Tighter floor-numbering guidelines on the cards

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 November, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 November, 2009, 12:00am

Hong Kong is considering tightening the guidelines on the use of misleading floor numbers for new developments after a developer's marketing gimmick at a luxury residential block in the Mid-Levels caused a public outcry.

The issue arose when Henderson Land Development skipped 48 floor numbers at its 39 Conduit Road residential block so it could market the top two floors of the project as the 68th and 88th floors.

Both are lucky numbers in Chinese numerology.

A duplex on the 43rd and 44th floors, which were together labelled the 68th floor, sold for a world-record HK$88,000 per square foot of saleable area last month.

The expected new guidelines would not compel or require compliance by the industry.

'It is a guideline from the government; we will observe it,' a Henderson spokesman said yesterday. 'There is nothing to add, as our chairman has talked about it.'

Last Thursday, Henderson chairman Lee Shau-kee said his firm would take note of the government's call for self-regulation by developers.

'We will skip fewer floors in future,' said Lee. 'It is not a big deal. It does not matter.'

Sino Land also said it would follow the guidelines. Sun Hung Kai Properties was unavailable for comment.

Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said the Buildings Department had decided to review and amend the existing 'practice note' to formulate a reasonable approach and a code of good practice for floor numbering for the industry to adopt on a self-discipline basis.

The practice note is a guideline for practitioners, such as registered structural and geotechnical engineers, who are employed by developers to help prepare building plans and submit applications for approval. Such practice notes are often adopted by the industry.

'The Buildings Department will soon make proposals and consult the building sub-committee of the Land and Development Advisory Committee in respect of floor numbering arrangements for buildings, with a view to revising the practice note as soon as possible,' Lam told the Legislative Council yesterday.

Pang Siu-kee, the managing director of SK Pang Surveyors, said: 'Yes, you are not required to do so, as it is not a law. But going against the government's advice will not be good for your business.'

Regarding Henderson's project at Conduit Road, Lam said the building plans also indicated that the 40th, 41st, 42nd, 43rd, 45th and 46th floors were also known as the 60th, 61st, 63rd, 66th, 68th and 88th floors.

Since the actual and the 'also-known-as' floor numbers were arranged from lower to upper floors in ascending order, she said, the Buildings Department considered no amendment was necessary.

'The public is concerned about the Conduit Road case not because of a significant deviation from the common practice in floor numbering,' said Lam. 'It is because the case adopts a very rare arrangement of adding an 'as-known-as' designation of floor numbers on the top of the actual floor numbers.'

She said it might affect the efficiency of the government's provision of emergency services, such as fire fighting and ambulance operations, if the numbering of the floors was too unconventional and overly complicated.

The Transport and Housing Bureau will discuss with the Real Estate Developers' Association the requirement that developers set out floor numbering information clearly in the section on 'Basic information of the development' in the front part of the sales brochure.

Under the Buildings Ordinance, the Building Authority has no statutory power to refuse to approve a building plan because of the arrangement of floor numbers of a building as shown on the plans.

Nevertheless, if the Building Authority considers that the floor numbers of a building as shown on the building plans are not arranged in a logical sequence or not generally in order, it may suggest that the applicant make amendments.