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Ideally, the more frequent the inspection cycle, the earlier any building defect can be identified and rectified. There are suggestions on including more inspection items under the proposed MBIS such as advertisement signboards, fresh and flushing water supply system, and even the interior of private premised (e.g. to identify any water seepage problem). It was understand that some owners may wish to take the opportunity of the MBIS to solve the problems with all parts of the building. Nevertheless, requiring inspections too frequently will create tremendous burden on building owners and deter compliance. Based on the maintenance cycles of typical building component, it have suggested in the consultation document that inspection and rectification works, where necessary, should be carried out every 7 years, by reference to the date when BD last issued the notification to owners to mandate an inspection. BD hopes that the 7-year inspection cycle will enhance building owners' receptiveness of the proposed scheme, and engender a positive impact on the community's building care culture. It would like to stress that owners should properly maintain their buildings ongoing basis after the inspection. They are also encouraged to arrange more frequent inspection as necessary.
Authorised Persons (APs) and Registered Structural Engineers (RSEs) currently regulated under the Buildings Ordinance should be in charge of the building inspections under the scheme. Given the important role to be played by the inspectors, we share the community concern over the need to ensure the quality and standard of inspection. There are currently over 1,300 APs and about 400 RSEs. According to a preliminary sounding out exercise conducted earlier, the majority of APs/RSEs would be interested in undertaking inspections under the proposed scheme. Owners will therefore have ample choices. It is proposed that the rectification works should be carried out by Registered General Building Contractors (RGBCs) and Registered Minor Works Contractors (RMWCs) .
As public safety is at stake, BD propose that failure to produce inspection reports and detailed investigation reports (where appropriate) and failure to complete the rectification works as specified by the inspectors within a prescribed timeframe should be liable to penalty. MBIS make reference to existing penalty for similar offence under the Buildings Ordinance. Following the current practice for repair orders, BD will consider registering in the Land Registry the cases of non-compliance with the mandatory building inspection requirement, so as to serve as a deterrent. BD are mindful of the fact that failure to comply with the mandatory inspection requirement may be attributable to the existence of unco-operative owners and propose to expand the current mechanism under the Buildings Ordinance against unco-operative owners to include owners who obstruct building inspections or rectification works. In respect of default cases which necessitate BD's appointment of an inspector on behalf of the owners, a surcharge be levied against the defaulting owners in addition to the actual inspection and rectification costs incurred. A high default rate would cause unnecessary burden on BD's enforcement resources and such a cost would have to be borne by tax payers and the society as a whole. Therefore, surcharge is justified to discourage reliance on BD to carry out the inspection and rectification works on the owners' behalf.
the procedures under the mandatory building
(1)Select target buildings
Under the MBIS, owners of buildings aged more than 30 years will be required to carry out inspections of the common parts, external walls and projections of the buildings once every 10 years. It impossible for all the buildings meeting the building age requirements have to carry out mandatory building inspections at the same time. The Buildings Department (BD) will make arrangements to spread out buildings meeting specified building ages to carry out inspections, and select a suitable number of buildings to carry out building and window inspections every quarter. Factors including building age, building condition, records of repair, location, etc have been taken into consideration for Building Department(BD) to select target buildings for carrying out mandatory building inspections. When selecting target buildings, the BD will make reference to the advice of selection panels comprising community representatives and professionals.
(2)Issues inspection order
After selecting target buildings, the BD issues notices to the owners of every target building selected, requiring them to carry out inspections in respect of the common parts, external walls and projections within specified timeframes.
(3)Carrying out GA inspection
Owners appoint qualified surveyors to carry out a general appraisal of their buildings in accordance with the BD's requirements and submit the safety reports or recommendation of repair work to the Buildings Department. Under the proposed scheme, the inspector will be responsible for the following tasks -
(i) Carrying out an inspection (which is based on visual inspection and non-intrusive tests);
(ii) Preparing and submitting an inspection report to owners, specifying rectification works and where justified, specifying the need to conduct a detailed investigation;
(iii) Carrying out a detailed investigation, if specified;
(iv) Supervising the rectification works carried out by RGBCs (and RMWCs in future);
(v) Certifying the completion of the rectification work and submitting a report to the owners.
(3) Detailed investigation
Detailed investigation and repair works would be necessary if recommended by the building professionals after initial examination and upon the review of the authority. If repair is needed, owners need to appoint contractors to carry out the required building and/or window repair works, and appoint inspectors to supervise the works.
(4) Repair works
Upon completion of repair works, inspectors will carry out examination and testing, and submit reports to the BD. The BD will notify owners that they have fulfilled the mandatory inspection requirements.
(5) Handle unauthorised building works (UBWs)
Inspectors under the MBIS have to report to the BD UBWs in common parts and on external walls of buildings. The BD will treat such UBWs in accordance with the established UBWs enforcement policy. The Department will prioritise enforcement action against UBWs posing an obvious or imminent danger to lives and properties or those that are newly constructed, requiring owners to demolish the same.
The comparison results of the proposed scheme with other countries Introduction
Background and Housing Policy in Singapore
Singapore and Hong Kong share two common features: both experience a high population growth and posse a small land area (Peter, 1999). In the post-war period, the problem of overcrowding and shortage of decent housing had confronted both cities. Many people were either without shelter or living in appalling condition. Unlike Governments in other developing countries which were unable to cope with the problem for a variety of economic and political reasons, Hong Kong and Singapore were fortunate enough to be able to adopt effective measures in tackling the problem. In Singapore, Part V of Building Control Act and Regulations came into effect in 1989 to legislate inspection of buildings. The objective is to ensure that all buildings are properly maintained and safe for occupation at all times. Building and Construction Authority (BCA) regulates and enforces the inspection of buildings as required under the Act and Regulations. Under the Act, owners or management corporations are required to appoint professional structural engineers to carry out periodic structural inspection at regular intervals of 5 years for non-residential and 10 years for residential buildings. In addition, BCA regulates the safety of buildings that appear dangerous under Part IV (Dangerous Buildings) of the Building Control Act. Under such situations, owners are required to appoint Professional Engineers to inspect and recommend rectification measures to remove danger so as to safeguard the safety of occupants and public.
Background and Housing Policy in United States
In the United States, housing codes, although they vary from locality to locality, are much rigid and seemingly leave much less room fro discretion in their application. American codes aim at achieving minimum housing standards in a multitude of specific categories through a continual process of inspection and repair (Harold, 1975). Despite the proliferation of housing codes, it is widely agreed that they have in fact done little to enforce minimum housing standards. The situation is also referring to that in Hong Kong housing policy. The reasons for this are many: 1. Most cities have inadequate funding and inadequate staff for administering their housing codes, and enforcement is not usually considered a high priority activity. 2. Only the city, not an individual occupant, can bring suit for violation of a local housing code. 3. Enforcement remedies are generally weak. If the owner does not comply, he can be brought to court where only criminal penalties are available. Fines are usually quite small and many landlords merely accept them as an addition to their operating cost and as being far less costly than actually keeping their buildings up to costs. Jail sentences may be provided for in the cost in the code but are rarely imposed. 4. In many cases, the owner does not have the wherewithal to make the necessary repairs. The building simply does not generate a sufficient rental An Evaluation of Mandatory Building Inspection Scheme in Hong Kong 38 income to cover its costs and allow for a reasonable return on investment; many landlords try to meet this by decreasing maintenance and repairs expenditures rather than increasing them as code enforcement requires. To sum up, buildings is deteriorated with time and therefore, many building related accidents occurred continuously. Although there is existing legislative ordinance such BMO and DMC provided a legal framework for owners to manage their properties, the owners could not maintain the building in a good condition themselves only. Therefore, Owners Incorporation was formed to provide authority for the building management. Moreover, property manager was appointed to professional assistance for the building management. However, no statutory requirement for the periodic building inspection and building is managed in a repairing basis system. This mean that it is lack of preventive maintenance and the structure or facilities will repair after the defects was found. Government proposed MBIS aims to enforce the owners to carry out building inspection and preventive maintenance work. Similar enforcement of building inspection was set in Singapore and United States. Even background and situation of building maintenance of this country may difference from Hong Kong, it is worth to consider the detail and progress of the scheme in order to find out the strength and weaknesses of the proposed MBIS in Hong Kong.
(1)Different selected standard
From the table above, we can see the target buildings for the proposed schemes are different between Hong Kong and other places. Hong Kong and Singapore set their target buildings depend on the building's age while New York and Chicago use height as the measurement standard unit. For Hong Kong, all types of private domestic, composite, and non-domestic building aged 30 years or above should be subjected to inspection altintervals of 7 years. For Singapore, target buildings include both residential and nonresidential buildings. Residential buildings are required to have inspection starting on the tenth year after occupation and continuous have the inspection on every tenth year. Nonresidential buildings start having inspection earlier on the fifth year after occupation and on every fifth year. Also, for some special buildings, which means not less than 90% of their floors are used solely for residential purpose, should be carried out inspection at intervals of not less than 10 years.
The reason of non-residential buildings has shorter inspection intervals and starts inspection earlier may be due to the overall occupation time in the non-residential buildings are higher than that of residential buildings. The probability of discovers defects or deterioration may become higher in non-residential buildings. However, there is no such consideration in the proposed MBIS in Hong Kong.
(2)Different inspection cycle
In Hong Kong, MBIS proposes the inspection should be carried out every 7 years, counting from the date when Building Department last issued the notification to owners to mandate an inspection. The requirement is according to the different life cycles of different inspection items (Housing, Planning and Lands Bureau, 2005). As building inspection schemes in different places contain varies inspection items, the required inspection cycles of the schemes are unlike. The required inspection cycle in New York City and City of Chicago are shorter than that in Hong Kong and the required inspection cycle for the residential buildings in Singapore is the longest by comparing with the former places.
(3) Different inspection items
The inspection items of the schemes are similar in Hong Kong, Singapore and Chicago. There are only some differences between them. In Hong Kong, Fire Safety and Drainage System are included in the scheme. The elements of the Fire Safety include means of escape and means of access for firefighting and also fire resisting construction and compartmentation. However, the regulations of inspection in Singapore are only focus on the structural elements of the buildings. On the other hand, an aggressive environment that may be detrimental to the building structure is included in the inspection scheme in Singapore where it is not being concerned in MBIS in Hong Kong. In New York, only exterior wall and appurtenances are included in their inspection items which are far less from those contained in MBIS in Hong Kong.
(1)First of all, the inspection items in the proposed Mandatory Building Inspection Scheme (MBIS) in Hong Kong will cover fire services and drainage system. Those inspection items are the major difference with other countries/cities. The reason may due to the frequency happen of building related accidents regarding broken out of fire and the SARS happened before in Hong Kong. Moreover, over 83% of interviewees agree that the proposed inspection items in MBIS cover the major elements in buildings in order to upkeep the building maintenance. Therefore, the inspection items covered in proposed MBIS are tailor made for Hong Kong.
(4) Different inspection stage
The inspection in Singapore consists one or both stages: visual inspection and full structural investigation. If there are no signs of any structural deterioration or defects, the visual inspection suffice for the needs unless the structural engineer otherwise advise, no further action needs to be taken. However, if any sign of significant structural deterioration or defects are present, the case should be passed to another structural engineer to make a professional assessment of the deterioration of defects and recommend appropriate actions to be taken. Such actions may involve repair works or full structural investigation to parts or whole of the buildings. In Hong Kong, carrying out the inspection and supervising the rectification works are being responsible by the same appointed professional.
(5) Different inspection results
There are varies indicators and follow up actions of the inspection results in the studied places. In Hong Kong, the owners are required to carry out the rectification works according to the inspection report. If there no defect is found, no follow up action is needed. That means, there are only two results after the inspection in Hong Kong. However, there are three possible results after the inspection in New York City. The inspected building may be certified into condition: 'Safe', 'Unsafe' or 'Safe with repair and maintenance program' (SWARMP). SWARMP means the building is safe at the time of inspection but requires repair or maintenance during the next five years in order to prevent its deterioration during five-year period into an unsafe condition (Local Laws, 1998).
(6) Different enforcement schemes
According to the enforcement of different schemes, it seems that Singapore set the most strictly penalty. Any owner of a building who fails to comply the inspection scheme within the period shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding S$20,000 (HK$104,000) or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to both. (Singapore Statutes Online, 2008). In Hong Kong, although the building will be registered in the Land Registry, the fine is proposed to be HK$ 50,000 and imprisonment for 1 year for the offence. The fine is only around HK$7,780 and HK$19,450 in New York City and City of Chicago respectively. Moreover, there is no imprisonment set in City of Chicago for the offense.