A committee investigating the rooftop collapse at the City University of Hong Kong has suggested seeking legal advice in anticipation of a possible lawsuit against contractors responsible for the structure.
A roof supported by metal frames collapsed at the Hu Fa Kuang Sports Centre on May 20. It supported a greening project that had been added to the original building. The greening work was completed by Sinoway Construction Engineering Ltd in April.
Paul Lam Kwan-shing, vice-president of the university and chairman of the committee, said the contract documents for the project followed normal industry practice, citing an investigation committee report released on Friday.
“All the responsibilities of contractors were clearly spelled out in the contract, in terms of the tendering, the process, we did not observe any irregularities,” he said.
He said the university’s Campus Development and Facilities Office (CDFO) accepted advice from the contractors, without having second thoughts on the advice they received.
Lam did not name the party, but CityU had previously said the work was approved by surveyor Kenneth Chan Jor-kin for Sinoway. Chan had denied the claims, saying that he was not the authorised person for the project.
Chan did not attend a meeting of the investigation committee after he was invited to.
Some university staff members may also receive disciplinary action, with a maximum penalty of dismissal.
The investigation committee redacted parts of the report that indicated which parties might be the target of legal or disciplinary action.
Lam said the overall design of the green roof works and the loading assessment were key factors in the collapse. Other factors included rain, soil used in the project and efficiency of the drainage system.
The committee report recommended a thorough review of the structure of the CDFO, for instance hiring professionals in important areas to strengthen its capacity, keeping all records of construction projects, and verifying all data provided by authorised persons.
Asked by reporters whether the incident was caused by awarding the project to the lowest bidder, Lam said contractors would only win projects if they met all the requirements.
Way Kuo, the president of the university, said greening work was necessary in the 21st century.
“We are not afraid of mistakes, we are only afraid of not doing anything,” he said.
He added that the building will be rebuilt with a more advanced design, using the opportunity to strengthen and expand CityU’s facilities.
The Education Bureau said it will forward the report to the Buildings Department and the University Grants Committee for them to follow up, as it mainly consists of technical details.