Following is a question by the Hon Raymond Ho Chung-tai and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (December 1):
On November 7 this year, loose concrete of the external wall of a building of over 50 years old, located at Lok Shan Road in To Kwa Wan, fell off and injured a passer-by. The next day, the mosaic tiles on the external wall of another building of only 11 years old, located at Staunton Street in Central, also came off, and luckily no one was hurt. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) given that the Buildings Department (BD), after the collapse of a building at Ma Tau Wai Road in January this year, had immediately set up professional teams which inspected a total of 4,011 private buildings aged 50 or above in the territory, of the conditions of the aforesaid building at Lok Shan Road according to BD's report released in April and the follow-up actions taken by the authorities;
(b) focusing on younger buildings which had caused accidents because they have not been properly maintained for a prolonged period of time, whether the authorities will plan to deploy staff to inspect this type of buildings to ensure their structural safety; if they will, of the details; and
(c) given that the authorities commenced a 10-year programme in 2001 to clear unauthorised building works and illegal rooftop structures, and indicated that 800,000 unauthorised building works and structures had to be cleared, and since the programme will end next year and the authorities have indicated that so far about 400,000 cases have been handled, of the plan of the authorities for dealing with the remaining 400,000 cases in future?
My reply to the three-part question is as follows:
(a) Subsequent to the building collapse incident at Ma Tau Wai Road in January this year, the Buildings Department (BD) immediately launched a special operation deploying dedicated teams to inspect the 4,011 private buildings aged 50 or above in Hong Kong. The purpose was to ascertain whether these buildings were structurally safe. During the inspection operation, staff of the BD had inspected the building located at Lok Shan Road mentioned in the question and confirmed that the overall structure of the building was safe. Minor concrete spalling was however found at the soffit of the common corridor of the building. The overall building condition at that time was rated as Category III (i.e. minor defects were found in the building). The BD then issued an advisory letter to the building owners, urging them to arrange to carry out suitable repair works as soon as possible. Regarding the recent incident of fallen rendering at the external wall of the building, staff of the BD had inspected the building again and confirmed that the overall structure of the building showed no danger. The incident involved loose rendering on the surface of the external wall, but not problems in the building structure. On the day of the incident, the BD had immediately arranged personnel to remove the loose rendering from the external walls of the building and thereafter issued a letter to the owners again, urging them to carry out the repair works as soon as possible. The BD will arrange to inspect the building again. If there are building safety problems, the BD will take appropriate follow-up actions in accordance with the Buildings Ordinance, including issuing statutory repair orders to mandate the owners to carry out repair works for ensuring public safety.
(b) The BD has been closely monitoring the conditions of private buildings in Hong Kong and arranging regular inspections to buildings in different districts of the territory, in particular buildings in areas with heavy pedestrian flow. Regardless of building age, prompt follow-up actions will be taken if obvious defects are found on the building exteriors. The BD has arranged enhanced inspections in view of the building disrepair incidents that happened recently. If obvious dilapidation and defects are found on the exterior of a building, the BD will take appropriate follow-up actions under the Buildings Ordinance, including arranging emergency repair works under situations of imminent danger or, issuing statutory repair orders to mandate owners to carry out repair works for ensuring public safety.
In the long run, we will implement the Mandatory Building Inspection Scheme (MBIS) and the Mandatory Window Inspection Scheme (MWIS) to address the problems of ageing and dilapidation of buildings through preventive inspection and maintenance. The MBIS will require owners of buildings aged 30 years or above to carry out building inspection and repair once every ten years, while the MWIS will require owners of buildings aged ten years or above to carry out window inspection and repair once every five years. We introduced the Buildings (Amendment) Bill 2010 for the two schemes into the Legislative Council early this year. We will continue to work closely with the Bills Committee, with a view to implementing the two schemes as early as possible so as to further enhance building safety in Hong Kong.
(c) The BD's ten-year programme for demolition of unauthorised building works (UBWs) will complete by March 2011. Taking into account the latest conditions of buildings in Hong Kong and the community's view that a tougher stance should be taken to tackle UBWs, we have completed a review and will adopt a new policy to sustain our effort to tackle UBWs.
Under the new policy, we will extend the coverage of actionable UBWs to include unauthorised works in roof-tops, podiums, as well as yards and back-lanes of buildings. If the UBWs are confirmed to be under the actionable category, irrespective of their degree of risk, the BD will issue statutory orders to require the owners to carry out works to rectify the irregularities. The Department will continue to respond to complaints actively and instigate more and swifter prosecution actions, so as to sanction those owners who do not duly comply with statutory orders with a view to ensuring building safety. The BD will also launch special programmes to tackle the problems of sub-division of flat units in buildings (commonly known as "sub-divided units") and unauthorised signboards.
Ends/Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Issued at HKT 17:11