Saturday, 16 May 2015

Surviving Earthquake: How to get structural safety certificate?

EARTHQUAKE, yet again!! It is a strong indication that it is about time to care about the structural safety of our buildings. It may be a known fact that your building/home is safe to occupy when you have a structural safety certificate.

"The buildings are to be planned, designed and constructed under right supervision for quality and safe construction depending on the location of the building vulnerable to earthquake, landslide, cyclone, flooding risks, etc," says V Suresh, vice chairman, National Building Code of India and former CMD HUDCO.

"It will have to be designed by a mix of architects, engineers and structural engineers. After the designing phase, professionals will have to certify that the design has been done in line with the safety features in the building bye-laws of the city or the National Building Code of India for all safety issues- structural safety, healthy safety, fire safety, public safety and life safety and submitted at the time of building plan approval from local bodies," he adds.

How can you attain the certificate?
Varghese from Mumbai enquired on the issuing authority and the procedure involved in obtaining the certificate. Similarly, Sunil Kumar from Lucknow also asked about the government body responsible for the issuance.

The procedure:
The Municipal department will check the compliance of requirements, and only then give the building permit. "Based on the actual construction in line with all safety components, and approved plans, design and specifications, the completion certificate will be made available by the builder with architect/engineer/structural engineer associated with the work. Certifying the same," says Suresh.

Thereon, based on the satisfaction at Municipal Department level, Occupancy Certificate will be given by the Municipal Department to the builder/client for occupancy in the building.

Therefore, it is a joint responsibility. Explaining it further, Suresh says, "The prime responsibility belongs to the builder and the professional team of engineer/structural engineer depending on the size of the building for structural sufficiency at design and construction stages and secondary responsibility of the Municipal Department to give the Occupancy Certificate."

The question remains, does the process actually take place in India? "The answer cannot be an emphatic yes," says Suresh. Not as per the guidelines of National Building Code of India and city building rules.

Pradeep S from Delhi shares that even courts in Delhi do not order builders to get completion certificates. I have a contract where it is written in 17 places that builder will get completion certificate. For this Pradeep has taken the matter to court but has been disappointed.

"There are some grey areas from the builders, professionals and Municipal department side which need to be tightened for zero tolerance in ensuring safety and durability of structures- houses, apartments, schools, hospitals, hotels, offices, malls, theatres, etc. We should all work towards this, as all developed countries and cities do," says Suresh.

Perhaps with the frequent earthquake mishaps, government bodies will become vigilant and the codes and guidelines which were only in theory till date will soon be implemented across India.

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