The Government is committed to enhance building safety in Hong Kong through a multi-pronged approach. With the effort of our colleagues at the Buildings Department (BD) over the years and co-operation among the industry, there has been growing public awareness of building safety. In celebration of BD’s 25th anniversary, the department has taken the opportunity to organise an array of activities to enhance public understanding of and sense of responsibility over building safety. Recently, I have visited BD’s Building Information Centre (BIC) in the company of Mr YU Tak-cheung, Dick, the Deputy Director of Buildings and colleagues of BD to learn more about the services provided by the department as well as its efforts made on building safety publicity and education.
At present, there are more than 40 000 private buildings in Hong Kong, of which more than 5 000 private residential and composite buildings are aged 50 or above, and many of them are in need of repair. Taking note of the overall trend of an ageing building stock, the Government has introduced a number of policy measures over the years to raise property owners’ awareness on building maintenance, and BD has an important role to play in this respect.
Preventive maintenance of buildings
Looking back on BD’s history since its establishment, Dick told me that the then Buildings Ordinance Office, predecessor of BD, had been restructured several times before emerging as an independent department in 1993. BD is responsible for setting and enforcing safety, health and environmental standards for private buildings, as well as governing the enforcement of the Buildings Ordinance to regulate the demolition, construction and utilisation upon completion of buildings to ensure building safety. Preventive maintenance of buildings is, undoubtedly, crucial to upholding building safety. Only by conducting regular and appropriate inspections and repairs for properties will we be able to create a happy and worry-free living for members of the public.
In 2012, BD fully implemented the Mandatory Building Inspection Scheme (MBIS) and the Mandatory Window Inspection Scheme (MWIS) to tackle problems of building safety and maintenance at source. Under the two schemes, BD serves statutory notices on property owners in the target buildings to require them to carry out the prescribed inspection and repair works. Based on the experience of the past few years, upon completion of the required works, many old buildings have had their building conditions upgraded, useful life extended and living conditions of the community effectively improved. Last year, the Chief Executive also announced in her Policy Address that Operation Building Bright 2.0 would be launched to offer technical and financial assistance to property owners to carry out the required repair works.
Building Information Centre to facilitate public inspection
The BIC we visited is a place under BD that provides inspection and copying service of building/minor works records and occupation permits for all private buildings. During the visit, we saw many people coming for inspection and placing order of building plans. Dick said that the public can make use of the related services offered by the BIC whenever they need to make reference to approved building plans in the buying or selling of properties, or for building alterations and additions works. In the past, building plans were recorded on films, now they are kept in digital form. People can now access the building records by visiting the BIC in-person or viewing them online, or choosing the even more convenient option of our courier delivery service. Every year, the BIC provides an average of 100 000 cases of inspections and 250 000 cases of copying services of building records. There is a huge service demand.
Public education is indispensable
A wide range of promotional materials to disseminate building safety messages are displayed at the BIC. For example, comic strips creations by primary school pupils, winning entries of the "Building Safety on Board" Board Game Design Competition and “Chibi” figurines of professionals from various disciplines, to name a few. During my visit, I have tried out a capsule vending machine, which has been put on display in different places, to test my knowledge on BD with trivia questions.
Dick told me that these promotional materials are very popular with both children and adults. BD has all along been reaching out to the public to promote building safety with a wide range of activities and a user-friendly approach to further enhance their knowledge in the area. Recently, the Building Safety Week under the theme of "Care about building safety・Build our sweet homes in unity" has been held. The event, being the fourth consecutive one in a row, aims to highlight the importance of appropriate and timely building repairs and maintenance with a showcase of activities.
To step up public education, BD has recently launched a brand-new online "E-learning Centre" on its website to let property owners of private buildings and the general public obtain information on building safety and basic know-how on building maintenance anytime, anywhere. Those who are interested may take part in the online Building Safety Certificate Course and get a certificate upon course completion. They will then also be eligible to join the upcoming online live chat to be held in the third quarter this year, in which BD colleagues will interact with the public and answer their questions.
Moving to a new building to provide better services in a congregated setting
At present, BD is renting offices in various commercial properties, with its various sections scattered across different districts. Dick told me that these sections will move into West Kowloon Government Offices at Hoi Ting Road in Yau Ma Tei later. Upon moving into the new building, which is expected for completion by the end of this year, BD will be able to provide better one-stop services to the public.
In recent years, BD is faced with many challenges with heavy workloads in relation to building works, inspection and enforcement, as well as the up-and-coming issue of ageing building stock. The Government will continue to devote further resources to facilitate cooperation among different sectors of our community, so as to uphold building safety and step up public education to make Hong Kong a safe and vibrant city.
3 June, 2018Back