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Hong Kong considers compulsory seismic codes

Hong Kong’s Buildings Department has begun consulting about plans to introduce compulsory seismic-resistant building standards in the territory.

The department said it would “collect views from stakeholders of the building industry, academics and the general public on whether statutory seismic-resistant building design standards should be introduced for new buildings, and major alteration and addition works in existing buildings” in Hong Kong.

The plans to potentially introduce new legislation follow a recent study for the department which found that many comparable countries had already introduced mandatory seismic standards. The study concluded that the change should not lead to a dramatic increase in construction costs.

The study also concluded that local buildings were “basically safe” in an earthquake, although they could suffer some degree of structural damage depending on the size of earthquake.

Arup director and global seismic design leader Jack Pappin said there had been discussions about seismic design codes in Hong Kong for more than a decade. Arup carried out a study eight years ago and concluded it would be “sensible” to produce Hong Kong-specific codes.

“There is a Chinese code of practice for the seismic design of buildings, and, they include Hong Kong,” he said.

“But Hong Kong doesn’t use Chinese codes of practice. The standard type of building in Hong Kong is over 40 storeys high, and that is beyond the scope of the Chinese codes.”

Pappin added that, “contrary to popular belief”, any new seismic design codes were likely to have more impact on the design of low rise than high rise structures.

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