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Build it and they will come

Published on Friday, 12 Oct 2012
Building surveyors are in demand amid the property boom and public safety concerns.
Photo: Felix Wong
Vincent Ho
YY Yip
Alan Sin

Unauthorised building works have been the subject of much local debate in the past few months. These cases have highlighted the role and responsibilities of the city's building surveyors, whose essential task is to impose standards and ensure safety.

And with Hong Kong's continuing property boom, the demand for qualified professionals in the sector has never been higher.

"Legislation is bringing change," says Vincent Ho Kui-yip, chairman of the building surveying division of the Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors (HKIS). "We have our local laws and mechanisms for new and existing buildings, but in terms of design and construction, we now also refer to international standards - European, Chinese and Japanese."

This has numerous implications. Firstly, Ho notes, under the recent Mandatory Building Inspection Scheme for properties more than 30 years old, the government will require regular checks on at least 2,000 private buildings.

Secondly, limited land supply for housing is prompting a new look at possible conversion of unused industrial premises. There is also greater focus on maintaining and upgrading older properties by incorporating the latest energy-efficiency and fire-safety features.

And finally, more stringent recommendations are coming in to promote green thinking and environmental targets.

"That means, from a career point of view, there are very good prospects for building surveyors," Ho says. "Urban redevelopment and New Territories reclamation will continue for the next 10 years, creating jobs and requiring specialist expertise to supervise quality standards."

YY Yip, assistant general manager in Henderson Land Development's project management department, also foresees more opportunities not only in Hong Kong but also on the mainland and beyond.

For this reason, he stresses the need for both trainee and qualified surveyors to keep track of international aspects of their profession, something which the HKIS endorses.

"They should know the relevant laws in other countries, worldwide design standards, what approaches are taken, and what changes are coming," Yip says. "No young surveyor can just focus on local subjects."

Pre-qualification training and required continuing professional development courses therefore cover everything from new construction techniques and green concepts to project deliverables and sustainability issues. There is also instruction in such areas as monitoring construction quality, tendering for contracts and making government submissions.

"Building efficiency plus health and safety standards are being upgraded all the time," Yip says. "Surveyors must know the history, site constraints, and how to balance these elements."

Alan Sin Kwok-leung, chief property services manager for the government's Architectural Services Department, is constantly finding a balance. His team is responsible for the safety and maintenance of more than 8,000 buildings.

"We look after a big portfolio" Sin says. "The hot topic now is building safety, so the number of maintenance checks is going up, which means there is steady demand for building surveyors."

Sin says in lieu of full-time postings, they can also offer contracts or use consultants.

Every year, 60 local graduates in building surveying enter the sector, complemented by those who have studied or qualified overseas. "In future, in terms of new blood, we will need 100-plus a year," Ho says. "That's why we are looking at schemes to train up non-graduates who have technical experience in the sector."

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