Thursday, September 5, 2013

Q and A with Staff: Franco Cheung

The students are still not back and staff are busy preparing for the new semester as well as providing information for the blog. Here's how Franco Cheung (Senior Lecturer in Construction Management) answered my questions...

1. When you were at school what did you want to be when you grew up?
I was born on a vehicle-free island called Cheung Chau* in Hong Kong. I started my primary education in a local school in September 1976 (I think). I remember that I wanted to be a scientist probably in the second or third year at primary school simply because the boy living next door who was a few years older than me once said that he wanted to be a scientist. I probably thought that it was cool to wish to be someone different from what everyone else in my age group wanted to be.

*The meaning of the Chinese characters for "Cheung Chau" is long island. I don't mind people thinking that I am from Long Island if it sounds a little more posh but actually, it is a rather unspoilt part of Hong Kong in the 70s.

2. What did you study at university or college?
I studied the Quantity Surveying degree programme in the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Sorry, it's no surprise.

3. How did you find your way into Construction? 
Like a lot of male teens, I spent a lot time hanging out with my best mates and thinking about girls. I didn't really have much idea about what to study at university when I was doing my A-levels. I don't think I spent enough time investigating different subjects as I was heavily involved in organising school activities before and after the Tiananmen Square Massacre (in 1989) during the time I was making university applications in my sixth form. It was a big time for a lot of us. I think I chose to apply for architecture in one university, computer science in another university and building in the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. I can't really remember exactly why but maybe I was influenced by my brother who was in the construction industry as a landscape architect. I got accepted to study Building and I changed to Quantity Surveying in my second year at university.

4. What interests you most about the subject?
It is not an easy task to keep things in good order in what is a rather fragmented industry. I think quantity surveyors are relatively good at keeping order when compared with other professionals in the industry. I like the cost forecasting and cost planning aspects of quantity surveying as it is a very challenging job ensuring that building costs are in good order and that funds are well spent.

5. What is your favourite building and why?
I don't know. I recognise the works of some iconic architects from design magazines but I don't think I've seen the buildings enough in person. If I have to choose one among a few that I've seen, I would say that L'Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris designed by Jean Noveal is my favourite. I like the integrated blind of the fascia that simulates Islamic decorations. The blind comprises many modules of metallic diaphragms that automatically control the interior light level according to the intensity of light passing through the fascia. It acts almost like the aperture of a lens fixed on a camera in the aperture-priority mode. It was a great experience inside the building to see the various geometric patterns created by the light entering through the fascia.

6. What is going to be the next big thing in Construction?
Building information modelling (BIM) is the current big thing. The implementation of the many concepts to improve building processes and building products through BIM will continue be the hottest topic for a while. I think the next big thing would be the use of big data and mobile technology.

7. Outside of work, how do you relax?
I used to enjoy cooking, traveling and photography. My 2-year-old boy doesn't agree that I should have the time to do those things to relax myself. So, I guess if it is a form of relaxation (?!) it would be parenting.

8. What is your favourite word?
It's got to be "Risky". My wife's name is Ritsuko (a Japanese name, the pronunciation is Rits-ko). I had a long distance relationship with her for a long period of time and my PhD supervisor used to say, "Rits-ko is Risky" when I was dating her. I guess that was why I was asked to teach risk management at Oxford Brookes.

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