Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Life of Building!






There is one rule for the industrialist and that is: Make the best quality of goods possible at the lowest cost possible, paying the highest wages possible...Henry Ford

Well when applied to our real estate many will say the above quote is a mockery of the industry as whenever the term quality product is referred, builders certainly are not up in the line. This again many of my colleagues won’t like but that is the general feeling of common man I am sharing. There was a letter in "Sakal Vastu" by Mr. Sandeep Khardekar about the quality of the present construction as well responsibilities for the faults in the same. After reading that letter, the builder as well engineer in me can’t keep mum & that’s the subject of this sharing.

Mr. Khardekar has compared our today’s construction with British time structures & then there were issues about what is the life of the present buildings considered while building them & what about the faults like leakages as well cracks to the plaster etc. He also has raised the point about certifying the ongoing construction & punishment to the concerned for faulty work or making. All the points are very much valid though the answers may not be as simple as it looks because most will say what’s big deal no doubt the builder is responsible & punish him for any such fault. Well, may be true in some extent but before concluding we need to look at the issues in holistic angle as its not whose fault it is but how we are going to pin up the responsibilities & what are the reasons behind the faults is much more important to know. As speaking about Credai or MBVA i.e. both are the builder's organizations, no member will wish that his buildings should have faults & neither will he love to face complaints from the customer. Rather no builder who wants to be in business for longer time will like to have such things in his buildings.

Then why there are such cases of bad quality construction & conflicts over the maintenance between customer & the builder? Let’s understand the building construction process for that. Still in our country to a majority extent building construction or any civil activity is being done by manual labor & the material used is whatever locally available. In a way unlike any factory made product where most of the work processes are being done by machines here it’s done by manual methods & that does creates quality related issues. Also no standardization of the construction practices is here. There is an IS building code for construction practices but at many places it’s vague & not pertaining to the specific local conditions which are limitations too, for the builder. For example getting sand or metal of proper size & grade for the construction work. For this the builder is totally dependent on the local market material only. Most important there is no controlling authority control for building construction. The local authorities like Municipal Corporations are interested in just sanctioning process which is FSI or zoning related & they are not ready to take responsibility of quality. Though they do ask for structural stability type’s certification from the licensed structural designer, that’s it! And it’s assumed that the architect is supposed to look after the quality part of the building construction, but his role too is limited for checking dimensions as well plot margins type things & all the actual construction work is left to the developer & his contractors. Here again there isn’t any system to confirm technical qualifications of the builder or his contractor neither to check whether there is any technically qualified staff is available at site for quality checking. These are the basic lacunas which lead to future faults in construction.

The construction of a building is twofold process i.e. manufacturing as well assembling as the frame, means column, beams & slabs along with walls is being actually constructed at site & then tiles, doors, windows which are made in factory are fitted in this frame. So it’s a mix product of manufacturing & assembling. Obliviously the faults also will have to be categorized accordingly. Then there are local conditions like quality of sand & weather in city like Pune which does induce thermal stresses in the frame as in one day the temperature difference can be as high as 25 degrees! Also the sand available in Pune & surrounding is river sand which does have high clay content & becomes main reasons for surface cracks in the plaster. Again the cracks can be of two types, first type which are surface cracks are in plaster & they do look ugly but not harmful structurally. The other types are structural cracks & are outcome of poor quality concreting or faulty structural design. Also because of less curing to the concrete after casting. The second category cracks are sheer negligence of the developers & he is solely responsible for it & they are non repairable too. When I say non repairable that means it will cost huge amount to repair such fault & not possible for many occupants. 

Another manufacturing fault is leakage of water proofing of terraces or toilets. This again causes due to bad supervision or faulty processes of doing the water proofing. In any case the fault lies with the builder only provided no damage has been done to the water proofing after possession by the flat holders.
Other types of faults are in assembling, for e.g. tiles get loose in a year or plumbing fitting leaks or cladding fails down or doors get bend & things like that. All these can be avoided by using good workmanship as well choosing good quality material of standard companies. Again this is builders responsibility though in some cases like shade difference in floor tiles is beyond control of the developer as even you but good branded tiles such type of faults have been observed & the reason is a tile is made of natural material like clay. And every batch differs in properties of basic material so some shade difference is possible but it should not be more that 10-15% is accepted. As to these faults even the builder can’t do anything. Also Chrome plated fittings get rusted due to use of bore well or hard water; such faults are beyond control of the developer.

Apart from this there is responsibility of the occupants also to use the building with proper care which many a times not followed by the occupants. Breaking of the wall of plaster after finishing should be strictly avoided as plaster to the main frame of the building is like skin to our body, you cut it at one place & unlike our body it can’t get healed with medicine but the damage can be anywhere in the frame & leads to leakage. But what I have seen is many a times for things like fixing Air Conditioning unit to changing the tiles or kitchen otta direction the plaster is being broken & then we say cracks have developed in the flat’s walls. Even if it’s being done in your flat the cracks may occur in adjoining flat. Faults like toilet leakages occur due to breaking of toilet tiles after possession as per interior design’s requirement & the sufferer may be the flat below your home. Here definitely the developer isn’t responsible but the occupants are. Then there are things like periodical painting exterior as well internal which many societies don’t do for cutting expenses. Actually it’s very essential for tropical areas like ours where we receive rains nearly 30 inches per year. After 5-6 years the buildings needs to be painted from outside & now days we do get good quality paints which takes care of seepages to great extent. Also regular checking of pluming lines & facilities like Garbage Chute or else we have read accident like the one in recent news can happen. If a society isn’t getting such periodical maintenance done of the buildings then the developer can’t be blamed for the faults occurred due to it. Important things like maintenance contract of fire fighting systems or lifts are often not renewed in time or given to sub standard agency just to save the costs incurred & which leads to major faults is also I have observed. But at the same time the developer should make the occupants aware about all these things while giving possession is also equally true.

The builders who are aware about quality they does take such precautions of appointing proper contractor as well trained technical staff at site as most of these things can be avoided with proper supervision. And that’s why it’s very important to visit the site regularly after you have booked your flat & see that the construction is being supervised by trained staff. Also here is where pedigree of the builder counts a lot as a good builder who has past experience under his belt will see that the workmanship is good he will try to avoid any future maintenance by taking care at right time during construction. Also he will make the occupants aware about the proper maintenance of the building he has built. And even if some maintenance occurs then he will take the responsibility & instead avoiding customers will speak with them & do the needful about the fault. So it’s extremely important to visit the past projects of any builder before finalizing your home with him & see by your own eyes the quality as well service he provides to his customers.

Unfortunately to my knowledge there isn’t any system other than Consumer Court & then go to the judicially for any of the fault which occurs after possession & which builder is not agreeing responsibility for the same. At Credai there is a Grievance Cell which does try to give justice to such flat holder provided the builder is their member. We do need a system where such disputes can be taken care & fast. And this can be formed at local governing bosdy only as they can check the site situation, pin point the responsibility of the fault & act accordingly. As in all such cases most important is the time as well repair costs incurred. The aim is faults should be cured & fast.

The life of RCC i.e. Reinforced Cement Concrete structures is considered as 70 years to my knowledge. Means nearly two generations are going to stay in such building & its responsibility of the builder to build the structure accordingly which will serve them in best way. Also it’s the responsibility of the occupants too, to see that whatever has been given to them as a home they should maintain it properly. As ultimately it’s the home where our sentiments also are involved, we are talking about & not just any consumer product.




--
Sanjay Deshpande

Sanjeevani Dev.

Envo-Power Committee, Credai, Pune

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