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MC Explains| Structural safety policy for residential high-rises to boost people’s confidence to buy units in such buildings

Residents hail the move to make structural safety audits mandatory for occupancy certificates, but have reservations over vesting owners associations with the responsibility of carrying out the audits in buildings older than five years.

Sympathisers of Noida real-estate say that the real estate era prior to RERA was lawless across several cities – Noida just pushed the envelope further. (Representational image; Source: Shutterstock)

Sympathisers of Noida real-estate say that the real estate era prior to RERA was lawless across several cities – Noida just pushed the envelope further. (Representational image; Source: Shutterstock)

The Noida Authority has approved a structural safety policy defining the responsibility of both developers and Apartment Owners Associations (AOAs) in ensuring the safety of high-rise buildings.

The move follows building collapses across the National Capital Region (NCR) centred on Delhi that includes Noida.

Urban planners said the move will boost homebuyers’ confidence when they invest in high-rise buildings. They also called for proper execution of the policy to achieve positive outcomes.

Residents hailed the move to make structural safety audits mandatory for the grant of occupancy certificates (OCs), but expressed reservations over vesting AOAs with the task of carrying out safety audits in buildings older than five years.

What are the guidelines?

Noida Authority, at a board meeting on November 12, approved structural safety guidelines for residential high-rise buildings.

Noida Authority’s Chief Executive Officer Ritu Maheshwari said the policy had been prepared on demands by flat buyers and AOAs.

“Under the policy, before issuance of partial or full occupancy certificate, the developer will have to submit the structural audit report from empanelled IITs, NITs or specialist institutions,” Maheshwari said.

IITs and NITs are short for Indian Institutes of Technology and National Institutes of Technology, respectively.

“After issuance of an occupancy certificate, a structural audit will be conducted by specialist institutions for major-category structural defects after examination by a committee constituted on the complaint of structural defects,” Maheshwari said.

The guidelines also say structural defects, if any, will be rectified by the builder within five years from the date of issue of occupancy certificates.

Within two to five years, Noida Authority will inform the Real Estate Regulatory Authority to get the deficiencies found in the audit rectified by the builder.

Noida Authority officials said the policy states that in cases where occupancy certificates for flats in a high-rise building were issued over five years ago, the structural audits will be conducted by AOAs, which will also have to remove structural defects, if any.

The Gurugram administration has also included a similar clause in the list of conditions to obtain an OC.

Gurugram Deputy Commissioner Nishant Yadav said this month that the Department of Town and Country Planning (DTCP) had drafted guidelines requiring a structural safety audit for grant of occupancy certificates in residential high-rises.

He linked the prospective regulation to the February collapse of a portion of Chintels Paradiso Society that killed two women.

Also read: Supreme Court issues notice to builder in Chintels Paradiso case

How will this policy help?

Sewa Ram, a professor at the School of Planning and Architecture (SPA), said instances of building collapses were not unfamiliar to people living in Delhi-NCR.

Recently, the Gurugram administration ordered the demolition of Tower D in the Chintels Paradiso Society and the evacuation of neighbouring towers.

“Making structural safety audits mandatory for obtaining an OC will fix the responsibility of builders and reduce the chances of such untoward incidents,” Sewa Ram told Moneycontrol.

“The time is coming when the buyer will demand a certain checklist, ensuring safety of the structure, before purchasing a house. So it is a much-needed move which will boost confidence of homebuyers while investing in high-rises,” he said.

AK Jain, former Commissioner (Planning) at Delhi Development Authority (DDA), said the policy will certainly put some restrictions on new “unaccounted construction” and fix responsibility of developers and other bodies responsible for maintaining high-rise societies.

“Given the sensitivity of the region (as it falls in a high seismic zone) , ensuring structural safety of the buildings, especially high-rises, is very important. This is a good move but it should not be compromised as strict enforcement of these guidelines will also be required. Responsibility of the institution auditing the structural safety of any high-rise building should also be fixed along with the developer,” Jain said.

On AOAs being given the responsibility of structural audits in buildings that are older than five years, Jain said the government or Noida Authority should pitch in because the residents’ bodies may not have sufficient funds to get an audit done by expert institutions.

“They will have to work on this point as...this may compromise the entire purpose of the policy, which is safety of the people,” Jain added.

What do buyers have to say?

Rajiva Singh, president of Noida Federation of Apartment Owners Associations (NOFAA) -- an umbrella body of AOAs – said a structural safety policy had been long awaited.

“It is good to observe that the new policy takes care of structural audits which shall be conducted by a third party ahead of the residential complex being handed over by the builder to respective homebuyers. These audit reviews become important as developers at times fail to execute the stipulated construction parameters. Furthermore, GBN falls in a high seismic zone, so such a policy would provide safety checks for tremor-withstanding capabilities of the condominiums in case of severe earthquakes,” Singh said.

GBN is short for Gautam Buddha Nagar, the Uttar Pradesh district of which Noida is a part.

Singh demanded that builders be made responsible for structural audits and repairs as a follow-up action for 10 years after an OC is given instead of five years.

He also pointed to the absence of any defined plan for expenses that would have to be borne by residents to conduct regular audits every five years in the future.

“There could be a situation where residents’ groups may not want to go for carrying out periodical structural audits because of the cost involved and they continue living in risk without structural audits. We may need to find ways on how funds can be generated for expenses for execution of such structural audits. Also if the need arises, such expenses should be shared by builders or by Noida Authority or by both,” Singh said.

Nripendra Kumar, a representative of Antriksh Forest AOA in Sector 77, said the safety audit of high-rises is necessary, but only the residents should not be held accountable for it.

“Residents have already invested much in buying their flats so it is unjustified to ask them to again keep paying for structural safety audits. In such cases, either the builder or the authority should help AOAs in getting the building’s safety audit done,” Kumar said.

Builders’ take

Real estate developers said that according to research by the real estate company ANAROCK, over 400,000 homes are at different stages of construction in the Delhi-NCR region so introduction of such guidelines assume added significance.

Also Read: We've become homeless despite proof of possession: NBCC Greenview homebuyers

Amit Modi, president of the western UP chapter of the Confederation of Real Estate Developers' Association of India (CREDAI) and director of ABA Corporation, said structural safety audits had become necessary in the backdrop of recent tremors felt across Delhi-NCR.

He said getting a structural audit of high-rise buildings from an empanelled IIT, NIT or another specialist institution was already a mandatory part of the construction process.

“We also follow this norm, and most of our projects have already been approved by empanelled IIT specialists. This move will further strengthen the safety mechanism to ensure the structural safety of a building. Noida Authority's new guideline that has made submission of structural safety certification for high-rise buildings compulsory before the issuance of partial or full occupancy certificates, will further bolster the safety mechanism,” Modi said.

Manoj Gaur, chairman and managing director of Gaur Group, a Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh-based developer with a focus on the region, said it was a practice already being followed by reputed and responsible builders.

“The UP Apartment Act, 2010, clearly defines the responsibility of the developer in case there is an issue in the structure of the building so that every developer takes a structural certificate from a reputed external institution like Jamia Millia Islamia or IIT. Besides, this certification is also required during the sanction process as well as at the time of applying for the completion certificate,” Gaur said.

What more needs to be done?

Sewa Ram stressed a holistic approach was required for the policy to succeed.

“To make it holistic, the lifecycle maintenance of buildings should also be included in the policy along with a one-time safety audit of buildings. A design-level audit of any upcoming project should also be made mandatory at the time of the approval of the building plan. Building plans lacking the design level audit shouldn’t be approved,” he said.

Jain, the ex-Delhi Development Authority official, said homebuyers should feel assured that they are moving into a safe building and the society should ensure the guidelines aren’t compromised with.

“Also the authorities will have to adopt a more liberal way and help AOAs by either giving them money for the audit or get it done themselves in existing old high-rises and societies,” Jain said.​
Ashish Mishra
first published: Nov 24, 2022 11:02 am