Two workers were killed and several others injured last month when an under-construction building collapsed at Narayanaguda in Hyderabad. Earlier, in April, six people died when a three-storey building collapsed in Kamathipura in South Central Mumbai.
In recent years, there have been several incidents of building collapses in metro cities, particularly in Mumbai. In some of these instances, buildings that have collapsed were not more than 20 to 30 years old. Faulty construction and design or the use of inferior building materials is believed to be the key reason in several cases. So, how can a home buyer differentiate between a good and bad construction quality of a residential project?
Kishor Pate, CMD, Amit Enterprises Housing Ltd says, “Since all concrete buildings look the same to the untrained eye, it is very difficult to ascertain how long any one will last without needing serious structural repairs. While some buildings will last for more than 50 to 60 years without any problem, some will start developing problems after few years of construction.”
The quantum of construction activity has grown manifold over a period of time. In the NCR, Greater Noida and Gurgaon, for example, are witnessing a massive amount of construction. “Innumerable concrete buildings are being constructed for residential as well as commercial purposes globally. Given that people pay a lot of money for them, a natural question to ask is how long these concrete structures or buildings will last. Building materials play a big role in deciding the longevity of a concrete structure. Unfortunately, the fact that housing projects are being mass-produced today has resulted in countless buildings being constructed with inferior quality materials,” says Pate.
Input costs worry developers
There is no doubt that building materials such as cement are getting increasingly costlier. The rising costs of construction are a cause of concern for developers, who are often criticised for not bringing down property prices. However, this should be no reason for using poor quality material and putting human lives at stake.
Ashish Bhuvan, Sustainable Design Expert, IdeinLab Architects, Bangalore says, “The first rainy season after possession of a new home is the acid test for construction. Hairline cracks and fissures are a common phenomenon for all built structures owing to the use of different materials that have varied expansion and contraction parameters. However, owing to poor quality of materials, there are many cases wherein the surface finishes start peeling off. These are the first signs of a shabby workmanship and needs immediate attention.”
Water seepage is the main culprit in most constructions. Use of inferior building materials may lead to water getting trapped, leading to a phenomena called concrete cancer. This can cause a serious cracking in concrete, which can lead to structural problems in a building.
In addition to poor quality building materials, a fault in design can also be devastating for a building’s shelf life. “If we examine some old structures, it becomes apparent that they have thick columns, beams and slabs that provide superior support to the building. In many of today’s concrete buildings being raised by developers who are more concerned with cost-cutting than delivering quality products, the slabs that are used are merely few inches thick,” explains Pate.
The recently passed Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016 seeks to protect the interest of home buyers through several provisions. It has increased the liability of developers for structural defects from two to five years. Besides, any change in building plan must be approved by at least two-thirds of the buyers.