A top government official has assured the Legislative Council that Hong Kong’s building standards are strict and the approval processes are monitored. The comments came after a roof of a building at the City University of Hong Kong collapsed last week injuring three people.
The roof in question was supported by a metal frame, which apparently failed to support the greening work on top. The university has admitted that it did not submit plans for the greening work to the Buildings Department for approval.
Acting Secretary for Development Eric Ma Siu-cheung was responding to lawmaker Albert Chan Wai-yip at a LegCo urgent questions session on Wednesday. Chan questioned whether Hong Kong building standards were following those in the mainland where, during the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, collapsed buildings were found to have been filled with unqualified materials such as polystyrene. The term “tofu-dreg projects” became widely used.
“Hong Kong construction projects cannot be compared with those in the Sichuan earthquake – Hong Kong construction projects are not tofu-dreg projects,” Ma said. “Many Hong Kong construction projects were of high difficulty… the Buildings Department has been very strict in ensuring buildings’ safety, and the approval process has been heavily monitored.”
He said the CityU incident was an accident that no one would have wished to happen, and the government will continue to investigate. The Buildings Department is expected to make a preliminary conclusion in two weeks.
Ma said that the Architectural Services Department will inspect government buildings with structures similar to that of the collapsed building – greening work on huge metal frame rooftop – and then inspect other greening work on concrete roofs.
Buildings with metal frame roofs include the Tin Shui Wai Swimming Pool, Victoria Park Swimming Pool, Sai Kung and Tseung Kwan O government buildings and the new wing of Ko Shan Theatre. Ma said that all have been inspected and the structures were fine.
Ma added that the Housing Authority has also started checking eight greening facilities installed in public estates after the buildings’ completion. Preliminary results suggested low risk.
Ma said that it was difficult for the Buildings Department to establish guidelines to decide whether rooftop green projects on private buildings needed to submit plans to the department, as there may not be a simple generalisation for all situations.
Meanwhile, in response to lawmakers, Secretary for Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim said that there were 45 school building projects completed by the Architectural Services Department with greening facilities including green roofs and they have all met the safety requirements.
Another 66 schools have sought the Education Bureau’s approval for implementing green roof projects after the school premises concerned were built.
Ng said the bureau has already issued a letter to all schools, reminding them of the points to note with regards to green roof installations and the requirements for carrying out such projects.