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Friday, June 10, 2016, 18:42

Report exposes responsibility for roof collapse

By Luis Liu

Report exposes responsibility for roof collapse

This photo taken on May 20, 2016 shows the collapsed roof of a building at the City University of Hong Kong. (Parker Zheng / China Daily)

HONG KONG - Responsibility for the collapse of the rooftop on a sports complex in the City University of Hong Kong (CityU) lay with those professionals and organizations involved in designing its green roof, a new report concludes.

The report has been filed by the university's investigation panel on the incident.

CityU President Kuo Way said he accepted the conclusions in the report and will take legal action against the relevant parties.

The roof garden project's chief surveyor, who the panel believed to be Kenneth Chan Jor-kin, may have used flawed data and wrong estimates in the overall design.

Hours after the collapse last month, the university said Chan was the authorized person. But Chan, who is a former president of the Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors, denied the allegation.

Meanwhile, the soil materials and drainage system of greening works as well as rainy weather are possible factors contributing to the collapse, the report suggested.

The report also blamed that Campus Development and Facilities Office (CDFO) of the university. It said they had relied solely on the contractor without checking the project’s feasibility.

Kuo said the university will consider reviewing the office and invite third-party experts to help check the safety of future building projects on campus.

The university claimed it had observed the necessary procedures, from tendering to contract confirmation. The contract document was prepared in accordance with normal industry practices, it said.

However, Paul Lam Kwan-sing, a member of the investigation committee, and also a vice-president and chief of staff of the university, admitted there were constraints and limitations during the investigation.

“All information was provided by CDFO colleagues only. We are unable to meet with professionals involved in design or construction of original rooftop or in greening project.” Lam said.

“As we have no access to the collapsed rooftop, we are unable to conduct any laboratory tests on materials from the site or do examinations of the structure.” Lam added.

The university plans to build a new building on the incident site in future for academic studies and student activities.

The 1,400-square-meter rooftop of Hu Fa Kuang Sports Centre, a sports complex at CityU, collapsed around 2:30 pm on May 20. Two men were injured and a woman was reported to be suffering from shock.

On May 23, an eight-member (increased to nine people on May 25) investigation committee began to probe the collapse and organized seven meetings in the past two weeks.

However, off-campus professionals, including the believed authorized surveyor, Kenneth Chan, shareholder representative of Sinoway Construction Engineering - subcontractor to the green project - Sam Mak Kang-hoi and registered structural engineer, Tsang Yin-sang, declined to attend a meeting with the committee.

On possible lawsuit, Barrister Albert Luk Wai-hung said sufficient evidence is in need to decide which party should bear legal responsibility for this incident.

“It remains to be identified whether the university has sought professional opinions on feasibility of the greening project on the original structure,” Luk said.

“Meanwhile, whether the project design and roof’s load-carrying capacity had complied with the law and regulations and who made the decision not to register the project at Buildings Department, are also vital issues that need to be cleared,” said Luk.

He also said there was no prior case could be followed since it was the first time that rooftop collapse incident happened at a large building in Hong Kong.

Former chairman of the Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors Vincent Ho Kui-yip said local surveyors should be fully aware of the risk of constructing gardens on a large-scale roof. However, he stressed that if the CityU had been informed of the loading capacity before making the decision, it also had to shoulder the responsibility.

The Education Bureau said they will study the report carefully and will forward it to the Buildings Department for a follow-up.

In addition, the University Grants Committee (UGC) had written to the eight UGC-funded universities to ask them to carry out full inspections of their campus buildings, especially those with green roofs. This is in order to ensure structural safety.

Dara Wang contributed to the story.

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