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Is your building safe?

Structural experts warn that a 'minor' renovation could cost you your life and endanger the safety of your building, reports Madhurima Nandy.

india Updated: Aug 18, 2007 03:16 IST
Madhurima Nandy
Madhurima Nandy
Hindustan Times

Next time you decide to change your kitchen into a study, think again. Your “minor” renovation could cost you your life and endanger the safety of your building. <b1>

As the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) decides on punitive measures to thrust structural audits in housing societies, structural experts say that residents can do a safety check themselves.

In Mumbai, there are 2.25 lakh buildings which are more than 15 years old. There have been bye-laws asking for structural audits for buildings. But not much has been done over the years. The collapse of Laxmi Chhaya building in July, which claimed 28 lives, made the state government and the municipal corporation wake up and take note of the crisis.

The collapse made the BMC decide to do a health check of all buildings through regular structural audits. Those buildings not willing will be slapped a penalty of Rs 50,000 and will also have their water and electricity supply cut.

Structural experts say that even if the norms are strict, residents need to feel the necessity for such audits. Sunil Joshi, a structural engineer, says that in most cases residents are to be blamed for their lack of responsibility towards their building. "People spend so much money on interior designers and architects for a false ceiling, marble flooring and periodically revamping their homes. But they are reluctant to spend a bit for a structural survey."

BMC engineers agreed that despite the structural survey being made mandatory now, they would want residents and societies to voluntarily come forward and opt for an audit.

Besides structural audits, the draft byelaws suggest that buildings which are more than 15 years old, the residents will have to report on all “tenantable repairs” as well. The draft byelaws have suggested that residents must report on “tenantable repairs” like making a false ceiling, removing a beam etc. They have to report on the various types of repairs, alterations and submit a certificate from a registered consultant. Buildings, which are more than 15-years-old, will be audited by a registered panel of consultants with the BMC.

Property advocate Vinod Sampat agrees that residents need to be more cautious and the civic body needs to be more proactive in implementing these byelaws. <b2>

Under the model byelaws of 2001 of the Maharashtra Co-operative Societies Act, all buildings between 15 and 30 years old should have a structural audit once in five years. Those older than 30 years will have to do it once in three years. The earlier KC Shrivastav report, which was submitted to the state government after a number of building collapses in the late 90s, had also suggested that such audits be made compulsory.

Sampat added that it has been commonly seen that tenants and residents have been reluctant to pay the costs involved in hiring structural engineers thereby rendering the laws redundant. "Also, there is no mechanism in place to check whether housing societies are complying with the byelaws."

The State Urban Development Department has now even drafted a bill that will make it mandatory for developers to procure a licence from the local civic body before undertaking construction. If the licence is cancelled, the builder will be prohibited from any further construction in the state.

First Published: Aug 18, 2007 03:12 IST