Safety compromised in buildings
India’s structures are built for minimum damage control THE FOUR PERFORMANCE LEVELS OF BUILDINGS
It’s a safety standard that’s ‘barely there,’ say housing experts. Most buildings in India are designed at a ‘collapse prevention level’ – which is a minimum performance standard. In countries around the world – safety of life is prioritised.
Developers adhering to such low standards can take the easy way out and not be held responsible in case there is extensive damage to their buildings after a calamity like an earthquakes. It also costs money to maintain stringent safety standards. The code should clearly state that one is free to design buildings of a higher grade, experts add.
The National Disaster Management Guidelines for ensuring disaster resilient construction of buildings and infrastructure financed through banks and other lending institutions were brought out in 2010. These clearly spell out the expected performance of buildings (8.2.1) and assess the safety of buildings in four categories (see box below). “The guidelines mention that the building should be designed so as to meet the minimum performance level, but it does not state anywhere that people are free to design for higher standards. These are some of its administrative flaws,” says a seismic expert.
Today, low safety standards are set despite the modern technologies being available to design safe buildings and maintaining ‘immediate occupancy’ (a solid structure which has all chances of surviving a quake). In the unfortunate event of a building collapsing the structural designer can claim that he cannot be held accountable as he has followed the code which requires minimum safety standards. He’ll This means the building in the aftermath of a quake has every chance of remaining operational with electricity, air conditioning, lifts etc all working. No damage is likely in the building and its functions are not likely to be disrupted means a building can remain intact after an earthquake but its services are likely to get damaged. The functioning of such buildings are likely to resume immediately after a quake simply say that the structure is weak because it conforms to the minimum requirement, the expert adds. means the structure can get damaged in an earthquake but such damages are likely to be minor and can be repared. There could be significant damage to the building but it would not collapsed and could be retrofitted means the building and its utilities can sustain major damage in an earthquake. The structure can also be in the danger of collapsing completely. The building can also become uninhabitable after a quake
The cost of building a structure at an immediate occupancy level comes to 300 per sq ft more than collapse prevention level.