Sun Hung Kai to replace Arch windows after breakages
Sun Hung Kai faces multimillion-dollar bill to replace windows at showpiece development after nearly 60 fall out in the last four years
Developer Sun Hung Kai Properties will spend tens of millions of dollars replacing tempered-glass windows in more than 1,000 flats at its luxury estate The Arch.
Nearly 60 glass panels have shattered or fallen out there since 2008.
Sun Hung Kai is the first developer to take action against "glass cancer", a defect arising from impurities in heat-hardened glass that can cause it to break.
A South China Morning Post investigation found more than 150 such breakages have been reported at major developments over recent years.
The incidents have raised questions about standards imposed by the Buildings Department, which are well below some of those set in Europe.
The department said it would start a study soon to provide specifications for glass materials and guidelines for their use.
Sun Hung Kai has also bought insurance of HK$30 million for The Arch, a landmark building on the West Kowloon reclamation.
Data from the estate owners' committee shows 59 breakages had been reported by last week - 44 on flats facing the harbour and most above the 60th floor.
More than 10 of the broken panels fell off the building, Sun Hung Kai confirmed.
Owners' committee chairman David Runciman said residents realised the problem was serious after 26 of the glass panels cracked this year and they asked the developer and the department to investigate.
"There are a lot more high-rises in Hong Kong than in many parts of Europe, and [the department] should be paying particular attention to [the standard of the glass]," Runciman said.
Owners are worried about the danger to the public and criminal liabilities in case of injuries.
Sun Hung Kai deputy project director Tony Tang Wai-man said the glass at The Arch was provided by Japanese contractor YKKAP, which produced it on the mainland.
Both Tang and the contractor said the quality complied with the department's standards.
"In fact, we have done more than the department required," Tang said.
Sun Hung Kai glass consultant Dominic Yu Wai-kin said the panels were tested in a heat bath - a process to eliminate glass with impurities - for two hours.
That was double the length of time required by the Buildings Department when The Arch was completed in 2006.
The department raised the requirement to two hours in 2009, but that is still well below the 24 hours specified in some parts of Europe. In May, the department also requested independent verification of the process.
Yu said the problem was dubbed "glass cancer" as it was difficult to remove completely.
Tang said the company would replace all tempered glass in the estate with panels complying with the latest standards over the next five years, with the priority on flats facing the harbour.
A task force had also been set up to deal with breakages within an hour, and safety nets to protect pedestrians from falling glass were being considered.
Tang said the number of breakages was small relative to the 30,000-plus glass panels used on the estate.