Hong Kong housing

Hong Kong substandard steel scandal ‘will not threaten safety’ of Shau Kei Wan housing project

Head of city’s second-largest public housing provider tries to assuage concerns that structural integrity could be at risk at estate set to provide 4,000 flats

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 May, 2018, 9:05pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 May, 2018, 11:33pm

The head of Hong Kong’s second-largest public housing provider on Thursday moved to dispel safety fears after a scandal at a redevelopment project where a contractor was found using substandard steel.

Housing Society chief executive Wong Kit-loong’s comments came a day after it was revealed that a subcontractor helping redevelop Ming Wah Dai Ha residential estate in Shau Kei Wan had used steel bars weighing a total of 7.5 tonnes before completion of strength tests.

Preliminary results had shown some bars from the batch of 20 tonnes did not meet safety standards.

The society said it had discovered the shortcoming through its quality control system when independent engineers conducted regular checks on construction work at the site. 

The project’s main contractor, Chun Wo Building Construction, removed the substandard material and discarded the whole 20-tonne batch, despite not all the bars having been found lacking.

Wong on Thursday said he believed one subcontractor, Leung Kai Engineering Company, had wanted to speed up construction to meet deadlines, and so decided to use the bars prematurely.

“But we believe [the incident] will not affect the structural safety of the building or progress of the project, because the concreting procedure has not started,” he said. 

The episode reflected that the society’s quality control and monitoring system was effective, he added.

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“We have a very tight monitoring system. That’s how we found out about this not-so-satisfactory situation,” he said.

Wong added that the society had told the main contractor to submit a report on the incident, and penalties would me meted out based on that report.

Potential punishments could include deducting points from the contractor in an internal scoring system, banning the firm from bidding for work for a set period, or even removing the company from the society’s list of contractors.

Veteran surveyor Vincent Ho Kui-yip said the steel bars in question had not been used for the main support system of the building, so would not have significantly affected structural safety.

However, their use might have affected the building’s lifespan, Ho said, so it was right that they had been replaced.

Tony Tse Wai-chuen, the lawmaker who represents the architectural and surveying sector in Hong Kong’s legislature, said the main contractor had a responsibility to check the quality of all construction work, and the society should find out whether there were any problems with the firm’s monitoring system.

He said construction materials which have not passed safety tests should not be stored on construction sites, to prevent them being used in error.

The first stage of the Ming Wah Dai Ha redevelopment project is expected to be completed by the end of next year. The entire project, which will eventually provide 4,000 flats, will be finished by 2031.