Friday, October 12, 2012

How SAFE is my Home?

In skating over thin ice our safety is in our speed...Ralph Waldo Emerson

I always remember these words when the term safety I think of & how apt way in minimum words the wise man has defined it! Really it’s our speed which is the main factor of defining safety. Many will wonder how it is related to the term safety when it’s applied to real estate? Well, read the news about the recent accident or mishap in Pune i.e. Taljai building collapse & the reasoning given by the authorities & you will understand. As per the preliminary reports it’s the speed in which the developer or whoever he claims to be wanted to finish of the building’s civil work is the reason. He didn’t allow the frame work to settle & was behind to complete the work in a great hurry, missing the basic construction time span required for every activity & kept on casting slabs after slabs before the lower structure was ready to take the piling load & we saw the result! Though detailed report yet to come but he was going in great hurry & neglected proper care in that zest seems to be the fact.

Reading that news many a people who have booked a flat in any building or are residing in already any of the building, must have got a lump of fear in their throat thinking about safety of their own home! And who can blame them? If one building at Taljai can fall down just like that, then why can’t other? But then who is to be blamed for the same? Apart from legality there will be usual pass the buck game from all concerned that how they are not at fault! Whose fault it is, the builder's who built it illegally & neglected all safety norms to make some fast money or the people who were working there though knowing they are working under wrong supervision or instructions or the poor customers who booked a flat without confirming the prodigy of the developer & believed in him or the PMC who was waiting to act till the building got occupied or the police/ law makers who isn’t strong enough to make such outlaws fear the law & not dare to indulge in neglecting safety of everybody related to the building? Or even the media who wakes up only after such mishap & then forgets about the same in few days & stop making common man aware regarding such tendencies? Well list can go long way covering politicians, rulers even the NGO's or Whistle blowers who failed to blow the whistle in time!

One thing is sure the safety especially that of human life is most neglected factor in our country as we read/see so many lives getting lost in many such accidents around us when it comes to real estate or construction industry. Reason is we don’t really care for this most important aspect of our own shelter. Commonly life of an RCC i.e. reinforced concrete structure in which most of our today’s buildings are built, is considered as 60-70 years. That’s a time span in which two generations are going to stay through this time span in that house & how much careful we are while buying a home from this factor? Unfortunately in my carrier of 20 years in real estate I haven’t come across even a handful of customers who were curious enough to ask questions about the safety norms we will be following during constructions leave apart visiting the ongoing construction work & check the same by themselves! When it comes to safety norms it’s a two way thing, one is work safety which is supposed to be followed for the safety of people working at site & second is structure's safety i.e. safety of the building which is being constructed.
One visit to the working site with open eyes & you will come to know many things about the safety & attitude of the developer about the same. As a person or an organization if they are careless about their own workers safety at site what guarantee they won’t have the similar approach towards the building also? There have been incidences of mishaps at sites & people losing lives which also is safety lack on developer’s part. To ensure all safety measures at site is not only must for avoiding site accidents but for assuring quality construction also, which helps in coming years for building's durability. Here it’s very important to know what kind of construction techniques the developer is adopting & the client should ask for work specifications along with amenities of the project. Here specification means defining technical details of the project in detailed way. For e.g. what kind of concrete is being used i.e. strength of the concrete, construction processes used in making the frame structure. Each slab & columns after casting has got a definite period to de-shutter the supports of the same after casting the concrete. It’s to ensure that the structure has gained enough strength to support its own weight. Proper curing for a particular time span after coasting to every concrete member is also a must thing & has to be followed at site. Things like anti termite treatment to the foundation to avoid settlement of sub base due to scouring of termites & strata checking certificate from the registered structural engineer. These things may look small & insignificant but the foundation on which the entire building is standing has to be confirmed of being capacity to take the load of the same.

Unfortunately as I have regularly pointed out most of the customer are either ignorant or careless about knowing the work details of the building which is going to be their home for next generations. In my entire carrier rarely I have come across a flat holder who has ever asked questions like what is brand & type of cement I am using? Do I perform any quality tests to ensure strength of the materials I use at site? If yes then can I produce record of such test reports? Also it’s equally important to have all the work is being carried out legally with necessary permissions from the concerned governing body like PMC or Collector who ever it may be. As  when you follow such procedure then there is a provision of having periodical certificates from the qualified & registered structural designer as well architect about the building’s work is being done with proper norms. And as a customer you can always ask your developer to produce such certification from the designer or architect, for e.g. before obtaining Occupation/ Completion certificate PMC asks for Stability Certificate from the registered structural designer about the strength of the building from the developer but no client ever asks for the copy of the same! And if you are going to book a flat which don’t have any legal status then obliviously the developer is not going to obtain any such stability certificate. Here is why most of the time illegal structures are more prone to mishaps. And remember when we say safety of structure it’s not just structural safety but there can be fire or floods or earthquakes sort of natural calamities. The building should be built keeping in mind all such factors as in the age of glass cladding & fancy designs many a times these situations are neglected & it’s too late when we realized the drawbacks of such designs. Adequate emergency exits & fire resistivity of the construction material used should be checked.

After all a good, solid & safe building doesn’t just happen automatically but its outcome of a dedicated team of professionals who aims for quality. And no quality can be achieved by ignoring safety factor & for that each working step has to be given its designated time without over speeding just for the sake of completing the job at hand. So instead blaming all others, understand your responsibility towards the safety of your own building & join hands with the people only who understands the same, is what I will say!

Sanjay Deshpande

Sanjeevani Dev.

Envo-Power Committee, Credai, Pune

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