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India’s Towering Cities

India’s Towering Cities

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Indian cities are growing more vertical every passing year. Considering the paucity of land in the urban areas, this is the only way forward. However, there are major safety concerns that are to be addressed writes Renjini Liza Varghese.

Growing urbanisation and more people migrating to the cities has been the growth driver for the real estate segment. The cities now started growing more vertically owing to the reason best known, the scarcity of land availability, spiralling of land prices and surge in housing demand. With the aim of  accommodating a large number of migrating population to the urban areas, the cities have no option but to grow further vertical. A high-rise in simple terms means that a tall building that can be used for commercial and residential purposes which can accommodate more number of people.        

When one say skyscrapers, the usual image that crosces the mind is that of the US cities or lately the Burj Khalifa. However, the towers have become landmarks of Indian cities now. The opportunities and growth prospective the cities offer are attracting more and more people into the urban areas.

The ban on high-rise buildings was lifted in Indian in 2014, permitting real estate stakeholders to expand vertically. This was a relief for the two big brothers Delhi and Mumbai which was congested beyond its capacity and also exhausting with its horizontal expansions. 

The Delhi and Mumbai real estate landscape will be redesigned when  the majority of the planned highrises gets complited in the first half of the next decade.            

Growth drivers

Says, JC Sharma, Vice Chairman and Managing Director of SOBHA Limited, “For real estate development to flourish, infrastructure development is im-perative. In the last few years, India has taken big strides in infrastructure development. This is evident in the growth of real estate activity beyond the primary markets, extending to micro-markets across all the major cities. Better infrastructural facilities are the basis of organised urban growth. If done well and in time, real estate can develop better.”             

High-rise building also brings in a set of challenges starting from the planning/construction stage. First and foremost, there is a mismatch at the pace at which the skycaps are growing and the infrastructure around it. While the development of high rise building is taken up by the private entities, the in-frastructure development remains with the government. This, the stake-holders points out as the major impediment.        

Recalling here, one of the meaningful comments heard in the recent past, ‘India, unlike the global peers, create infrastructure not for the future but for the past,’ which is 100 per cent true in every sense. While the high rises are changing the landscapes, the infrastructure surrounding them also required to be growing at the same pace so that usual bottlenecks can be avoided.

Dr Niranjan Hiranandani, Founder & MD- Hiranandani Group pointed out that, “Initial centralisation of commercial space in a few select areas has led to congestion, high density and rampant growth. These, in turn, have led to a mismatch in the development of infrastructure. First, the density of residents increases; it is usually then that infrastructure planning comes into play. Across Metro cities, we see the lack of planned infrastructure, which is the reason why there is a clamour to extend geographical boundaries of such metro regions to its peripheral satellite towns, where there is ample land available for planned infrastructure. Decentralisation of commercial hubs to the peripheral metropolitan region will definitely facilitate better infra-structure and civic amenities.”       

Design and Safety challenges

Planning and designing is the second challenge in the order. What made a high rise possible was the invention of elevators and escalators. 

When the height of the building increases, it is imperative to factor in earth quack resistance, wind speed that is greater beyond the normal levels. While aesthetics and modern design would be the priority on the drawing board, ensuring structural stability is the most critical aspect. Going beyond what rules and regulations requires, being truly earthquake resistant with piling that provides a proper foundation is important. When the elevation is higher, the character of wind and the temperatures are different. This has to be factored in the designing stage to ensure the stipulated life of the building.              

Rajendra Varma – Director, Omkar Realtors & Developers, looked beyond the typical challenges that are visible. He took one of his ongoing projects as in case to explain in detail. He said, “ a) As this is city centre project with limited space available at ground for logistics, meticulous planning and im-plementation of the same is most important. b) Due to limited space, the Storage of building construction materials are limited. Deliveries of materials are properly planned and monitored. c) There are challenges of equipment, men and materials movement in the building, which is planned in details and the means of movements are as per the peak time requirements.”

Varma also spoke in length on how technology adaptation can help overcome the challenges. “Use of technology is useful in overcoming the challenges of construction of the tall buildings. Use of advance automatic climbing formwork system for vertical members and system formwork for deck provides the quality and speed of construction. That is not all, Selection of right materials is very important for the construction of high rise building with speed and quality. Selection of high strength concrete for columns pro-vides the scope for reduction of the columns/walls thickness, which increases the usable area and also better space planning. As serviceability becomes critical over the years for super tall buildings, building materials need to be highly durable.”

He further elaborated by saying using the right equipment for shifting of materials, like crane or materials hoist passenger elevators or concrete pump etc., in time and without any significant breakdown is important for the construction of high rise building. The equipment with the highest rating of safety is most famous for the selection of the same. And using of software systems like documents management system (DMS), project management and monitoring system, building movement monitoring system etc. are the key supports for the timely and quality construction of the projects is also plays a crucial role, he signed off.        

Safety is a paramount feature, both while constructing and post-construction.  

Following all activities with safety engineering, safety analysis, use safety gears at work site, use of proper solutions at different construction levels and following adequate methodology is the way to ensure safety during con-struction of high rise building.

Post-construction, it is imperative to have concentrated efforts in multiple levels — the safety of human movements, elevators and fire. While the first two are majorly addressed, fire safety is a growing concern in India. Lack of fire fighting equipment in the building, lack of awareness in case of fire breaking out, lack of safety gears and high ladders available with the fire departments, no proper guidelines on evacuation process makes it more challenging. It takes time for firefighters to find out the cause of the fire in high-rise buildings. To top it all, violation of fire safety norms is widespread in our country. Unfortunately, it is a common practice to find loopholes and not follow compliances.   

Hiranandani added, “In case of any disaster, be it natural or human-made, the safety of high rise structures requires safe evacuation from the structure with minimal injuries and hopefully, no loss of life. This, in a nutshell, is the challenge that high rise structures need to face successfully. Fire, earthquakes and human-made disasters need to be provided for, and instead of following the ‘check-box option’, Indian high-rise structures need to work in safety measures right from the planning stage. Incorporating global best practices are a must, as also ensuring that no corners are cut while providing for safety measures in high rise structures.”

New trends

Sharma also touched upon some of the emerging trends in the sector. He said, “ This includes smart home automation. From the initial security features, the concept of smart home automation has come a long way to include features such as gas leakage detectors, fire detection systems, soft panic switch to trigger emergency action, entertainment systems, energy efficiency systems, lighting systems among others.         

Another major visible trend is affordable luxury housing. These are aspira-tional homes targeted at middle-income home buyers, offering the modern amenities at par with international standards at an affordable price point. At SOBHA, we offer aspirational homes under the ‘Dream Series’ segment.”

Forward-Looking

There are new and innovative products in the building material segment, which enhances the quality, energy efficiency and sustainability. Green buildings are a new concept which is gaining popularity. The wise use of reusable and environmentally friendly materials would have to be factored in the construction, going forward. What makes high-rise a safe and secure place to live/use are choosing the right mix of products for construction. And complying with the laid down laws, going beyond the rule book to ensure the high-rise a safe and secure place to use.

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