University Response to the Report of the Investigation Committee for the CityU Sports Hall Incident

Dear colleagues, students and alumni,

Background                                                                   

A nine-person Investigation Committee (IC) was appointed by the President of City University of Hong Kong (CityU) on 23 May 2016 to conduct an investigation into the collapse of the roof structure of the Chan Tai Ho Multi-purpose Hall (the Sports Hall) inside the Hu Fa Kuang Sports Centre at CityU on 20 May 2016. 

The IC completed its investigation and submitted an investigation report to the University on 6 June 2016. The President and his management team studied the report and decided to release both the IC report and this response to the report on 10 June 2016.

(Remark: Some information in the released report was redacted due to legal and personal privacy considerations.)

Findings and Conclusions of the IC

Having studied and considered carefully the IC report, the University accepted its major findings and recommendations. In particular, the University notes the following observations and findings made by the IC regarding the implementation of the roof greening project of the Sports Hall:

  1. the Contract document was prepared in alignment with normal industry practice and typical of a “Design and Build” contract which explicitly defines the responsibility of the Contractor;
  1. the procedures, from tendering to contract award, appeared to be in order, and no irregularities were identified;
  1. Campus Development and Facilities Office (CDFO) had relied solely on the Contractor and its Project Team to perform the duties and fulfill the responsibilities under the Contract. 

The University also accepts the analyses and conclusions of the IC regarding the possible factors contributing to the collapse of the roof:

  1. the design, construction and maintenance of the (original) structural roof are unlikely to be key contributing factors leading to the Incident of the roof collapse;
  1. the overall design of the roof greening works of the Sports Hall, especially the loading assessment (coupled with apparent use of incorrect data/information), is likely the primary and core factor contributing to the collapse of the roof;
  1. the impact of rain, the soil materials used for the roof greening works, and the efficiency of the drainage system of the green roof system may also be important factors contributing to the collapse of the roof.

University Response to the Recommendations of the IC

On the basis of the findings and conclusions in the IC report, the University welcomes the series of follow-up actions recommended in the report. To further enhance campus safety and prevent similar incidents in the future, the University will:

  1. seek professional advice to start legal proceedings against the external parties that appear to be responsible for the collapse of the roof, including but not limited to those identified in the IC report;
  1. initiate disciplinary proceedings to ascertain the degree of breach of standards of behaviour or misconduct by certain members of CDFO staff managing the roof greening project, and to determine any disciplinary actions as appropriate;
  1. conduct a thorough review of the organisational structure and operations of CDFO to ensure the Office’s effectiveness in discharging all its duties and responsibilities at the highest safety standards; and require CDFO to strengthen its procedures to be able to confirm the data and advice provided by Authorised Persons for all future projects, and consult independent and professional opinions from third-party experts if necessary;
  1. continue with the thorough assessment of the structural integrity of all the green-roof areas and construction works of the University to ensure safety, and conduct regular structural inspections for safety and structural soundness of all campus buildings and infrastructures; and
  1. review and strengthen, beyond the IC’s recommendations, the current institutional critical incident management set-up to promote risk awareness on campus, coordinate timely response and communication, enhance cross-departmental cooperation, and facilitate reporting by staff and students of suspected safety-related threats or risks on campus.

The Way Forward

We would like all members of the CityU community to know that the University’s academic enterprise is fully operational and thriving. It’s business as usual. Moreover, contingency plans are now being explored for alternative venues for sports activities and major events such as Congregation, which has used the Sports Hall as a venue. With the goodwill and staunch support of our many stakeholders, CityU will announce in due course plans for a state-of-the-art building that will not just replace the sports facilities temporarily lost in the incident but also enhance our overall academic capabilities. 

Valuable Lesson for All

Campus safety is, and always will be, the top priority of the University. At the same time, CityU is committed to the promotion of sustainability and a green campus. These are core objectives identified in the University Strategic Plans 2010-2015 and 2015-2020, which were endorsed by the campus community. Unfortunately, however, as pointed out by the IC, “roof greening currently lacks clear safety regulations/guidelines.”   

We acknowledge the government’s effort to review, as a top priority, its current guidelines and regulations. CityU will contribute, in the process, to address issues related to grey areas and to clarify standards, with a view to improving and enhancing the safety of green projects.  

CityU fully agrees with the concluding remarks of the IC which remind us that “we all – CityU, the Hong Kong Government, legislators, the construction industry, landscapers and promoters of green culture in Hong Kong – need to learn from this Incident and take note that decisions concerning roof greening should be premised upon the priority of structural safety.”

The collapse of the structural roof of the Sports Hall on 20 May is a highly regrettable incident and a serious lesson for CityU. The University will make every endeavour to ensure compliance with the highest safety standards and all requirements of the law for our building works and infrastructures. We will continue to conduct regular structural inspections of buildings on campus and promote preventive maintenance of all our facilities to enhance and ensure safety. 

Acknowledgements

The University wishes to record its sincere gratitude to the IC for the investigation report, and thank the members for their valuable contributions and assistance, and the colleagues and information providers who helped facilitate the investigation work. 

We thank the CityU staff members who promptly responded to the activated alarm system and assisted with the safe and timely evacuation of everyone in the vicinity of the Sports Hall on 20 May, and the various units and offices on campus for their cooperation and excellent follow-up services after the Incident, which have helped to ensure that the University continues to be a safe place to work and study. We also thank the Fire Services Department, the Hong Kong Police Force, the Education Bureau and the Buildings Department for their assistance in the aftermath of the Incident.

Lastly, we wish to convey our appreciation to all our staff, students, alumni, the University Council and Court, donors, friends in the community, and the media for their support, suggestions and concern.

(The Investigation Report can be downloaded from here.)

Communications and Public Relations Office
10 June 2016