Build­ing oc­cu­pant safety not high­lighted in real es­tate bill

Builder lobby wins this round, Supreme Court directive on quake aware­ness ig­nored, says struc­tural safety ex­pert

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The Ra­jya Sabha se­lect com­mit­tee, which tabled the com­mented Real Es­tate Bill in the Par­lia­ment re­cently, has largely given the go-by to oc­cu­pant safety in build­ings, a mat­ter of con­cern in a coun­try with seis­mi­cally volatile zones.

The present sec­tional com­mit­tee re­port has “greatly di­luted” the spe­cific rec­om­men­da­tions of the pre­vi­ous sec­tional com­mit­tee on the realty bill chaired by Sharad Ya­dav and sub­mit­ted to the Ra­jya Sabha in Fe­bru­ary 2014, says San­deep Shah, coun­try head and MD – In­dia, Miyamoto In­ter­na­tional, an earth­quake and struc­tural en­gi­neer­ing firm.

He al­leged that the present sec­tional com­mit­tee has suc­cumbed to the pres­sures of the real es­tate lobby which the Sharad Ya­dav com­mit­tee hadn’t.

The pre­vi­ous com­mit­tee had, on Shah’s rec­om­men­da­tions, de­fined an “ex­e­cu­tion com­ple- tion cer­tifi­cate” to be is­sued by the developer/pro­ject man­ager which had now been ig­nored to­tally.

The present com­mit­tee had also “grossly failed to take into ac­count the Hon’ble Supreme Court ver­dict on earth­quake safety of build­ings even after the ex­ten­sive dam­age in the Nepal earth­quake,” Shah said. The Supreme Court had re­ci­om­mended that the pub­lic be made aware of the earth­quake safety of build­ings. Shah had rec­om­mended to the present com­mit­tee that all pub­lic build­ings and struc­tures of over five storeys have en­graved metal plates men­tion­ing their safety cat­e­gory as “Earth­quake Re­sis­tant – Col­lapse Pre­ven­tion” or any other cat­e­gory or “Earth­quake Re­sis­tant – Un­known”. Col­lapse pre­ven­tion level of earth­quake re­sis­tance is de­fined as that the build­ing, its con­tents and util­i­ties be­ing shaken se­verely and suf­fer­ing ma­jor dam­age. The build­ing does not have any ad­di­tional re­serve ca­pac­ity and is in the state of im­mi­nent col­lapse. The build­ing can­not be used after the earth­quake. Fully Op­er­a­tional level of earth­quake re­sis­tance is de­fined as that the build­ing, its con­tents and util­i­ties be­ing shaken by an earth­quake, but not get­ting dam­aged; the func­tion of the build­ing is not dis­rupted due to the oc­cur­rence of the earth­quake. Shah had also asked that the def­i­ni­tion of a build­ing “in­clude any struc­ture or erec­tion which is in­tended to be used for res­i­den­tial or other re­lated pur­poses. A build­ing shall com­prise of struc­tural mem­bers and non-struc­tural mem­bers. Struc­tural mem­bers are those mem­bers that will af­fect the struc­tural sta­bil­ity of a build­ing and shall be de­signed by a struc­tural en­gi­neer.”

Un­der­lin­ing the need to clearly spec­ify a struc­tural en­gi­neer’s qual­i­fi­ca­tions, Shah had rec­om­mended that he or she should pos­sess a min­i­mum of bach­e­lor’s de­gree or equiv­a­lent in the field of struc­tural/seis­mic de­sign and/or en­gi­neer­ing from an in­sti­tu­tion recog­nised by the All In­dia Coun­cil of Tech­ni­cal Education… and have ex­pe­ri­ence in de­sign­ing earth­quake re­sis­tant and struc­turally sound build­ings. The per­son should be re­spon­si­ble for the struc­tural de­sign of the build­ings (and its parts, in­clud­ing foun­da­tions) and be re­spon­si­ble for is­su­ing a struc­tural sta­bil­ity cer­tifi­cate for build­ings. The cer­tifi­cate would men­tion that all draw­ings, walls, floor, beams etc had been com­pleted as per de­sign guide­lines of the Na­tional Build­ing Code and all rel­e­vant In­dian stan­dards is­sued by the bureau of In­dian Stan­dards, in­clud­ing the lat­est re­vi­sion of Earth­quake Codes.

“The Sharad Ya­dav chaired com­mit­tee re­port was more in favour of con­sumers and war­ranted manda­tory dis­clo­sure of many more norms, es­pe­cially those con­cerned with oc­cu­pant safety,” Shah adds.

A high-rise dam­aged in the Nepal quake. The coun­try largely fol­lows In­dian safety norms

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