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Thursday, February 20, 2020

Haryana’s vertical push shakes foundations

Houses in the posh MDC sectors have started developing cracks due to indiscriminate construction of new floors.

Written by Pallavi Singhal | Chandigarh | Published: December 27, 2019 12:09:27 pm
mansa devi complex, mansa devi complex cracks in houses, panchkula news, harayana news, punjab news, indian express news Residents of House No 505, MDC Sector 6, Panchkula, show adjoining new house building’s height. (Express photo/Jaipal Singh)

You may have heard about the Leaning Tower of Pisa, now you will get to see a close semblance in several parts of Haryana where homeowners are taking advantage of the relaxations in the state’s building code to construct new floors without much thought to the structural stability of their buildings. This is fast changing the flat landscape of Mansa Devi Complex (MDC) in Panchkula and many other urban estates in various towns of the state.

Pointing to the slight tilt in a tall building near his house, Sanjeev Tiwari, a retired civil servant living in Sector 6, MDC, complains that owners of many single or double-storey houses are now adding more floors. “The huge and ugly buildings that are making their way into our posh locality are not just spoiling the aesthetics but also blocking the open air and sunlight that we would enjoy in winters. This is a breach of all that was promised to us by HSVP (Haryana Shahari Vikas Pradhikaran) when they sold us the land.”

The amendment to the Haryana building code, passed in May 2018, increased the maximum permissible floor area ratio (FAR) earlier (for all different categories of plots) ranging from 100 per cent to 145 per cent to the current, 140 per cent to 220 per cent in core residential areas, and from 100 per cent to 165 per cent in residential areas other than core areas. The floor area ratio is the total area divided by the plot area, multiplied by 100.

The maximum permissible height too was increased from 12 metres to 15 metres, allowing people to build ground plus three floors, and in case of a stilt parking, a stilt plus four floors.

Another amendment made to the code in June this year further raised the permissible height to 16.5 metres, subject to clearance from the fire department.

A retired chief structural engineer of the Punjab government, who has contributed to the designs of famous government buildings not just in Punjab but also Delhi, says, “Buildings in a row with uneven foundations put immense burden on the building next door. If foundation levels are different, lateral forces as well as horizontal forces are on work, which make buildings tilt and have even started causing cracks. The addition of walls makes no sense because it does not help in anyway. It is the foundations that bear the pressure.”

The Directorate of Town & Country Planning Administrator of Haryana, K M Pandurang, when contacted, said, “We drafted a common building code to bring uniformity as all departments had their own building rules. Now one common building code is binding on all, be it HSVP, DTCP, urban local bodies, HSIIDC and GMDA (Gurugram Metropolitan Development Authority).”

Justifying the increase in FAR and height of the buildings, he said, “We were allowing four floors earlier as well, but according to the zoning, only three dwelling units were allowed and the fourth floor did not have a kitchen, and it was considered that it will not be used by a family.

But people would bypass the rule, especially in Gurgaon and Faridabad. They would modify their houses to add a kitchen without permission. Somehow, registering authorities were also registering the floor. After I joined the department in 2018, I asked registrars not to register those floors. Then the people of Gurgaon protested strongly (bahut hungama hua Gurgaon mei) and we came up with the modification. Fourth floor was then permitted as a separate household entity.’’

This additional FAR has been allowed on payment of charges as approved by government from time to time, which allows plot owners to purchase FAR in addition to what was mandated in the older building code of the state.

In another notification on March 7 this year, the department allowed the registration of a fourth floor as a separate dwelling unit in case of residential plot, thereby incentivising home owners to construct four floors.

Many residents who had built their houses years ago are now protesting against these relaxations, citing that people living in old houses that have the weight-bearing capacity of only two floors are also taking advantage of this code to add more floors for rental income.

“Construction of additional floors in a neighbouring house with a common wall puts undue pressure on my house as well. Considering that this is a seismic zone, such construction can prove to be very hazardous,” Tiwari warns.

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