To support the sustainable development of Hong Kong, it is the established policy of the Government to adopt a multi-pronged approach to enhance land supply. The hilly and hard rock terrain of Hong Kong makes it highly suitable for development of cavern under appropriate geological conditions. The hillside at the urban fringes generally has good road networks, as well as other infrastructure (such as sewerage, water supply and electricity supply), and is particularly suitable for strategic cavern development.
The relocation of suitable government facilities into caverns can on one hand release existing valuable sites for housing or other uses to meet community needs, and on the other hand can relocate facilities that are incompatible with the land uses and environment nearby, for improvement of the urban layout and environmental quality of the area. Accommodating new government facilities in caverns in a cost-effective manner can save the use of surface land for achieving a more valuable and effective land arrangement.
In December 2021, the Civil Engineering and Development Department (CEDD) commissioned the study on “Joint Cavern Development at Anderson Road Quarry Site – Reprovisioning of Public Works Central Laboratory and Building of Government Records Service’s Archives Centre – Investigation, Design and Construction”. The study includes the Relocation of Public Works Central Laboratory (PWCL) to caverns and the Building of Government Records Service’s Archives Centre (AC) in caverns.
Given the extensive rock face in Anderson Road Quarry Site, the Site is suitable for cavern development. The Site also provides a readily-available platform in front of the rock face, thereby shortening construction costs and time. Moreover, the Site will be served by forthcoming infrastructure and transportation facilities, which would provide ease of access for future staffs and visitors.
This is the first time in Hong Kong that caverns are utilised to serve non-infrastructure related facilities along with other innovative construction methods. This project will adopt Modular Integrated Construction (MiC) to shorten the construction period.
The existing Public Works Central Laboratory (PWCL) Building was built in 1990. The building condition is deteriorating after commissioning for more than 30 years. Its existing design and layout has restrained the flexibility and efficiency of space utilisation as well as application of new technologies such as automated and artificial intelligence testing systems. Besides, arising from the continuous increase in testing types and quantity, there is insufficient working space in the PWCL Building and the working environment is very congested. Therefore, there are pressing needs to expand the PWCL to enhance its operational efficiency and level of occupational safety.
The caverns to be constructed under the project will be located inside the mountain body at the Anderson Road Quarry Development site, which is near the existing PWCL Building in east Kowloon. This location is suitable for accommodating that facility for continuing serving the public works projects in different districts of Hong Kong. Accommodating the PWCL inside caverns can not only reduce the occupation of surface land, the stable and secure environment inside caverns can also meet the requirements for the laboratory operation and storage of testing samples. In addition, this project can allow a suitable layout design for the PWCL, improve the testing equipment and instrument, and the application of innovative technologies for enhancing operational efficiency and reducing manpower. The Strategic Cavern Area also provides a high degree of flexibility for future expansion of the PWCL. Hence, relocating the PWCL to caverns can utilise the advantage of caverns and also achieve cost effectiveness.
The existing PWCL Building, with an area of about 0.4 hectares (ha), is located at the harbourfront of Kowloon Bay within Kai Tak Development Area. After the relocation of the PWCL to caverns, the existing site can be released and, together with a piece of adjacent government land (about 0.8 ha in total), used for medium-density residential development to realise the planning intent of the approved Kai Tak Outline Zoning Plan. We will also take the opportunity to use part of the existing site for harbourfront open space development. These can suit the overall planning and further development of the Kai Tak Development Area.
Hong Kong Public Records Building (HKPRB) in Kwun Tong was built in 1997. Apart from its search room, exhibition hall and offices, there are also archives repositories which meet international standards for the permanent retention of archival records in the building. As of March 2023, GRS keeps about 1.78 million archival records. As the archives repositories thereat have reached their maximum capacity, GRS has re-arranged the storing racks to increase the storage capacity to cater for the everincreasing quantity of archival records. Moreover, since 2014 GRS has converted part of the inactive records storage spaces in its Tuen Mun Government Storage Centre into temporary archives repositories as a temporary relief measure. Notwithstanding this, the converted temporary repositories have yet to meet the international standards required for the permanent storage of archival records, GRS has therefore a genuine operational need to build a new archives centre to cope with the continuous increase in demand for permanent retention of archives.
GRS has been striving to preserve paper-based documentary heritage in a better way, and actively promotes the digitisation of records which renders viewing of archival records more convenient and preserves the originals more effectively. In accordance with the regulations, standards and guidelines adopted by major archives in the Mainland and overseas, after archival records are digitised, the intrinsic value of the originals (including the inherent characteristics and properties, such as its medium, material, signature or seal, etc.) must be preserved in the original form and cannot be replaced by a copy. Therefore the originals of the digitised records will still be retained after digitisation. Hence, digitisation of archival records would not reduce the demand for new archives repositories.
The caverns to be constructed under the project will be located inside the mountain body at the Anderson Road Quarry Development site. The location has convenient transportation and is suitable for setting up the AC to continue providing services to the general public. Besides, accommodating the AC inside caverns can not only reduce the occupation of surface land, the stable and secure environment inside caverns can also meet the requirements for the storage of archival records as high energy efficiency could be achieved in controlling the environment of the storage area. In addition, this project can provide the AC with a suitable layout design to facilitate the application of innovative technologies for enhancing operational efficiency and reducing manpower. The Strategic Cavern Area also provides a high degree of flexibility for future expansion of the AC. Hence, building the AC in caverns can utilise the advantage of caverns and achieve cost effectiveness at the same time.