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LCQ17: LED display signboards on external walls of buildings

     Following is a question by the Dr Hon Priscilla Leung and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (May 23):


     A Number 3 alarm fire broke out earlier at a five-star hotel in North Point, and the source of fire was suspected to be related to the components of a light emitting diode (LED) display wall (display wall) on the roof, which is over five storeys high, over-heating or short circuiting.  Some professionals in the construction industry and fire safety experts said in media interviews that at present, the fire safety capacity of display walls on external walls of buildings is not governed by any fire safety legislation in Hong Kong.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a)  of the number of applications received by the authorities in the past five years for installing display walls on external walls of newly completed buildings; among them, the number of applications rejected;

(b)  of the current procedures for applying to install large-scale display walls on external walls of newly completed buildings in Hong Kong; and the criteria for vetting and approval;

(c)  whether the authorities regulate the sizes, materials, specifications and daily operating hours of display walls installed on external walls of buildings at present; if not, of the reasons for that;

(d)  whether the authorities will learn from the aforesaid fire incident and immediately step up regulation of fire safety facilities in buildings with display walls on their external walls; if they will, of the details; and

(e)  given that quite a number of buildings on the two sides of the Victoria Harbour participate in the "A Symphony of Lights" show organised by the Tourism Commission and these buildings have installed a large quantity of colourful light bulbs on their external walls, whether the authorities have assessed if this will substantially increase the fire hazard of these buildings; if they have, of the results; if not, whether such an assessment will be conducted immediately?



     The Buildings Ordinance (BO)(Cap. 123), the enforcement of which falls within the purview of the Buildings Department (BD), aims to regulate the planning, design and construction of private buildings and associated building works, and to prescribe building design and construction standards on structural and fire safety for the purpose of ensuring public safety.  Erection of signboards on external walls of buildings, including light emitting diode (LED) display signboards, are building works subject to the control of the BO.  The BD has also issued a practice note specifying the standards on the erection of signboards on external walls of buildings and the requirements of other relevant departments to provide industry practitioners with convenient and clear guidelines on processing and approval of applications.

     My reply to the five-part question is as follows:

(a)  The BD does not keep statistics on applications for erecting LED display signboards on external walls of newly completed buildings.

(b)  To erect signboards (including LED display signboards) on external walls of newly completed or existing buildings, the person concerned shall, in accordance with the BO, appoint an authorised person and a registered structural engineer to prepare and submit building plans for approval by the BD, unless the works fall within the scope of designated minor works items that can be carried out under the simplified requirements of the Minor Works Control System.  Provided that the building plans of the proposed erection of signboard comply with the requirements of the BO and the standards prescribed in the above-mentioned practice note, BD will approve such plans.  After the building plans are approved, the authorised person must also obtain written consent from the BD before commencement of the relevant building works.

(c)  The practice note mentioned above specifies the standards on erection of signboards on external walls of buildings, including the display area, spacing, position, material, workmanship, structural safety (including the supporting frame, display surface and fixings) and fire safety.  In particular, with regard to signboards using LED display boards as the display surface, as LED display boards are not made of incombustible materials, the practice note stipulates that such display boards should have a surface spread of flame characteristic of not worse than Class 2 determined in accordance with BS 476 : Part 7 : 1997 or other equivalent standards.

     On the other hand, in accordance with the Electricity Ordinance (EO) (Cap. 406) and its relevant subsidiary legislation, the fixed electrical installation of LED display boards erected on external walls of buildings shall be installed, tested and certified by a registered electrical contractor and a registered electrical worker to ensure that the installation complies with the statutory requirements, including the fixed electrical installation and relevant protective devices for supplying electricity to the LED display boards.  

(d)  In view of recent public concerns over the safety of large LED display signboards, BD, in conjunction with the relevant departments including the Fire Services Department and the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (EMSD), is reviewing the safety standards prescribed in the existing practice note.  At the same time, having regard to a recent fire involving a large LED display board, EMSD has written to the owners or property management companies of buildings with LED display boards installed on the external walls, reminding them of the safety requirements and guidelines relating to outdoor electrical installations.  

(e)  Same as LED display signboards, the fixed electrical installation of lighting displays on external walls of buildings must comply with the safety requirements of the EO and its relevant subsidiary legislation.  Generally, the risk of fire is very low if the related installations are properly installed, maintained and operated.

Ends/Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Issued at HKT 14:30


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