It is important that the plans are properly vetted by the authorities, writes Nemmani Sreedhar
Each time a building collapses, both public and officials raise hue and cry. However, the problem of substandard construction cannot be solved by mere platitudes, construction material expert Dr. L.H. Rao avers.
Whenever a plan is submitted for approval, the municipal authorities should subject it to thorough verification before granting permission, he maintains. “Currently anyone can obtain permission for a building by just getting a stamp from any of the architect firms that are mushrooming around the city. Getting a plan ‘approved’ by an architect will not ensure the safety of a building, he says.
With more high-rise buildings coming into existence, it is important that the plans are properly vetted by the authorities, he says. But vetting the plans before approving them will not be sufficient.
“Apart from vetting the plans in the initial phase, a mechanism has to be evolved to inspect the construction in each phase and a builder should be allowed to proceed to the next stage only when that phase of construction is according to the building plans and materials used are of optimum standard,” he says. In this way, one can ensure that builders are using appropriate materials and the plan is technically sound.Apart from these, builders should also display the plans at the construction site, Dr. Rao says. It has become a practice to completely cover the construction sites with tarpaulin during the process in the grab of protecting the neighbouring buildings. However, this is also resulting in screening off the entire construction process thus keeping the neighbours in dark about the building plans.
“With high-rise buildings coming up closely, damage to one will invariably result in the damage to other building as well and hence constructing a building should not be considered as a ‘private’ venture that does not concern others,” he points out.By displaying the building plans, neighbours will not be unaware of the upcoming building and will also help increase transparency, Dr. Rao suggests. According to him, these steps are necessary as architectural drawings alone are not enough for ensuring the safety of a building.
“Investigations conducted into the incidents of buildings collapsing usually point out that the original architectural drawings were either inadequate or were faulty. Having a transparent process in both obtaining the building permission and auditing the construction process will bring down the malpractices,” he explains.
But can people read the architectural drawings and comprehend the nuances? Dr. Rao is of the opinion that it is important for the people to understand at least basics of building plans.
“Most people are more afraid of the official procedures they have to follow rather than understanding a drawing. If someone is ready to explain the nitty-gritty of building plans, most people will be willing to listen to them. Municipal authorities, on the other hand, should take a proactive role in setting up a body to audit and inspect the building plans and the construction process,” he adds.