Making buildings safe during rainy season


Awareness on water safety measures is not high, say builders

Coimbatore, located in an earthquake prone zone, needs buildings that are safe during quakes. While awareness about constructing quake resistant buildings has improved substantially over the years, much needs to be done to make buildings safe during heavy rain too.

Awareness on water safety measures is not high, say some of the builders here.

While engineers and consulting civil engineers should be involved and their views taken while constructing a new building, engineers should be employed to inspect old buildings and steps taken to make the structures safe, the builders say.

According to V. Gopalakrishnan, chairman of the Coimbatore chapter of the Association of Consulting Civil Engineers (India), Coimbatore does not receive abnormally heavy rain. With the rainfall that the city normally receives, there should not be any damage to buildings. “What is important is water should either percolate or drain. It should not stagnate anywhere.”

Several factors make a structure safe. If workmanship or quality of the material used is not good, a building may see seepages and leaks in a few years after construction. For residential and commercial buildings, the construction activity should be preferably during day time to ensure quality of the work. All the required certification should be done at least for documentation. Some people raise the height of a compound wall or building on one side. There should be proper drain facility so that water does not stagnate there. In the recent years, improved materials are available right from different varieties of cement to coatings. These should be used properly as recommended by engineers, he says.

V. Sivarajan, chairman of the Builders’ Association of India, Coimbatore, adds that the government should identify all the old buildings that are weak, declare those as not fit for living, and demolish the buildings. The new technologies and materials available give the option of constructing safe buildings in any locality and site condition. But, engineers should be involved so that these are adopted properly. The design of a structure should be based on soil test. Further, the public should not go in for saving on costs by neglecting safety measures, he says.

Normally, the strength of concrete increases for the first 50 years of construction. In the case of old buildings, engineers should be involved to inspect the structure. Materials are available to strengthen weak structures too, he says. “Building collapse because of rain is rare here,” he points out.

K. Viswanathan, former national vice-president of the Builders Association of India, says that some of the reasons for buildings caving in are: improper excavation in the adjacent site, overburdening of wall without adequate support, water stagnation in between walls or bricks, use of poor quality materials, and not testing the water used for construction.

He suggests that water should not be allowed to stagnate on roof or sun shades, blocks in rain water drains should be removed regularly, and waste or heavy materials should not be dumped on roof tops. Cracks or leaks should be packed so that water does not get in and stagnate.

In congested neighbourhoods, where wall-to-wall construction is common, sometimes there is a small gap between two buildings and the exposed side of the wall might not be plastered properly. These are potential threats that affect the quality of a building. Special coatings are available that can be used in old buildings to avoid seepages or leaks.

The government can introduce norms wherein every stage of construction is inspected and given the approval for progress. In the case of old buildings, fitness certificate should be made mandatory when the building is sold.

Quality of water used during construction is important as it can lead to corrosion of steel in the later years. There is just 10 % to 20 % awareness on making buildings safe from water related problems, he says.

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2019 8:45:30 PM |

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