Need for standards on ageing buildings

A lack of a competent authority regulating building repair and maintenance is hampering progress on renovating Hong Kong’s ageing building stock as owners and contractors often fail to see eye-to-eye on works.

The problem of ageing buildings which lack proper care and maintenance has become an alarming concern not just for the Government but the general public too. Figures from 2016 show Hong Kong has around 40,000 affected residential buildings, of which 21,000 are over 30 years old and another 10,000 over 50 years old. But those grim figures are only the tip of the iceberg – by 2040, they will be double that, i.e. there will be 40,000 buildings over 30 years old while those more than five decades old will surge to 23,000.

The introduction in 2012 of the Mandatory Building Inspection Scheme and Mandatory Window Inspection Scheme triggered a rise in building maintenance and repair works for private buildings with multiple ownership. However, not every maintenance project was completed satisfactorily in terms of time, cost, quality and/or users’ satisfaction. Though no official statistics are available, a considerable number of complaints and dispute cases have resulted, with building owners complaining of unreasonably high repair costs, substandard consultancy services and poor quality of workmanship.

To tackle such problems, it has been suggested that a standard form of building maintenance contract be established to facilitate better project outcomes. Such a well-prepared and fair form of engagement protects the interests of both parties by laying down a comprehensive scope of consultant’s services, roles and duties to avoid future disputes.

According to Sr Daniel Ho, the Urban Renewal Authority’s Director of Building Rehabilitation and Past Chairman of HKIS Quantity Surveying Division, some building owners are unfamiliar with the construction industry and lack knowledge of building maintenance and repair works. He believes it is better for building owners to engage a professional project consultant to supervise the building maintenance and repair works and to prepare the tender documents for procurement of the works contractor. Once building owners have chosen a contractor, the consultant has to supervise the repair project with his professional judgement and ensure satisfactory delivery of services. “I have come across a number of consultancy agreements and works contracts for repairing residential buildings. Their quality is varied. They may not have spelt out clearly the owners’ requirements and the responsibilities and liabilities of the contracting parties,” Sr Ho says. “Therefore, a set of standard contracts and documents with comprehensive scope of consultant/contractor services, roles and duties and necessary information like the length of service should be adopted. This set of documents should give a clear description of the owners’ requirements and a balanced risk-sharing between building owners and consultants / contractors, and thus will allow apple-to-apple comparison on tender prices and a sound foundation for delivery of quality service and work.”

Established in 1984, The Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors (HKIS) is the only surveying professional body incorporated by ordinance
in Hong Kong. As of 1 June 2018, the number of members has reached 10,129, of which 6742 are corporate members, 77 associate members and 3310 probationers and students.
HKIS work includes setting standards for professional services and performance, establishing codes of ethics, determining requirements for admission as professional surveyors, and encouraging members to upgrade skills through continuing professional development.
HKIS has an important consultative role in government policy making and on issues affecting the profession. It has advised the government on issues such as unauthorized building works, building safety campaign, problems of property management, town planning and development strategies, construction quality and housing problems. It is also working on amendments to standard forms of building contract and have issued guidance notes on floor area measurement methods.

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