilarity index and also Shannon species diversity/heterogeneity index) and underlying geographical connectivity of the sites in urban space.
  • Anticipated outcomes: 2 papers to high impact journals forming the foundation for at least one more major research funding bid.

4Note: This is a HKUrban Lab – SCIENCE collaboration.

Relationship between the built environment and obstructive lung diseases

Project title: Relationship between the built environment and obstructive lung diseases.

HKUrbanLabs research cluster: Healthy CitiesHD

Project Team: Chinmoy Sarkar (PI), Chris Webster (Co-PI), Michael Ni (Co-I), Lydia Liu (Co-I)

Project: UK Biobank Preliminary Application 17796.


This study aims to primarily answer the question: “where does or does not chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD) arise, persist and progress in the UK?”; describing location in detail through measurable attributes of the built environment in which subjects reside. Secondarily, we aim to generate hypotheses to test regarding the relationship between the built environment and respiratory outcomes. Finally, we aim to use historical and prospective data on patients who meet the case definition of COPD and asthma to test our hypotheses about the effect that the built environment has on patients with COPD and asthma.

This study is a collaboration between the University of Hong Kong Faculty of Architecture and School of Public Health. We will take descriptive and analytic approaches, utilizing data from the UK Biobank and the UK Biobank Urban Morphometric Platform (UKBUMP). The UKBUMP is an individual-level built environment database of approximately 750 health-specific built environment metrics for all participants in the UK Biobank prospective cohort.

Anticipated outcomes: A series of 2-3 papers in high impact journals.


3Note: This is a HKUrban Lab – MEDIC collaboration arising out of core UKBUMP work.

Figure. Spatial distribution of some food outlet typologies within Greater London. Map developed by Dr C. Sarkar from UK Map data. ©The GeoInformation Group

Exploring saturation in food outlet access in Greater London, and examining associations with diet quality and body weight in a large sample of adults

Project title: Exploring saturation in food outlet access in Greater London, and examining associations with diet quality and body weight in a large sample of adults. 2

HKUrbanLabs research cluster: Healthy CitiesHD

Project Team: Pablo Monsivais (PI), Thomas Burgoine (Co-I), Chris Webster (Co-PI), Chinmoy Sarkar (Co-I).

Project: UK Biobank MTA 10570; MOU for collaborative research signed by the mentioned team members.


It is hypothesized that the distribution of food outlets in our towns and cities is related to diet and health. However, the scientific evidence base regarding these neighbourhood food environment effects on individuals remains equivocal. It is also unclear whether existing methods of capturing food environment exposure are able to reveal heterogeneity in urban areas considered ‘saturated’. This study will explore potential saturation in food outlet exposure in Greater London, and will examine the extent to which neighbourhood access to food outlets is associated with diet quality, body weight and odds of overweight/obesity in adults. The study will begin by interrogating established built environment measures of food access, already calculated by food outlet type using accurate data from UKMap, for 52,360 adult UK Biobank participants located within Greater London. We will describe exposures to different types of food outlet for the study sample, drawing on precedent from New York City, which has a similarly high population density and potentially saturated food retail environment. Assuming exposure heterogeneity, we will then relate food outlet exposures to frequency of takeaway food consumption, body weight (body mass index and percent body fat) and odds of being overweight and obese.

Anticipated outcomes: A series of 3 papers in high impact journals (one led by HKU).

2Note: This is a HKUrban Lab – CEDAR, Cambridge University collaboration arising out of core UKBUMP work.

“The treatment of a disease represents an admission of failure. Prevention is the goal of medical research and clinical practice.”

Archie Cockrane

Study of the Inverse spatial relationship between slope and urban green in Hong Kong and potential impacts on behaviour and health. a) 30m resolution NDVI index of urban greenness derived from Landsat ETM+ b) 30m resolution urban slope model derived from Aster Global Digital Elevation map. Developed by Dr C. Sarkar. © Chinmoy Sarkar & Chris Webster

Hong Kong FAMILY cohort Urban Morphometric Platform (HKFUMP)

Project title: Hong Kong FAMILY cohort Urban Morphometric Platform (HKFUMP).

HKUrbanLabs research cluster: Healthy CitiesHD

Project Team: Chris Webster (Co-PI), Gabriel Leung (Co-PI), Chinmoy Sarkar (Co-I).

Project Funder: URC 35th Round of PDF/RAP Scheme (HMRF bid for the same proposed by Dr Sarkar had been earlier unsuccessful).


Objective assessment of the built environment (OABE) has evolved into a rapidly developing domain in recent years, enabling automation of detailed and precise measurements of the fundamental determinants of activity behaviour and obesity, physical and mental health in large epidemiological cohorts. The study aims to employ OABE methodology involving a series of spatial and network analyses techniques over multiple spatial databases and remotely sensed data. It will result in the  construction of a series of high resolution objective health- influencing measures of built environment configuration and physical accessibility, modelled from topological models of road, pedestrian and public transport networks; land use mix and housing densities, density/intensity and proximity of health-specific infrastructure; urban green; and terrain. These morphometrics of detailed urban design, density and configuration will be developed at multiple spatial scales and linked to geocoded individual-level household locations of participants of the Hong Kong FAMILY Cohort, the prominent epidemiological cohort of Hong Kong. This will enable the modelling of associations between a suite of urban morphometrics and prevalence of obesity, social capital, mental health and other chronic disease.

Anticipated outcomes: A series of 4-5 papers in high impact journals.


“improved urban health outcomes will need a concerted effort to create and maintain the so-called urban advantage through reshaping city environments. Furthermore, such urban planning needs to take account of the inequalities between cities across the world and within individual cities when devising policy. Urban planning efforts should be based on a complexity approach that recognises multidirectional causality, feedback loops, and unintended consequences. Such an approach is more capable of producing effective action than are more conventional linear approaches. An integral part of such a complexity approach is an emphasis on project-based experimentation and social learning through discursive and inclusive assessment”.

The Lancet Commissions, 2012


Modelling traffic accident causality and built environment in major world cities

Project title: Modelling traffic accident causality and built environment in major world cities.

HKUrbanLabs research cluster: Healthy CitiesHD

Project Team: Chinmoy Sarkar (PI), Chris Webster (Co-I), Sarika Kumari (Research Assistant).

Project Funder: None


The objective is to examine associations between various attributes of built environment density, form, street level physical structures, carrying capacity and various aspects of traffic accident casualty (including frequency and severity). The study includes three major cities of London, Hong Kong and Melbourne.

Anticipated outcomes: A series of four publications in high impact journals. Dr Sarkar will put in a book proposal to Edward Elgar or Routledge in June-August 2016.

Related Publications:

Chinmoy Sarkar, Chris Webster, Sarika Kumari. Does underlying street morphology affect severity of road casualties? A 5-year study of Greater London. Submitted to Annals of AAG, 2016.

Chinmoy Sarkar, Chris Webster, Sarika Kumari. Built environment correlates of traffic accident casualties in children: A five year study of London. Abstract submitted to Environment Planning B (Special Issue), 2016.


“The entire layout of all newly developed areas must, if necessary, be made dependent on that safety factor; it would be rather futile to plan, by means of layout, for hygiene and amenity, but at the same time to overlook that this same layout is likely, daily and hourly, to cause death or maiming”.

Alker Tripp, 1942.