Public Health Laboratory Centre
close cooperation with the client on the Public Health Laboratory
Centre project at Shek Kip Mei has resulted in a building that holds
all necessary technical requirements in a tidy and user-friendly
When it opens next year,
the building will house public health laboratories centralised after
decades of being spread across the territory. The Nam Cheong Street
site was chosen as a convenient location for receiving samples from
health centres city-wide, and 90 per cent of space will be occupied
by the Department of Health. A small portion of the development
is allocated to the Department of Food and Environmental Hygiene.
The Centre houses 130
functional rooms for clinical testing of samples and specimens.
Several levels of laboratories are provided, with Level III facilities
for handling more dangerous infectious diseases being the most critical.
Additional provisions in the 15-storey building are support offices
and ancillary facilities including sterilisation rooms, cold rooms
and incubation rooms as support functions for the labs. A multi-function
hall, conference room and 100-space carpark round out the development.
The greatest challenge
presented to the Architectural Services Department design professionals
was how to systematically analyse the operational requirements and
house them in a building that fits into the site and yet still is
architecturally interesting. A schedule of accommodation for the
labs and building services was received from the client and a list
of requirements for each room was provided. Volumes of information
were subsequently collected and functions were analysed to devise
a framework under which the building owners could run services efficiently.
Though the irregular
site includes a curved edge, rectangular forms were chosen for the
L-shaped floorplates. The shape allows for a useful internal functional
layout and takes into account that a large amount of equipment going
into the building, including fume cupboards, safety cabinets and
refrigerators, are squarish on plan. To address the site curvature
as well as noise coming from an adjacent flyover, the multi-purpose
hall fills out the land and, as it needs no windows, is unaffected
by noise pollution. Plant rooms are also placed to the lower edge
of the building.
Lower floors of the building
house offices while the laboratories are placed on the floors above.
The layout was in part determined by the need for individual fume
cupboards to carry toxic gas exhaust from the labs, for which the
pipes to the rooftop treatment plants need to be as short as possible.
The more dangerous labs are located on the upper floors so the travel
of contaminated air in the pipeline is reduced to a minimum. At
the top of the building, electrical and mechanical facilities take
up the equivalent of two full floors in a 4.5-metre ceiling height
with four levels of access routes.
The building exterior
features predominantly light, neutral colours for an image that
suits the professional staff working inside, unlike the warmer colours
chosen for many public buildings. External walls are white-, grey-
and sand-coloured and feature a range of textures. Plant rooms at
the base and top of the building feature louvre walls to conceal
machinery and add horizontal line texture. The prominent use of
lines on the facades is supplemented by horizontal and vertical
fins. These are designed to be thick for sunshading use, complementing
other energy saving features within the building such as heat exchangers,
systems to avoid dangerous emissions, high-efficiency lighting and
small windows for a better OTTV (Overall Thermal Transfer Value).
Lab facilities are placed along the windows as this is where the
majority of the staff will spend their working hours. Because of
stress on the eyes due to microscope use, it is hoped that looking
out to the site's
good views will offer welcome relief for staff. Supporting facilities
such as refrigeration rooms and washing areas are located in the
centre of the floors, as the lab technicians would spend relatively
little time at them.
The client was concerned
about circulation between the public and lab workers, and how the
samples are collected and distributed to each lab. Security controls
near the main passenger lift lobby on each floor separate the corridors
to the labs and service lift areas. A service corridor allows for
specific maintenance access to supporting facilities without disturbance
to lab staff. Specimens are received at a specialised samples collection
counter at the ground floor of the building, where an isolated area
near the carpark is provided for staff to unpack and carry out sorting
close to the loading lift.
The architect notes that
almost one third of space inside the building goes towards E&M
provisions. Services installations pass through the building in
vertical pockets of pipe ducts attached to each lab. Because of
the nature of the building, the client specified 100 per cent air
extraction from the labs. Once an individual lab's
fume cupboards are
operating, another ventilation system is triggered to correct for
lost air pressure. A pressure difference is also maintained between
the corridor and labs, maintaining negative pressure in the rooms
to ensure air does not flow out into the circulation areas.
that needed tackling mostly related to air pollution and waste disposal.
For effluent disposal, organic and inorganic waste is divided. The
latter is sometimes disposed through the lab sinks, diluted and
taken to a neutralisation tank. The tank has a sensor to test the
pH value of the waste -- when it is too alkaline, acid will be added
to neutralise the waste before disposal.
The chosen system for
handling fumes benefited from working closely with the Architectural
Services Department building services engineer to conceal and arrange
services. After air extracted through fume cupboards is filtered,
treated and dehumidified, it must be expelled from the premises.
The designer was advised early in the project that a three-metre-high
chimney would be required for each of the fume cupboards. The unappealing
possibility of grouping the outlets into 20 or 30 clusters of chimneys
was raised but ultimately the BSE specified a Canadian air jet fan
system -- a high-power unit that blows exhaust in an invisible air
column up three metres before dispersion. The solution not only
removed the prospect of a forest of metal chimneys above the building
but presents a much more favourable image for the building to nearby
residents. Along with the bag-in/bag-out HEPA filtering system for
Level III labs and animal houses, the exhaust system is a first
for Hong Kong.
Finishes within the building
adopt a range of materials, including wood panel and granite. Lift
lobbies feature glazing to open up the spaces to the views and add
some transparency to the design, as do the steel staircases located
adjacent. Graphics and artworks are currently being commissioned
for the building and will be put in place by the time the labs become
operational early next year. Noting that the building has great
potential for an image of its own, the architects are looking towards
art inspired by the colours and shapes witnessed through the microscope.
The designers have also put out a call to lab staff for their old
equipment, with an eye to creating inspirational and historical
6,100 sq m
42,500 sq m
cost (excluding furniture and equipment)
Faced with meeting a very complicated set of lab functions, the
architect adopted a system approach not only for the labs but for
the furniture too.
Each of the labs in the
Centre is different. Working with the client to determine what was
needed for each lab, the designers came up with a grid framework
based on a single module measuring 3.6 m by 7.2 m. The module size
was derived by allowing for lab benches on each side of the space
and a working bench for handling documents, charts or entering data
by each window. The 3.6-metre width offers room for two lab technicians
sitting on high chairs and comfortable space for a sample trolley
to pass behind them while the 7.2-metre length is a multiple as
well as a good depth natural light can still reach without getting
too dim. The module, which includes sinks and cupboards is repeated
in double, triple and quadruple configurations with different setups
to suit needs. The small-sized windows allow for partitioning up
to the building's
perimeter with better seals between rooms.
To accommodate a diverse
range of uses, a flexible lab furniture system was needed that has
outlets for water, gas and electricity in whatever combination needed.
The designers decided traditional furniture was not suited and system
furniture was chosen. The German-made standard units are designed
to feature all elements necessary for flexible use and have all
pipes preinstalled in the factory before shipping and connection.