Living in safe buildings to stay healthy and happy
Hong Kong is a high-density city, conditions of buildings are premised upon joint community efforts. On my recent visit to the Buildings Department (BD) to learn more about its services and work, I was briefed by colleagues on how building safety messages are promoted to the public through various channels. Among others, the Building Safety Week is the BD's annual major public education and publicity event. Concluded successfully in May, the Building Safety Week 2019 has heightened the awareness of the importance of building safety in both the community and the construction industry through a series of diversified activities, encouraging them to foster a building care culture together.
In the blink of an eye, the Building Safety Week has entered its fifth year. This year’s theme, “Living in Safe Buildings”, reflects that Hong Kong people conduct activities of daily life, work and even leisure inside buildings. It also reminds us that we, as users or owners of buildings, have the responsibility to pay attention to the repair, maintenance and management of our buildings, so as to ensure that we can stay healthy and happy while living in safe buildings.
Recognising building safety risks
The opening ceremony of this year's Building Safety Week was held in Tai Kwun. Formerly the Central Police Station Compound with more than a century of history, Tai Kwun aptly demonstrates that with proper maintenance and timely repairs, buildings can be used from generation to generation. At present, there are more than 40 000 private buildings in Hong Kong, half of them aged 30 years or above. To enhance building safety, apart from relying on enforcement actions by colleagues of the BD, it is more important that the public can recognise building safety risks and take action to carry out timely maintenance.
Diversified activities to disseminate messages
In this year’s Building Safety Week, the BD especially incorporated building safety messages into various activities in the hope of reaching more members of the public from different walks of life. On the day of the opening ceremony, activities such as the urban sketching workshop and Guided Tour @ Tai Kwun were held. Through drawing and learning more about a real case of heritage revitalisation, the public gained a better understanding of building safety and maintenance. Other programme highlights included public talks, the Building Information Centre Open Day and the Registered Inspectors Briefing Session. In addition to the Secondary School Drama Competition, which has been held for a number of years consecutively, a postcard design competition was organised for the first time this year.
Exploring the optimal use of advanced technologies
The Building Safety Symposium 2019 was the finale of the Building Safety Week. As in past years, some 500 friends who were members of the construction industry, building management sector and academia, as well as government colleagues, attended the symposium. As this year's symposium was themed “Holistic approach on building safety”, many topics delivered by speakers were related to the application of new technologies, such as exploring the use of artificial intelligence and robotics to building construction, the use of unmanned aircrafts to inspect building conditions, and the examination of the latest research findings on cyclone-resistant facade systems. Progressive technological advancements are bringing many opportunities to the construction industry. As the regulator, the Government will not procrastinate. In order to enhance construction efficiency and building safety, we will formulate relevant measures to encourage wider adoption of new technologies in the industry.
Raising owners' awareness on property maintenance
The publicity work of the BD over the years has placed emphasis on promoting to private owners the importance of carrying out regular and proper maintenance works to their property. In recent years, the Government has introduced a number of schemes to raise building owners’ awareness on property maintenance. For example, we partnered with the Urban Renewal Authority to launch the Operation Building Bright 2.0 (OBB 2.0) in 2018. It adopts a risk-based approach and focuses on residential and composite buildings aged 50 years or above with relatively low average rateable values to provide direct technical and financial assistance to owners in need, so as to help them comply with the requirements of the Mandatory Building Inspection Scheme. We hope that the scheme will be able to benefit 2 500 old buildings within five years.
The Government has also worked closely with various partnering organisations, including the URA and the Hong Kong Housing Society, to offer assistance to owners in carrying out building maintenance works, such as the Integrated Building Maintenance Assistance Scheme, Building Maintenance Grant Scheme for Elderly Owners and Building Safety Loan Scheme. The Government will continue to foster a building care culture and motivate owners to take the initiative to improve the conditions of their own buildings. Let’s pull together to make Hong Kong a safe, liveable and dynamic city.
Listening with care for better communication
Here, I would like to raise one point. The Chief Executive said at the reception in celebration of the 22nd anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region that she would ensure that the Government’s future work would be closer and more responsive to the aspirations, sentiments and opinions of the community. The Government will enhance communication with different people through various channels to absorb views from society and make continuous improvement to our policy initiatives.
Hong Kong is a pluralistic society. We understand that relationships cannot be mended overnight. The Government will learn from the experience and listen to different public views carefully with the utmost humility and sincerity. I hope that we, as fellow Hong Kong people, will overcome difficulties, ease disputes, resolve controversies and walk together to get off to a new start.
7 July, 2019