How to ensure your dream house doesn’t collapse?

Support Citizen Matters - independent, Reader-funded media that covers your city like no other.
Get in-depth and insightful stories on issues that affect you every day!

The collapse of a five-storeyed building under construction in Someshwara Nagar behind NIMHANS, on 19 August, 2013, has raised several questions. Three people died in the incident, while eight workers were injured.

Advertisement

As the Fire and Emergency Department is searching for bodies of the labourers who could have been buried under the debris, citizens are worried if the property they are investing in is safe or not.

This is only a recent example. There have been six such incidents in Bangalore in last two months. The series of incidents, if not anything else, has forced the BBMP to undertake a special drive to keep a check on illegal and legal constructions.

Building Violations in Jayanagar (File pic)

Why and how do buildings collapse?

Citing the example of the Someshwara Nagar case, Siddegowda K, chief engineer – BBMP (South) says that collapses occur primarily because of faulty design and improper foundation. Another reason is the failure of the safe bearing capacity (SBC) of the soil.

He explains that accidents occur if the foundation is not properly laid based on the soil bearing capacity and if it is overloaded. If the foundation is faulty, if it is shallow and cannot hold the weight, and if the portion of the structure is adjacent to a valley or wet bed, or on wetland, there are chances of such cases.

‘Be cautious and right always’

Former director of Fire and Emergency Services, B G Chengappa says that people are greedy and want to make quick buck. Naive buyers who want to save some money get lured. If a builder in one part of the road is charging Rs 20 lakh for apartments, and another on the same road is charging 40 lakh for an apartment of the same size, people should check for quality before buying either of them.

Speaking to Citizen Matters, Bangalore District In-charge and Transport Minister Ramalinga Reddy says: “Whenever a high rise building is being constructed, (that is more than ground plus three floors) builders and the sanctioning BBMP engineers must ensure that the road is at least 40 feet wide. In many cases, we have seen that this basic rule is also violated.”

“In case of Someshwara Nagar building collapse, it was not only the fault of the builder but also the engineer. This has been observed in earlier cases as well. So we, the (state) government and the BBMP, have decided to undertake a stringent drive at all construction sites and check if the building is legal or illegal. In case of illegal construction, the building will be immediately razed.”

He adds that action will be taken against the erring builder and the concerned engineer who sanctioned the plan. Notices will be issued to the builder and repeated offenders will be blacklisted.

He adds that more than the soil, the design and engineering of the structure matter. Skilled and qualified engineers should be deployed for the task. The manner in which the columns and beams are put is also important. They should be well-distributed.

In many cases, buildings are constructed near lake beds like incase of Madivala or Bellandur. Does this mean that they are weak? Siddegowda says: “No. It depends on design and proper foundation laying. For any type of construction, especially in case of apartments and high rise buildings, soil testing is crucial. This determines the SBC. If the SBC is low it is filled with soil and even steel to strengthen it.”

National Building Code

Bangalore Realtor Association-India (BRA-I) chairman and board member of Silverline Realty Private Limited, Farook Mahmood says: “Safety and design is something which is in the hands of the builders and engineers and not with legal or illegal building. There is a National Building Code which is a rulebook for all builders. They should go as per that. If they do not follow it, whether the structure is legal or illegal it does not matter, it will collapse. There are proper scientific procedures which need to be followed while constructing. Ethics and ethical builders are crucial.”

Soil can only hold so much weight

The SBC varies from area to area. If the SBC is three floors, builders should not experiment and construct more than three floors. In case of Someshwara nagar, permission was given only for ground and three more floors, but the builder was constructing five more floors illegally. The foundation could hold only three floors. When the weight crossed the limits, it collapsed.

Builders and engineers need to calculate the movable and non-movable load weights. Soil should be adequately tested, the resistance capacity of the soil should also be tested. All these factors are area specific, adds Siddegowda.

According to builders and engineers, sensitive areas for construction where extra caution regarding SBC should be taken are:

  • Areas where waterlog is common
  • Low-lying areas
  • Areas adjacent to water bodies
  • Near quarrying sites and valleys

This is because the SBC is very low in these areas, the soil being very loose. So the earth has to be filled in the right way, with right materials to increase SBC. High SBC areas are plains, areas on higher altitudes and the areas where earth has been least disturbed – no digging, no excavation and not filled with debris.

Building collapse incidents
19 August, 2013: Wall and pillars of a five-storeyed building under construction collapsed due to which three workers died and eight were severely injured. This incident occurred in Someshwaranagar, Jayanagar 1st block, behind NIMHANS. The builder under question, Mohammed Saleem, was permitted to construct ground plus two floors, but was constructing three additional floors without permission.
17 August, 2013: A labourer died on the spot when a wall of the partially demolished building in R T Street, Chickpet, collapsed on him. The builders were C Chandramma and Savita Jain. The task of demolishing the structure was handed over to contractors Girish and Wasim.
11 August, 2013: The staircase of the three-storeyed commercial complex under construction in BTM Layout collapsed, due to which two workers were seriously injured and three suffered minor injuries.
5 August, 2013: Three labourers died and 11 were seriously injured when the roof of the second floor of a marriage hall under construction collapsed on them at Bunde Mutt layout in Kommaghatta at Kengeri Satellite Town. Around 25 workers trapped under the debris were later rescued with the help of the Fire and Emergency team.
21 July, 2013: Five labourers were injured when the earth at Shivapura construction site near Bagalur, off Bellary Road, caved in. During the time of the accident, the workers were digging the 10-feet deep foundation. The owner of land, Giri Gowda, was constructing a two-storeyed building.
11 July, 2013: Two daily wage labourers died after the 12-feet high compound wall collapsed in Dharma Shekar Layout, Gandhinagar, Kengeri Satellite Town. The deceased labourers and their family members were also working at the same site.

Strong foundation, sturdy centre

Siddegowda points that mat foundation, which basically is a shallow, expanded continuous foundation, should be filled up the right way. Here, if the ground has been opened up to reach the original geographical earth’s surface, caution should be taken to ensure that resistance capacity of the soil is adequate and if not, steel should be used for strengthening it.

Speaking on the past cases, Siddegowda explains proper scaffolding (temporary structure in the building, made of wooden planks and metal poles, used by workmen while building) at the centre is also important. There is a right system for designing the centre, which should be followed, else the building will collapse. This was what happened in case of the Kengeri building.

When the foundation is laid, concreting for the first 21 days, watering it every day and allowing it to stand with supportive structures is very important. This is when a structure gains maximum strength. For this, sufficient concrete should be laid. The amount of concrete depends on the moisture in the soil.

How to ensure a strong foundation?

Siddegowda points that the Corporation is only the controlling authority. The actual responsibility of a proper and safe structure rests with the builders. “We only approve the plan, put restrictions on the builders and do periodic checks. However, the actual supervision should be carried out by qualified engineers and consultancies. It is advisable to hire a third party consultancy.”

Here is a list of some important points to keep in mind while constructing buildings, even independent houses.

  • Test the soil and ensure there is strong SBC.
  • Based on this, the foundation should be laid.
  • Always keep in mind the consistency and capacity of the soil.
  • The columns and beams should be thick and scientifically placed.
  • Centring should be proper. Concrete should be well-retained.
  • Curing the concrete work for first 21 days is very important.
  • Good quality binding material should be used. In case of alternate sand (procured from crushing construction materials like stones to a fine consistency until a smooth powder is obtained) it should be properly tested and used only when it is permissible.
  • The height of the building is determined by the foundation. The height and structure should not be altered after the foundation is laid.
  • For any structure which is above five floors, the road should be at least 40 feet wide.

To get a complete idea of how a building should be constructed, read through the National Building Code (click here). For any details and guidance, contact the BBMP engineers.

You can also call BBMP control rooms (22221188, 22972295) or inform Ranga Raju, Chief Engineer, at 22975558, if you see any building byelaw violations.

To check where to report various encroachments including building byelaws, click here and here.

Checklist for buyers

  • Consult an advocate, alongwith the documents of a property, before purchasing a property

  • Survey the area, do some googling and see if the place was a lake before. Many lakes and wet lake beds have been encroached by greedy builders and flats are being sold with attractive offers such as ‘lake views’. If you see anything suspicious, be very cautious before deciding to go for it.

  • You can also get your own soil testing done from various agencies in Bangalore and check whether the builders have followed the standards. The number of Quality Control sub-division in Bangalore where the soil testing is done and utilisation certifcate is given is 22292286.

  • Check for byelaw violations in the particular property. Click here to check byelaws.

  • Check the history of the builder – any criminal cases or building violation cases against him or the company in the past.

  • Ask the builder to show proper documents and drawings related to structural plan, sanctioned plan, and approval details including approval from the Fire and Emergency Department and builder’s tax details. This will give a picture of his past record and aberrations in the plan of the present building.

  • Ensure there are proper entry and exit points, including emergency exits.
Get the Citizen Matters newsletter
About Bosky Khanna 45 Articles
Bosky Khanna is Staff Journalist, Citizen Matters.

8 Comments

  1. Dear Sir,
    Please collect the sanctioned building plan copy. Lodge a complaint with the ADGP,BMTF, Office situated at BBMP head office, N.R.Road,Bangalore and copies to the AEE, EE, Joint Commissioner and Commissioner, BBMP and meet the SP Lokayukta, bangalore urban at Multistoreyed building with all the copies of your complaint. Obtain Acknowledgement from every office. You can also lodge register complaints on the website. BMTF officials will investigate and within one week the progress will be displayed, If a complainant wants to keep his/her identity secret, the progress of investigation will be sent to the complainant’s email ID.
    Director Of Additional General Police, Bbmp Main Building, Nr Square, N R Road, Bangalore – 560002. Telephone No : 080 22975586, 22975587, 22975589
    Email bmtf [dot] policestation [at] gmail [dot] com.www.bmtf.gov.in.
    or visit:http://lokayukta.kar.nic.in/Sri H.N.Sathyanarayan Rao
    , ADGP Phone.080 22353754;
    But, Before complaining and lodging, make sure that you have all relevant details, documents and photos. It is better to lodge a police complaint regarding your security, as you might face bad elements.
    Take utmost care, before taking any action.

  2. Building being constructed illegally.

    Two multi-storey building being constructed illegally at C K Garden, Cooke Town, St Thomas Town Post. These buildings that have come up in these areas are clear indication of violations in building plans. We wish to highlight this unauthorised construction and deviation of building plans at Cooke Town.

    Although complaints to the BBMP officials rendered no results, no action has been taken. Despite repeated complaints made to the Palike against the illegality, the construction work has not halted. We are all senior citizen in peaceful possession of our residential property. We are all law-abiding citizen and unable to move freely because of our old age and health conditions. We cannot keep going repeatedly to the BBMP (East) office frequently to follow up on the action. We are left with no option but to approach you and appeal through the media to the commissioner of the BBMP to order an inspection and take necessary action.

    When you look at these buildings under construction, the 1st question that arises is –how are the concerned authorities approving high-rises on roads that are less than 20 feet. Based on the Soil (Load) Bearing Capacity, only then approvals are given on number of floors that can be constructed. Historically, only 2-3 floors were sanctioned, but now there are buildings with 4-5 floors and it amazes how the authorities are turning a blind eye to this. The building will deprive natural air and light to neighbours. The basic amenities such as vehicular movements, parking, water, power and sewage lines are all going to be seriously affected and the builders don’t seem to be concerned with all this. These buildings are being constructed with no setbacks given and the entrance to the apartment blocks are just 12 ½ feet. In such a small approach lane of 20 feet, it is a challenge for a fire fighting truck or an ambulance to enter in case of any emergency evacuation or a disaster. We have many such cases sighted recently in Bangalore the recent one being in Someshwaranagar.

    All these factors pose a great threat to the adjacent neighbours and with the growing population of senior residents; it puts many innocent lives at risk. This issue has been taken up by multiple parties with the concerned authorities on several occasions, but they seem to turn to deaf ears to the voice of citizen’s. The builders have grossly violated the building rules and norms of the Government – while the authorities remain mute spectators and citizens silent sufferers.

    With no action taken by the law & order officials in spite of repeated verbal and written complaints, I fear to imagine where we are heading.

    We appreciate your advice on how to take this forward. We really seek your help and assistance in this regard. We ask all concerned to take stringent action to curb such violation by these builders. Any action taken should prove to be an eye opener and send a strong message that violations of the norms will not be tolerated now and in the future.

    Immediate action may avert the happening of a “Someshwaranagar incident “.

    In the interest of public concern.

    Hutchins Road 3rd cross

  3. Hi I am very impressed by your Blog. I would like to thanks for sharing these useful information. Actually I am searching information regarding Soil test for building, I am planning to reconstruct my home and I have got more information through your Blog which was not expected.

  4. Sir,
    Advocate might have given his opinion on the titles and definitely not on the construction or the quality of construction. You may need either BBMP sanction or the apartment owners association permission to install shutters. If you are concerned about the quality, may conduct a thorough examination with the help of a Chartered Engineer and the Civil Engineer.
    Check the sale agreement conditions, sale deed conditions and clauses and the Association`s By Laws, before erecting or installing anything new.

  5. Hi,
    As I am new to region and could not read,write or understand local language.
    I believed on advocate and after his approval I bought the property. When there was a situation, I want to install a shutter for my balcony(~24″ balcony) a concern about building capacity got raised by other resident(who is more of close to builder). There were concerns that the residents are not satisfied with the quality of work builder might have done resulting in Strict NO-NO to go ahead, leading me in deli-ma whether our property is safe or not.
    Please suggest me, what should I do to ensure the property would not collapse.

  6. “….Check the history of the builder – any criminal cases or building violation cases against him or the company in the past….”
    In today’s scenario, in which, as is commonly known and can be intelligently deciphered, there is an unmistakable landslide in the whole national economy. That has enveloped/engulfed almost every one of the players in a business/commercial sector, not barring the infamous realty sector. If so, and on that indisputable premise no prospective consumer (buyer), for obvious reasons, can sanely consider or be guided by the ‘past history’ of a promoter/builder , aloe or even otherwise, as a safe and secure bet or comfort. To put it differently, in order to protect and safeguard, as far as feasible / intelligently possible, own interests in every respect, what ought to be thoroughly gone into and vetted by a truly competent and reliable, reputed law man, after being fully convinced about his credibility, more so as one fully ‘equipped’ to provide an independent/impartial advice on the ‘legal documentation’ part of the transaction. In order to accomplish that purposive object, there is no gainsaying that, it is inevitable that the consumer himself should try and be aware of what all are the basic requirements of the governing laws- i.e. the special enactments on property transfer/conveyance, necessarily not ignoring the rudimentary implications of the law on “contracts”.
    In a welfare state, as ideally expected, but invariable proving a myth, it is the duty and responsibility of every concerned public servant, empowered to implement,the law of transfer- mainly the registering authorities, to endeavor and ensure that any document produced for registration, before affixing his authoritative stamp of approval, does not suffer from any deficiency, a glaring one at that, if regard be had to what the governing enactment(s) clearly stipulate/ enjoin.

    <may be contd.

  7. The building bylaw is old (2003) and there is clear marked difference between the old and the new Master plan bylaw.
    Thanks for a good article by Ms.Bosky Khanna.
    Most of the buyers look for the cosmetic looks of the apartment rather than these important compliance.
    The developers fleece the unsuspecting buyers stating that `XXXXX` banks have approved their projects and sell it to them. Based on the approval from the banks, the buyers jump into the purchase, as most of them(95%) are borrowers.
    Good Article. An eye opener. Hope, the buyers read this.
    Ecopackindia team

Comments are closed.