We write to you with an aim of providing you with more in-depth information about the Residential Colleges on Lung Wah Street which, as many of you know, have encountered slight delays and necessitated contingent arrangement for students.
Ensuring a healthy and safe environment is one of our highest priorities in launching our new campus and receiving the double cohort intake this year. Our recent decision to postpone students’ admittance to Blocks A and B of the Colleges emphasises this.
As you may be aware, the university initiated a contingency plan on 4 September to provide alternative accommodation for non-local students scheduled to move into the Colleges. Right up until 4 September, colleagues had been working full steam to get Blocks A and B ready. This included monitoring the indoor air quality to ensure that it meets the “Good Class” standard set by the HKSAR government. The monitoring, conducted by an independent laboratory, covers formaldehyde and some other defined vaporous materials.
In the report received on the afternoon of 4 September, the formaldehyde measurements in a number of samples did not meet the standard. All other readings of vaporous materials met their respective standards. Although experts advised that, at these levels of formaldehyde concentration, maintaining good indoor ventilation would effectively reduce the risk, as a precautionary measure we decided that the move-in should be postponed until all the measurements have met the “Good Class” standard.
That colleagues have had to race against time to get the Colleges ready is mainly due to the fact that the handover of the Lung Wah Street site by relevant authorities to the University was relatively late in the 3-3-4 constructions. It is also a challenging site for a massive building project because of its geotechnical conditions and crowded nature. Indeed it was as late as 24 August that we received the Occupation Permit. The building contractor began to hand over Blocks A and B to the University on 27 August, and Block C on 6 September. The timelines have been extremely tight to get the Colleges ready before the new semester starts.
We are glad to let you know that over a span of six days the formaldehyde readings recorded by the independent laboratory have met the “Good Class” standard, and given these data we have decided to transfer students from nearby hotels and other university residences to the Colleges on Thursday, 13 September and Friday, 14 September.
Yesterday we shared the air quality readings and the University’s health considerations with the non-local students and their parents through gatherings and visits to the Colleges. They expressed understanding about the arrangement. Transportation will be provided by the University for the transfer and, as has been the case all along, students and helpers will be on-site to provide assistance.
In line with our safety policy, we have decided to postpone the opening of Block C while air quality monitoring continues. According to the decision-making criteria we set for Blocks A and B, once we have consistent measurements of good standard air quality in Block C, we will start checking in students.
Block D in Lung Wah Street is scheduled to open in October. Our policy for Block D will remain the same – health and safety is the highest priority. We will inform you of the progress in due course.
We have informed non-local students originally scheduled to move into Block C that they would not be able to move into the Residential Colleges before the beginning of the semester. Arrangements have been made for those who need university accommodation to temporarily stay in other university residences and youth hostel.
For local students who have been admitted to the Residential Colleges (either in Block C or D), we have earlier informed them they will move in when all the residential blocks are ready for occupation. In the meantime, they will stay at home or make their own arrangement. CEDARS will provide assistance to them if needed.
We would like to thank local and non-local students, as well as their parents for their understanding and full cooperation. We are also very thankful to colleagues of the Estates Office and CEDARS for their diligence and to those students who have graciously lend a hand in helping their newly arrived fellow students during this transition period.
We wish you a most rewarding year at HKU, and we look forward to seeing you all on campus next week.
Professor Roland T. Chin, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost
Professor John Malpas, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President (Infrastructure)