You put a huge amount of your earnings in your apartment. But are you aware of the perils of poor maintenance and unsafe practices?
The middle-class spends the bulk of its earnings to buy a house or an apartment. However, while choosing the apartment building and after moving into it, people hardly think about its safety and maintenance of the building. This leads to accidents and, sometimes, to loss of lives. “We need to maintain our homes and apartment buildings like we care for own health,” said renowned structural consultants Achyut Watve and Umesh Joshi while speaking at an interactive session on “How Safe Is Your Building?” organised by Moneylife Foundation in Mumbai, along with architect Prakash Deshmukh.
According to these experts, during the first 10 years of the building, owners need to maintain all records of the property, like approved architectural plans, structural plans along with the design brief, including loading on each floor, parking loads, landscape load and material testing records from the builder. The maintenance and care taken of the building over next 20 years will decide its life from the 30th year onwards, they said.
Mr Watve and Mr Joshi, both partners of JW Consultants LLP, a highly regarded name in structural consultancy that works with reputed construction companies in India and abroad, said that apartment/flat-owners need to be more aware about the maintenance timeline and follow it rigorously to avoid accidents or major repairs later.
“Owners should get the building inspected regularly. While regular painting will seal fine cracks, for structural cracks, approved methods of repairs need to be used. In addition, the residents should also inspect common facilities, electrical systems, fire suppression system in the building and take proper measures to repair and rectify defects on time. Also, one needs to understand that waterproofing has limited life and the buildings may start leaking later. This also needs to be checked regularly,” Mr Watve and Mr Joshi said.
“The most common cause for building collapse is seepage and leakage. People take for granted that waterproofing work has been carried out by the builder. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Life of any waterproofing is maximum 10-15 years, after which it needs to be done again thoroughly. Instead of finding out the source of water leakage and carrying out repairs at that spot, people try to do a wishy-washy job and end up with more damage to the building,” they added.
Mr Watve and Mr Joshi explained in detail about what a home-buyer needs to check while buying a new property. Besides location and accessibility of the property, one needs to check the reputation of the builder as well as the contractor, consultant and architect. “Some people, while buying a property, look for additional floor space index (FSI) so that floors can be added. However, before checking on the FSI, the buyer needs to check if the building foundation is designed for such additional floor load,” they said.
Mr Watve and Mr Joshi said that while buying a new home, one should look for quality of construction materials (steel and concrete), approved electrical wiring, internal piping, quality waterproofing with warranty, anti-termite treatment in foundations, and anti-corrosion systems—all of which will give us peace of mind. Often, to save time and money, flat-owners do not remove the existing tiles but add a layer of tiles on top of the existing ones. This immediately leads to huge additional load on the floor and may become a big source of problem later.
Prakash Deshmukh, immediate past president of Indian Institute of Architects (IIA), and director of Associated Space Designers Pvt Ltd, explained to the audience issues relating to ‘Maintenance and Safety of the Built Environment’. “Built environment refers to the man-made surroundings that accommodate human activities in the buildings and its surroundings including their supporting infrastructure, such as water supply, energy networks, fire safety, security and health,” he said. Mr Deshmukh, who is widely acclaimed for contributing to eco-friendly townships like Magarpatta City and Nanded City in Pune, said there is a serious lack of public awareness about built environment in India.
“Poorly maintained buildings lead to dangerous living conditions. Because of serious ignorance about the maintenance of buildings and built environment, one gets exposed to “sick building syndrome” or SBS. SBS is nothing but a situation in which the occupants of a building, experience acute health- or comfort-related effects which seem to be linked directly to the time spent in the building,” added Mr Deshmukh said.
Talking about causes for the SBS, Mr Deshmukh said that poor maintenance of building elements, such as leakage of water though ceilings and walls, poor indoor air quality due to lack of adequate natural ventilation, poor hygiene and cleanliness—indoors as well as outdoors—and poor day-lighting, resulting in growth of bacteria and anaerobic conditions, lead to SBS.
Talking about solid waste management, he said, “Instead of haphazard disposal, residents must practice waste segregation at the source itself. Regular cleaning and maintenance ensures healthy living conditions. I spent almost 10 years to make people aware about health hazards due to poor waste management. In the end, our entire colony is now following the practice to segregate the waste into dry and wet wastes.” There is a need for developers and builders to provide a building manual for buyers, Mr Deshmukh said. He added, “When you buy a car, the manufacturer provides you with a manual. However, when you buy a home worth lakhs of rupees, or even crores, there is no such thing given by the developer. Maintenance manual should be made mandatory with every project. Until then, you have to create your own dos and don’ts.”
Mr Deshmukh said, “Building audit should be carried out on a regular basis to ensure the safety, security and health of the buildings. Each project should have a maintenance manual. Based on the audit there should be action programme for maintenance. In addition, structural audit must be carried out periodically and effective measures should be adopted for structural safety. Similarly, painting should be done on a regular basis along with the surface plaster coating. Preventive maintenance of building services should also be carried out regularly. Maintaining the safety, security and liveability of our buildings and built environment is in our hands. Let us do it,” he appealed.
The presentations and speeches were followed by a lively interaction.