Australian International School
as a youngster, the triangles you played with during music lessons,
or the quiet strum with your band in a corner of the playground
when everybody else had gone home? Most aspiring young musicians
today would be content with the same; that is, until they find out
what those at the Australian International School (AIS) are treated
At AIS, which
is keen to cultivate their students' musicality, there is not only
an auditorium with first-rate acoustics, but also a full-fledged
recording studio and six small rehearsal rooms.
It wasn't always like this, of course. Founded in 1995 with just
24 students, AIS had occupied four campuses over the past six years,
the last of which was the temporary government school premises at
Cheung Sha Wan. The prospect of a change for the better appeared
in late 1998, when the school was allocated a 5,780 sq m site in
Kowloon Tong. Funding for the new HK$200 million school campus was
provided by a HK$60 million grant from the Hong Kong Jockey Club
and a HK$20 million loan from the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation
of Australia. The government provided an interest-free loan of HK$77
million from both the Education Department and the Manpower Bureau.
Leighton Contractors (Asia) Ltd was brought in to develop the new
school on a design-and-build basis. Since Design Consultants Ltd
(DCL) had been providing architectural design input to AIS for some
time, they were taken on board as the project's architect.
What was subsequently developed is a significant achievement in
every sense: the range of facilities that were fitted into a small
footprint; the speed of construction; and, amazingly, the savings
which the client and contractor were able to share under the guaranteed
maximum price contract arrangement after enhancements had been made.
Located at the junction of Tim Fuk Road and Norfolk Road, AIS consists
of a nine-storey building designed to accommodate a maximum of 1,044
students. L-shaped on plan, it contains classrooms and laboratories
in one block and a diverse range of facilities stacked on top of
one another in the other. These include a cafeteria on the first
floor; an auditorium and recording studio on the second; a multi-purpose
hall on the fourth; a library on the fifth; and a gymnasium on the
The activities block
The cafeteria was to be located on the third floor under the original
proposal. To improve circulation, however, it subsequently swapped
places with the administration office. As a result, it is now possible
to expand the cafeteria by opening the sliding doors to offer additional
covered outdoor seating overlooking the soccer pitch, which is enclosed
by the two arms of the L-shaped building.
The original proposal also envisaged the construction of a swimming
pool in a basement. However, according to Leighton divisional M&E
manager Paul Evans, a value engineering exercise was carried out
and it was concluded that the proposal would be both costly and
time-consuming due to the additional foundation works required.
It was by no means axed though; the swimming pool was moved to the
roof, where it commands sweeping views of the low-rise district.
Provisions have been made for heating to be introduced.
According to Mr Evans, a lot was invested in music facilities. The
auditorium is fitted with a Bose sound system that is linked back
to a commercial standard recording studio so that performances can
be recorded. The recording studio can also be used as a rehearsal
room: a video link between the two allows musicians to know exactly
when they should make their entry into the auditorium. There are
also six practice rooms behind the recording studio, which will
be made available to outside musicians, to generate additional income
for the school.
The auditorium was fitted to comply with the NR 20 noise control
standard. Large air ducts crossing the busy ceiling allow cool air
to drop in quietly without the hum of conventional air-conditioning
systems. Noise reflective panels in the ceiling and noise absorptive
panels on the side walls are both designed to throw sound to the
back of the room, ensuring audibility throughout the 450 sq m space.
The 1,600 mm thick beams were painted with acoustic plaster, also
to enhance the acoustic performance of the auditorium.
A sprung floor prevents vibration from the multi-purpose hall above
to reach the auditorium. Fitted with a vinyl floor, the hall is
designed for sports such as badminton and volleyball and will also
serve as an examination hall and other functions. The tallest of
the three double-height facilities, the 8 m high gymnasium is a
dedicated sports hall with a timber floor. Vertical window strips
overlooking the outdoor pitch allow a glimpse of the outside from
the activity block while minimising thermal gain.
Thick beams transfer the load of the double height facilities to
the rest of the structure and, like the auditorium, the beams and
slab of the library on the fifth floor were also painted with acoustic
plaster to reduce ambient noise. Additional lighting nodes were
installed to ensure adequate illumination. The large open plan library
has both primary and secondary sections together with an activity
and specialist audio-visual area.
The swimming pool sits above the gymnasium in a breezy, outdoor
environment. A fabric structure may be installed at a later date
to offer weather protection for the pool, the L shape of which allows
its division into a larger area for lap swimming and a smaller,
shallower training pool area for the younger children.
The classroom block
Capitalising on prevailing winds, the classrooms are set back from
tiled open corridors on each floor, designed to allow the breeze
to blow through the gap between the two blocks. The schools philosophy
of education for all includes several features specifically for
the physically challenged. In line with the objective of barrier-free
access, the generously spaced corridors are in a direct line with
the passenger lift situated near the central staircase. Tactile
guide paths and Braille imprints on the staircase railings help
the visually impaired move freely around the school.
There are ten laboratories and workshops on the seventh floor for
various subjects, including biology, chemistry, physics, textiles,
computers and languages.
All classrooms have been designed with future IT demands in mind.
In addition to a built-in video projector, each classroom is hard
wired with ten data points expandable to 30 data points in future.
Provisions for wireless LAN have also been made.
The roof of the classroom block is currently unoccupied, but with
a view towards maximising the use of space, several options are
being considered, including the installation of cricket practice
nets and a skateboard park.
The school is distinguished by a green glazed canopy atop the void
at the junction of the two blocks. It is both an architectural feature
and weather protection for the traffic spine. The glazing is supported
on two groups of four steel columns weighing approximately 2 tons
each, which were fabricated in China then brought to site and bolted
into place on top of two reinforced concrete columns.
At the bottom of the void, on the second floor, a mosaic pattern
on the floor, in five earthy colours, was laid to conjure up associations
with Australian culture and history. The walls to the auditorium
were tiled in a brick red colour suggesting similarities with the
famous Australian landmark, Ayers Rock.
All the facilities are provided within a small footprint. Site development
constraints dictated that both a primary and secondary school had
to fit in an overall area of only 18,000 sq m. Not only that: everything
was built and installed in 17 months.
The guaranteed maximum price form of contract has its risks, but
thanks to the cooperative spirit prevalent among those involved
in this project, the result has been a win-win situation for all.
As Mr Evans explained, this form of contract allowed a bigger overlap
of the design and construction processes than a traditional form
of contract, thus shortening the development timeframe. Leighton
was thus able to commence initial construction on some areas while
the detailed design for others was still being finalised with the
input of the end users.
Some of the savings achieved were shared between the client and
contractor, but some were channelled back into the project. For
example, the savings allowed the contractor to procure floodlights
for the football pitch, which were not in the original design brief,
thus allowing the pitch to generate extra income for the school
through private rentals outside normal school hours.
The timely completion of the project is a remarkable achievement
given the challenges that stood in the way. These included a 2.5-month
delay of power delivery which necessitated the testing of all facilities
using back-up generators; and completing all external works during
what was the wettest June in memory. The occupation permit was secured
just hours before the new school year was due to start but, as it
was, celebrations were dampened by the hoisting of the black rainstorm
signal -- meaning all schools in Hong Kong had to remain closed
for the day!
Australian International School Hong Kong
Leighton Contractors (Asia) Ltd
Design Consultants Ltd
Meinhardt (C&S) Ltd
Meinhardt (M&E) Ltd
ERM Hong Kong Ltd
Osprey Project Management