Special Report

Tall Matters

August 2011
The new laws for high rises have left builders gnashing their teeth at the BMC. The architect, on the other hand, has something different to say. Shubhangi Bidwe reports...

The new environmental and contextual guidelines passed by the High Rise Committee of the BMC have raised the hackles of the builder community, which is terming them as impractical and non-feasible. Their main point of argument is that these laws will adversely affect the buyer rather than benefitting him. "The additional cost of construction will have to be passed on to the buyer, which will make it difficult for him to buy properties," says Anil Kumar Rai, Additional General Manager, SD Corporation. "Secondly, in this congested city of Mumbai, it is not possible to acquire land of 1,000 sq m for a building as it will affect the other projects in the vicinity. The restriction on glass façades too is not practical as glass is emerging as one of the major construction materials internationally. The solution to this problem therefore is to increase the norms for green zones. The corporation can also increase the tax on the FSI than burden the consumers like this."

Architect Ravi Sarangan, Partner, Edifice Architects, on the other hand, has a completely different opinion on the matter. He believes that compared to the previous laws, the ambiguities in the new ones have been reduced. They are also simpler and confer fewer powers on the authorities, thus making them more transparent. When quizzed about the practicality of the law on water, he counters, "It is a perfectly possible and practical law. As an architect, while a designing a project, I should know exactly what the water consumption of that building will be. This will not only help its residents plan and manage their water needs, it will also curb unnecessary wastage. The restriction on the use of glass façades is also justified as we live in Mumbai - a city where the humidity levels are quite high. Restricting glass use will help maintain temperature levels. What the builders should instead do is increase the height of the ceiling," he suggests.

"These laws also define the concept of FSI very clearly. Earlier builders would force architects to include flowerbeds, carlifts, etc in the FSI and burden the customers with extra charges gulping that extra part of FSI. They were in fact using these loopholes in the laws to fill their own pockets. This will stop now, which is why most of these builders are up in arms against the BMC. Their rationale that these laws will additionally burden the consumers is complete hogwash, he concludes."

Thus, we have two different communities expressing diametrically opposite views. Meanwhile, the main actor in this whole drama, the BMC, remained unavailable for comment despite numerous attempts to contact them.

What the new guidelines say...
  • No permission for high rise buildings unless the plot is about 1,000 sq m or more.
  • A distance of at least 20 m between two buildings.
  • Mandatory parking space for vehicles.
  • Flower beds, common areas, lift wells, which were earlier not counted in FSI, will now be chargeable.
  • Provision has to be made for two staircases.
  • Use of glass façade must be kept to minimum
  • The road adjoining the building should be minimum 20 m wide.
  • Wind movement around high rises must be analysed from the microclimate perspective.
  • The road facing the building's façade should not be featureless.
  • No swimming pools on the upper storeys.
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