Contractor Eyed in Hong Kong Roof Collapse

MONDAY, JUNE 13, 2016

Contractors and university staff are on the hot seat weeks after a green roof collapsed, injuring three, at City University of Hong Kong.

News reports out of Hong Kong say that a report on the May 20 collapse of the university’s sports center recommends the school sue Sinoway Construction Engineering, the contractor on the building’s green roof project.

The internal investigation, according to the South China Morning Post, says the design and construction of the green roof system were at fault for the collapse; the original steel roof on which it was built was not to blame.

The collapse took place around 2:30 p.m. on a Friday, according to reports, and sent three people to the hospital. It reportedly happened just days before an event that would have had the building filled with hundreds of people. The exact measurements of the portion of the roof that collapsed could not be confirmed.

Green Roof Trend

Green roof systems, which involve living vegetation installed on the roof of a building, became popular in highly urbanized Hong Kong in the early 2010s, as a way to address air quality, the heat island effect, stormwater management and aesthetic concerns. They are part of a government greening initiative and have become a significant trend in the city.

Given their weight and tendency to take on water, green roof projects come with a large set of technical specifications to keep them safe.

Loading Issues

The City University investigation committee, headed up by university vice president Professor Paul Lam Kwan-sing, reported that structural loading was an issue in the collapse, and the roof’s drainage system allegedly was not functioning at an acceptable level.

Three engineers who allegedly had ties to the green roof project were invited to participate in the investigation, but declined, according to the Morning Post.

In addition to the contractors, who could face legal action, the investigators recommended disciplinary action for staff and an officer in the university’s facilities office, reports say, because some staff should have questioned aspects of the contractors’ plans on the project.

One bright spot in the story is the actions of a security manager at the building, who noticed problems in a fifth-floor hall and evacuated the facility just minutes before the collapse. Those present that day say the number injured could have been much higher if he hadn’t taken quick action.

Editor's note: This story has been updated as of June 14 to reflect the lack of a confirmed number regarding the size of the roof.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Asia Pacific; Building Envelope; Colleges and Universities; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Engineers; Green roofs; Latin America; North America; Roof gardens

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