Vertical expansion

Town planning

Vertical expansion

More room: High-rises provide the option of maintaining open spaces around the development.

Over a period of time, Bangalore’s girth has stretched to its maximum capacity. Rapid development has left town planners hardly any time to assess the situation and give growth a push in the right direction. As a result, you have a city that seems to be slowly choking on its self. Traffic snarls, concrete jungles, commercial spaces spilling over into residential areas and greenery slowly, but surely vanishing from the city landscape is evident. It looks as though Bangalore is no longer a contender for the title of the garden city.  

But there is a solution to these problems — high-rises. This concept has gathered steam in Bangalore. Instead building individual houses, authorities have decided that it will be prudent for the city to grow vertically. Maneesh Gupta, Associate Director (consulting and valuation), Colliers International says, “There is enough demand for high-rises for both, residential and commercial spaces. There is no reason to believe that the demand is short-term. The fact that the topmost floors of apartments command a premium over the other floors and builders levy a floor rise charge on apartments in Bangalore as well as many other cities shows that there is an increasing appetite for high-rises.”  
V Gopal, Senior Vice-President (projects & planning), Prestige Group opines that in the past few years, Bangalore has been growing at an unprecedented rate. The city has witnessed migration of people from other parts of the country, which has resulted in its exponential growth. With the city centre getting increasingly saturated, vacant land has become a scarcity. Hence, there is an increasing need to make most of the limited space available. And, the most logical solution is high-rises as they can accommodate maximum space under the given circumstances while providing the option of maintaining open spaces  around the development.  

The foundation stone
Those scouting around for a high-rise home know that people will be spoilt for choice when it comes to the number and styles of high-rise residential projects on offer. When a real estate developer decides on creating a high-rise, infrastructure is of primary importance, needless to say. The foundation too needs to be strong and sustainable. Ashish Puravankara, Director, Puravankara Projects Limited, says, “The concept of high rise construction is highly location specific and has a lot to do with available Floor Space Indices (FSI) at any given location. However, the availability of necessary infrastructure to support high-rise buildings in a given area, at all times, must be taken into consideration.”

He also adds that some guidelines like NBC code, fire fighting norms, height restriction from airport authorities have to be taken into consideration for developing a high rise construction. Basics like wind direction and wind pressure, soil condition, specifications of windows also are important.

The official spokesperson of Nitesh Estates Ltd adds that infrastructure for construction of a high-rise totally depends on the height of the building. For example, in Bangalore, a building above 15 meters is classified as a high-rise.

If a building goes beyond 12 floors, there will be additional increase in the construction cost (cranes, labour etc), service costs such as the pumping capacity for firefighting systems will go up). Also, high strength materials will be needed for the right structures to be provided.

FSI and FAR – the ideal combination
For those familiar with real estate development requirements, the term Floor Space Indices (FSI) and Floor Area Ratio (FAR) has considerable bearing. Commenting on the importance of FSI on high rise construction, J C Sharma, MD, Sobha Developers Ltd says, “High-rise buildings give more open spaces within plots resulting in better environment, more greenery and parks.”

 According to Nitesh Estates Ltd officials, “Whether FSI is low or high, one can still go for vertical development. More the number of floors, greater will be the space left open. This will also help in ensuring adequate place around the building, which will take care of the light and ventilation needs of residents.”

Maneesh Gupta adds, “Higher the FSI, higher is the quantum of construction in a particular piece of land. Increase in FSI means more developable area for developers and hence more revenue. High-rise developments are essentially a factor of the building regulations applicable in the city, and more specifically the relevance of FSI and ground coverage coupled with the extent of availability of land parcels for development of various asset classes as per a master plan.”

In terms of advantages of FSI to the builders, Ashish Puravankara feels that high-rise buildings provide a means of saving on land costs. They open up wider arenas to operate on as there is more open space and less ground coverage. It also adds value to the project.  This means projects will be cheaper on a unit-to-unit basis and also more plentiful in profitable areas, which is beneficial for investors and their eventual buyers alike. V Gopal of Sobha Developers Ltd on the other hand feels that the bylaw of BBMP prescribes the FSI to high-rises and that there are no specific advantages to builders.
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Elaborating on the possible challenges that real estate developers face in terms of high-rise construction, Gagan Singh, CEO (Project Development Services), Jones Lang LaSalle Meghraj says, “Unlike in developed countries, enforcing strict norms with regard to structural safety, disaster, environment and fire safety presents quite a challenge in India.  Other factors affecting the increase of high-rise buildings in India are the FAR norms.”

She  explains that FAR parameters vary from state to state and are governed by the respective city development authorities. Increase or limitation of FAR is not city-specific but area-specific. FAR restrictions are necessary in heritage zones featuring monuments, and wherever higher FAR would destroy the urban fabric of a particular area. This has been the primary area of contention. 

She adds further, “Every city will have areas where higher FAR is permissible to encourage or accommodate growth of a certain market segment – the same FAR would not be applicable in other areas of the city. Whenever a new area opens up for development, a master plan that designates the land use zone, development control regulations and FAR permissible for various uses is laid down. Essentially, city authorities are in charge of planning the development of the cities.” J C Sharma says, “Many a time interpretation of bylaws becomes problematic. From the safety point of view as well, high-rise buildings have to comply with additional fire norms.”

Maneesh Gupta adds, “With the improvement in construction technology, there is no technical problem in construction or maintenance of high-rises. Most governments are willing to give permission for them and there are not many roadblocks. Height restrictions because of airports in the vicinity may be the only problem that may be difficult to circumvent. However, that is a location specific problem and not pandemic.”
Gupta also informs that higher use of FSI may create problems in terms of additional pressure on infrastructure like roads, water supply, sewage, electric power lines etc. Hence permissions for high-rises are given taking into account the availability of such infrastructure at a particular location.

Question of sustainability
Gagan Singh opines that high rise buildings are extremely expensive in terms of construction, services and utilities. They are not necessarily more environmentally sustainable, given the fact of their very high energy consumption even with the implementation of green building parameters.

“Realistically, we are still a long way off from seeing sustainable skyscrapers as a norm rather than exceptions to the rule in India. Costs will continue to dictate most construction companies in this country and the fact remains that skyscrapers – sustainable or otherwise, involve huge costs,” she adds.  

J C Sharma feels that high-rises are the most appropriate solution to cater to the present demand. But city infrastructure needs to be upgraded to support the buildings.
Gupta sums it up, “Maintenance costs for high-rise buildings are typically higher than that of their low-rise counterparts. However, that is not a deterrent towards constructing or occupying a high-rise. Environmentally, both high-rise and low-rise buildings can achieve a platinum rating as far as Green Building Council (GBC) is concerned. The height of the building will not impede its sustainability.”

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