Construction activities threaten Hong Kong’s wild buffalos
Construction activity on one of Hong Kong’s largest islands is shrinking the habitat of its wild buffalos, forcing them to search for food in residential areas, where man-made materials such as barbed wire and building waste can injure them, according to environmental activists.
Lantau, located 30 minutes from Hong Kong’s finance district by ferry, is home to lush country parks and the city’s highest peaks. Since the 1970s, wild water buffalos have roamed the island, having been abandoned by farmers taking up industrial work.
Environmental activists explain that these buffalos are now critical to Lantau’s ecosystem, eating harmful weeds and keeping the wetlands fertile. Floating plants and microorganisms that thrive on the buffalos’ presence, filter out some pollution in the island’s rivers before they reach the sea, they add.
However, Lantau residents say that recent encounters with the buffalos have been unusually tense over the last few months, with the animals encroaching into private gardens looking for food, and sometimes even charging at people.
Some residents want the buffalo population culled – which activists estimate at just over 100 animals but are unsure how that compares to previous years.
“There’s a war happening between landowners and conservationists,” says Ho Loy, an activist for the Lantau Buffalo Association.
The government’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department states that it is communicating with the community to reach and “appropriate consensus” and that its cattle management strategy is currently focused on sterilisation and relocation.
Land scarcity has turned the densely populated island city of Hong Kong into one of the most expensive property markets in the world, making construction a lucrative sector, but also contributing to increase waste and pollution, including on Lantau’s wetlands.
Furthermore, construction waste pose injury hazards for the animals on the island, with sharp objects such as broken floor tiles causing deep cuts which can attract fly larvae and other insects, leading to infections.
Leung Siu-wah, 68, locally known as “Buffalo Jean” as she has been voluntarily looking after the buffalos for the last 12 years, says that she wants the government to improve management of construction waste and do more to preserve the wetlands.
“They look for food in every nook and cranny,” she explains. “When the buffaloes want to climb up to eat, they are very careless and rash ... they don’t know the waste is very sharp.” Some cuts take weeks to heal, she adds.
Hong Kong’s Civil Engineering and Development Department says that it has been installing GPS on dump trucks and has issued memos to various industry stakeholders about their responsibilities.
“Lantau is nothing without buffalos and wetlands,” Leung states.
ReCreate project reuses concrete in new buildings
Reconciling the carbon conundrum in construction will not be a quick fix but researchers at Finland's Tampere University may have hit on a way of deconstructing concrete elements and reusing them in new buildings.
Its four-year ReCreate project, which has received €12.5 million of funding under the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme, involves universities and regional company clusters in Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Germany. All the country clusters will carry out their own pilot projects where they deconstruct precast concrete elements intact and reuse them in a new building.
“By reusing concrete elements, we can save an enormous amount of energy and raw materials,” says Satu Huuhka, adjunct professor at the Faculty of Built Environment at Tampere University, who leads the ReCreate project. “We are specifically looking to reuse the concrete elements as a whole, not as a raw material for something new."
Researchers at the Faculty of Built Environment have been carrying out ground-breaking research into the circular economy in the construction sector for a decade.
Long-term research on renovation and the lifecycle engineering of structures provides a solid foundation for the development of quality assurance procedures that will ensure the safety and integrity of the reused elements. This time, the researchers are set to explore not only the technical implementation of the solutions but also the business perspective.
Huuhka acknowledges there are many unanswerered questions, from assessing structural integrity to building code requirements - and ultimately how to turn ReCreate into a viable business. "We must also consider the social aspects: does the process require new skills or new ways of working?” he adds.
Tampere University researchers will also bring to the project their specialist expertise in circular economy business models, building regulations and law, and occupational sociology. The Finnish country cluster comprises Tampere University, Skanska, demolition company Umacon, precast concrete company Consolis Parma, engineering and consultancy company Ramboll, architecture firm Liike Oy Arkkitehtistudio and the City of Tampere. The communications partner is the Croatia Green Building Council.
Buildings generate nearly 40% of GHG emissions and the rising pace of construction - up to 2 trillion square feet could be added by 2060 - means finding a sustainable concrete solution is essential.
Graphene concrete on firm foundations, CarbonCure accelerates growth and Nexii expands in US
Nationwide Engineering is claiming a world first today as it lays the world's first graphene concrete slab engineered for sustainability in a commercial setting. The new material is strengthened by around 30% compared to standard concrete and so significantly cutting material use.
It has partnered with the University of Manchester's Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre and structural engineers HBPW Consulting; graphene is an allotrope of carbon and the resulting mix with concrete produces a substance that area for area, is stronger than steel, it claims.
CarbonCure manufactures a technology for the concrete industry that introduces recycled CO₂ into fresh concrete to reduce its carbon footprint without compromising performance. It was named one of two winners in the US$20 million NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE and the money will be used to accelerate its mission of reducing 500 million tonnes of carbon emissions annually by 2030. Carbon Cure believes the use of CO2 in concrete is expected to become a US$400 billion market opportunity.
Nexii designs and manufactures high-performance buildings and green building products that are sustainable, cost-efficient and resilient in the face of climate change. It recently teamed up with actor and Pittsburgh native Michael Keaton, who will have an ownership stake and play an active role in Nexii’s upcoming manufacturing plant, which will be its second in the United States and sixth overall.