【明報專訊】Two private residential blocks under construction atop Tai Wai MTR Station have been found to have failed concrete strength tests. The developer has decided to tear down the blocks for reconstruction, promised to compensate hundreds of buyers and apologised to them.
Major structural problems in buildings under construction are extremely rare in Hong Kong. The last time a building had to be demolished happened between the late 1990s and the early 21st century, when the short piling scandal was exposed at the Yuen Chau Kok Home Ownership Scheme site, Sha Tin. The contractor involved cut corners and left the Housing Department in the dark. The scandal came to light only after the blocks were completed and surveyed. Eventually, two blocks involving short piling had to be demolished. The demolition and rebuilding of blocks of flats under construction on private housing estates have not happened before. Hong Kong people are fond of property purchases, with some favouring private housing and some subsidised housing. That two towers at The Pavilia Farm III, a new property project in Tai Wai, will be demolished and rebuilt has come as a shock. Buyers who have been affected have inevitably been taken aback, while the general public is also very concerned with that.
The Pavilia Farm is a construction project atop an MTR station. Handled by New World Development, it consists of three phases and a total of seven residential blocks. Thanks to its attractive geographic location, the project has attracted large numbers of registrations of intent since it became available for sale amid the pandemic last October. It even set a new record for a new property project, as more than 3,000 units, accounting for around 98% of the entire project, have been sold up to now. In the two blocks that have to be demolished and reconstructed, more than ten storeys have already been built. According to New World Development, the day on which buyers can move in is expected to be delayed by around nine months, and 846 households will be affected. Hong Kong people love buying properties. The property developer will allow buyers who have forked out for the flats but have suffered such an unexpected setback to choose to cancel the transaction, and all affected buyers will be reasonably compensated and subsidised. These are the right things to do. The government should closely monitor the latest developments and ensure that consumers' rights are adequately protected. At the same time, it has a responsibility to thoroughly investigate the incident and get to the root of the incident.
In mid-June, New World Development received notification from the contractor about some problematic data concerning the concrete used in part of the wall structure in one of the blocks. Further inspection revealed that the strength of some concrete samples from the podium walls in another building in the same phase did not meet the standards either. On June 18, the Buildings Department received a notice from a registered structural engineer of the Pavilia Farm project and learned of the issue. The registered structural engineer assessed the two buildings as safe. However, having confirmed the test results comprehensively, New World Development notified the MTR and the Buildings Department on July 6 to propose the demolition and reconstruction of the two blocks on its own initiative. Two days later, New World Development announced the demolition and compensation, emphasising that it had charged the contractor with a thorough investigation of the incident and had immediately replaced the site supervision team. The MTR and the Buildings Department have also responded to the incident separately and requested New World Development to submit a detailed investigation report.
The incident has attracted widespread public attention. The developer and the government should increase transparency in information dissemination and mopping-up by, for example, making public the concrete test reports, explaining in detail the cause of the incident and informing the public of how to avoid similar problems in the future.
明報社評 2021.07.09：新樓拆建事不尋常 徹查肇因檢討處理
■/ Glossary 生字 /
cut corners：to do sth in the easiest, cheapest or quickest way, often by ignoring rules or leaving sth out
be taken aback (by sb/sth)：to be shocked or surprised by sb/sth
root：the main cause of sth, such as a problem or difficult situation