Hi everyone! I am the new dorm for postgraduate students that opened a year ago, and was officially named the Jockey Club Postgraduate Halls 2 & 3. Standing in Area 39 of CUHK’s northern campus, I enjoy its fresh air and vast open space. Not least because of my stylish look, my residents are constantly told that they are the lucky ones. Of course, like any other student housing, I am here to provide a shelter for the young intellectuals to learn, rest and socialize. But as you may not know, I am also carrying out an unconventional duty, which is to give bricks and mortar an eco-friendly lifestyle. Brains and beauty do go together.
Next time you drop by, look up and see if you can spot my sky gardens. In the middle of each of my alternate floors, there’s a terrace planted with bamboo and ivy. These green patches form a vertical line, which is perpendicular to the landscaping on the ground. Such greening design is introduced for more than enhanced aesthetics; it also improves ventilation, provides shading and brings in natural light. Walking in the hallway of any floor, you can feel the wind in your hair and the sun on your face, which translates to a cheaper energy bill.
I am not just a saver but also a maker. My designers and architects made the most out of the blazing sun and howling gale from my surrounding, and have rows of solar panels and a windmill installed over my head. The power generated by the solar panels is used to preheat water for the shower rooms. The windmill provides electricity for general appliances of the building. There is also a rainwater recycling system, which uses collected rainwater for irrigation. Wastewater from washing basins and shower rooms does not go straight down the drain. It goes through the grey water treatment system in the building, and is reused to water plants.
If you are someone who is used to looking for a room temperature dial every time going indoors, sorry, you will have to think twice at my place. Smart meters and pay stations are monitoring the electricity consumption of my common areas. Users have to pay HK$1 for each hour of running an air conditioner. But don’t worry. Many of my windows are openable. Those out of reach can be operated by remote control. You may call me a cheap skate, but all I want is to foster behavioural change in my residents that instead of relying on air conditioners, they would opt for windows or electric fans in cooler seasons.
As I am located just a street away from the railroad, the toughest challenge for my designers was noise alleviation. They eventually came up with the brilliant solution of installing an acoustic glass panel on the building façade outside each bedroom, deflecting sound waves that travel in straight line, and at the same time allowing curvilinear airflow into the rooms. My student residents are surprised to find that even as the MTR trains run right in front of them, the sound level in the bedrooms is as low as the hum of a window-type air conditioner. Pretty cool, huh?
Sandwiched between the two hostel buildings is a multi-purpose hall, on the ground floor of which is a Taiwan-style restaurant. Its considerable distance from the main campus does not deter CUHK members from taking their taste buds on a culinary journey. At the centre of the restaurant is a glass-walled chamber, where one needs to take off one’s shoes and sit on the floor. Students are seen there studying leisurely while sipping bubble tea. The restaurant also features floor-to-ceiling windows and pot plants in all sizes that echo the lush green view outside. It makes sure that every daydream you have here will be sun-kissed and nature-soaked.
Here’s a little-known side of me: the multi-purpose hall is topped with a green roof, a great place to relax and enjoy a bird’s-eye view. After a feast on Taiwanese comfort food, you may want to take a stroll there in the warm sun and gentle breeze. The sparrows pecking in the lawn may remind you of the many simple things in life you can be grateful for even when times get rough. COVID-19 has grounded us into our corners of the world, but nothing can stop us from opening our eyes, minds and hearts to the farthest edge of the universe.
Photos by Campus Development Office & Keith Hiro