Following is a question by the Hon Leung Yiu-chung and a reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Paul Chan, in the Legislative Council today (June 17):
At present, it is not uncommon to see long queues of women, waiting for their turn to use the toilet, outside the female toilets in public places such as shopping arcades, department stores, cinemas, etc. The Government indicated in 2011 that it was planning to amend the Building (Standards of Sanitary Fitments, Plumbing, Drainage Works and Latrines) Regulations (the Regulations). Since it takes time to amend the law, the Buildings Department updated the relevant Practice Note for Authorised Persons, Registered Structural Engineers and Registered Geotechnical Engineers in 2012 to promote voluntary adoption by the industry of the new standard of provision of male and female sanitary fitments for newly developed public places, i.e. with the relevant ratio being amended from the existing 1:1 to 1:1.5. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) given that the authorities have not yet honoured their undertaking to submit early this year the amended Regulations to this Council for scrutiny, of the latest progress of the task, and when the authorities will submit the amended Regulations;
(2) whether it has currently adopted the new standard of provision of male and female sanitary fitments for the newly developed government facilities in order to implement gender mainstreaming and encourage the industry to follow suit; if it has not, whether it will adopt such standard; and
(3) whether it will consider deploying staff to conduct on-site surveys in public places after the implementation of the amended Regulations in order to review the need for amending the relevant standard again to further increase the proportion of female sanitary fitments?
The Building (Standards of Sanitary Fitments, Plumbing, Drainage Works and Latrines) Regulations, Cap. 123I, (the Regulations) set out the minimum standards for the provision of sanitary fitments, plumbing and drainage works in private buildings. Among others, the Regulations set the standards for the provision of male and female sanitary fitments in private buildings on the basis of the assessed numbers of male and female users in the relevant premises.
Enacted in 1959, the Regulations have become outdated and require an update to meet social needs today. To this end, the Government has commissioned a consultant to carry out a comprehensive review of the Regulations. A series of amendments to the Regulations have been proposed by the consultant, including enhancement of the requirements on the construction of the drainage system, and the replacement of the existing prescriptive standards by performance-based requirements for the sake of keeping up with new and changing building technology. As regards sanitary fitments, after conducting field surveys on the use of sanitary fitments in various public places in Hong Kong, the consultant recommended that the male to female ratio for assessing the numbers of male and female users in shopping arcades, department stores, cinemas and places of public entertainment in private developments should be raised from the statutory 1:1 to 1:1.25, thereby increasing the provision of female sanitary fitments.
The Government has conducted extensive consultation with the building industry and various stakeholders on the consultant's recommendations. Taking into account the various views received, in particular the aspirations of some stakeholders for increasing the provision of female sanitary fitments, the Government has proposed to further raise the ratio for assessing the numbers of male and female users in relevant premises to 1:1.5 to enhance the standards of provision of female sanitary fitments. For an early implementation of the enhanced standards, the Buildings Department (BD) incorporated the said standards in the "Practice Notes for Authorised Persons, Registered Structural Engineers and Registered Geotechnical Engineers" (Practice Notes) in 2012 to provide guidelines to the building industry.
Originally, the Government planned for an overhaul of the Regulations. But in view of the complexity of the exercise, which, we envisage, will take years to complete, and the public aspirations for early enhancement of the statutory standards for increasing the number of female sanitary fitments in relevant premises, we have adopted a two-stage approach in taking forward the exercise to amend the Regulations. At the first stage, we will deal with the amendments concerning the enhancement of the provision of female sanitary fitments in relevant premises, and the other amendments to the Regulations will be dealt with at the second stage. The Government submitted a paper to the Panel on Development of this Council in January this year to brief Members on the progress of the amendment exercise, particularly the arrangement of adopting the two-stage approach for the exercise.
My reply to the three-part question raised by Honourable Leung is as follows:
(1) Since our submission to the Panel on Development in January this year, we have been working vigorously on the first-stage amendments of the Regulations. We are now in the stage of drafting the Amendment Regulations, which is expected to be completed in two months. As we are approaching the end of this legislative session, we will table the Amendment Regulations early in the next legislative session for the scrutiny of this Council.
(2) Since BD updated the Practice Notes in 2012, the Architectural Services Department (ASD) has progressively increased the provision of female sanitary fitments in accordance with the enhanced standards in its new projects. When carrying out major renovation for the maintenance of existing government buildings, ASD will also increase the provision of female sanitary fitments according to the Practice Notes where technical and site conditions permit.
(3) The enhanced standards for sanitary fitments under the Amendment Regulations will apply to buildings constructed after the legislative amendments come into effect. Upon completion of these buildings, the Government will pay close attention to the utilisation of the sanitary fitments therein and consider further enhancing the standards where necessary.
Ends/Wednesday, June 17, 2015
Issued at HKT 12:24