Towards building safe homes

Builders in Chennai are suggesting wide-ranging measures, including proper assigning of responsibilities, to ensure that accidents such as the Moulivakkam tragedy are not repeated

The collapse of the 11-storey building in Moulivakkam that claimed 61 lives, followed by the wall collapse in Tiruvallur district in which 11 people died, has triggered a series of debates about industry norms in public forums and the social media.

The role of the State government, its principal planning agencies – Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority and Directorate of Town and Country Planning, in addition to local bodies, has come under scrutiny.

Many stakeholders believe that the immediate need is the creation of an ‘independent authority’ that “will regulate, not constrict the industry, and ensure that best practices from across the world are followed here.”

Experts told The Hindu it was time for clearly demarcating the duties and responsibilities of each of the stakeholders – be it the developer, architect, structural engineer, project management consultants, planning agency, local bodies and also financial institutions and the end user – the investor. A single accident should not result in a freeze on construction, they said.

Setting the ball rolling, N. Nandakumar of the Tamil Nadu Chapter of Confederation of Real Estate Developers Association of India (CREDAI), said other countries had learnt from their experiences and the industry here should introspect similarly.

Pramod Balakrishnan, principal architect, Edifice, pitched for mandatory regulation and accreditation. “Builders use the branding of foreign architects to sell their projects. Indian architects do not have a branding or a selling point even though they are very talented,” he said. Without clearly demarcating the roles of people involved in the industry, pulling up architects for no fault of theirs was unfair, he added.

Stating that accreditation, evaluation and stringent checks were a must, M. Ravi of Engineering and Project Management Solutions, said these should be made by an autonomous, certified and a highly independent, yet trusted agency.

Recounting his experience, R. Perumalsamy, an accredited checker and managing director of Singapore-based Buro Engineers Private Limited that also has operations in Chennai, said the island nation had stringent norms in place.

Building plans sanctioned by Building Control Authority were checked by professional agencies and quality of construction monitored by resident engineers at the site, he added.

“Technical evaluations should not just be restricted to high rise buildings, I suggest they should be done even for 3 or 4-storeyed buildings too,” said Venkata Prasad Chintaluri, Managing Director of Geomarine Consultants.

The stakeholders will soon be preparing exhaustive safety manuals, standard operation procedures and best practices followed the world over and take them to the government, in an attempt towards creating safe environment and to boost investor confidence.

Keywords: Chennai buildings, building safety, safe construction practices
Source The Hindu