Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Delhi-NCR is gearing up for skyscrapers, but how safe is highrise living? - Economic Times

Delhi-NCR is gearing up for skyscrapers, but how safe is highrise living? - Economic Times:
With a handful of builders like Ireo, Raheja and Supertech proposing high-end skyscrapers,the trend of vertical development now seems to be catching up in Delhi NCR. After all,when global cities like New York, Dubai and Hong Kong can do it and back home Mumbai can be seen doing it, why can't the National Capital Region too take to high living - particularly, in view of all the factors and circumstances, ranging from relaxed norms to consumer preference to the shortage of land and rising land prices, tilting in its favour?

However, before we get carried away by the thought of living on top of the world,we will do well to keep certain facts and ground realities in mind. For instance, when our builders in most cases are unable to construct even good-quality lowrise houses, will it be safe to live in super tall buildings (taller than 150m) built by them? This question is important as a large number of Indian builders - even some renowned ones - are known for shoddy construction work and for using poor-quality materials in their projects.

They also seldom shy away from flouting safety norms and care a fig for real estate regulations - whatever they are - as well as the safety and well-being of end users. Lack of technical knowhow may also be a big problem. For, we Indians are seldom known for having the requisite skills for constructing giant towers. So, how can we develop world-class skills at the drop of a hat? Added to this is the fact that many builders seldom deliver what they promise, even if they have given it in writing.
In such circumstances, therefore, how wise it would be to trust their words, particularly in the case of skyscrapers? Snehdeep Aggarwal, founder and chairman of the Delhi-based Bhartiya Group, which has recently forayed into real estate, agrees. "As the craze for skyscrapers grows, the safety aspect is the uppermost concern for buyers. What if the area is hit by an earthquake or fire engulfs the building ?

This is important as Delhi NCR falls in seismic Zone 4 (meaning very high risk of earthquake), while fire departments in most cities, including Delhi, are not yet geared to handle such situations.Moreover, if the project is a super tall building, the consequences will be very big even with minor mistakes in design or bad judgment by a contractor," he says. A majority of experts are also of similar view,although they say that all builders are not bad and the situation is not as alarming as it is perceived to be.

Neeraj Bansal, director (risk consulting), KPMG India, for instance, says: "After the Adarsh housing scam,the state committee has framed new guidelines with respect to highrise buildings .As per the new norm,builders are required to submit a final plan before seeking approval. This will prevent developers from changing their plans once the committee clears a proposal. Further, it is mandatory for the builders to submit their applications based on the available FSI (floor space index)."

"A developer should also submit a detailed layout plan, including details of buildings around a 1.3km radius of the proposed project (details like main access road,its width, number of proposed highrises in the vicinity , buildings of archaeological importance , heritage sites, schools, and places of worship).It is imperative for a developer to carry out several surveys, including environmental impact, traffic, open space, soil profile study, availability of amenities, energy ,water use,and wind analysis," he says. As buildings go higher, the challenges relating to structural design that can withstand wind pressures, etc, also go up.

Also, additional planning is needed for solid waste management, maintaining water pressures and convenient vertical movement of residents. However, in today's day and age,planning methods and state-of-theart technology are sufficiently advanced to safely take care of these challenges," says a spokesperson of Ireo. Keeping these facts in mind, industry experts are of the opinion that residing in skyscrapers may also be safe as in most of the recent project launches there has been proper planning for mass evacuations in case of a fire or other accident.

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