Short piling at Yuen Chau Kok

Instances of non-compliance in construction works for public housing gradually came to light from 1999 on. In the Housing Authority (HA) Home Ownership Scheme (HOS) project at Phase 1 of Tin Chung Court, a few months prior to the project's planned occupation, a severe degree of short piling was suspected, and this was confirmed when the unusual settlement condition of the building had made it difficult to install lift shafts. HA had to spend some $250 million to rectify the defective piles and ensure the building's structural safety. The incident aroused great public concern, leading HA to initiate a comprehensive settlement monitoring survey for all buildings in their projects.

On 8 December 1999, the monitoring survey indicated abnormal foundation settlement at two HOS buildings that were still under construction at Yuen Chau Kok in Sha Tin. An expert was called in to carry out independent investigations, and found that out of 36 large diameter bored piles for two buildings, only four met the requirements. Twenty-one were shorter than the prescribed length by 2 m to 15 m, while eleven were resting on soft mud instead of bedrock. In other words, an astonishing 90 percent or so of the bored piles in these two buildings failed to comply with standards and the already extensive superstructure was being supported by the only 10 percent of bored piles that were fully compliant.

When the short piling was discovered, the two HOS buildings had already been constructed up to their 33rd and 34th floors respectively. The case aroused huge concern in the community. Eventually on 16 March 2000, HA announced that the two buildings would be demolished in the interests of safety. In this one incident alone, public funds amounting to some $605 million had been squandered2.

It is frightening to contemplate the fact that if the short piling had not come to light, as many as 656 households would have been placed in grave peril. The site was eventually turned into a leisure park.

Losses in the Yuen Chau Kok Short Piling Scam

Direct expenses incurred by HA (including payments, demolition fees, investigation fees, and material costs arising from the termination of works) $212 million
Damages claimed by the superstructure contractor for the two buildings $65 million
Net assets lost $328 million
Total $605 million

2Statement on Arbitration between Housing Authority and Zen Pacific relating to the Yuen Chau Kok Short-Piling Case


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