HOUSING | Immediate Responsive Building Regulations (1896-1903)
According to Brown’s report, the Health Department of Hong Kong took immediate measures to issue rules tackling housing conditions at the time including the following highlighted regulations on residents:
1. All houses at ground level must use concrete surfaces, hollow walls and ceilings in the native quarters are strictly prohibited, and all drainage and ventilation openings must be protected by iron gratings.
2. Certified tin cans are to be implemented in lamp posts and telephone booths for dead rats collections and bacteriologists will clear and disinfect the cans not less than once a week.
3. Residents are encouraged to keep cats
4. Residents’ dwellings are to be disinfected once every three months with an emulsion of kerosene
5. Daily scavenging of wastes into covered metal dustbins are used to reduce the amount of food for rats
The above-mentioned list, though thorough at the time, speaks very little about the architectural alterations made to the housing system of Hong Kong as the idea of building typologies being a catalyst to the endemic spreading was not widely acknowledged.
By 1903, after Hong Kong authorities have continued to research and revise the rules, the Public Health and Building Ordinance was enacted and imposed regulations under the suggestions of Dr. W.J. Simpson, the Professor of Hygiene at King’s College, London. These regulations had strict emphasis to tackle directly the issues with poor natural lighting and ventilation such as provisions of back alleys/open spaces at the rear of the building for ventilation at the back of the long body of enclosure (which should be maximum 40 ft in length). Furthermore, building height was limited to 1.5 times the street width. Building openings were also controlled in the sense that the window facing the street must have at least half of it that’s open-able and the size should be no less than one tenth of the floor area (which is a rule that is still valid today), whereas the rear window should be at least 10 sq. ft.
Diagram illustrating the 1903 Public Health and Building Ordinance
Tin cans hung at light posts used to store dead rats found by residents
Brown, B. (1913). Public Health Reports (1896-1970), Vol. 28, No. 12 (Mar. 21, 1913). United States Public Health Service, pp.551-557.
Hong Kong Housing Typology. (n.d.). 1st ed. [ebook] Massachusetts: Density Atlas. Available at: http://densityatlas.org/understanding/Hong-Kong_housing-typology.pdf [Accessed 18 Dec. 2015].