Exclusive: Residents of luxury Hong Kong high rise terrified by falling panes of glass

This was published in the South China Morning Post on October 10, 2012.

By Joanna Chiu and Amy Nip

Residents in a luxury complex in Ap Lei Chau have threatened to withhold their rental payments in protest at two incidents within a week in which window panes fell from the building.

In the first instance, a resident of the Larvotto complex who was sitting at home in Tower 1 last Wednesday saw a large glass pane fall from the 31st floor past her window, damaging two cars that were parked on Praya Road.

She called her neighbour, who was arriving home with her two-year-old daughter.

“In the taxi, I saw that the road near the entrance of the building was completely covered in glass,” said the neighbour.

“The security guards waved us away and told us to use the underground entrance. If we had arrived home five minutes earlier, we could have been killed,” she said.

On Sunday, residents from Tower 3 said they were evacuated from the swimming pool when another pane fell near the pool.

“We heard a loud shatter and bang, and when we asked what was wrong, the management said only that there was a problem with a window,” said one resident.

Police said that no one was injured when the pane fell last Wednesday. “There was no one in the flat at the time. We have advised the estate-management company to follow up,” said a police spokeswoman, who did not comment on Sunday’s incident.

“We are afraid to be inside our apartments in case the windows shatter, and we are also afraid to be outside near the buildings in case the windows fall,” said a resident, who pays HK$90,000 a month in rent.

Several tenants have threatened to stop paying rent until they have been assured that the apartments are safe. Others are considering suing the developers and managers.

A spokeswoman for the developer, Cheerjoy, said last night the company was “highly concerned about the incident”, but had been told by an independent consultant that it was a spontaneous breakage and believed to be an isolated incident.

“The tempered glass used for the windows and the method of installation fully complied with government standards and best practices at the time of construction,” the spokeswoman said.

Cheerjoy is a joint venture of Sun Hung Kai Properties, Kerry Properties and Paliburg Holdings. Sun Hung Kai Properties is the project manager of the Larvotto complex and is responsible for repairing any defects.

Sun Hung Kai and Kerry Properties each hold a 35 per cent stake in Larvotto. Paliburg holds the remaining 30 per cent. Kerry Properties is controlled by the Kuok Group, the controlling shareholder of the SCMP Group, which publishes the South China Morning Post.

Tenants say that three quarters of the 715 Larvotto flats are occupied, and each contains floor-to-ceiling windows.

According to Centaline Property, a 2,545 sq ft flat was sold for HK$48 million in April.

Albert Kwan Kwok-hung, a professor of civil engineering at Hong Kong University, said the problem was not common and was “most likely caused by an expanding component of the glass [nickel sulfide], resulting in the cracking and shattering”.

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