When to start Repairs for your society building

BY: SUDHAKAR DOKHANE

(Past President PEATA (I)

In last two decades, some R.C.C. frame buildings had collapsed in Greater Mumbai Limits; causing loss of life and property. “Govinda Towers” at Bandra was a recent casualty.

Based on the reports of investigating committees, their recommendations and opinions of experts in the field following are main reasons of building collapses: –

Uneven settlement of foundation.

Use of inferior workmanship and or quality materials resulting in poor concrete, lacking in required durability.

Aging of structure.

Excessive ground water level, leading to erosion of soil bearing capacities.

Structural designing on erroneously judged or assumed bearing capacity of soil.

Over loading after occupation, by additions and alterations for which the structure is NOT designed.

Carrying out structural repairs amounting to alterations, removal and inflicting damage and or cutting in to or removing structural members for interior design / decoration requirements.

Excavations near building.

Collapse of adjoining building.

Earth quake or any blast giving lateral thrust to the structure.

Lack of maintenance and timely repairs of excessive leakages, resulting continuous corrosion of steel reinforcement causing deterioration.

Unauthorised additional construction, and changes in original plan / structure.

Changes in the orientation and or increasing size of toilet blocks, and installation of additional water storage tanks on lofts thereby increasing load on existing structure.

Leakages & seepages due to damaged drainage pipelines & defective septic tanks and soak pits.

Inordinate delay in attending and or not attending necessary repairs.

Primarily Collapse of buildings are categorised in 3 parts:

Collapse during construction.

Collapse after construction within 2/3 years.

Collapse after 10 years.

The collapse in item no. i) & ii) above can be due to faulty construction and or basic fundamental errors in structural designs, error in judgement of supervision on construction by site engineer or inferior quality of materials supplied by owner / developer and or contractor. The collapse in item iii) can be due to weakening of the building due to reasons, which can be a subject matter of in-depth investigations depending upon each individual case.

For last 4 decades due to multi ownership unit pattern of construction, housing is taken over by the developers/builders who have only transitionary interest in the project,

mainly executed as profit oriented business, with primarily two basic parameters i) Maximum earnings & ii) Speedy construction.

The developer / builder has come to stay thus, has become master of the game of construction development, resulting in loss of control by professionals on construction. Inhouse provision of professionals in builder’s organisation, further deteriorated relations and controls between developers & practicing professionals. There is no code of conduct in practice for developers & contractors who are principal agencies in building construction.

Surprisingly even registration is NOT made mandatory for these agencies, in private sector mass housing constructions, inspite of repeated representations from Professionals’ Associations to the Govt. & Municipal Corporations.

Besides actions against builders / developers and professionals if involved in any unfortunate collapse, in reality the occupant / consumer is the real sufferer. This can be avoided and structures can remain healthy for a long time, provided timely repairs are carried out and the structure is maintained properly through out. All the occupants has to realise the consequences of such events.

To avoid such miserable incidents, Do’s & Don’ts are given in the next chapter “Maintenance of Structures” for necessary guidance and to act upon.

Choosing and Dealing With a Contractor in Housing Societies

By Ar. Ajay S. Nahar (Nahar Group)
MSc Construction Project Management (U.K.)
Building your dream project can quickly turn into a nightmare of unmet schedules, cost over runs, bad workmanship and endless arguments. In my recent years of practice I have experienced the constant tiff and feud between the clients and the contractors and further delays are inevitable. So what exactly are the criteria for choosing the right contractor then becomes the most obvious question.

Above: View of one of premium projects designed by Ar.Ajay Nahar

THE PLANS

Paramount to the success of constructing your project, is working with good quality plans and specifications. Professionally drawn plans are mandatory. They,
help to avoid hidden costs during construction
provide a clear picture of what work is involved
avoid most unnecessary delays in the issuance of a building approval should form part of the contract with your choice of builder
THE CONTRACTOR
Finding the right contractor can be a difficult process. During your selection, consider the following tips:
gather information and proposals from at least 3 contractors
the contractor should anticipate that you will ask for references and has a list already prepared for the first meeting
receive names and telephone numbers of reputed builders and developers who have used the contractors services in the past and currently
follow-up by talking to the builders and developers and visiting their projects to view completed projects similar to the one you have planned
the contractor should spend time looking at your project and the construction site
THE PROPOSAL
Once you have selected at least 3 potential contractors, proposals must be submitted for your consideration. Each proposal should include:
A description of the work to be carried out based on your plans and specifications
An estimated cost, including or excluding all taxes
Similar material costs, as contractors in a given area usually buy from the same supplier
A section dealing with labour, supervision, overhead, holdback provisions and the profit margin of the contractor
When the work could commence and be completed
How extras, changes and deletions will be handled
Information about the contractors warranty for materials and workmanship
Who is responsible to obtain all approvals and to ensure inspections are carried out
Information regarding the contractors’ risk insurance and standing with the Workers’ Compensation Board
THE CONTRACT

Once you have chosen a contractor, a contract should be entered into for the protection of both parties. The following is a possible sequence that you could expect to occur:
the contractor will most likely provide a written contract for you to sign
the contract should contain similar information as the contractors’ proposal
before signing a contract, it is advisable to consult a lawyer who has experience with construction contracts

UNDERLYING INQUIRIES
Does the contractor have a permanent business location and a good reputation?
How long has he or she been in business?
Is the contractor a member in good standing of a professional association?
CHECK REFERENCES. It’s important that you talk with people who have hired the contractor to do similar jobs to yours and ask if they would hire the contractor again.
Have you seen the contractor’s work both in progress and completed?
Does the contractor have proof of worker’s compensation and general liability insurance? If not, you may be liable for any construction related accidents on your property or damage to property caused by an accident.
Price drives the selection. If you like the contractor and are confident with his or her work, but they came in with a bid which is beyond your price, ask what can be scaled down to meet your budget.
Are you able to communicate easily with the contractor? Misunderstandings during the course of the project can lead to cost overruns and delays.
Do you feel comfortable with the contractor? Remember, you will be in close contact with them until the entire project is complete.
Ask what type of warranty is offered. Most contractors offer some sort of warranty or agree to damages in writing.
Do not allow the contractor to start any work before a construction approval has been issued and is on the job site. If the contractor is willing to work without a approval he or she has something to hide.

Follow these useful tips and rest assured you have a smooth sailing for your dream project.

FAQs: Repairs & Leakages in Housing Societies

By Maharashtra Bureau

Q1 What action has to be taken by the Committee after going through the report for repairs to be undertaken in case the repairs have to be done by the member at his cost?

Ans. In respect of the repairs to be carried out by the member at his cost, the committee issues the notice to the member, indicating therein, the particulars of repairs necessary at his flat and calls upon him to carry out the repairs to his flat to the satisfaction of the architect approved by the Society, if any, at his cost, within such period as the Committee may allow.

Q2 Member ‘A’ is holding terrace flat. Damage caused to the plaster of ceiling of his flats, and then can the society incur the cost of it from its own fund?

Ans. If there are outside repairing word of such flats them the society has to bear that cost. However internal plasterwork of the ceiling should have to incur by the ‘A’ him. Similarly, if the work is regarding structural stability (a recasting of slab) then the society has to incur it by its fund.

Q3 Member ‘A’ stays on upper floor he has not done any type of repairing or changes in his flat, even then the leakage develops in the flat of member ‘B’ residing below ‘A’ than can the cost incur on it made from the funds of the society?

Ans. Under bye-laws, it is obligatory to incur such cost by the A and B together. The society cost as per the resolution of general body meeting.

Q4 What power does the Society have regarding an examination of the Flats and for what purpose?

Ans. Every member has to allow the Secretary of the Society, accompanied by any other member of the Committee, to enter upon his flat with prior intimation to the Member by the Secretary of the Society, to examine its condition for ascertaining the repairs, if any, necessary for the purpose of facilitating the discharge of functions mentioned under the Bye-law No. 156 by the Committee.

Q5 When can the Society cause the structural audit of the building to take place?

Ans. The Society has to cause the structural audit of the building of the society as follows:
a. For the building ageing 15 to 30 years – once in 5 years;
b. For the building ageing above 30 years – once in 3 years.

Q6 What action to be taken if lower floor flat owner makes complaints that leakage from the flat caused nuisance, however member from the upper floor did not co-operate for repairing?

Ans. It is expected that members should Co-operate with each other for leakages.  Society first by calling upon both the members for a joint meeting, try to create an atmosphere of getting co-operation for repairing.  If a member is not co-operating and not allowing office bearers of the society/workers in his flat then by making a complaint to the local police station repairing work can be get done through the workers by taking help of local police.  In this regard, a member who caused a nuisance of leakage can seek justice from the co-operation court under section 91 in respect of the leakage problem.

Q7 What does the Secretary have to state after the examination of the Flat?

Ans. The Secretary of the Society has to report to the Committee, and indicate therein, the particulars of the repairs which have to be carried out by the society at its cost and those repairs which have to be carried out by the members at their cost.

Q8 What action has to be taken by the Committee after going through the report for repairs to be undertaken in case the repairs have to be done by the Society at its cost?

Ans. On receipt of the report, the Committee has to ascertain the cost involved in the repairs, which are required to be carried out by the Society at its cost as provided under the Bye-law No. 160(a) and the notice has to be served on the member for such period as the Committee thinks adequate, and also specify its intention to carry out the repairs and thereupon on the receipt of such notice, the member concerned has to allow the workmen engaged by the society, directly or through its architect, access to his flat for carrying out the repairs.

 

Q9 Member ‘A’ resides on upper floor, he has made internal repairing in his gala. This caused damage to the plaster of ceiling of the Member ‘B’ who stay at lower floor, then can a repairing of the ceiling of member ‘B’ made from the funds of the society?

Ans. Such expenses should be borne by Member ‘A’. If he denied that justice can be sought under Section 91 of the Maharashtra Co-operative Societies Act, 1960 by filing a suit in the Co-operative Court and similarly from the local authorities (Municipal Corporation) by making a complaint.

 

Q10 Who has to conduct such a structural audit?

Ans. The structural audit has to be conducted by the Engineers from the panel of Municipal Corporations in case of the Societies which are in the limits of Municipal Corporations.  In the case of other societies, such structural audit has to be carried out by the Govt. Approved Engineer.

Q11 If one member while doing repairing in his gala caused damages to the other member’s gala then which officer gives a decision on it? And whether dues of the societies can be withhold due to this reason?

Ans. Justice can be seeking in this regard by filing a suit in the Co-operative Court as per provisions in Section 91 of the Maharashtra Co-operative Societies Act, 1960. However, the dues of the society cannot be withheld for this reason.

 

Q12 What can be done if the member concerned does not agree to comply with the notice issued by the Society to carry out the repairs on his cost?

Ans. If the member fails to comply with the notice, the Secretary of the Society or the Architect appointed by the Society shall be deemed to have the authority to enter upon the flat after giving due notice to the member concerned and cause the repairs to be carried out. The amount which is spent by the society on such repairs is to be recovered from the member concerned.

 

Q13 Member ‘A’ resides upper floor. Since he has done repairing work, this cause leakage in the gala of member ‘B’ who reside low on that floor. Then can society make repairing of its own fund?

Ans. It will be necessary that the said expenses should be borne by the Member ‘A’.  Justice can seek in this regard by filing suit under Section 91 of the Maharashtra Co-operative Societies Act, 1960.

 

Repair Permission in Mumbai

BY: Ar SUDHAKAR  DOKHANE, (Past President PEATA (I)

             In earlier two chapters, the information on i) Why Building deteriorates and become weak and ii)  Maintenance of Structures with Do’s & Dont’s, is provided. It is also necessary to know regarding the nature of Repairs and its permissions required from the local civic authority thereof. One should understand that timely repairs only, can keep buildings in healthy conditions. It is seen that largely the repairs are ignored and delayed for this or that reason, or some time due to abnormal delay in granting permissions by the local municipal authority.

 

However such permissions are based on the nature of repairs. It is also noticed that, some time people are carrying out the work of additions or alterations under the disguise of repairs and ultimately land in to troubles. Repairs amounting to structural changes or additions or alterations requires regular permissions with scrutiny and procedures, which are inevitable and are always in the interest of the applicant.

 

Very few people know that certain type of repairs do not require permissions from the Corporation. The nature of repairs and its permissions are described below. The Municipal Corporation of Gr. Mumbai has prepared following guide lines for the information of public. The repairs are classified in three categories:-

 

i)        Repairs where permission is NOT required from M.C.G.M.

ii)        Repairs prohibited.

iii)                Repairs which REQUIRE permissions from M.C.G.M

 

1)                  REPAIRS NOT REQUIRING PERMISSION FROM M.C.G.M.

Following repairs do not require permission from M.C.G.M.:-

i)                    Providing guniting to structural members or walls.

ii)                  Plastering, pointing, and Painting.

iii)                Changing of floor tiles.

iv)                Repairing of W.C., Bath, Toilets and Washing places.

v)                  Repairing or replacing of drainage pipe joints, taps, manholes and other sanitary fittings.

vi)                Repairing or replacing of sanitary/water, plumbing, and electrical service lines.

vii)              Repairing and or replacement of roof with same material.

 

2)                  REPAIRS  PROHIBITED

 

Certain repairs are prohibited which are detrimental to the structural

stability of the building. So, never attempt following, unless same is permitted by

the authority.

i)                    Lowering of plinth.

ii)                  Removal of load bearing walls.

iii)                Constructions of Lofts / Mezzanine floors supported on partition walls which are not load bearing walls.

3)                  REPAIRS WHICH REQUIRE PERMISSION FROM M.C.G.M.

 

Repairs involving the removal, alteration or re-erection of any part of the building covered under section 342 of M M C Act, permission from M.C.G.M. is required to be taken, such as for: –

 

i)                    Changes in horizontal and vertical existing dimensions of the structure, and thereby increase in area.

ii)                  Replacement of any structural R.C.C. member such as colums, beams etc and load bearing walls.

iii)                Construction / extension of mezzanine floor / loft.

iv)                Flattening of roof in R.C.C. or repairing and replacing of roof with different materials.

v)                  Enclosure of balcony.

 4)        PEOCEDURE FOR OBTAINING PERMISSIONS.

 

Wherever the permissions are required from M.C.G.M. as listed in item

(3) above, the applicant has to apply to the appropriate civic authority

of the Corporation along with the documents as stated hereunder:-

 

Owner / Occupier shall: –

 

i)                    Appoint a registered Structural Engineer, and Architect under whose supervision the work will be carried out.

ii)                  Submit the application for permission to the concerned officer in format through the registered structural engineer, architect so appointed.

iii)                Submit the following documents along with the application:-

 

  1. Supervision memo from the structural engineer, & architect.
  2. N.O.C. from the Society / Owner, for proposed work.
  3. Copy of the last property tax assessment bill paid.
  4. Copy of the licence, factory permit etc., in case of industrial premises.
  5. Plan showing the details of proposed repairs, additions or alterations.

f.          Certificate from the structural engineer to the effect that proposed work does not affect the structural stability of the building.

 

 

Note:-  On completion of the work the applicant has to submit the completion certificate from the structural engineer and architect appointed.

 

5.         TIME  LIMIT  FOR  GRANTING  PERMISSIONS

If application is submitted with all required documents and the same is in order, the concern officer of the Corporation has to issue such permissions within 30 days, which is a mandatory time limit.

 

Please note that such permission does not empower you to carry out the work in an unauthorised premises / portions, nor does it construe authorisation of the premises in which such work is to be carried out.

 

6.         WHOM TO APPROACH FOR PERMISSIONS

 

Nature Of Work Officer authorised to grant permission
i)          Construction of mezzanine floor  

 

Executive Engineer

(Building Proposal)

of respective zone

of The M.C.G.M.

 

ii)         Replacement of structural members
iii)        Change in horizontal and vertical            existing dimensions, resulting             increase in area.
iv)       Flattening of roof in R.C.C. orrepairing & replacing roof in

different materials

i)          Construction of lofts.

Assistant Engineer

(Buildings & Factories)

of the respective Ward

Office with approval of

concerned Execute

Engineer (Special)

ii)         Enclosure of Balcony & itsmerger in the adjoing room.
iii)        Interior decoration worksinvolving  changes, without

replacement of any structural

member.

 

  1. 7.      DONT’S:

 

As a precautionary measures, remember again, following Dont’s:-

a)   Do not carry out any unauthorised additions there by over loading

existing  structure for which it is not designed.

 

b)      Do not make any internal changes / alterations, specifically change in positions

of toilet blocks or kitchens. The same should be maintained in alignment with other floors.

 

c)      Do not try extensions of wet areas over dry areas.

 

d)     Do not tolerate any leakages, attend immediately

 

e)      Do not carry out additions and alterations if the same are not approved from the municipal authority, architect & structural engineer.

 

f)       Do not carry out such works without advice and supervision of qualified & experienced architect, structural engineer and contractor.

 

g)      Do not carry out any work of repairs or additions & alterations by petty contractors.

 

h)      Do not carry out following works unless backed by professional engineering support as described in item (f) above:-

 

i)    Replacement of floor finish.

ii)   Repairs of internal, external plastering, and R.C.C. members.

iii)  Any modifications to existing plan, according to which the building exits.

iv)  Toilet or Kitchen renovations.

v)   Structural alterations required for interior designing & decoration.

vi)  Any R.C.C. repairs which involves use of steel, cement, sand & stone/metal.

 

l l l l

 

Additions/Alterations/Repairs in a flat : – Whose Responsibility ? Co-operative Society or Member ?

By Legal Bureau

There is always a Tug-of-War between the Society and its Members in many Societies as regards responsibility and liability about additions/alterations/repairs.

I would like to narrate the law and procedure in such cases to avoid/reduce tension amongst the Members of a Co-operative Society.

  1. A Member cannot without the previous permission of the Managing Committee in writing, make any additions to or alterations in his Flat.
  2. The Member desirous of making any additions/alterations in his Flat shall make an application to the Secretary of Society giving all the required particulars.
  3. On receipt of the Application the Secretary shall scrutinise and bring any short coming therein to the Notice o the Member concern within 7 days.
  4. The Secretary shall place the Application before the Meeting of the Committee which shall take the decision.
  5. The Secretary of the Society shall communicate the decision of the Committee within 15 days of the decision.
  6. The Member shall also allow the Secretary accompanied by any other Member of the Committee to examine its conditions for ascertaining the repairs. The Secretary shall make a report to the Committee indicating therein the particulars of the Repairs to be carried out by the Society at its cost and those by the Members at their cost.
  7. The following repairs and maintenance of the Property of the Society shall be carried out by the Society at its cost.

(a)     (i) All internal roads, (ii) Compound Walls, (iii) External water pipe lines, (iv) Water pumps, (v) Water storage tanks, (vi) Drainage lines, (vii) Septic tanks, (viii) Stair cases, (ix) Terrace and Parapet Walls, (x) Structural repairs of roofs of all flats (xi) Stair Case Lights (xii) Street Lights (xiii) Outside Walls of the Building/ Buildings (xiv) All leakages of water including leakages due to rain water and leakages due to external common pipe line and drainage line (xv) Electric Lines upto main switches in the flats, (xvi) Lifts, (xvii) The damaged ceiling and plaster thereon in the top floor flats, on account of the leakage of the rain water through the terrace.

(b)     All the repairs not covered by the bye-law No. 160(a) shall be carried out be the members at their cost.

 

  1. in respect of the Repairs to be carried out by the Member at his cost, the Committee shall cause the notice to him indicating therein the particulars of repairs in his Flat to the satisfaction of the Architect approved by the Society if any, at his cost, within such period as the committee may allow. On his failure, the Secretary/Architect appointed by the Society shall have authority to enter the Flat, cause repairs at the cost of the Member after giving him due notice.

Additions/Alterations/Repairs in a flat : – Whose Responsibility ? Society or Member ?

By Adv. Sanjeev Kanchan

There is always a Tug-of-War between the Society and its Members in many Societies as regards responsibility and liability about additions/alterations/repairs.
I would like to narrate the law and procedure in such cases to avoid/reduce tension amongst the Members of a Co-operative Society.
1. A Member cannot without the previous permission of the Managing Committee in writing, make any additions to or alterations in his Flat.
2. The Member desirous of making any additions/alterations in his Flat shall make an application to the Secretary of Society giving all the required particulars.
3. On receipt of the Application the Secretary shall scrutinise and bring any short coming therein to the Notice o the Member concern within 7 days.
4. The Secretary shall place the Application before the Meeting of the Committee which shall take the decision.
5. The Secretary of the Society shall communicate the decision of the Committee within 15 days of the decision.
6. The Member shall also allow the Secretary accompanied by any other Member of the Committee to examine its conditions for ascertaining the repairs. The Secretary shall make a report to the Committee indicating therein the particulars of the Repairs to be carried out by the Society at its cost and those by the Members at their cost.
7. The following repairs and maintenance of the Property of the Society shall be carried out by the Society at its cost.
(a) (i) All internal roads, (ii) Compound Walls, (iii) External water pipe lines, (iv) Water pumps, (v) Water storage tanks, (vi) Drainage lines, (vii) Septic tanks, (viii) Stair cases, (ix) Terrace and Parapet Walls, (x) Structural repairs of roofs of all flats (xi) Stair Case Lights (xii) Street Lights (xiii) Outside Walls of the Building/ Buildings (xiv) All leakages of water including leakages due to rain water and leakages due to external common pipe line and drainage line (xv) Electric Lines upto main switches in the flats, (xvi) Lifts, (xvii) The damaged ceiling and plaster thereon in the top floor flats, on account of the leakage of the rain water through the terrace.
(b) All the repairs not covered by the bye-law No. 160(a) shall be carried out be the members at their cost.

8. in respect of the Repairs to be carried out by the Member at his cost, the Committee shall cause the notice to him indicating therein the particulars of repairs in his Flat to the satisfaction of the Architect approved by the Society if any, at his cost, within such period as the committee may allow. On his failure, the Secretary/Architect appointed by the Society shall have authority to enter the Flat, cause repairs at the cost of the Member after giving him due notice.

Repair Permissions in Housing Societies

image description

By Ar Sudhakar Dhokane, Past President PEATA

Repair Permissions
(MCGM Jurisdiction)
Many a time it is seen that essential repairs to the building and or to individual premises are delayed due to conflict between Management of Society and individual member/s, on personal grounds; thus each one become non-cooperative to each other. For the health of building this tendency is harmful. Hence everybody has to work hand-in-hand for timely repairs forgetting personal differences in the common interest. It is paramount responsibility of all members to keep the building in excellent healthy conditions.
It is necessary to know the exact nature of repairs to be carried out and its required permissions from the local Civic Authority thereof. One should understand that only timely repairs can increase longevity of the structure. It is seen by and large that the repairs are ignored and or delayed for this or that reason, or some time due to abnormal delay in granting permissions by the local Municipal Authority. Such permissions are based on the nature of repairs. It is also noticed that, some time people are carrying out the work of additions or alterations under the disguise of repairs and ultimately land in to troubles.
Repairs amounting to structural changes or additions or alterations requires permissions from civic authority. However it is to be noticed that certain type of repairs do not require permissions from the Municipal Corporation. The nature of repairs and its permissions are described below. The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM)) has prepared following guide line for the information of public.
Mainly the repairs are classified in three categories:-
i)Repairs where permission is NOT required from MCGM.
ii)Repairs PROHIBITED.
iii)Repairs which REQUIRE permissions from MCGM.
1) Repairs not requiring permission from MCGM.
Following repairs do not require permission from MCGM:-
i) Providing guniting to structural members or walls.
ii) Plastering. Pointing and Painting.
iii)Changing of floor tiles.
iv) Repairing of W C, Bath, Toilets and Washing places.
v) Repairing or replacing of drainage pipes, joints, taps, manholes and other sanitary fittings.
vi) Repairing or replacing of sanitary/water, plumbing and electrical service lines.
vii) Repairing or replacing of roof with same material, without altering floor height.
2) Repairs Prohibited
Certain repairs are prohibited which are detrimental to the structural stability of the building. So, never attempt following, repairs unless same is permitted by the Municipal Authority.
i) Lowering of plinth.
ii) Removal of load bearing walls.
iii)Constructions of Lofts/Mezzanine floors supported on partition walls which are not provided as load bearing walls.
3) Repairs which require from MCGM.
Repairs involving the removal, alteration or re-erection of any part of the building covered under section 342 of MMC Act, permission from MCGB is required to be taken, such as for:-
i) Changes in horizontal and vertical existing dimensions of the structure and thereby increase in Built up area.
ii) Replacement of any structural RCC member such as columns, beam etc and load bearing walls.
iii) Construction/extension of mezzanine floor/loft.
iv) Flattening of roof in RCC or repairing and replacing of existing roof with different materials, including alteration in floor height, if any.
v) Enclosure of balcony.

“LAXMI CHHAYA TRAGEDY : A WAKE UP CALL

image description

BY: SUDHAKAR DOKHANE

Former President-PEATA

18th July 2007, was yet another ‘Black-Day’ for Mumbai. At 6.20 pm. ‘A’ wing of ‘Laxmi Chhaya Towers’ crushed to dust claiming over 25 innocent lives, and dishoused 12 families. This was 6th major casualty in last 2 decades. Navre Apts @ Sion (1996), Pravin Shruti @ VileParle & Poonam Chambers @ Worli (both in 1997), Sukhsagar Towers @ Malad & Govinda Towers @ Bandra (both in 1998) & Laxmi Chhaya @ Borivali (2007) sofar claimed more than 120 lives, and enormous loss of property.
Every building like human body tries to stand and sustain as much as possible, and will never give up till last moment without giving repeated warnings. It is essential to understand those distress signs & warning signals in time and to act upon promptly to save the building. Always, such tragedies are “wake up calls” not only for occupant Society Members but equally for all component agencies in construction industry.
The housing cost is gone beyond affordable limits of common man. Most of the times the purchasers has to spend their life savings and also have to carry burden of loan liability for considerable period thereafter. Naturally they become reluctant to contribute further funds for immediate repairs and maintenance. On the other hand it is also seen that people are spending freely on interior decoration, but surprisingly refuse to contribute for repairs for proper maintenance and health of the building. Thus timely repairs are delayed and delayed for no valid reasons, causing uncontrolled deterioration, resulting huge contribution for heavy repairs at a later stage.
Due to multi ownership unit pattern of construction, for over last 4 decades housing industry is taken over by the developers /builders with only transitionary interest, in the project, mainly executed as profit oriented business, with primarily two objects i.e. i) Speedy construction & ii). Maximum profit. The developer / builder has come to stay thus, has become master of the game of construction industry, resulting in loss of control by professionals on construction. In house provision of professionals in builder’s organisation, further deteriorated relations and controls between developers & practicing professionals. There is no code of conduct in practice for developers & contractors who are principal profiteering agencies in building construction. Surprisingly even registration is NOT made mandatory for builders & contractors, in private sector, inspite of repeated representations from Professionals’ Associations to the Govt. & Municipal Corporation.

So is the case of (non-qualified) Interior Designers, and Vastu Consultants under whose supervision interior decoration and or alteration works are carried out invariably. There is no control of any statutory authority, since Registration or Licence is not made compulsory for them. This is a pathetic situation. It is strongly suggested that, wherever structural changes are involved, one must appoint qualified, experienced and Licenced professional, who will never take a risk to damage structural members, no matter what are requirements of clients.
To keep it in healthy and working conditions any product requires maintenance from the very next day. Invariably it is seen that there is lack of awareness, about this aspect. No matter how much sound body or structure is, if not maintained in time, it deteriorates. Timely repairs and maintenance is the only solution. Unattended repairs, structural alterations & additions for interior decoration and leakages are some of the main causes of deterioration and weakening of building. In Mumbai you can see thousands of deteriorated and defaced buildings waiting merely even for external paint.
For last so many years a common man is taken for ride by so called influence of Vasastu Shastra. People are making lots of additions / alteration (i.e. converting bed in to kitchen, change in location of Toilet block & entrances etc) under the advice of self proclaimed Vastu Experts. Now Vastu craze has crossed its limits. Builders are openly advertising their product in conformity with Vastu Shastra. This dangerous trend is increasing day by day, inspite of knowing fully well that there are remote possibilities for such alterations in R.C.C. frame multistoried buildings.
In last two decades, due to various reasons many R.C.C. frame buildings had collapsed in Greater Mumbai Limits, causing loss of life and property. “Laxmi Chhaya Towers” at Borivali is a recent casualty.

Reasons of collapses :-

Based on earlier reports of Experts and Investigation Committees, on building collapses, following are various reasons of structural failure: –

Uneven settlement of foundation.
Use of inferior quality materials & workmanship endangering the structural stability of the building.
Aging of structure.
Excessive ground water level, leading to erosion of soil bearing capacity.
Structural designing on erroneously judged or assumed soil bearing capacity.
Over loading the structure after occupation, by additions and alterations for which the structure is NOT designed.
Carrying out structural repairs amounting to alterations, removal and inflicting damage and or cutting in to or removing structural members for interior design / decoration requirements.
Large excavations near building.
Collapse of adjoining building.
Earth quake or any blast giving lateral thrust to the structure.
Lack of maintenance and timely repairs resulting excessive leakages, and thereby causing continuous corrosion and deterioration of steel reinforcement.
Unauthorised additional construction, and changes in original plan / structure.
Changes in the orientation and or increasing size of toilet blocks, and installation of additional water storage tanks on lofts and terraces thereby increasing dead load on existing structure.
Inordinate delay in attending timely repairs, causing uncontrolled deterioration.
Primarily Collapse of buildings are categorised in 3 parts:

Collapse during construction.
Collapse after construction within 2/3 years.
Collapse after 10 years.

The collapses in item no. (i) & (ii) above can be due to faulty construction and or basic fundamental errors in structural designs, error in judgment on supervision, and use of poor workmanship and inferior quality of materials. The collapse in item (iii) can be due to weakening of the structure due to various reasons explained above which can be a subject matter of in-depth investigations depending upon each individual case.

In any unfortunate collapse, besides concerned component agencies the roll of building occupants and or Society Management is equally important. It is absolutely necessary, to create proper awareness amongst members of the Society, to maintain and keep building healthy through out its life span. The time is running away. The occupants now should wake up and realise the consequences of such ill fated events.

It is a fact that the buildings in and around Mumbai constructed in 1980-85 during the period of unprecedented ‘cement control’ imposed by then Chief minister Mr. Antulay, can be proved more vulnerable and may need immediate and thorough Technical Audit at every 3 years on regular basis.

In spite of Technical Audit is made mandatory by the State Govt. for co-op. Hsg. Societies to make technical assessment of their buildings at every 5 years & or 3 years for age old buildings of 15 to 30, and above 30 years respectively. Unfortunately importance of this regulation by and large is not taken seriously by the co-operatives Societies, knowing fully well that timely repairs is the only remedy to prevent Collapses. Mumbai Co-Op. Housing Federation in its statement to media recently stated that 95% of the Societies had not acted upon this mandatory ‘Technical Audit’ due to lack of awareness. Reluctance in carring out timely repairs may lead to serious situation in the days to come. Therefore regular ‘Technical Audit’ and carrying out timely strengthening / repairs under the supervision of expert consulting engineers through reputed contractors, is the only solution.

Invariably it is also seen that there is hardly any control of Society Management over unauthorized additions & alteration very oftenly carried out by the occupants. Changing of toilet positions, (wet areas over dry areas) providing additional water tanks above lofts & terrace, chiseling, removing or damaging of R.C.C. members for interior works and lowering of plinth by commercial establishments are punitive offences, under section 52 of M.R.T.P. Act. 1966.

As a matter of fact structural additions and alterations are not permitted without specific approval of the Municipal Corporation, and inspite of strict regulations such works are freely carried out without permission. It is a duty of the Society Management to insist from the Member, a permission / approval from the Municipal Corporation, before allowing structural alteration works. As well as it is mandatory for the society Management to inform Municipal Office in time to take suitable action against erring Members / occupants. But who is to bell the cat? remain unanswered. Just blaming each other and or tendency of wishing to hang some body in case of mishaps, will not solve this chronic problem, unless self discipline is imposed by all concerned. Only Government regulations, or Municipal rules will not achieve any results unless all responsible agencies discharge their duties religiously to protect the building from such unfortunate events.

Important Roll of Agencies :-

1) It is felt essential that Mumbai co-op Housing Federation or similar agencies with the help of professional associations and media should take lead and start educating Societies on regular basis, otherwise after passage of time, everybody will forget “Laxmi Chhaya Tragedy”, as usual, till further mishap.

2) The State Govt. should issue suitable guide lines / orders to the Registrar of Societies, who is quasi judicial authority to :-

Demand Technical Audit Report and information on compliance on maintenance of building as per duration time limits prescribed in the Regulation of Technical Audit, from the Houses Society on regular basis, and maintain its record.

ii) Make Society Management accountable and Demand explanation for non
compliance of item No. (i) above before initiating action.

iii) Guide Societies to initiate action against erring or non-co-operative members, and help & protect Management to that effect.

iv) As a part of disaster management plan, State Govt. on humanitarian grounds, should work out a policy to reserve 10% of the tenements constructed for project affected persons (PAP) by MMRDA, MCGM, SRA or similar statutory authorities, and make it available as transit accommodation to those families dishoused due to unfortunate collapse of building.

3) The Society should insist for appointment of qualified & licensed Interior Designer when structural alteration / additions are involved.

4) Society Management, before taking charge from the builder, insist upon ‘Certified copies’ of following documents for its permanent record to enable consultants to give fair advice for future repairs :-

i) Approved / Completion Plan according to which building is completed, along
with I.O.D., C.C. & Occupancy Certificate.
ii) Detailed Structural drawings & calculations according to which R.C.C. work is completed.
iii) Completion Certificate of building as submitted to MCGM by Architect /
Licensed Surveyor & Rged. Site Supervisor.
iv) Structural stability certificate for work upto plinth & for full work as submitted to MCGM by the Consulting Engineer.
v) Names, addresses, & Phone numbers of concerned :-

a) Builder / Developer.
b) Civil, Plumbing & Electrical Contractor.
c) Architect / Licensed Surveyor.
d) Consulting Engineer.
e) Site Supervisor.
f) Interior Designers (under whose supervision interior works are to be carried
out.)
g) Vastu Consultant appointed by the Member.

For the information to public at large the time tasted formulas and CHECK LIST FOR MAINTENANCE is incorporated herein below:-

Do’s
Get thorough ‘Technical Audit’ done at every 5 years of buildings aging between 15 to 30 years and at every 3 years beyond 30 years, from the consulting structural engineer and obtain his opinion on general evaluation of structural health of the building, and nature of repairs involved.

Carry out timely repairs / strengthening work under the advice and supervision of consulting Engineer through reputed contractor.

Provide waterproof cement paint in two coats for external face of building in the following manner: –

PAINT TO BE USED PERIOD OF PAINTING

i) Cement Based Paint Every 3 years
ii) Acrylic Based Paint Every 5 years
iii) Elastic Based Paint Every 7 years

Note: The waterproof based cement paints can effectively arrest the leakages & seepages from the external face of the building during monsoon, and protect R.C.C.frame from deterioration to a great extent.

Check all drainage & water supply service pipe lines and its connections at every 2 years, and replace immediately if found defective.

Get septic tank and soak-pit checked, cleaned keep it watertight and provide insecticide treatment every YEAR from Municipal Corporation. This service is free of cost; and binding on Municipal Corporation.

Check Terrace water proofing and attend repairs if any at every 5 years.

Common service areas within the building, courtyards, should be kept clean with regular maintenance. Staircase steps and common corridors should be kept unobstructed. Storing of junk materials thereon should be strictly prohibited, as the same causes inconvenience & some time proved hazardous .

Common compound and corridor lighting should be regularly checked and be kept in good working conditions.

As far as possible the LIFTS should be operated by the liftman only. Yearly contract of maintenance should be given to lift company for unobstructed working.

It is mandatory to provide two water pumps for lifting the water from underground water tank to over head storage tank. Each pump should be operated alternately. This will keep pumps in working conditions. Yearly contract should be given for maintenance of pumps to avoid inconvenience.

At least once in 2 years get underground & overhead water storage tanks cleaned, and see that they are water tight. Preferably covers of underground water storage tank should be provided with lock & key facility to keep it free from out side infections.

Wherever possible, Society’s office with toilet facility (for domestic workers / drivers), should be provided on ground floor in marginal open spaces. Municipal Corporation approves such proposals free of F.S.I.

Safety grills for windows should be compulsorily identical; as different designs & shapes of grills deface the building.

Collect sizable contribution towards sinking/repair-fund from the members regularly, which will help substantially for subsequent repairs. Insurance of building can be proved as great financial assistance for the purpose.

Keep the terrace clean for all the time. Check it regularly and specially pre-monsoon, during-monsoon and after monsoon every year, and see that rain water flows freely.

Report unauthorised construction immediately in writing to concerned Ward Officer & Building Proposal Dept, of the Municipal Corporation as well as to Local Police Stn; and to keep contineous follow up.

17) The Society Management should think about retaining services of architect / licensed Surveyor & consulting structural Engineer on regular basis (at par with family doctor), for general checkup of the health of building, from time to time. This arrangement definitely will prove beneficial in long run.

18) Give list of Do’s & Don’ts to each occupant of building, and permanently display it on Notice Board of Society.

Don’ts

Do not allow any unauthorised additions there by over loading existing structure for which it is NOT designed.

Do not allow any internal structural changes / alterations, specifically change in positions of toilet blocks or kitchens, under any pretext including so called Vastu requirements. (The same should be maintained in alignment with other floors.)

Do not allow extensions of toilet or wet areas over dry areas.

Do not tolerate any leakages any time.

Do not permit structural additions and alterations if the same are not approved by the Municipal authority, architect & structural engineer.

6) Do not permit such works (item 5 above) without advice and supervision of qualified professional/s.

7) Do not allow to carry out any work of repairs or additions & alterations by petty contractors.

8) Do not permit following works unless backed by professional engineering support as described in item (6) above:-
Replacement of floor finish
Repairs of internal, external plastering, and R.C.C. members.
Any modifications to existing plan, according to which building exists.
Toilet or Kitchen renovations.
Structural alterations required for interior designing & decoration.
Any R.C.C. repairs which involves use of steel, cement, sand & stone/metal.

9) Never allow terrace gardening in any manner whatsoever. The soil for such gardening, will add permanent dead load on the building, besides it will remain wet and inaccessable for repairs; and any deterioration resulting there from can not be detected timely.

10) Insist certificate from qualified consulting engineer, before granting permission for alterations to the effect that “proposed additions / alterations will NOT endanger structural stability of the building”, if such permission is asked by the Member / Occupant, and insist for undertaking from such member to the effect that he will be held sole responsible for such additions/alterations, to make him properly aware of consequences.