Following is a question by the Hon Tony Tse and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Paul Chan, in the Legislative Council today (November 14):
It has been reported that a number of incidents of window panes in residential flats cracking and falling off occurred in Hong Kong in recent years. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) of the number of relevant reports received by the government departments concerned in the past three years; the details of each case, including the name and type (i.e. private or public) of the housing estate, the name of the construction contractor of the building, the size of the cracked and fallen window pane and the reason why it fell off, together with the resultant casualties;
(b) whether it has any plans to assess the safety of window panes in residential flats, put forward improvement proposals and implement focused measures; if not, of the reasons for that;
(c) apart from implementing the Mandatory Window Inspection Scheme, how the authorities monitor the materials and safety of window panes in residential flats; whether they have assessed if there is adequate legislation regulating such matters; if the assessment result is in the affirmative, of the provisions and their enactment dates, and whether the authorities have any plans to conduct a comprehensive review of such provisions;
(d) whether it will consider introducing legislation to prohibit the use of certain types of window panes under specified circumstances (e.g. in flats above a certain storey level); if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(e) whether the authorities have made reference to and studied the relevant overseas experience and practices, with a view to further enhancing the safety of window panes in residential flats; if they have, of the details; if not, whether they will allocate resources to conduct such research studies in the future; if they will, of the relevant timetable?
The Buildings Ordinance (BO) aims to regulate the planning, design and construction of buildings and associated works on private land and, for this purpose, to prescribe building standards regarding safety, sanitation and the environment. In accordance with the provisions of the BO, any person intending to carry out building works is required to appoint an authorised person (AP) and, where necessary, a registered structural engineer (RSE) to prepare and submit building plans for approval by the Buildings Department (BD), unless the works fall within the scope of designated minor works that can be carried out under the simplified requirements of the Minor Works Control System or such works are exempted works. The person must also appoint a registered contractor to carry out the works in accordance with the approved plans. After the building plans have been approved, the AP must obtain written consent from the BD before commencement of works. The material, design and construction of windows are subject to the control of the Building (Construction) Regulations (B(C)R). The BD has also issued relevant Practice Notes to provide clear guidelines for industry practitioners.
My reply to the five-part question is as follows:
(a) Regarding private buildings, according to BD's records, a total of 58 cases of window falling off from private buildings were reported between October 1, 2009 and September 30, 2012. Among them, four cases involved steel windows, while the remaining 54 cases involved aluminium windows. The records reveal that the said 58 cases resulted in one death and five injuries. The BD does not have the other information on these cases as required in the question. In addition, according to the records of the Housing Department, within the same period it received a total of 25 cases of falling window in public rental housing (PRH) estates and two such cases in Home Ownership Scheme (HOS) courts, with no casualty reported. These cases involved 12 PRH estates and two HOS housing estates.
(b) The BD fully implemented the Mandatory Building Inspection Scheme and the Mandatory Window Inspection Scheme (MWIS) on June 30, 2012 to tackle the problem of building neglect at source. The MWIS covers all private buildings aged 10 years or above, except domestic buildings not exceeding three storeys in height. Building owners are required, within a specified timeframe, to appoint a qualified person (QP) to carry out a prescribed inspection and to appoint a registered contractor to carry out a prescribed repair found necessary of the windows in the building once every five years. The prescribed repair must be carried out under the supervision of a QP. Each year, the BD will arrange to select a total of 5 800 buildings aged 10 years or above for the MWIS. The target buildings selected each year will include a mix of buildings in different conditions and age profiles in different districts. The BD is now issuing statutory notices to the first quarterly batch of target buildings selected for the MWIS.
I would like to take this opportunity to point out that under the BO, only when building owners are served with a statutory notice for mandatory window inspection by the BD would they have the statutory obligation to arrange for a prescribed inspection and prescribed repair found necessary of their windows after the inspection. The BD will select target buildings at quarterly intervals and issue statutory notices to the owners/owners' corporation (OC) of the target buildings. Where necessary, owners may call the BD hotline to check if their buildings have been selected for the MWIS. Besides, in case of doubt as to whether a person or registered contractor is a QP under the MWIS, owners may refer to the list of qualified persons on the BD's website or make direct enquiry through its hotline.
(c) As mentioned above, in accordance with the BO, except for minor works or exempted works, any person intending to carry out building works is required to appoint an AP and/or a RSE to prepare and submit building plans to the BD for approval, and to appoint a registered contractor to carry out the building works according to the approved plans. Prior consent from the BD is also required before commencement of works. Moreover, to ensure that any building works in progress are in compliance with the law, BD staff will monitor and inspect active work sites regularly. APs, RSEs and registered contractors all have the statutory obligation to co-ordinate, supervise and carry out the building works, and are required to submit test reports to ensure that the quality of their works complies with the BO. Before issuing the occupation permits, the BD will conduct final checks on the test reports on construction materials or components as well as the completed works.
APs, RSEs and registered contractors should ensure that their works in terms of material, design and construction of windows comply with the B(C)R and the safety standards specified in the Practice Notes in respect of "Curtain Wall, Window and Window Wall Systems" and "Aluminium Windows" issued by the BD. According to the B(C)R, all materials used in any building works or street works shall be of a suitable nature and quality for the purposes for which they are used; adequately mixed or prepared; and applied, used or fixed so as to perform adequately the functions for which they are designed. These requirements are applicable to windows installed in buildings. The Practice Notes set out in detail such relevant requirements and standards as material, design, installation as well as testing of windows. Besides, registered contractors are required under the Practice Notes to have experienced and skilled supervisors and workers, and to put in place suitable quality assurance procedures to ensure the proper installation of the windows. The BD keeps the Practice Notes under regular review to seek improvement. The above Practice Notes were last revised in May 2012 and March 2006 respectively.
To meet the evolving needs of the community, the BD just commissioned a consultancy study in November this year to review the existing requirements and standards on the material, design and construction of glass, and windows will be included in the study.
(d) and (e) In conducting the above consultancy study, the BD will keep an open mind and discuss with the industry the relevant requirements and standards. The study will also make reference to the experience and practices of other countries to ensure that the requirements keep up with the latest international standards.
Ends/Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Issued at HKT 14:40