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The Department of Building Services Engineering (BSE) was officially established in December 1981, coming out from the Department of Building and Surveying (BS) under the Division of Applied Science at the polytechnic time. The key role was to offer the degree programme in Building Services Engineering. Mr. C.A. Thompson, Principal Lecturer, was asked to establish of the department, still though housed inside BS at the 6/F of FJ wing (formerly called phase B). Academic programmes were mainly at sub-degree levels, including higher diploma, higher certificate, endorsement certificate at professional levels and other service teachings on building services, building environment and building materials.

The Division of Construction and Land Use (CLU) was established in 1982 with Departments of BS, BSE, Civil and Structural Engineering (CSE) and Centre of Land and Engineering Surveying (CLES). Dr. H.S. Ward, Head of CSE was appointed as the Founding Divisional Chairman. Dr. A.M. Marsden, an expert in Lighting Engineering who edited the famous book "Lamps and Lighting" and had been the Past President of the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE), took over the leadership as the Founding Head of Department in early 1982. With his hard work in stimulating younger colleagues and the co-operation from Dr. John Burnett (later the second Head of Department and Founding Chair Professor of Building Services Engineering), the first BEng(Hons) degree programme in Building Services Engineering outside U.K. was accredited by a validation panel from the Council for National Academic Awards (CNAA) and launched successfully. The first cohort of degree students graduated in 1989. The external examiner, Professor Alan Newall, joined the graduation dinner. He brought the good drinking habit from Newcastle to BSE and practiced until early 2000. Since then, our graduates are found everywhere in the local building services industry in areas of consultancy, contracting, operation and maintenance, facilities management, and last but not least, academic teaching, research and development. Research degree programmes were allowed to be offered in this department even in the time of polytechnic. The first cohort of MPhil and PhD degrees were conferred in 1989 and 1991 respectively. The MPhil and the PhD graduates from BSE were the second ones at the polytechnic. They just came after the first MPhil from Department of Electrical Engineering; and the first PhD from Department of Manufacturing Engineering (now Industrial System Engineering).

The first degree programme in building services engineering was fully accredited by CIBSE, and now by the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers (HKIE). There is a big laboratory covering all key areas in building services engineering. Dr. Marsden retired in 1989, and Professor Burnett led the department afterward. A College of Degree Studies was established in 1993, with up to 65% of academic staff transferred to university grades. Hong Kong Polytechnic was upgraded to The Hong Kong Polytechnic University in 1995. The Division of CLU became a faculty, with Professor Mike Anson being the Founding Dean of Faculty. Many new initiatives started in all areas of teaching development, research, and service to the society. There was good collaboration between FCLU and BSE through different activities such as Areas of Strategic Development (ASD). BSE has three MSc degree programmes, one MEng programme, three first degree programmes and the higher diploma programme which have been being run for many years and serving the society well. Over 150 students are enrolled in our MSc programmes each year. About 200 students are registered in the degree and higher degree programmes every year. In addition, many research students are studying for MPhil and PhD degrees. There are always no problems in recruiting good research students, even at time when there was a limit of registering less than 20% non-local research students. The number of staff with PhD degrees increased from 3 before 1989 to over 30 in 2007, an expansion by ten times. Numerous journal papers have been published with many publications listed in SCI and other key journals relevant to the professionals. The number of consultancy projects increased and many colleagues take active participation in them. BSE has just got an award from the university in this aspect. Many colleagues are invited to be the committee members by the government departments responsible for the compilation of fire, energy and plumbing codes. Some of them are serving professional bodies as president and active committee members of CIBSE, HKIE, Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE), Institution of Fire Engineers (IFireE), and American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). This is a good performance indicator that our research is relevant to the society.

The department has also been very successful in running self-financed programmes. BSE is able to sustain under the difficult times since 2003 due to economic depression and other uncertainties such as probable big budget cut to higher education institutes. Colleagues spend most of their spare time on upgrading themselves, apart from the heavy work load in teaching. Most of the BSE colleagues are having dual duties in teaching and development in scholarly activities. The MSc programmes are now self-financed and managed under the faculty. It is obvious that the department will face new challenges in the coming years while still has to solve many problems that have been dealt with for the past few years. However, with strong co-operation among the academic, technical and clerical staff, all problems encountered in the past few years had been and will be solved without any difficulties.

There are many new areas such as sustainability, healthy buildings and facilities management with good potential for strong development. New leaders who are competent in teaching, research and service to community in those areas will be appointed. With other existing strengths, BSE will keep on serving the community by providing quality teaching and applied research. The department will be managed transparently with open discussions and hot debates including research threshold, promotion criteria and renewal of contract. Three Associate Heads are invited to take care of teaching, research and management for sharing the management workload and avoid dictating the department by a single person. All discussions on key issues including minutes of the Departmental Management Committee, financial expenses and entertainment fees, appointment and promotion exercise will be released. Closer links with the building services industry will be explored. Participation in the key professional bodies including those for facilities management will be enhanced. Alumni are welcome to provide advice and share their experience with our teaching staff at any time. Continued Professional Development activities for upgrading their knowledge will be organized from time to time.

Lastly, a frank message to students taking Higher Diploma, BEng, MSc and even higher research degree programmes, please proudly ascertain BSE to be a professional discipline with strong practical application in the building sector. Research students are advised to carry out their research in practical areas with potential benefit to the community. In this way, all you have learnt can be applied directly. The time and effort you spent are able to contribute to the society. It is also very important to the research students that only applicable output is valuable to the majority of the society.