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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.