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DTCP releases draft guidelines on structural safety of buildings

The changes the government proposes to bring include two layers of independent checks before the occupation certificate (OC) is issued.

The Haryana government’s town and country planning department (DTCP) has released draft guidelines on structural safety to keep a check on buildings as it attempts to plug a glaring procedural loophole that the Chintels Paradiso cave-in on February 10, which killed two residents, exposed.

The changes the government proposes to bring include two layers of independent checks before the occupation certificate (OC) is issued.

One is empanelling structural engineers and proof consultants to vet buildings and certify that they are compliant with the Haryana Building Code.

The other is inspections by a third-party agency, to be picked by the DTCP, to assess construction quality before a building is cleared for an OC.

The DTCP has acknowledged in the draft guidelines there are gaps in the existing procedure (to certify buildings for OCs).

The current rules don’t have a mechanism for background checks and experience of structural and proof consultants, who play a key role in certifying a building. There is no provision either for an independent third-party inspection while construction is on, and the government relies solely on the report of an architect hired by the developer certifying the quality of material used and adherence to the building code.

The guidelines were put in the public domain on Saturday, inviting suggestions within two weeks (April 28) after which the rules will be notified through amendments to the building code.

Another important change proposed is the creation of a formal response mechanism for complaints from residents on poor construction quality, cracks, seepage and other faults in buildings – which happened at Paradiso – after the OC has been issued.

For this, the guidelines propose empanelling a fact-finding agency that will conduct site inspections and make recommendations (within 15 days) on interventions needed, including a structural audit.

To empanel structural engineers and proof consultants, the government proposes to create a portal under the supervision of a senior or retired chief engineer (or an official at that level).

Under existing norms for multi-storey buildings laid down in the Haryana Building Code, the developer files an application for approval of building plan with drawings and the fee.

Another form is signed by the developer, architect and structural engineer certifying that the building is compliant with the state and Bureau of Indian Standards codes, explained district town planner RS Batth. The current process essentially puts the developer of a building in charge of certifying it.

With the application, a developer submits the building plan, deviation from the plan and other related documents, including certificates from a structural engineer, proof consultant and a no-objection certificate from the fire department.

The government engineers come in only at the time of a field verification, usually done by a junior engineer, who checks the building plan, the overall finish and furnishing of a building. Subsequently, urban development authority HSVP checks road access, water connections and other amenities.

The DTCP approval follows and an OC is issued. There are no structural inspections or checks by any government agency during this process.

DTCP director KM Pandurang said, “Draft of structural safety guidelines have been issued for the information of general public and all other stakeholders, seeking suggestions” .

The guidelines, he added, will come into force only after considering all suggestions received.


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