The recent case of a cave in of a portion high rise residential building in Gurgaon has exposed the chinks in structural safety and structural audit of condominiums, bringing into focus the urgent need to make habitats safe for living. Vinod Behl
For long, residents of New Gurgaon have been facing post-possession perils of deficient internal and external infrastructure like road connectivity, power & water supply, drainage and sewerage. But the recent case of a vertical collapse of a part of a high-rise building, resulting in the death of two residents and one more high-rise residential building declared unsafe for living, has sent alarm bells ringing on the question of structural safety of high-rise buildings.
The immediate fall out of such cases of building collapse has been to hold builders, contractors and engineers guilty to stem public outcry, sidestepping the long-term measures to prevent such mishaps. The building byelaws of the Union Urban Development Ministry prescribe for structural audit of buildings every 5 years for 15 years old buildings and every 3 years for 20 years old buildings. For buildings older than 30 years, there is a provision for audit to ascertain whether they are fit for occupancy.
RERA under existing rules, also has a provision that if there is any structural deficiency in a building within 5 years of grant of Occupation Certificate (OC), a complainant can approach RERA for relief. But it has been seen that RERA or the Department of Town & Country Planning have not been living up to it . In fact, the practice of granting provisional OC has been further complicating the matters, bringing to the fore the requirement to implement rules and regulations more effectively and the need for RERA and development regulatory authorities to play a more proactive role in this regard.
In the case of RERA, it has been seen that different states have different versions of central law. There is a need for uniform regulations across the country to effectively regulate real estate, check errant developers and provide safe habitats to home buyers. The DTCP also needs to put its house in order. In Gurgaon, DTCP is highly understaffed and is unable to perform its duties properly in view of heavy workload. Obviously, there is a need to ensure that development regulatory bodies are properly staffed, besides these should be made fully digitized to streamline their operations to provide time bound services and ensure structural safety.
In this backdrop the steps taken by HRERA-Gurgaon are appreciable. It has directed all real estate developers to appoint nodal officers to resolve construction complaints of home buyers. The Authority may order an audit of any building constructed within the last 5 years with questionable construction quality or structural issues. The Haryana government has already constituted a panel to examine and resolve complaints related to structural defects in residential buildings. Further, making structural safety and quality construction certification mandatory by RERA at different stages of building construction with regard to following design and construction standards and quality of building materials used , will serve as good preventive measures to ensure safety of buildings and their residents .
In conclusion, there is a need for better coordination between RERA authorities and town and country planning authorities in districts to ensure greater scrutiny of buildings from the safety point of view. The industry bodies like CREDAI and NAREDCO also need to play a concrete and constructive role to ensure safe and dignified housing,