Relief at last for ladies who have to queue
New shopping malls, cinemas and offices will have to provide more female toilets to reduce queuing time.
'Ladies have suffered because of inadequate provision of toilets in public places,' a Development Bureau spokesman said yesterday. 'Nowadays, it is uncivil ... This is very unacceptable.
'We need to update the 1959 rules because society has changed over the years.'
There was also the fact that women spent longer in restrooms.
The 1959 regulations, which prescribe the minimum standards of latrines, adopt a 1 to 1 male-to-female ratio when deciding how many water closets to install. The bureau now suggests the ratio to be adjusted to 1 male to 1.5 female.
The rules, which will be revised and take effect in about a year, will cover malls, cinemas and other entertainment places in future buildings. Existing buildings will not be affected unless they undergo a major renovation.
For example, for a cinema with a capacity of 300, previously it was assumed that half of the audience were male and half female, thereby requiring a urinal and a toilet in the gents and two toilets in the ladies.
In future, it will be assumed that only 120 of the cinema-goers are men, and 180 women.
While the number of facilities in the gents will remain the same, the ladies will have to have four toilets.
For offices, the assumed ratio for male to female, 2 to 1, will be raised to 1 to 1.
The proposal is supported by the bureau's own surveys, which found that while 88 per cent of male shoppers interviewed said they did not need to queue to use the toilets, 44 per cent of female shoppers said they did.
The women, on average, have to wait five to 10 minutes before using a toilet in shopping malls. The worst case in the survey featured a woman waiting for nearly 17 minutes.
Dr Lo Wing-lok, vice-president of the Toilet Association, said the change was necessary because women had a much more active social life than 50 years ago and there were now more women than men in the city.
In the census results announced yesterday, the male to female ratio was 1 to 1.14.
Meanwhile, the bureau will introduce subsidiary legislation to regulate subdivided flats. Such flats are commonplace in old buildings providing accommodation for the poor but they are often illegally set up and pose problems such as fire risks, overloading and water seepage.
The proposed law will require a flat owner to hire an 'authorised person' - architect, surveyor or engineer - to do the partition work if he or she wants to divide the home into three or more cubicles, each with its own toilet.
Such work includes installing partition walls, thickening floor slabs and altering door openings.
Owners failing to comply will face a maximum penalty of HK$100,000. Any unqualified person who conducts the work will face the same fine and six months in jail.
Separately, the bureau also summarised its work on heritage conservation.
Since 2007, it has failed to save at least three private historic buildings as the owners were not interested in the compensation offers the bureau made.
Those three buildings were all old village houses - in Yuen Long's Tak Kei Leng Tsuen, Sha Tin's Kak Tin village and Wu Kai Sha village in Ma On Shan.
It is estimated that this many people in the world do not have access to sanitation, mostly in Asia and Africa