“Defect Rectification”

Tamar

Hong Kong’s HK$5.5 billion new government headquarters is falling apart just three months after it opened

Crooked wall fixtures, chipped railings, torn wallpaper, stained walls and signboards held up by masking tape in the Legislative Council: the recent outbreak of legionnaire’s disease is not the only problem at the Hong Kong government’s expensive new headquarters.

Three months after lawmakers moved into the Legco complex, they are still confronted daily by a long list of flaws in the building. This came after the legionnaires’ disease bacteria was found in the water at the dining hall of the Legco building and many other locations in the government offices next door.

“The electric cables for a switch near to my office on the sixth floor have remained exposed since I moved in,” said Wong Kwok-lin, a Federation of Trade Unions lawmaker. “I never dare to touch it as I don’t know whether or not it’s getting electricity.”

Photos posted this week on Facebook highlight shoddy workmanship inside the complex, which is located on the site of the former Tamar naval base. In one photo, an alarm button and handicapped door-opening button are fixed to the wall at haphazard angles. In another, the sign for the Steward and Catering Services Office is attached to the wall with masking tape.

Lawmakers and visitors to the complex complain that stone walls are stained by paint and water, the wood railings inside lifts are heavily chipped, wallpaper is torn inside conference rooms, wall panels rattle when lift buttons are pressed and floors wobble and creak underfoot. Water fountains have been sheathed in plastic, possibly due to concerns about legionnaire’s disease.

Yesterday afternoon, the toilets’ salt water supply was abruptly suspended due to “emergency repair,” forcing building occupants to flush toilets with water from the sinks. No explanation was given.

“It almost seems as if it is a very worn-out building, but it’s not, it’s new,” said Civic Party councillor Audrey Eu Yuet-mee. “Once, one of the ceiling fixtures fell off when I was passing by. Luckily it didn’t fall on my head.”

Eu said the complex has been undergoing repairs since the day it opened. She still encounters problems on a daily basis, like the malfunctioning thermostat in her office, which does not allow air conditioning to be turned off or changed from 19 degrees Celsius.

“Every day, there are lots of workmen around fixing things,” said Eu. “We paid more than five billion dollars for all of this. Why do we have to deal with these problems?”

“The contractor and the administration have cut corners in workmanship and choice of material to meet the deadline and budget, which is extremely disappointing,” said Designing Hong Kong member Paul Zimmerman, who posted the photos on Facebook. “Obviously they prefer shortcuts over facing Legco and the community with requests for more money and more time.”

The Tamar complex was built by a Gammon-Hip Hing joint venture, which was awarded a HK$5.5 billion design-and-build contract in 2008. Last July, construction managers said the project was running behind schedule and warned that the government’s relocation could be delayed. Construction workers said they were rushing to open the new buildings in time for the first Legislative Council session in October.

The discovery last month of legionnaire’s bacteria in the water supply raised questions about whether contractors cut corners in order to open the complex on time. The government and Gammon-Hip Hing have denied any compromises were made in the building’s construction.

Zimmerman’s photos were greeted by cynical comments on Facebook.

“Sounds like a nightmare building,” wrote one user.

“Never confuse a building with a hole in it for openness in government,” wrote another.

Visitors have also been critical. “It looks like it was bashed up in two days in order to get completed,” said cycling activist Martin Turner, who noticed crooked fittings and poorly-installed wall panels on a recent visit.

The government is adamant that none of this is out of the ordinary. “It is normal for defect rectification and adjustments works to be carried out during the initial phase of moving in,” said a spokesman. “[The Architectural Services Department] has urged and will continue to urge the contractor to complete the remedial works as soon as possible. According to the terms of contract, the contractor shall be responsible for remedial works and follow up on all defective items during the maintenance period.”

“We will not accept works that are not in compliance with the established requirements and/or safety standards,” said the spokesman.

Six official complaints about workmanship at the new government headquarters have been received since the complex opened.

Another version of this story was published in the South China Morning Post on January 13, 2012. Additional reporting by Tanna Chong.

This entry was written by Christopher DeWolf , posted on Thursday January 12 2012at 08:01 pm , filed under Architecture, Asia Pacific, Interior Space and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

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