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Dr Wilson Lu

Interdisciplinary Quick Talks: Open Data Open Possibilities

Dr Wilson Lu

Dr Wilson Lu
Associate Professor
Department of Real Estate and Construction

"Finding the Needles in a Haystack": Identification of Illegal Dumping of Construction Waste Using Urban Big Data


While urbanization has fundamentally changed our history and improved our lives, it has also caused many contemporary urban issues such as urban sprawl, gentrification-displacement, traffic jams, crime and violence, disasters, waste, pollution, and environmental degradation. In recent years, big data has often appeared on the radar, often advocated as a “silver bullet” to tackle these urban issues. In his talk, Dr Lu will briefly introduce the urban big data lab and the platform he leads at HKU. Then, he will present the illegal dumping of construction waste in Hong Kong as a case study.

Illegal dumping, sometimes called fly-tipping, is a criminal offence generally referring to intentional and illegal abandonment of household or industrial waste materials on public or private property. Since the implementation of the Hong Kong Construction Waste Disposal Charging Scheme in 2006, illegal dumping of construction waste has regularly hit the headlines of local newspapers. Offenders commit it to avoid the tipping fee and save on transport time and cost, or simply for convenience, yet it is difficult to obtain concrete evidence of such offence – in order to identify and prosecute perpetrators. Dr Lu will show how open big data can help identify illegal dumping. Based on this case, Dr Lu will also discuss the challenges and possibilities of using urban big data to deal with other contemporary urban issues as mentioned above.


  • Associate Professor, Department of Real Estate and Construction
  • Associate Dean (Research), Faculty of Architecture
  • Director, iLab: the urban big data lab @ HKUrbanLab, Faculty of Architecture
  • HKU Outstanding Young Researcher Award 2014-15.
  • The 1% scholar ranked by Clarivate Analytics (CA) since 2017.

His research interests include (a) Construction waste management (CWM) (e.g. big data, public policy) and (b) Construction informatics (e.g. Building Information Modeling [BIM], smart construction). Particularly, Dr Lu is the Director of the iLab at HKUrbanLab, which is an urban big data hub housed on the 7th floor of the Knowles Building, HKU. iLab facilitates multi-dimensional and multi-disciplinary urban big data collection, storage, analysis, and visualization to inform decision-making in urban development. It is a repository for urban big data from Geographical Information Systems (GIS), Global Positioning Systems (GPS), Urban Remote Sensing (URS), BIM, facilities and asset management and other sources.

iLab also has its own unique research remit to integrate big data in pursuit of improved understanding of built environment provision and dealing with various urban issues. For example, he managed to collect big data for revisiting the effectiveness of CWM policies and practices in Hong Kong. He is leading a GRF project to examine the effects of green building on CWM by triangulating ‘big data’ and ‘thick data’. Recently, Dr Lu secured a Public Policy Research (PPR) project to use big data to identify construction waste illegal dumping, an urban crime that has plagued Hong Kong for long. He has published 1 book and more than 10 papers on urban big data, with a focus on BIM and CWM.

Presentation slides