V. Geetanath

Issue gains urgency in view of High Court directive to the Government

Bureau of Indian Standards has come out with a revised National Building CodeNBC insists on fire fighting and escape provisions for structures taller than 15 metresIllegal constructions like pent houses can face demolition, observes a senior official

HYDERABAD: Fire safety norms and the National Building Code are likely to get their due in building regulations if discussions in higher echelons of the Government are anything to go by.

It also means any building above 15 metres -- stilt plus ground plus five stories and above -- will be considered a multi-storied building making it compulsory to obtain clearance from the Fire Service department.

As per Government Order 423, any building more than 17.5 metres is considered a multi-storied building. For some years now, building permissions have been granted according to the GO issued in 1998 when NBC and Fire Services Act (amended in 2002) had clearly stated that any building above 15 metres should get cleared by FS officials.

Though a panel of senior officials had already suggested change in building rules in conformity with the NBC, the issue had gained urgency in view of the recent High Court directive to the Government seeking details of buildings without Fire Service's no-objection certificate.

The NBC insists on fire fighting and escape provisions for structures taller than 15 metres. The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), which oversees its implementation, has come out with a revised NBC-2005, a more comprehensive set of construction rules, making provision for safe design and construction of buildings against natural disasters.

BIS Additional Director-General Rakesh Verma, in a communication sent last month, has urged all State Governments and local bodies under their control to make the code mandatory through the building bylaws.

Existing structures

If it comes through what will happen to the existing structures above 15 metres height without the mandatory fire clearance? Senior officials say if the six-meter setbacks all round are not feasible around such buildings, certain fire safety norms will have to be followed. These include additional water tanks, smoke detectors, sprinklers, fire extinguishers, escape routes, and the likes to make the structure reasonably safe for occupants. "While there could be relaxation with regard to minor deviations, illegal constructions like pent houses could face demolition," observes a senior official.