Following is a question by the Hon Emily Lau Wai-hing and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (June 8):
Recently, it has been reported that as female toilets in public places have all along been criticised for their persistent long queues, the authorities intend to amend the Buildings Ordinance (Cap. 123) (BO) to make it mandatory for developers to increase the male-to-female (M/F) toilet compartment ratio from 1:1.25 to 1:1.5. In this connection, will the Executive Authorities inform this Council:
(a) of the number of complaints received in the past three years about insufficient female toilet compartments in shopping arcades, cinemas and other places of public entertainment, etc.;
(b) when they will introduce a bill to the Legislative Council to amend BO by fixing the M/F toilet compartment ratio at 1:1.5, and of the justifications that the problem of insufficient female toilet compartments can be solved by adopting this ratio; and
(c) whether they will, when amending the BO, draw on overseas experience to provide unisex toilets; if they will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
My reply to the three-part question is as follows:
(a) In the past three years, the Buildings Department (BD) has not received any complaints about inadequate provision of female toilet compartments in shopping arcades, cinemas and places of public entertainment, etc. Nevertheless, the Authority is aware of the views expressed by the public and women's organisations on the subject, as well as opinions reflected in media reports.
(b) Under the Building (Standards of Sanitary Fitments, Plumbing, Drainage Works and Latrines) Regulations (Regulations), the provision of male and female sanitary fitments in private buildings is based on the assessed number of male and female users of the premises. For places of public entertainment and cinemas, the present Regulations prescribe, for the purpose of determining the provision of male and female sanitary fitments, a ratio of 1:1 for assessing the number of male to female in the premises. In response to public concerns, the BD promulgated the "Practice Note for Authorised Persons and Registered Structural Engineers" (Practice Note) in May 2005. This contained a recommended guideline raising the ratio for shopping arcades, cinemas and places of public entertainment from the statutory 1:1 to 1:1.25, thereby raising the level of provision for female sanitary facilities.
The BD is conducting a further review of the relevant design standard. Having regard to the views of various stakeholders and the standards of provision for male and female sanitary facilities in different countries, the BD intends to further enhance the proportion of female toilet facilities in shopping arcades, cinemas and places of public entertainment, in order to provide greater convenience for female users.
The BD is making preparations for amending the Regulations. This will cover a wide range of aspects, including not only a proposal for improving the provision of sanitary facilities for female in private shopping arcades, cinemas and places of public entertainment, but also a comprehensive revision and refinement of the current standards of plumbing, drainage works and sanitary fitments in buildings. The latter includes extending the scope of statutory standards for provision of sanitary facilities to cover additional types of buildings, transforming current prescriptive standards to performance-based standards and a comprehensive updating of the standards for design and use of material and technology for plumbing, drainage works and sanitary fitments in buildings in order to bring them into line with modern-day development in construction design and technology.
In formulating the amendments regarding the provision of female sanitary facilities in shopping arcades, cinemas and places of public entertainment, the BD has carefully examined the consultant's recommendations and findings based on empirical surveys of the provision of sanitary facilities in various premises, the level of usage, queuing time, usage time and level of user satisfaction.
Bearing in mind the differences in the assessed capacity of the venues, as well as the difference between male and female in the demand for sanitary facilities, usage time, and the tolerance for queuing, separate standards for provision of male and female sanitary facilities have to be developed. A progressive formula is also adopted for determining the numbers of male and female sanitary facilities to be providing, taking into account the assessed number of male and female users in different types of venues. In consequence, the numbers and percentage of sanitary facilities for male and female in different types of public places of different sizes may be greater than or equal to 1:1.5. It may also, in some cases, be less. The intention, ultimately, is to arrive at a standard which would best cater for the female users' needs, taking into account level of usage, queuing and usage time, and user satisfaction.
We will consult the Legislative Council Panel on Development once the detailed proposals have been drawn up. We also aim at submitting the Amendment Regulations to the Legislative Council in the coming 2011/12 Session.
(c) The BD had commissioned a consultancy study and taken reference from the standards of male and female sanitary facilities in different countries (including the United States, the United Kingdom and Singapore). On the notion of introducing unisex toilets, the consultancy report especially pointed out that more in-depth study and research would be required before the idea could be pursued, including particularly consideration of the impact on the sanitary conditions and maintenance of toilets, building management and cultural differences, etc.. Hence, the suggestion will not be incorporated in the proposed amendments to the Regulations at this stage.
Ends/Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Issued at HKT 15:37