An expert panel at Bangladesh's leading engineering university has found only one in ten of the country's garment factory buildings are structurally sound.

The findings were revealed in the preliminary inspection report on 70 ready-made garment units carried out by teams from the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET).

Just six factories out of the 70 units were found to be in sound condition, while the remaining 64 have "minor deviations or faults."

Mohammad Mujibur Rahman, head of the panel, told just-style some faults or distress in the buildings are not necessarily significant. "Fault does not mean unsafe."

However two factories - one a garment factory at Malibag in Dhaka and another a four-storey multi-purpose building in Manikganj that houses a textile unit - have been identified for immediate shutdown.

Professor Rahman, who also heads the Department of Civil Engineering at the BUET, said the panel found another four structures are in a critical position, while 88 buildings have various faults including cracks.

"We've advised the owners of four buildings to conduct detailed structural analysis immediately to avoid any disaster," the panel leader said, adding that they have also asked all building owners to carry out further detailed analysis in the next three to six months. 

The inspection teams checked foundations, support columns and other building structures, as well as the ground on which they were constructed, as well as documents and plans that could be produced.

Another member of the panel said they have so far received nearly 300 applications from garment factories, residential buildings, banks, hospitals and some private institutions for inspection. However, some owners are reluctant to have their buildings checked.

Of the 3,600 operating factories that belong to the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, 60% are housed in buildings shared with other businesses, 10% in converted residential buildings transformed into factory units, and 30% in purpose-built buildings, according to Shahidullah Azim, vice president of the BGMEA.

Two groups of Western apparel retailers and brands have this week set out separate plans to inspect their supplier factories in Bangladesh. But without inspecting the entire industry, are their efforts likely to fall short?