August 2001


Rosedale on the Park
Standing out

In a city renowned for its hospitality industry, how does a small and new hotel distinguish itself from its many established competitors?
      This question was very much on the mind of the Paul Y-ITC Group when it bought a 611 sq m site in Causeway Bay in 1997. The company saw the site's potential as a hotel development because of its location in Hong Kong's premier shopping district and, given its size, decided it would be a boutique hotel that would offer guests a uniquely 21st century experience.

The project is an unusual one in that the company, as a developer with subsidiaries involved in all aspects of the construction business, is able to make the project an entirely family affair. The group acted as project manager and designer while Paul Y-ITC General Contractors Ltd undertook construction of the hotel. Paul Y-ITC (E&M) Contractors Ltd was responsible for the building services installation and Paul Y-ITC Interior Contractors Ltd handled the interior fitting-out. Even the demolition of the building that previously occupied the site was carried out by a subsidiary.
¡@¡@Given the degree of control the company had over the project, from start to finish, it seized the opportunity to, first of all, showcase a fast, safe and efficient construction technique and, secondly, introduce what must be the industry's most hi-tech hostelry.

According to Edmond Mok, managing director of Paul Y Properties Group Ltd, the group has long been aware of the problems affecting the Hong Kong construction industry: building processes are not environmentally-friendly; workmanship is poor; and skilled workers are hard to come by.
        The typical building project in Hong Kong involves the construction of a high rise using timber scaffolding. Workers produce work of an uneven quality in an uncomfortable environment which is exposed to sun and rain.
        "We asked ourselves whether we couldn't move the work into a controlled environment like that of a factory, in order to obtain better quality work, and felt that precasting could be the answer," Mr Mok said.
        On a typical building project the amount of precasting that can be used is subject to the design drawn up by the architect. In this case, since the designer and contractor belong to the same group, they were able to sit down together to work out a design based on buildability.
        "Property development is usually carried out by people with different roles who don't have an in-depth knowledge of each other's fields and can't take into account each other's interest. By using our own people for the whole project we created a synergy that enabled us to optimise the architect's ideas through team feedback," Mr Mok explained.
        The result of this approach is a design optimised for precast construction. Apart from non-typical elements on the top floor and the podium, the 33-storey hotel consists of 322 standard modules with semi-precast slabs and precast facade units.
        At Paul Y-ITC's factory in Yuen Long, the facade units, complete with bay windows, were concreted using steel moulds that allowed the window frames to be cast at the same time. Two types of steel moulds were used, for casting end modules and middle modules respectively. Although they were more expensive than timber formwork, their cost was justified by the number of modules required, which meant they could be used over and over again.
        Ceramic tiles and glazing were also affixed at the factory. According to Mr Mok, the standard practice within the industry was to order six per cent more tiles than the number actually needed, to cover wastage. However, because the facade was factory-produced, wastage was reduced by 50 per cent, so the contractor needed only three per cent extra.
        The glazing was sealed with silicon and subjected to waterproofing tests in the factory before each facade unit was transported to site for installation. Mr Mok said there was some concern about breakage when the glass was installed so soon, but it turned out to be unnecessary because there was no high-rise work on site which might cause damage to the glazing.
        On site, the precast facade units were hoisted into place and fixed into position with temporary bracing. Steel large panel formwork was then used to cast the structural walls in situ. Once the walls had cured, precast slabs were hoisted and positioned over the walls and facade units to form the lower layer of the floor slab. These precast slabs serve a dual purpose, both as formwork for slab construction and, together with the cast in situ upper layer, part of the permanent structure. The advantage of this method, of course, is that both time and labour were saved because there was no need to dismantle the formwork.
        For non-structural wall partitions, the contractor used a dry wall which, because of its lightweight, reduced the dead load imposed on the structure. The dry wall panels came with a smooth wall finish which eliminated the possibility of uneven quality associated with the wet trades. A thin coat of plaster was all that was needed to finish the panels. For bathrooms, the smooth finish facilitated the dry installation of bathroom tiles using adhesives.
        With the air ducts sealed after four to five floors of construction, an enclosed, all-weather working environment was created in which the fitting-out contractor could work in complete safety.
        The risks associated with working outdoors are usually taken into account in the tender price of contractors. Since these risks were effectively removed through the method of construction used, Mr Mok said the company was able to persuade sub-contractors to reduce their prices, thus saving 3-4 per cent of cost.
        This method of construction was not only safe, but also fast. The hotel took just 19 months to build, from construction of the ground beam to the granting of the occupation permit.

The design
Clever use of a small footprint was made to fit all facilities into a small hotel.
        The 274-room Rosedale on the Park has two food and beverage outlets, a number of function rooms and a basement car park. Most of the ground floor is set aside for vehicular access. A revolving platform allows cars to enter and exit from the same point while access to the basement carpark is provided by two heavy duty lifts, as there is not enough space to accommodate a ramp.
        Since much of the ground floor is given over to vehicular access, the lobby is raised to the first floor, reached via a ground floor entrance addressed by a copper rose motif over the door. Overlooking the escalator which transports visitors between the ground and first floors is a sculpture with two geese, one looking down at the ground floor entrance and the other seemingly admiring a rose relief set in the double-height wall opposite the entrance. Mr Mok himself made a trip to the UK to select the sculpture, an indication of the close involvement of Paul Y-ITC's management in every detail of the project.
        Different types of artworks, from murals to paintings, were commissioned or carefully selected to enhance the interior. In the coffee shop, reproductions of abstract masterpieces echo the bright, jazzy atmosphere of a space enlivened by the geometry of lines and curves. Original prints line the walls everywhere; even the restrooms. Many are abstract prints with a touch of gold that ties in with the hint of opulence that reveals itself in the gold-leafed coffered ceiling and sombre green drapes of the lobby and the mirror panelling of the lift lobbies.
        Two colour schemes are selected for the guestrooms: an informal peach and a more regal dark brown with touches of gold. The facilities, while simple, are meticulously planned with the aim of making the hotel appealing to a wide range of guests. For example, each bed has another one tucked away underneath it. This makes it convenient for families with children to set up extra beds; at the same time, it saves the need to reserve precious space for a storeroom to hold spare beds.
        The modular design of the hotel not only facilitated construction, but also enhances the flexibility of the layout. In suites made up of two modules, the second module is turned into a living area complete with sofa, dining table and a small pantry with refrigerator and a microwave, facilities designed to attract long-term guests in search of a serviced apartment setup. Suites comprising three modules feature a living area between two guestrooms, making them suitable for large families as well as business people who prefer to have a space where they can work and hold meetings in private.
        Externally the earthy-coloured tiles of the precast facade are set off by a podium clad in dark green granite. Mr Mok said the dignified hue was chosen because the hotel was designed to appeal to both business people and leisure travellers. The building is topped by a symbol of the hotel and its name, both of which are floodlit at night to give the hotel high visibility, particularly from the direction of the Island Eastern Corridor.

first floor plan

Rosedale's hi-tech features
The hotel's literature describes Rosedale as a cyber boutique hotel, for a good reason. According to Mr Mok, the information technology framework was given due consideration during the planning stage of the project. The wiring necessary for the IT provisions was routed through wire conduits provided in the structure so that very little wire was exposed. At the same time, the hotel is already moving towards wireless telecommunications.
¡@¡@Wireless Internet access is already available in the sky lounge and the service is to be extended to the lobby and coffee shop, Sonata. The function rooms are equipped for teleconferencing and, in the future, guests will be able to, say, check their email over breakfast or work anywhere inside the hotel.
¡@¡@Each guestroom is equipped with broadband access so that road warriors can stay in touch with head office in the comfort of their own rooms and parents can take time out to check their stock portfolio after returning from a trip to Ocean Park. Each guestroom is also provided with a digital cordless phone which works anywhere within the hotel. A comprehensive antenna system ensures uninterrupted roaming within the hotel, which means a guest does not have to miss a call just because she has gone to the sky lounge for a drink, for example.
¡@¡@In addition to the cordless phone for use within the hotel, Rosedale also provides mobile phones for guests. If they are regular visitors, they can keep the numbers assigned to them so that they can always be reached on those numbers whenever they are in Hong Kong. For guests travelling without a notebook computer who want Internet access nonetheless, web phones consisting of an integrated phone and browsing station with pull-out, full-sized keyboard can be provided.
¡@¡@If that is not enough, the hotel has also tied up with 3Com to offer Kerbango, a broadband radio system which allows guests to tune into any one of 5,500 radio stations on the web.
¡@¡@Internet reservation is now possible for many hotels, but Rosedale's system is more advanced than most. Unlike the majority of systems, which accept reservations for a number of guestrooms allotted for Internet booking, Rosedale's Internet booking system handles reservation in real time.¡@¡@"Our reservation system is completely open to the Internet," said the hotel's technology consultant Terence Ronson. "A guest can book the last room available for Internet room rates, wherever he or she is, 24 hours a day. Another innovative feature called Hotel in My Hand has also been developed with the business traveller in mind. This is a small file available in either Palm database or Windows CE format which guests can download before setting off. In addition to essential information about the hotel and Hong Kong, the file contains e-coupons from local merchants; a graphical taxi card to help guests who do not know Chinese get around; and useful telephone numbers.
¡@¡@Technology is not confined to the front end of the hotel. To optimise inventory management, supplies are bar-coded. By helping the hotel keep track of the supply situation at all times, the system reduces the amount of stock held while ensuring guests will not be deprived.
¡@¡@Rather than having staff clock in and out in the traditional way, the hotel introduced a thumbprint identification system which allows employees to register on and off duty as well as enter the staff cafeteria by presenting their thumbs and entering a personal identification number. In case someone cuts his or her thumb by accident, the fingerprints of both thumbs are encoded. The timekeeping system is integrated with the hotel¡¦s human resources system, to facilitate payroll management.
¡@¡@Many of the hi-tech features are incorporated not only to meet the needs of new millennium travellers, but also to make the hotel's operation more environmentally-friendly. For example, Internet reservations are confirmed by email, hotel information is made available on the Internet and for the Palm and Windows CE platforms; suppliers are encouraged to adopt electronic invoicing systems.
¡@¡@Rosedale invested HK$7 million in its hi-tech provisions. Given its linkage with the Best Western franchise, there is a good chance it will attract a fair share of tech-savvy travellers. Together with the cost savings achieved through improved efficiency back-of-house, it is money well spent. And for all its hi-tech sophistication, the staff were trained and the cyber boutique hotel was ready for soft opening in just 60 days, rather than the usual four to five months.

Paul Y-ITC Construction Holdings Ltd
Paul Y-ITC General Contractors Ltd
design and build contractor
Cartesian Architects Ltd
architect/authorised person

-- Building Journal