Off your back

Putting a win­dow grill, con­ceal­ing the elec­tri­cal sock­ets or chang­ing the floor­ing can weaken your build­ing if not done right

Hindustan Times (Chandigarh) - Estates - - FRONT PAGE - Lav­ina Mulchan­dani lav­ina.mulchan­

Do you know how much your box grilles weigh? Has your con­trac­tor done any cal­cu­la­tions to check that the wall be­low it can sup­port that weight over decades?

This is a prime ex­am­ple, say struc­tural en­gi­neers, of how ren­o­va­tion and beau­ti­fi­ca­tion ef­forts that seem harm­less can go hor­ri­bly wrong.

“Peo­ple don’t pay enough at­ten­tion to as-built draw­ings and blue­prints be­fore tak­ing up re­pairs and ren­o­va­tions. Even mov­ing a light fix­ture can do dam­age if you don’t pay at­ten­tion to what part of the struc­ture is be­ing af­fected,” says Pranay Goyal, MD of We De­vel­op­ment, a man­age­ment solutions com­pany that spe­cialises in self-re­de­vel­op­ment of hous­ing so­ci­eties.

Af­ter a build­ing in Ghatkopar col­lapsed last month, killing 17, it turned out that parts of it had been ran­domly re­struc­tured for com­mer­cial use.

An in­quiry con­ducted by the BMC found that this unau­tho­rised work had led Sid­dhi Sai to crum­ble.

The walls on the ground floor had been in­dis­crim­i­nately re­moved and unau­tho­rised re­pairs were on­go­ing even min­utes be­fore the col­lapse, the in­quiry re­port stated.

In this case, the changes had been of a large scale, but even small al­ter­ations can weaken a struc­ture — changes to the lay­out of the dry yard, re­plac­ing of walls, floor­ing ren­o­va­tions. Ceil­ings can cave, cracks can form in walls, lead­ing to de­struc­tive leak­ages.

“Even con­ceal­ing an elec­tri­cal socket can be harm­ful — it re­quires chis­elling of beams and col­umns walls, and that doesn’t sound harm­less, does it,” says Pooja Bihani, ar­chi­tect and founder of the Spa­ces & De­sign in­te­ri­ors and ar­chi­tec­ture firm.

Rid­dhi Gar­den in Malad learnt of th­ese risks the hard way.

Ren­o­va­tions by some res­i­dents caused leak­ages in other homes and could have weak­ened the struc­ture as a whole, over time. “There are a set of per­mis­sions you need to take as a res­i­dent be­fore be­gin­ning any ren­o­va­tion work in your house,” says Nitin Kulka­rni, mem­ber of the man­ag­ing com­mit­tee of the so­ci­ety. “It is not pos­si­ble to check per­son­ally on each change peo­ple make in their homes, so peo­ple need to un­der­stand the im­por­tance of th­ese rules, abide by them and cor­rect the prob­lems in case any oc­cur.”

Kal­pataru Tow­ers in Kan­di­vli has gone a step fur­ther and in­sti­tuted rules for pre­ven­tive care.

“We do not per­mit peo­ple to put in their own win­dow grilles,” says Ku­mar Vasani, sec­re­tary of the Kal­pataru Tow­ers so­ci­ety in Kan­di­vli. “You also can­not al­ter in­ter­nal lay­outs, make changes in the dry yards and move plumb­ing out­lets. Res­i­dents don’t re­alise it, but they could be short­en­ing the life of the build­ing with such changes. If home­own­ers break the rules, we take strict ac­tion.”


Ren­o­va­tions must be un­der­taken with care, es­pe­cially as a build­ing ages.

“In a city like Mum­bai, with a very hu­mid climate, build­ings age faster. Your build­ing may not be as sturdy as it seems,” says Bihani.

Cre­at­ing a win­dow or drilling to put up a par­ti­tion with­out de­tailed plans, per­mis­sion and ac­cred­ited su­per­vi­sion should be com­plete no-nos, says Ramesh Prabhu, chair­man of the Ma­ha­rash­tra So­ci­eties Wel­fare As­so­ci­a­tion.

When Kan­chan Pant, 28, was ren­o­vat­ing the kitchen in her Bhandup home, a slab from the wall sud­denly fell on her.

“I was taken aback,” she re­calls. “Upon in­spec­tion, we found that we had been drilling do deep in the ceil­ing and walls that we had weak­ened parts of the struc­ture,” she says.

Use plas­ter spar­ingly too. Don’t cover up the prob­lem, be­cause it will grow out of sight and you may not even re­mem­ber it’s there.

“Any con­ceal­ing or re­pair works should be car­ried in pres­ence of a struc­tural as­sis­tant, some­one who knows and un­der­stands build­ings,” says San­jay Ba­hadur CEO of the con­struc- tion chem­i­cals divi­sion at Pidilite In­dus­tries.

“Don’t cut cor­ners when it comes to ma­te­rial. The cor­ri­dors, hall­ways and stair­cases of your build­ing can be main­tained us­ing the monthly fees col­lected. En­sure that stan­dard ma­te­ri­als are used in all re­pairs. Su­per­vise ad­e­quately and hire trained staff for all build­ing work ”

Even con­ceal­ing an elec­tri­cal socket can be harm­ful — it re­quires chis­elling of beams and col­umns walls, and that doesn’t sound harm­less, does it. POOJA BIHANI, ar­chi­tect and founder of the Spa­ces & De­sign in­te­ri­ors and ar­chi­tec­ture firm


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