For discussion
on 28 May 1997


HEAD 82 - BUILDINGS DEPARTMENT Subhead 001 Salaries

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

1 Chief Structural Engineer

(D1)($86,650 - $91,950)


The Director of Buildings (DB) needs dedicated directorate support to launch a Building Safety Inspection Scheme (BSIS) to address building safety problems through proactive, preventive measures.


2.We propose to create one permanent post of Chief Structural Engineer (CSE)(D1) to head a new Building Safety Inspection (BSI) Section in the Specialist Division of the Buildings Department.


3.Buildings in Hong Kong generally have a design life of 50 to 80 years. During their life span, they may deteriorate through ageing or for various reasons such as erosion or decay of materials and environmental factors. The findings of a recent consultancy study on some 4 000 private buildings constructed between 1946 and 1958 have confirmed a general lack of proper maintenance by owners. Serious accidents such as canopy collapses and fires have aroused considerable public concern over the need of proper building maintenance. In the 12-month period from November 1995 to October 1996, the DB received about 10 200 complaints relating to dangerous buildings, hazardous signs and unauthorised building works. The potential hazards they pose to the public and occupants need to be tackled through proactive, preventive measures.

The Building Safety Inspection Scheme (BSIS)

4.To facilitate the maintenance of buildings, we propose to introduce the BSIS under which building owners will be responsible for engaging Authorised Persons (APs) and Registered Structural Engineers (RSEs) to inspect their buildings in accordance with standards set by the DB. Under the BSIS, we will propose inspection cycles of five, seven and ten years for industrial/godown, domestic/composite and commercial buildings respectively. Based on standards set by the Buildings Department, the inspection will focus on structural stability, fire resistant design, means of escape, change in use of buildings, overloading of building structures and dangerous building works. We will require building owners to carry out rectification works which are identified in the inspection process and considered by DB as essential for meeting the requisite safety standard.

5.We recommend adopting both a voluntary and mandatory approach to implement the BSIS. Since deterioration of younger buildings is comparatively slow because of recent improvements in building technology, we do not consider mandatory inspection necessary for buildings less than 20 years old. We plan to launch a voluntary scheme in mid 1997, initially for the 6 500 buildings completed between 1978 and 1984, to encourage owners to identify and address problems on their own accord. Buildings Department will encourage owners or owners’ corporations (where applicable) to participate in the scheme voluntarily. We will progressively extend the implementation of the voluntary scheme to eventually cover all buildings less than 20 years old.

6.In parallel, we propose to set up a mandatory scheme for buildings over 20 years old. Subject to the outcome of a consultation exercise, we will decide on an action plan to take forward the necessary legislative amendments to the Buildings Ordinance in 1998.

A New Building Safety Inspection Section

7.To ensure consistency in approach, the DB will have to formulate a set of safety standards and procedures for APs and RSEs to follow which will include investigations and assessment of the conditions of buildings, methods and technology for maintenance, and repairs. The DB will also peruse inspection reports prepared by APs and RSEs, assess their recommendations, issue investigation orders for detailed investigations, serve statutory repair orders, decide on the closure of dangerous buildings, and oversee the execution of follow-up actions. In addition, he will deal with appeals and handle prosecution and disciplinary proceedings against building owners, APs, and RSEs arising from the BSIS operations. To encourage participation under the voluntary scheme, we are considering the issue of a letter of satisfaction to owner who has completed repair works in accordance with the prescribed standards.

8.At present, the Specialist and the Control and Enforcement Divisions of the department are mainly responsible for the control and removal of unauthorised building works and dangerous building elements. Because of the heavy workload in these areas, existing staff of the two divisions are fully committed to on-going activities and are unable to take up the work of the proposed BSIS. To implement the voluntary stage of the BSIS, we propose to establish a new BSI Section in the Specialist Division. In addition, we will transfer to it some of the activities currently undertaken by the inspection and action teams in the two existing divisions to rationalise work on building safety.

9.In view of the significant role of the new BSI Section and the substantial structural engineering expertise required for it, we consider its head should be an experienced structural engineer of the appropriate seniority. He has to possess a high degree of professional know-how and practical experience to lead the implementation of the scheme. To represent the department at meetings with APs, RSEs and specialists, he has to be of sufficient stature and possess the requisite authority to scrutinise and give directions on inspection reports of other professionals and specialists. Furthermore, he will need to have the foresight and vision to draw up a framework of technological standards and procedures for the BSIS and to monitor and to keep abreast of latest technological development and share experience gained through implementation of the BSIS. We therefore propose to create a permanent post of CSE (D1), to be departmentally designated as CSE/BSI. The job description of the post is at Enclosure 1. The existing and proposed organisation charts of the Specialist Division of the Buildings Department are at Enclosures 2 and 3 respectively.

Non-directorate Posts

10.The new BSI Section will require the support of 15 non-directorate staff including one Senior Structural Engineer, two Structural Engineers, and 12 other technical and supporting staff. We will create these posts through the normal Departmental Establishment Committee machinery. In addition, DB will redeploy five professional and technical officers including one Senior Structural Engineer, one Structural Engineer and one Building Surveyor from the Specialist and Control and Enforcement Divisions to reinforce the BSI Section. We will review the staffing resources of the new BSI Section with regard to its actual workload should legislative amendments be taken forward for the implementation of the mandatory BSIS.


11.The additional notional annual salary cost of the proposal at mid-point is $1,070,400. The full annual average staff cost of the proposal, including salaries and staff on-cost, is $2,059,788.

12.In addition, this proposal will necessitate the creation of 15 additional non-directorate posts (see paragraph 10 above) at a notional annual mid-point salary cost of $4,120,740 and a full annual staff cost of $6,607,884. We have included sufficient provision in the 1997-98 Estimates to meet the cost of this proposal.


13.The Executive Council at its meeting on 25 March 1997 endorsed the proposal to consult the public on the voluntary and mandatory BSIS. Following this, we are now consulting the building professions on the technical standards and requirements for the inspection, and plan to conduct public consultation involving a wider spectrum of the community in July 1997.


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


15.The Standing Committee on Directorate Salaries and Conditions of Service has advised that the grading proposed for the post of Chief Structural Engineer would be appropriate if the post were to be created.

Planning, Environment and Lands Branch

May 1997


Enclosure 1 to EC (97-98)9

Job Description Chief Structural Engineer/Building Safety Inspection

Rank: Chief Structural Engineer (D1)

Duties and Responsibilities

Responsible to Assistant Director/Specialist (AD/S) for the day-to-day administration of the Building Safety Inspection Section with the objective to ensure that private buildings are regularly and properly maintained so that they are safe to occupants and the public at large.

  1. Sets standards for investigations, assessment of conditions of buildings, maintenance of buildings and methods and technology for repairs.

  2. Carries out consultant management with respect to the preparation of a code of practice on Building Safety Inspection.

  3. Considers the recommendations given in building safety inspection reports submitted by Authorized Persons and Registered Structural Engineers (AP and RSE).

  4. Signs and issues Investigation Orders relating to Detailed Investigation (second level investigation) under the Building Safety Inspection Scheme (BSIS).

  5. Makes decision to close buildings which are in his opinion dangerous and oversees the execution of appropriate follow-up actions.

  6. Deals with appeals against Investigation Orders, repair orders and appears before the Appeal Tribunal.

  7. Considers AP/RSE’s completion reports, signs and issues Letter of Satisfaction to building owners.

  8. Supervises the compilation of periodical statistics and reports pertaining to the activities of the BSIS.

  9. Makes recommendations on prosecution and disciplinary proceedings against building owner, AP, RSE and Registered Contractor arising from BSIS operations.

  10. Oversees the day-to-day administration and management of the Building Safety Inspection Section.

  11. Monitors the progress of and assesses the effectiveness of BSIS, and considers ways of improvement on its implementation.

  12. Monitors the application of and updates from time to time technical guidelines on inspection, appraisal and repair of buildings for BSIS.



Last Updated on 12 August 1999