For discussion EC(97-98)6

on 14 May 1997



Subhead 001 Salaries

Members are invited to recommend to Finance Committee the creation of the following permanent post -

    1 Chief Building Surveyor
    (D1) ($86,650 - $91,950)


The Director of Buildings (DB) needs dedicated directorate support to implement the newly introduced statutory requirements to provide better fire protection for occupants, users and visitors of certain kinds of commercial premises, such as banks and department stores.


2. We propose to create one permanent post of Chief Building Surveyor (D1) to head a new Fire Safety Improvement Section in the Buildings Department.


3. The Fire Safety (Commercial Premises) Ordinance (the Ordinance) was passed in the Legislative Council on 5 March 1997. The Ordinance covers premises with a total floor area exceeding 230 square meters which are used for prescribed commercial activities, including banking, off-course betting, jewellery or goldsmith business that have a security area, supermarket, department store or shopping arcade. It requires owners and occupiers of these prescribed commercial premises (PCP) to upgrade the fire safety measures in their premises, which include fire service installations and equipment, means of escape, means of access for fire fighting and rescue, and fire resisting construction. It also provides enforcement authority for the Director of Fire Services and the DB to ensure that owners and occupiers comply with the fire safety requirements under the Ordinance.

The New Fire Safety Improvement Section

4. As the enforcement authority in relation to the planning, design and construction of the PCP, DB has the power to enter and inspect premises which he believes should be prescribed under the Ordinance. He may serve on appropriate owners or occupiers fire safety directions for their compliance with the fire safety requirements. On default cases, the DB may apply to the magistracy for the issue of a fire safety compliance order, or to the District Court for the issue of a use restriction order prohibiting the use of the PCP for any prescribed commercial activity.

5. The Ordinance will be applicable to all PCP comprising or forming part of buildings whether they are constructed before or after the commencement date of the Ordinance. In the initial stage of implementation, the DB aims to complete in the first three years the improvement and upgrading works for some 500 PCP comprising part of existing buildings constructed before 1973 which do not have sprinklers. His ultimate target is to cover all PCP in the territory and he expects to complete enforcement action on all PCP in buildings with occupation permits issued before 1990 in 11 years’ time. A proposed implementation plan is at Enclosure 1. DB estimates that there are more than 6 500 PCP which need upgrading and improvement work under the Ordinance. 6. Given the dynamic nature of commercial activities, commercial occupiers may move from one premises to another. Owners or occupiers may also carry out alteration work to the original premises, change the use of other commercial premises to the prescribed commercial activities, or combine small premises to form large premises coming under the control of the Ordinance. In addition, we expect that 400 new PCP will emerge annually. Moreover, the DB will give advice to the Housing Authority on the improvement to fire safety standard of existing and new buildings under its control or management. Besides, we anticipate that we may need to review and update the codes of practice specifying the standards required under the legislation in line with changing technology. All these require the active and regular involvement of the DB in this area of works. The heavy and on-going requirement therefore calls for adequate, dedicated professional and staff resources at both the directorate and non-directorate level to assist the DB to perform his functions under the Ordinance.

7. At present, the two Control Sections in the Control & Enforcement (C&E) Division of the Buildings Department are dedicated mainly to the control and removal of unauthorised building works (UBW) in the territory. Fully committed to their on-going responsibilities to deal with some 8 200 reports on UBW in a year, and with a rising trend in the number of cases necessitating inspections, issue of advisory letters and orders, and the removal of the UBW, the two Control Sections will not be able to take on any additional workload. In this light, and after a careful review of the existing manpower resources and nature of work of other divisions of the department, we conclude that it would not be feasible for the existing divisions to absorb the additional workload effectively.

8. We therefore propose to establish a new Fire Safety Improvement (FSI) Section in the C&E Division of the Buildings Department to focus on the implementation of the statutory requirements on the PCP. The existing and the proposed organisation charts of the C&E Division are at Enclosures 2 and 3 respectively.

9. Meanwhile, we are planning to extend the scope of the Ordinance to upgrade the fire safety standards of some 1 400 commercial buildings with their building plans submitted before 1987. Before the enactment of the necessary legislative changes, we will carry out inspections to these buildings and provide advice to owners and recommend improvement works. The first priority will be to deal with some 400 old commercial buildings constructed before there were mandatory requirements for installation of sprinklers in 1973. We propose that the new FSI Section takes up these functions as a logical extension of its responsibilities.

Post of CBS/Fire Safety Improvement

10. In view of the significant role and functions of the new FSI Section, we consider that it should be headed by an experienced officerprofessional of the appropriate seniority. He has to possess the requisite professional experience and management expertise to oversee the implementation of the new legislation and to achieve its objective effectively and expeditiously. To this end, the officer has to be well versed in the relevant Buildings Ordinance, Regulations and Codes of .Practice, Government policies and work practices. In addition, he needs to be of sufficient stature to work with company managers and major property owners in the private sector to secure compliance with obligations under the Ordinance. He will have to have the foresight and vision to lead review and research projects to upgrade fire safety standards in pace with advancement in building technology and the needs of the community. We therefore propose to create one permanent post of Chief Building Surveyor (CBS) (D1), departmentally designated as CBS/Fire Safety Improvement, to head the new section and to report to the Assistant Director of Buildings (Control and Enforcement). The job description of the post is at Enclosure 4.

Non-directorate Posts

11. To enforce the Ordinance, the new dedicated FSI Section will require the support of 15 non-directorate posts which include three Building Surveyors/Assistant Building Surveyors, and six Survey Officers. We will create these posts through the normal Departmental Establishment Committee machinery. In addition, in relation to the inspection of and advisory function for the improvement of fire safety standards of some 400 old commercial buildings, the proposed CBS/Fire Safety Improvement will also supervise an internally redeployed unit of three teams comprising seven non-directorate officers, namely, one Senior Building Surveyor, three Building Surveyors and three Survey Officers.


12. The additional notional annual salary cost of this proposal at mid-point is $1,070,400. The full annual average staff cost of the proposal, including salaries and staff on-cost, is $1,889,112.

13. In addition, this proposal will necessitate the creation of 15 additional non-directorate posts at a notional annual mid-point salary cost of $3,376,650 and a full annual staff cost of $5,602,260 (see paragraph 11 above). We have included sufficient provision in the 1997-98 Estimates to meet the cost of this proposal.


14. Following the fire at the Shek Kip Mei Branch of Hongkong Bank in 1994 which resulted in a heavy death toll, we commissioned a special inter-departmental investigation team to identify measures to prevent the recurrence of similar incidents. The investigation team has recommended that fire safety standards and means of escape in certain types of existing commercial premises should be upgraded.

15. In the light of the recommendations of the investigation team, we consider that a statutory self-regulatory system, supplemented by enforcement actions in case of default, will be effective to improve the fire safety standards of bank and similar commercial premises with a total floor area exceeding 230 square meters. These premises attract a significant number of members of the public who are not familiar with the exit routes of the premises. We took forward legislative amendments which have culminated in the enactment of the Ordinance.


16. Civil Service Branch considers the ranking and grading of the proposed post to be appropriate, having regard to the responsibilities and professional input required.


17. The Standing Committee on Directorate Salaries and Conditions of Service has advised that the grading proposal for the post would be appropriate if the posts were to be created.

Security Branch
May 1997

Enclosure 1 to EC(97-98)6

Fire Safety (Commercial Premises) Bill

Implementation Plan


Time Schedule

Estimated time

to complete

enforcement actions

Scope of work

Phase 1

The first 3 years after the enactment of the Bill

3 years

around 500 prescribed commercial premises without sprinkler installation as identified by FSD in a survey conducted in 1995

Phase 2

The 4th year to 7th year after the enactment of the Bill

4 years

prescribed commercial premises in buildings with occupation permits issued before 1980

(estimated no. 2 000)

Phase 3

The 8th year to 11th year after the enactment of the Bill

4 years

prescribed commercial premises in buildings with occupation permits issued between 1980 and 1990

(estimated no. 3 000)

Phase 4

prescribed commercial premises in buildings with occupation permits issued after 1990

(estimated no. 1 500)

Enclosure 4 to EC(97-98)6

Job Description Chief Building Surveyor/Fire Safety Improvement

Rank: Chief Building Surveyor (D1)

Duties and Responsibilities

Responsible to the Assistant Director/Control and Enforcement (AD/C) for the day-to-day administration of the Fire Safety Improvement Section with the objective to provide better safeguards against fire in existing commercial premises. His duties include :

  1. the overall administration of the Fire Safety Improvement Section;

  2. providing professional support for the formulation of policies pertaining to the implementation of the Fire Safety (Commercial Premises) Ordinance;

  3. assisting in the review of legislation on fire safety standards in commercial premises;

  4. approving and issuing fire safety directions relating to affected premises;

  5. approving plans for fire safety upgrading, remedial and/or reinstatement works to affected premises;

  6. dealing with appeals against statutory orders and applications for use restriction orders;

  7. initiating and dealing with litigation and prosecution arising from fire safety improvement;

  8. keeping under constant review the estimate, expenditure, policy, procedures and duties of the Section;

  9. representing the department in attending conferences and committees of government departments and public bodies, and in courts as the representative of the Director of Buildings;

  10. supervising the work of a Commercial Building Unit in their performance of inspection, advisory and enforcement function for the improvement of fire safety standards of old commercial buildings;

  11. leading a team of professional and technical staff on emergency duty during tropical cyclones or other adverse weather conditions; and

  12. performing such other duties as may be assigned to him by AD/C.


Last Updated on 12 August 1999