Mak­ing older build­ings bet­ter

Re­de­vel­op­ment is not just about tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ments or bet­ter life­styles. It is also about safety CHANGE IS BET­TER SAVE RE­SOURCES

HT Estates - - HTESTATES - HT Es­tates Cor­re­spon­dent

Like ev­ery other form of hous­ing, af­ford­able homes need space for con­struc­tion. Even more im­por­tantly, af­ford­able hous­ing needs to be avail­able in lo­ca­tions where it is needed the most. In most cases, we see such projects com­ing up only in dis­tant sub­urbs. This is pri­mar­ily be­cause there is no land for de­vel­op­ment in the cen­tral ar­eas of our cities, and all that is avail­able is priced too steeply for af­ford­able hous­ing to make sense.

In this sce­nario, re­de­vel­op­ment of old build­ings and so­ci­eties makes sense. Un­for­tu­nately, re­de­vel­op­ment is mainly used by de­vel­op­ers to turn huge prof­its, rather be­ing used as a means to in­crease the sup­ply of hous­ing.

Good, bad or ugly?

Sev­eral fac­tors in­flu­ence change in the way prod­ucts are con­ceived, pro­duced and used. We see very rapid changes tak­ing place in the fields of en­gi­neer­ing, con­sumer elec­tron­ics and soft­ware de­vel­op­ment. Real es­tate is no ex­cep­tion, which is why we have the con­cept of re­de­vel­op­ment.

There are two primary rea­sons why change is nec­es­sary in al­most any prod­uct ver­ti­cal:

Things wear out: Ev­ery man­u­fac­tured prod­uct has an in­her­ent shelf-life built into it. Once its age ex­ceeds this shelf-life, it be­comes un­us­able – and of­ten dan­ger­ous to use.

Tech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tion: The world is con­stantly find­ing newer and bet­ter ways of do­ing things. Old con­cepts are aban­doned and new ones, based on new find­ings and tech­nolo­gies, take their place. Just as we see hun­dreds of soft­ware pack­ages across the world be­com­ing ob­so­lete and newer ones re­plac­ing them, tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance- ments in the con­struc­tion in­dus­try leave no space for older things in real es­tate.

Build­ings and so­ci­eties in In­dia are con­stantly be­ing re­de­vel­oped – both to mit­i­gate the safety haz­ards of build­ings that have reached or ex­ceeded their ‘ex­piry dates’, and to make way for more mod­ern build­ings that use avail­able space in a bet­ter way, have bet­ter elec­tri­cal fit­tings and plumb­ing, are safer, of­fer newer fea­tures and are also friend­lier to the en­vi­ron­ment.

While real es­tate de­vel­op­ers, agen­cies and con­sumers are largely in favour of re­de­vel­op­ment, there are al­ways el­e­ments that op­pose it. In In­dia, these in­clude slum­lords that ben­e­fit from things re­main­ing the way they are, and build­ing oc­cu­pants pay­ing neg­li­gi­ble rents (locked in decades ago) who would lose this ben­e­fit if their build­ing were re­de­vel­oped.

How­ever, con­sen­sus re­mains that re­de­vel­op­ment of old build­ings is nec­es­sary and ben­e­fi­cial.

The ben­e­fits

Re­de­vel­op­ment of old build­ings is not merely about tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ments or bet­ter life­styles - when build­ings age, they be­come febrile and un­safe. The ce­ment and re­in­forc­ing metal bars used in build­ings are all sub­ject to degra­da­tion over time, caus­ing struc­tures to be­come in­creas­ingly un­sta­ble. As dis­turb­ing news sto­ries re­mind us reg­u­larly, old build­ings can and do col­lapse in In­dia. Re­de­vel­op­ing build­ings after they have stood for a cer­tain span of time is not only an op­tion - it is a life-sav­ing ne­ces­sity. Struc­tures also get a new lease of life and more homes be­come avail­able in a lo­ca­tion where sup­ply is con­stricted by non-avail­abil­ity of de­vel­opable plots. Homes that re­sult are larger, safer and more com­fort­able than those which were avail­able in the build­ing prior to re­de­vel­op­ment. Also, im­proved struc­tures utilise fewer re­sources than de­vel­op­ing a new build­ing.

Build­ings which have been re­de­vel­oped are safer than they were to be­gin with not only be­cause of re­newed struc­tural sound­ness, but also be­cause mod­ern safety fea­tures can be in­tro­duced where they did not ex­ist be­fore. For in­stance, many old build­ings in cities like Pune and Mum­bai were con­structed with now ob­so­lete con­struc­tion tech­nolo­gies - or by un­scrupu­lous de­vel­op­ers who cut costs at ev­ery cor­ner. These flaws or short­com­ings in a build­ing can be rec­ti­fied dur­ing the re­de­vel­op­ment process with the in­clu­sion of CCTV cam­eras, fire alarms, ac­cess for fire-fight­ing ve­hi­cles within the project, and fire­fight­ing hoses on all floors etc.From a real es­tate mar­ket per­spec­tive, re­de­vel­op­ing or re-en­gi­neer­ing an old build­ing sig­nif­i­cantly in­creases its value on the mar­ket. Un­for­tu­nately, this is of­ten the only ob­jec­tive for In­dian de­vel­op­ers to un­der­take re­de­vel­op­ment projects in the first place. Such projects must be done in the right way and for the right rea­sons. De­vel­op­ers should do so not only to make a profit but also with the in­ten­tion of de­liver more hous­ing.

THINKSTOCK

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