For discussion
on on 14 January 1998


Subhead 003 Recoverable salaries and allowances

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

1 Chief Structural Engineer

(D1) ($92,650 - $98,300)


The existing directorate support of the two Structural Engineering (SE) Sections of the Development and Construction Branch (D&CB), formerly known as the New Development Branch, of the Housing Department (the Department) is inadequate to cope with the increase in the complexity and volume of work and to improve the quality of services provided.


2. The Director of Housing proposes to create a permanent post of Chief Structural Engineer (CSE) (D1) to head a third SE Section in the D&CB of the Department.


3. The D&CB is responsible for providing multi-disciplinary building input and services for the construction of new public housing projects, development of standard blocks, and provision of advisory service to Private Sector Participation Scheme (PSPS) projects. At present, there are two SE Sections in the branch, each headed by a CSE. The two CSEs are responsible for directing and overseeing the wide range of duties outlined in Enclosure 1. In addition, they are required to undertake the role of the Building Authority in ensuring that all building demolitions and the design and construction of all structural and foundation works comply with the Building Ordinance for the projects under their charge.

4. The scope of responsibilities and the workload of the two CSEs have increased significantly over the past few years and will continue to increase in the wake of the Department's commitment to meet the Chief Executive's pledge on housing production announced in his Policy Address. The increase in work is attributable to the following factors -

  1. Increase in Flat Production - The Department will increase average flat production from 35 000 to no less than 50 000 flats a year by 1999. While the Department will draw on the resources of consultants where necessary, a considerable proportion of new housing projects still need to be undertaken in-house. The increasing number of in-house projects has added to the workload and management responsibilities of the two CSEs in the provision of structural engineering input at the directorate level.

  2. Management of Consultants - To cope with the upsurge of workload arising from the increase in housing production, the Department has already entrusted 54 projects to consultants within the past 20 months and has plans to farm out another 16 new consultancies in the coming year. The CSEs are responsible for the selection, appointment and monitoring of consultants in the structural engineering field. In their role as the Building Authority for these consultancy projects, they have to ensure that the consultants comply with the Building Ordinance for all structural and foundation works.

  3. New Standard Block Designs and their Continuous Updating - The Department currently maintains 22 standard designs of Home Ownership Scheme blocks, representing an increase of 47% as compared with 15 in 1995. While new block types are introduced from time to time to meet the demand for a wider variety of designs, existing types need to be updated regularly to meet the rising expectations of prospective owners and to meet new statutory requirements. In developing new block types and updating existing ones, the CSEs' input is required to ensure that the structural designs are cost-effective and comply with all established design standards, the Department's and the relevant statutory requirements.

  4. Complexity of Work - The engineering services provided by the SE Sections have become increasingly complex, necessitating considerable professional input and direction from the CSEs. This is mainly attributable to the increase in the number of housing sites located in areas with difficult ground conditions; the enforcement of more stringent legislation on environmental protection and constraints imposed by the Environmental Protection Department on new housing estate projects in urban areas, for example, the provision of single aspect blocks as a noise barrier for estates adjacent to main roads with heavy traffic; and the substantial increase in the number of housing projects where podium structures are provided to maximise utilization of the sites.

  5. PSPS Projects - As one of the measures to increase the supply of subsidised home ownership flats, the Department will increase the annual production of PSPS units to supply a total of about 50 600 units for the five year period ending 2001-02. This will substantially increase the workload of the CSEs in providing structural engineering advice on the planning, design, construction and post-completion administration of projects under the scheme.

  6. Building Components and Materials - To ensure that the materials from the approved suppliers comply with the Department's requirements, frequent investigations, surveillance tests and factory visits that require professional input at the CSE level are necessary. Since 1993-94, the approved lists of building components and materials and the number of suppliers/brands have increased by 279% and 299% respectively. The number of factory visits has increased by 218% during the same period of time.

  7. Research - To improve the efficiency and quality of housing production, the Department has undertaken a number of new initiatives in construction technology pertaining to structural works, such as the use of fabric reinforcement, autoclaved aerated concrete, lightweight cold formed steel, watertightness dry joint of precast facades, tunnel formwork and high strength concrete. These undertakings necessitate technological input, close supervision and direction at the CSE level.

  8. Performance Assessment Scoring System (PASS) - The Department introduced the PASS in 1990 to measure and control the performance of contractors. The CSEs oversee the operation of the system by ensuring effective and accurate measurement of the contractors' performance against defined standards and the imposition of new measures on construction management and site inspection procedures, through the on-going monitoring and enhancement of the scoring mechanism.

  9. Setting and Updating of Structural Engineering Standards - The Department has been playing an active role, through participation in various Government committees, in the task of aligning the local construction standards from British to international standards and in the review of various structural engineering codes of practices. Apart from the work associated with these reviews, the CSEs are also involved in the setting of standards and the approval of specifications for new engineering materials and construction methods as these are introduced for use in the housing projects from time to time to improve efficiency and to speed up construction. The work calls for CSEs' professional knowledge and requires communicating with other departments and private firms at the directorate level.

  10. Laboratory Testing Services - To control the quality of steel reinforcement bars and concrete used in the housing projects, the Department's Materials Testing Laboratory (MTL) coordinates and monitors all testing services including those provided by private testing laboratories. MTL also assists in the management of the approved lists of building components and materials, conducting factory visits and preparing technical testing specifications during the procurement process. Currently, MTL carries out some of the quality control tests on four main types of building materials, namely paints, tiles, waterproofing materials and repair mortars. According to its development plan, it will soon extend its testing services to some major building components, i.e. metal gates, dry walls and timber doors. The management of materials and testing services has a high engineering content, requiring direction/input at the CSE level for the regular review of testing methods, setting of testing standards, interpretation of test results and assessment of properties/strength of materials and components.

5. Given the increase in volume and complexity of work as described above, both CSE/1 and CSE/2 are already overloaded and have not been able to devote sufficient time and attention to the full range of their duties. At present, they have to supervise altogether 261 staff, comprising Senior Structural Engineers (SSE), Structural Engineers and technical/site supervisory staff, compared with 116 when the two CSE posts were created 13 years ago. This span of control is too extensive for the two CSEs to effectively and realistically manage their Sections. The Director of Housing therefore proposes to create an additional CSE post to alleviate the heavy workload and to rationalise the span of control of CSE/1 and CSE/2.

6. With the creation of the proposed CSE post, the SE Sections will be reorganised into three sections. The two existing CSEs will continue to take charge of Sections 1 and 2, each to be supported by six SSEs, overseeing works projects in the urban areas and the new towns respectively. The proposed additional CSE, to be designated as CSE/3, will head the SE Section 3. He will be supported by six SSEs and one Senior Architect. This new Section will be responsible for providing structural engineering input in the development and updating of standard block designs, setting and updating of technical guidelines and structural engineering standards, monitoring of materials and testing services, quality assurance matters, and selection, appointment and monitoring of consultants. With the technical support and services provided centrally by CSE/3, CSE/1 and CSE/2 can devote their full attention to the works projects, thus resulting in more efficient and cost-effective services provided by the SE Sections.

7. The existing and proposed organisation charts of the D&CB are at Enclosures 2 and 3.The revised job descriptions of CSE/1 and CSE/2 are at Enclosure 4, the proposed job description of CSE/3 is at Enclosure 5.


8. The additional notional annual salary cost of this proposal at mid-point is $1,144,200. The full annual average staff cost of the proposal, including salaries and staff on-costs, is $2,114,340.

9. In addition, this proposal will necessitate the creation of an additional non-directorate post (Personal Secretary II post) at a notional annual mid-point salary cost of $171,960 and a full annual average staff cost of $283,620.

10. We will recover the full staff cost of this proposal from the Housing Authority.


11. The ranking and grading of the proposed post are appropriate having regard to its duties and responsibilities.


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

Housing Department

December 1997

Enclosure 1 to EC(97-98)45

The scope of duties of the Structural Engineering (SE) Sections

The SE Sections are responsible for -

  1. providing structural engineering input and services for the planning, design and construction of new public housing projects;

  2. providing structural input and advice on the development of standard blocks;

  3. structural design of standard blocks;

  4. managing structural consultants for consultancy projects;

  5. providing materials testing services for new development and maintenance projects;

  6. managing the in-house Materials Testing Laboratory to back up and police the performance of external testing agencies;

  7. providing structural advice on PSPS projects;

  8. providing calibration services for inspection, and measuring and testing equipment used for supervision of construction works; and

    development and maintaining standards and specifications for all types of structural engineering works.

Enclosure 4 to EC(97-98)45

Revised Job Description

Chief Structural Engineer/1
Chief Structural Engineer/2

Rank : Chief Structural Engineer (D1)

Duties and Responsibilities :

  1. To administer the Structural Engineering (SE) Section 1 (Urban Areas) and Section 2 (New Towns) respectively.

  2. To oversee the provision of structural engineering services for the planning, design and construction of public housing projects.

  3. To undertake the role of the Building Authority in ensuring the safety of all foundations and structures for projects under their purview.

  4. To assist in formulating policies relating to the control of quality and standard of structural engineering work in public housing projects.

  5. To coordinate the planning, design and execution of structural engineering work in public housing projects with all relevant professional disciplines in the Department and other concerned Government departments.

  6. To act as the Contract Manager for demolition and foundation contracts under their charge.

  7. To oversee the development and implementation of the quality management system applicable to SE Sections.

  8. To plan, review and manage resources for the Section to cope with the public housing development programme and other commitments.

Enclosure 5 to EC(97-98)45

Proposed Job Description

Chief Structural Engineer/3

Rank : Chief Structural Engineer (D1)

Duties and Responsibilities :

  1. To administer the Structural Engineering (SE) Section 3.

  2. To co-ordinate and manage the provision of material testing services for public housing construction and maintenance and to keep abreast of the latest developments in the testing standard.

  3. To co-ordinate and monitor the commercial laboratories to perform materials testing including the continuing development and implementation of a Laboratory Assessment Scoring System for the laboratories.

  4. To be responsible for central selection, performance reporting and appointment of consultants in structural engineering aspects.

  5. To provide structural engineering input and advice to the development of standard housing blocks.

  6. To undertake the Building Authority's function to ensure that the structural designs of standard housing blocks are in compliance with all established design standards and relevant statutory requirements.

  7. To provide technical support for the setting and updating of structural engineering standards, including advice on the effects of any changes in statutory requirements and the establishment and control of the standards and specifications for all demolition, foundation and structural works.

  8. To oversee the development and implementation of the Performance Assessment Scoring System in building contracts.

  9. To manage the approved lists of building components and materials, and ensure that their quality complies with the Department's requirements.

  10. To provide structural engineering advice to the Department on schemes submitted by private developers under the Private Sector Participation Scheme; and to review and update the technical schedules relating to structural works.

  11. To monitor the provision of calibration services for inspection, measuring and testing equipment used for supervision of construction works.

  12. To initiate research studies into materials, components, products and construction techniques with a view to improving the design and construction of buildings and foundations in public housing projects.