Jains Westminster Apartments in Chennai should be demolished and reconstructed: IIT-M study

The study, which was undertaken in 2023 after residents complained about portions of the ceiling collapsing and cracks in the building, identified many scenarios indicating poor quality of construction materials and practices

February 01, 2024 10:11 pm | Updated February 02, 2024 04:15 pm IST - CHENNAI

The findings recommend that the demolition and redevelopment of Blocks A and B need to be carried out immediately. File

The findings recommend that the demolition and redevelopment of Blocks A and B need to be carried out immediately. File | Photo Credit: B. Velankanni Raj

A study undertaken by the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT-Madras) at Jains Westminster Apartments (JWA), Saligramam, has concluded that the developer has to demolish and reconstruct all the buildings (Blocks A, B, and C).

This particular study was undertaken in 2023 after residents of this apartment complained about a portion of the ceiling collapsing. Residents went on to complain about several cracks in the building too. Jain Housing and Constructions Limited had requested IIT-M to assess the condition and develop a durable repair strategy (if found feasible) for JWA. The JWA complex, comprises Blocks A, B, and C, and each has wings A and B. In total, there are over 600 apartment units. The investigation was aimed at understanding the root cause of the deterioration observed (within five to seven years of construction) in the Blocks A, B, and C.

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The report by IIT-M tilted “Condition Assessment of Jains Westminster Apartments, Saligramam, Chennai” submitted by Manu Santhanam and Radhakrishna G. Pillai, Department of Civil Engineering, consists of findings from visual inspections, methodologies adopted for detailed investigations, results from the detailed investigations, and, finally, the conclusions and recommendations.

According to the study, many scenarios indicating poor quality of construction materials and practices were identified. These include: inadequate concrete cover and adjustment by excessive plastering, especially in columns, use of concrete with inadequate compressive strength in the columns, use of loose sand (instead of cementitious bedding mortar) beneath flooring tiles at many locations, lack of adequate documentation of construction practices and material tests conducted during construction, and structural drawings showing discrepancies from the actual conditions.

The visual inspections, field tests, and laboratory tests on samples collected from the field indicate serious issues with compressive strength of concrete, chloride-induced corrosion, and very high chances of continuation of such corrosion and associated damage soon – leading to a much worse and unsafe scenario. “Considering these serious technical drawbacks and keeping the long-term safety of the residents in mind, it is highly advisable to evacuate all residents, and demolish and reconstruct the buildings (Blocks A, B, and C),” the report pointed out.

This action on Blocks A and B need to be taken with immediate effect. Given the marginally-better current condition of Block C, it can serve as a temporary accommodation (say, for a maximum period of one year) for the residents until the other two are reconstructed. After the reconstruction (say, within a year), Block C can be evacuated, demolished, and rebuilt, the study recommended.

Moisture and ventilation

It is also learnt that flaking and blistering of paint was a common issue observed in ceilings of occupied apartments, particularly those located under unoccupied ones. This indicated the presence of moisture and ventilation issues. Upon removal of the floor tiles, it was observed that loose sand was used for bedding between the tiles and slabs, and the typically recommended cement bedding mortar was either inadequate or non-existent. The insufficient grouting has led to gaps between and beneath the tiles and facilitated moisture ingress. This subsequently might have caused sand bulking, which exerted upward pressure on the tiles, causing them to tent.

Two major observations in unoccupied apartments in Block C were water stagnation in rooms and clogged drains inside toilets, particularly in the seventeenth floor. This has led to seepage of water to the adjacent occupied apartments in the floors below (15th and 16th floors), which was evident from the formation of water droplets and dampness on the ceilings.

When contacted, the spokesperson for Jain Housing and Constructions Limited said : “We will be redeveloping the community as committed. We stand firm on our commitment to the customers.” The developer also said a meeting was held with association members regarding this on Thursday evening.

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