Following is a question by the Hon James To Kun-sun and a reply by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (November 4):
It has been reported that the issue of floor numbering of buildings has earlier aroused public concern because of the floor numbering arrangement of a first-sale property, whereby not only the numbers of those floors generally considered to be inauspicious (for example the fourth, 13th, 14th, 24th and 34th floors) are omitted, the floor numbers also jump from 39th to 60th immediately, and from 68th to 88th. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) whether, in vetting and approving the building plans for buildings, the Buildings Department will consider if the floor numbers provided by the developers are arranged in a logical sequence; and in the event that the arrangement concerned deviates significantly from the common practice (e.g. the second floor is numbered as the 288th floor), whether it will advise the developer to revise the arrangement;
(b) whether, in vetting and approving the pre-sale of uncompleted flats, the Lands Department will consider if the floor numbering of the buildings concerned will easily give rise to misunderstanding among the public (e.g. misleading them into thinking that a building is 88-storey high when it is in fact only 46-storey high); and
(c) whether the floor numbering of buildings has any implication for the provision of emergency rescue services by the Government?
The Building Authority (BA) considers and approves building plans in accordance with the provisions of the Buildings Ordinance (Cap. 123). Section 16 of the Ordinance stipulates the specific considerations where the BA may refuse to approve building plans. Such considerations do not include the arrangement of floor numbers of a building. Therefore, the BA cannot refuse to approve a building plan because of the floor numbering arrangement of the building as shown on the plan, or the BA may be accused of acting ultra vires and be subject to legal challenges. Nevertheless, if the BA considers the floor numbering as shown on a building plan may cause confusion, he may suggest the applicant to make amendments, albeit such suggestion is advisory in nature without statutory effect.
Regarding the development project at Conduit Road which the public is concerned about recently, the floor numbering arrangement of the building actually has two scenarios. Firstly, the building has adopted a very common practice in Hong Kong to omit floor numbers of the 4th, 13th, 14th, 24th, 34th and 44th floors which are generally considered inauspicious (commonly known as "skipping floors"). In addition, the building plans also indicate that the 40th, 41st, 42nd, 43rd, 45th, 46th floors of the building are respectively "also known as 60th floor" and so on as 61st, 63rd, 66th, 68th and 88th floors. Under the provisions of the current legislation, the BA has no statutory power to refuse to approve the building plans because of the arrangement of floor numbers of the building as shown on the plans. Since the actual and the "also known as" floor numbers were arranged from lower to upper floors in ascending order, the BA considered that there was no need to advise the applicant to make amendments.
I now reply to the three parts of the question:
(a) As I replied earlier, the BA has no statutory power under the Buildings Ordinance to refuse to approve a building plan because of the arrangement of floor numbers of a building as shown on the plans. Nevertheless, if the BA considers that the floor numbers of a building as shown on the building plans are not arranged in a logical sequence and generally in order, he may suggest the applicant to make amendments, albeit such suggestion is advisory in nature without statutory effect. In fact, the public is concerned about the Conduit Road case not because of a significant deviation from the common practice in floor numbering. It is because the case adopts a very rare arrangement of adding an "also known as" designation of floor numbers on top of the actual floor numbers.
In view of the recent public concern over the floor numbering arrangement of buildings, the Buildings Department (BD) has, after consideration, decided to review and amend the existing Practice Note for Authorised Persons, Registered Structural Engineers and Registered Geotechnical Engineers together with the relevant stakeholders. The aim is to formulate a reasonable approach and a code of good practice for floor numbering for the industry to adopt on a self-discipline basis. Promulgation of practice notes is a method used by the BD to require the industry to adopt good practices in building design. Such method has been effective. The BD will soon make proposals and consult the Building Subcommittee of the Land and Development Advisory Committee in respect of floor numbering arrangement for buildings, with a view to revising the practice note as soon as possible. According to past experience, upon promulgation of the practice note by the BA, the industry will adopt. We believe that the situation of arousing public concern again should be avoided.
(b) The Consent Scheme is an administrative measure. One of its primary objectives is consumer protection, i.e. to protect buyers of uncompleted flats against losses arising from developers' failure to complete their developments.
According to the requirements of most of the land grant documents, one of the prerequisites for approving the pre-sale of uncompleted flats by the Government is that the Deed of Mutual Covenant (DMC) concerned must be approved by the Director of Lands. In vetting and approving the DMC, the Lands Department will accept the floor numbers shown on the building plans approved by the BD as the floor numbers set out in the DMC.
To enhance the transparency of the sales of uncompleted residential properties, the Consent Scheme and the guidelines issued by the Real Estate Developers Association of Hong Kong (REDA) require developers to provide prescribed property information, including the salient points of the DMC, in the sales brochures.
In general, developers have provided in their sales brochures cross-section diagrams of floors which show the total number of storeys of respective building and the position of respective floors, as well as floor numbering information in the "Information for Reference" section in the latter part of the sales brochures.
To further enhance the transparency of floor numbering information in the sales brochures, the Transport and Housing Bureau will discuss with the REDA on the requirement for developers to set out the floor numbering information clearly in the section on "Basic Information of the Development" at the front part of the sales brochure.
(c) According to the information provided by the Security Bureau, for the provision of emergency services by the Government, correct address of the incident, including the floor number, is a piece of crucial information which can facilitate prompt arrival of frontline staff at the scene to attend to the emergency situation. Generally speaking, minor changes to floor numbering, such as the omission of certain floor numbers, will not have a significant impact on the Police's handling of emergencies or the Fire Service Department's fire fighting and ambulance operation. However, if the floor numbering is too unconventional and overly complicated, it may affect the efficiency of the Government's provision of emergency services. As mentioned in the first part of the reply, in mapping out the approach for floor numbering arrangement and the code of good practice, the BD will consult the Security Bureau and take into account the latter's advice.
Ends/Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Issued at HKT 16:25