Ir Edwin Chung, the HKIE President for Session 2021/2022: “It’s time to change!”
With his passion to bring about changes in the engineering field, Ir Edwin Chung Kwok-fai, President of The Hong Kong Institution of Engineers (HKIE) for Session 2021/2022, will leverage his over 40 years of experience hoping to make the industry better.
He said “As I am now retired, I am able to dedicate more of my time to the Institution.”
Ir Chung’s journey
Ir Chung graduated from McGill University, Montreal, Canada in 1977 and started his professional career with Binnies - an esteemed British consulting firm. He continued working with this company, except for a short period of time, before and after his stay in Canada for his graduate studies in the early 80s. He started as an assistant engineer, rose to top management and became a Registered Principal of the company. He is the longest incumbent professional in the local operation of Binnies.
After joining the HKIE as a Member early in 1985, Ir Chung - who was a renowned geotechnical engineer with established expertise in slopes, underground structures and foundations - embarked on his journey of serving the Institution and brought to Members the recreational joy and social benefits through his favourite sport - golf. Around 1998, he became one of the founding Committee Members of the HKIE Golf Society (HKIEGS). Among his many memories of the HKIE, he finds that this sport, which he is so fond of, has brought him closer to the Institution.
“I am grateful to have met countless fellow engineers throughout my career, and made many friends. Golf is one of the many incredible things that have tied us together,” he enthuses. “I am honoured to have the chance to represent the HKIE in winning the inter-society golf team competition, and in 2007 I scored hole-in-one during an HKIEGS golf outing. I was also winner of the HKIE Master’s Championship.”
As a founding Committee Member of the HKIE Golf Society (HKIEGS), Ir Chung has tied members together with golf
With his vision of changing and reshaping the landscape of the profession with the HKIE, Ir Chung has contributed to the industry as an active HKIE member in various Committees and Boards over the past 20 years. This includes chairing the Geotechnical Division of the Institution in Session 2011/2012. In 2018, he was elected Vice President of the HKIE.
“Once I led a delegation of more than 20 members to visit caverns in Finland and Norway. And I also went to Guiyang to witness the engineering wonders of poverty alleviation programme there.”
Ir Chung and the HKIE Geotechnical Division’s delegation visiting a cavern in the Nordic which has a 90-m span and the ice hockey field inside can house 5,000 persons
In addition to his roles in the HKIE, Ir Chung was a Director of Black and Veatch (Hong Kong) Limited and CRE administrating major civil engineering projects. Along his journey of over 40 years of practical experience in both public and private projects in Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta, Ir Chung has participated in many engineering projects that have helped to make him who he is today.
Among them, one of the most notable works was a project for The University of Hong Kong (HKU). This was an innovative and environmentally friendly scheme to house existing service reservoirs inside caverns to make room for the development of the Centennial Campus of the HKU. Ir Chung planned, designed and supervised the construction of this notable project.
He notes, “Hong Kong has been facing land shortage problems for many decades. To tackle this, our team was the first in Hong Kong to adopt such scheme for water storage to release surface land for other usages.”
The site of HKU Centennial Campus before completion
“In this project, the team built caverns inside the hill in HKU to house the service reservoirs and create vacant land for the development of the HKU Centennial Campus. The relocation was completed within 900 days, resulting in a “win-win-win situation” not only for the local residents and the Government, but also for the HKU, Water Supplies Department (WSD), and the contractor.
The model of the HKU Centennial Campus
Ir Chung outside the cavern which houses the Western Salt Water Service Reservoir
Ir Chung inside the cavern
“It was a huge success for our team as the public may not be aware of the WSD facilities even when they are in the Centennial Campus. But it would not have been such a marvel without the help and trust of many involved parties,” he adds.
In the beginning, the public were sceptical about the feasibility of the project as it was a brand new idea. However, with his passion and dedication, Ir Chung overcame the obstacles along with his team, and like a general leading his soldiers into a battlefield, he and his elite force were able to come out victoriously.
As a pioneer in constructing such project in Hong Kong where facilities are built invisibly inside a cavern, Ir Chung’s work set an excellent example for similar projects in the future where land and space were ‘created’ for development. In the past decade, the Government has integrated this idea into many of their works to create more land in the city.
Serving the local community
In the past 20 years, Ir Chung has also served as a committee member for local communities including rural committees and the Heung Yee Kuk, due to him being an indigenous villager of Lam Tsuen in the Tai Po area.
“My father was a village leader and an Executive Committee Member of the Tai Po Rural Committee and some trade organisations. Since I was young, I have witnessed my family dealing with various issues for the village,” he said. “I well understand that many development projects involve the use of land in the New Territories, and as an indigenous villager, I hope to create a win-win situation for both developers and villagers.”
“It has always been my belief that one is more blessed by giving than receiving. I find a feeling of bliss in myself when I lend a helping hand to others, especially those in need,” he enthuses.
Ir Chung is also active in volunteering for the local community, frequently by offering engineering services. He was also involved in the Sowers Action initiative to rebuild schools in remote areas of Sichuan affected by the devastating earthquake in 2008.
Ir Chung’s note
Ir Chung reckons that his extensive experience in civil and geotechnical engineering has positively prepared him to be the President of the HKIE.
He believes that his personal experience as well as the experience he has gained through the large scale public and private projects in his professional career enable him to put himself into the shoes of different stakeholders.
With years of experience in working and dealing with diversified situations in private, public and rural sectors, Ir Chung reckons that communication is the key to success, and he will apply the communication skills he has acquired in his many roles, as the President of the Institution.
Facing the many unknowns that lie ahead, he will strive to overcome obstacles with good communication, and in a down-to-earth and pragmatic manner.
Session 2021/2022 - Time to Change
With a legacy of over seven decades, and despite the many contributions the Institution has made to Hong Kong’s acclaimed development, the HKIE is facing unprecedented challenges. It needs to tackle problems such as the perceived prolonged institutional undertakings, procedural impediments affecting different pathways to attaining professional qualification; an inadequate voice of the engineers in society and a lack of vitality in the institutional image.
“Introducing change is always difficult. It requires doing things in the right way, at the right time with the right mindset,” Ir Chung emphasises. In Session 2021/2022, Ir Chung will take the helm and pave the way to shape the landscape of the Institution and the engineering industry in Hong Kong.
He says, “In the last few years, we have been hearing stronger voices calling for changes to the Institution. This year, as a President myself, I am going to sow the seeds of hope and put them into action.”
Under the theme of “Time to Change” in Session 2021/2022, the HKIE is committed to a higher degree of proactiveness in problem solving and nurturing a culture of change. Ir Chung is a strong believer that change is a long journey involving planning and extensive refinement along the way. To this end he will develop a roadmap with a vision to have visible and foreseeable changes over the next five years, and also a detailed plan for future presidents to carry on engaging members and nurturing a culture of change.
The preliminary roadmap consists of five key components:
The first component is to pursue digitalisation, which will offer tools to achieve a comprehensive landscape change and bring improved efficiency to various institutional undertakings. This will also offer a pertinent solution to the impact of COVID-19 on the operations of the Institution. The current system architecture and software support for daily operations will be updated, along with high-level security protection of confidential information and data. Plans will also include revamping the Institution website, introducing mobile apps and reviewing social media strategies to enhance the visibility of the Institution and engineers in the public arena.
The second component is to increase members’ satisfaction and hence their perception of membership value through the enhancement of the Institution’s service and by providing an enriched user experience. Understanding a high proportion of members are inactive in Institutional affairs, Ir Chung is committed to working on developing a closer connection and increasing the engagement between the Institution and the members with the goal of increasing the number of active members by 1 - 2% in Session 2021/2022.
This can be achieved by improving value-added services, such as streamlining processes of event registration, enhancing information delivery to members, while at the same time, encouraging exchanges among members to establish cohesion and enrich their sense of belonging. With Ir Chung being retired now, he stresses that he will spend more time engaging with members. In this way he will gain a deeper understanding of their needs and wants. Ir Chung believes that increasing members’ satisfaction is the key to nurturing and uniting talents in the industry.
The third component involves continued efforts to enhance the image of engineers and uplift the professional status of engineers in society at large. Whilst members are expected to identify their needs and undertake continuous professional development, the Institution can explore training and collaborating opportunities. Quality and high-level advice from the Institution will help to build up engineers’ professional image.
The fourth component is maintaining the Innovation Hub to further foster the culture of embracing and pursuing innovation. Ir Chung will continue the hard work of Ir Prof P L Yuen, President of the HKIE for Session 2020/2021, who set up “The Enginpreneurs Hub” (EP Hub) to drive members in their on-going pursuit of innovation in the city, and thus to enhance an innovation ecosystem in Hong Kong.
In Session 2021/2022, the goal is set to transform the EP Hub into more of an interactive Innovation Club, ensuring that innovators are supported by a network of like-minded colleagues and specialists, involved in the various steps of the innovation process and also in helping the culture of innovation in the engineering industry to germinate.
With the Innovation Club, the Institution will continue to inspire engineers to bring their ideas to life and encourage a change of mindset towards innovation. This may be through different pplications of existing approaches or technologies that can help drive productivity, efficiency and enhance project delivery outcomes, which in turn will contribute to the sustainable development of society and further economic growth.
“While we now have a strong linkage with professionals, we hope to closely connect with academics to bring up the future engineering leaders,” he adds.
For the fifth component, the HKIE is dedicated to upholding a robust governance structure as the cornerstone for continuous improvement. It is now opportune to revamp the Institution’s governance to more effectively recognise and adapt to changing demands and new circumstances. It will be necessary to set up temporary committees and task forces to undertake in depth assessments.
Whilst the current pandemic has negatively impacted the global economy, environment and society, Ir Chung now sees an auspicious time for change. Facing the uncertainties head, Ir Chung is committed to devoting his professional knowledge and time to the challenge, as well as nurturing a culture of transformation for the Institution and the engineering profession as a whole.
Emerging trends in the Greater Bay Area and AI smart technology
In view of the fast developing society, Ir Chung sees the emerging trends of the Greater Bay Area development and AI smart technology as having immense potential, but also presenting challenges at the same time. He feels that, with the current pandemic leading to a worldwide lockdown, global trade has been experiencing a significant slowdown as a result of the impacted supply chains and manpower shortages. Against this backdrop, young professionals are likely to opt for staying in the city when they look for jobs. Ir Chung maintains a positive outlook, however, and is looking forward to seeing changes after the virus has settled.
Words for engineering talent
Since embarking on his engineering journey more than four decades ago, Ir Chung has been endeavouring to help young talent and give back to society. Always bearing his motto of “be humble in life”in mind, he is always excited for the unknown that lies ahead.
He advises young professionals to be open-minded, friendly and to never make enemies. “We can always learn a valuable lesson from others. Also, we will never know who are the ones that can help us grow and go the extra mile,” he emphasises.
He continues, “Be considerate and ambitious - this is how we can make lives much better.”
Amidst the current pandemic, Ir Chung reckons that engineering professionals can serve the community by utilising their expertise in carrying out planning, as well as immediate and remedial actions. Engineers can take part in town planning; creating land and building layouts; and offering services for buildings. Engineers have also proved their capabilities in undertaking fast-paced construction for quarantine camps and temporary hospitals; or design and supervise remedial measures for existing drainage discharge systems.
All members of Ir Chung’s family are engineers with iron ring (for engineers graduated from Canadian Engineering schools).
Ir Chung is in civil while his wife and two sons are in electrical. Ir Chung and his two sons studied in the same engineering school in Vancouver, Canada. Though his wife and sons are in electrical, they work in different areas. His wife is in electrical, sons are in modern subjects with one in AI/big data and the other in electronic/chip design. His engineering family provides him a good learning ground and prepares him to interface with other engineering disciplines in the Institution.
Ir Chung with his two sons in UBC Engineering School when they were kids. They then followed their father’s footsteps and studied in this engineering school
Balancing work and personal life
Despite his many roles, Ir Chung embraces the contemporary concept of maintaining a good work-life balance. “Work hard, play hard,” he says.
The sports enthusiast loved all kinds of sports when he was young. Turning into a golf lover in his early forties, however, he then realised that golf has become the sport that he could never live without. After several years, he has become one of the top golfers among engineers in town.
In the past 20 years, he has made a habit of golfing regularly once or twice a week. “It has given me many joyful times and lots of fun with my friends and my wife. With golf, I have also expanded my social circle in the engineering field.” In recent years, Ir Chung has also discovered a love for hiking. He loves to explore the unparalleled beauty of nature in the city. He is also an enthusiastic gourmet. “Pairing fine gastronomic delights with a nice glass of wine is surely one of the great pleasures in life,” he recollects.