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The marriage of registration and legal duties - Hong Kong-style

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legal matters

Last week,while reflecting on the way things get built in Hong Kong,I mentioned that architects and engineers are in effect responsible for carrying out building control.The scheme is an interesting one.

In Hong Kong,building is under the control of a building authority.The authority compiles and maintains a register of 'authorised persons', which includes architects,engineers and surveyors.An employer who wants to build has to appoint an authorised person,or AP .AP s take on a whole raft of obligations.They have to prepare and to sign all plans and all structural details.If the works are to repair or alter a building,they have to submit a stability certificate stating that in their opinion the building is capable of being changed.They have to submit the plans to the building authority, which is simply deemed to approve them if nothing is heard from them for 60 days.They have to hand in a health-and-safety supervision plan with the Building Authority.They also have to notify the building authority when works begin.They have to supervise and inspect the works periodically to check they comply with the Ordinance,the approved plans and the supervision plan.

They have to notify the building authority of any contravention.When works are complete,they have to certify to the building authority that the works are in accordance with the approved plans and that the building is structurally safe.In effect, AP s step into the shoes of the statutory authority on site.

There may be flaws with the scheme.It seems that the AP does not have the benefit of any immunity.Considering the potential for losses caused by any default in fulfilling a role which is performed in the UK by local authorities,it would be interesting to know the view of professional-indemnity insurers.

The liability of local authorities here in carrying out their building-control function is limited both because it is a statutory role and by limitations on the losses for which they can be liable.I spoke to one UK UK UK UK ARB -trained architect now running a practice in Hong Kong who was content to remain an unapproved person,get paid his fe and avoid the statutory responsibilities.

It might also be said that such a scheme is perhaps especially appropriate for what is in effect an autonomous city with a population of six million,but unmanageable on a larger scale.Despite these doubts,the approach does provide some food for thought.

Architects in Hong Kong are subject to registration related to protection of title which directly reflects the system in place here.Registration by the building authority is an entirely different matter.Would it be possible to merge the two ideas? The 1984 Building Act provided for approved inspectors to carry out building-control functions,but the NHBC has been the only body to take advantage of it.

The idea of registration for individuals or practices which is related to statutory duties and the provision of a public service is an interesting one.

Such an arrangement in the would give some clout and purpose to running a register which goes beyond mere protection of title.The role of architects could be enhanced by the additional responsibilities,not to mention the benefits of employers being obliged to appoint them.The old registration scheme in the was arguably directed towards protecting the profession.The approach adopted by the under the new scheme could be said to look more towards protecting and serving the public.Exploring ideas such as this may lead towards a scheme which does both.

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