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Firm learns to create special environment
John Cremer
update on Saturday, August 21, 2010
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In their design work for schools and colleges, P&T Group's architects and engineers first learn each institution's academic priorities.

These largely determine how best to create an environment where students and teachers can meet their learning and extra-curricular objectives. 

"We have to understand their educational philosophy and how they teach," says P&T director Joel Chan. "In that way, we can tailor the design to what they specialise in. We are not just providing a `box', the classroom, but a whole environment that allows students to explore their talents."

For example, the new St Paul's Co-educational Primary School campus in Wong Chuk Hang was designed to reflect a strength in music. The fan-shaped assembly hall resembles a concert hall, with attention given to the acoustics, and the stage is large enough for an orchestra. The space is also flexible, so that different areas have more than one designated purpose.

For the continuing redevelopment of Diocesan Girls' School, the focus is more on sports, particularly the improvement of on-site training facilities. The firm plans to put a running track on the roof of the gymnasium and a swimming pool, and to build multipurpose courts on the flat roofs of other buildings for sports, such as netball, badminton or basketball.

"There is a lot of dialogue with each school in the design process," Chan says. "It is then up to us to make use of the spatial composition to accommodate their purpose and get the maximum for them out of the [available] funding."

He is confident this area of specialisation will prove a real boon for the firm. In the next few years, the building or expansion of schools and universities will be a major part of the overall construction sector, bringing new contracts and creating employment opportunities.

"If you look at government policy, the aim is to promote Hong Kong as a regional hub for education and attract people to study here," Chan says. "So with our experience and edge, we expect more projects like designing the Tuen Mun campus for Harrow International School, which we are now working on." To cope with anticipated demand, the 1,000-strong firm has a consistent need for new recruits. Each year, there are openings for about 100 architects and engineers.

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