Bengaluru building collapses show loopholes in by-laws

Back-to-back building collapses in Bengaluru expose loopholes in by-laws

The civic body invoked the National Building Code, 2016, to prohibit modifications to balconies following the deadly fire in Devarachikkanahalli on September 20

Representative image. Credit: iStock Images

Recent accidents at multi-storeyed buildings in Bengaluru have exposed the lacunae in the building by-laws adopted by the BBMP, structural and civil engineering experts say. 

While the civic body invoked the National Building Code, 2016, to prohibit modifications to balconies following the deadly fire in Devarachikkanahalli on September 20, it ignores the same statute when it comes to monitoring the structural stability of old buildings. 

Srikanth Channal, Chairperson of the Association of Consulting Civil Engineers, Bengaluru, said that the city wasn't following the practice of assessing the structural safety of old buildings. "As per the NBC, 2016, buildings older than 25 years have to be assessed for their safety once in five years. But that is not being followed in Bengaluru because the BBMP has not added the NBC to its building by-laws," he added. "It's dilly-dallying on implementing the NBC in spite of multiple requests." 

Dr Aswath M U, a structural engineer and principal of the Bangalore Institute of Technology, said that the NBC offered guidelines for every type of building, including on their maintenance. "Had these guidelines been adopted and followed by the BBMP, such incidents could have been easily averted,” he said. 

He added that if the civic body lacked manpower to implement the NBC guidelines, it could put the onus on property owners. All it has to do is adopt the NBC, he said. 

Officials say the by-laws do not mandate the BBMP engineers or property owners to check the condition of a building once the occupancy certificate has been issued. The NBC also mandates structural changes to a building only after the competent authority gives approval. But in the case of the building that collapsed in Lakkasandra on September 27, officials had found out that the owner had constructed an additional structure that added to the load. 

Channal is of the view that safety and stability certifications should be provided by professionals because not all engineers are qualified to assess the structural stability of a building. 

BBMP Chief Commissioner Gaurav Gupta acknowledged that the civic body had received requests for including the NBC in the building by-laws and promised that it was working towards the same. 

"The BBMP by-laws are a work in progress. We have drafted a copy which has to be approved by the administrator and then sent to the government. Hopefully, we will move closer to these rules soon," he said. 

Check out DH's latest videos

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox

Check out all newsletters

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox