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Tuesday, April 3, 2018


Vijay K. Saluja
Senior Fellow, Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi 
Ex-Chief Engineer[civil], New Delhi Municipal Council
DIRECTOR- Giraffe Heroes India

Construction of high rise building ,in India, is on the rise. These are for residential, commercial-[offices, hotel, institutional], purposes. New equipments, materials & technology are being used for the same, to make the same earthquake-proof, aesthetically nice, easily maintainable & with all fire prevention/protection measures. The need of the same, has come about, because of high demand of commercial/ institutional/ residential spaces in the various parts of the city, where cost of the land is very high.
Real Estate Developers are developing these places for providing much needed residential apartments as well as for institutional purposes, too.
As, these buildings are highly capital-intensive, house many people/offices et al,, it is vey imperative that maintenance of these buildings is excellent & all precautions are taken to make these `built- areas`. safe & well-maintained , at all times.


What is a High Rise Building?
There are many definitions of the same, by various bodies.
Some of these are-----------------

The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary defines a High Rise- a building with many stories.
The International Conference on Fire Safety in High-Rise Buildings defined a high-rise as "any structure where the height can have a serious impact on evacuation"
Massachusetts General Laws define a high-rise as a building, higher than 70 feet (21m).
Most building engineers, inspectors, architects , define a high-rise, as a building which is at least 75 feet (23 m) high ..

Tallest High-rise Buildings in Continents
Sl. No.Continent Tallest Building City Height Floors Year

1.Africa Carlton Centre Office Tower Johannesburg 223m 50 1973
2.Asia Taipei Taipei 509m 101 2004
3.Europe Naberezhnaya Tower Moscow 268m 61 2007
4.North America Sears Tower Chicago 442m 108 1974
5.Oceania Q1 Tower Gold Coast City 323m 78 2005
6.South America Parque Central Torre Este Caracas 221m 56 1979

Ten Tallest Buildings in the World.
Sl. No. City Building Height in Meters Height in Ft. Floors Year
1.Taipei Taipei 509 1671 101 2004
2.Shanghai World Financial 492 1614 101 2008
3.Kuala Lumpur Petronas Tower 452 1483 88 1998
4.Chicago Sears Tower 442 1451 108 1974
5.Shanghai Jin Mao Tower 421 1380 88 1999
6.Hong Kong Two International Finance 415 1362 88 2003
7.Guangzhou CITIC Plaza 391 1283 80 1997
8.Shenzhen Shun Hing Square 384 1260 69 1996
9.New York Empire State Building 3811 250 102 1931

List of tallest buildings in India

Sl. No. Building Place Floors
1 The Imperial Mumbai 60
2 Ashok Towers Mumbai 53
3 Planet Godrej Mumbai 51
4 Shreepati Arcade Mumbai 45
5 RNA Mirage Mumbai -41
6 Belvedere Court Mumbai 40
7 Oberoi Spas Mumbai 40
8 Kalpataru Heights Mumbai 39

The vertical expansion in most of the Indian cities, began about four decades ago, with the exponential rise in land prices as a result of severe constraints on land & the demands of burgeoning population. Though, in Mumbai, Delhi & Kolkata, `High Rises` came much earlier in 60s-70s. The high-rise buildings, against the backdrop of the blue skyline, no doubt, provide an imposing sight & is a status symbol for the builders/users.. But, how safe are the residents of these buildings? This is the million- dollar question, being raised by public.

High Rise-Usages

High –Rises are mainly being constructed & used for the following end-usages Commercial/office use eg, Hotels, offices
Residential-Apartments, condominiums
Mixed Use ie part of it being used as parking & rest of the portion as commercial spaces/ offices/ residential
Though High Rises are able to provide much needed spaces for commerce purposes in the heart of the city-central Business District or plush residential spaces with good ventilation & view at the prized locations, but side by side of providing excellent amenities, it is literally a bundle of problems, as well, for the users, civic authorities, fire department, neighbourhood.
These vary from building to building & the way the said building is put to use, which is dependent upon many factors and this, is the subject matter of my present discussion.

Various problems especially related to maintenance, can be broadly, due to the following factors-

Due to faulty planning/design & architectural inputs
Due to constructional Defects
Due to Financial Constraints
Due to lack of knowledge/awareness on the part of users
Due to improper maintenance
Due to lax enforcement

(a)Due to faulty planning/design and architectural inputs

(i)Environmental Problems:
Construction of high-rise buildings gives rise to lot of environmental pro­blems. As the time period for the con­struction of these buildings some time extends to three to four years, there is proliferation of labour camps in and around the construction sites, tr­ucks carrying building material ply all the day/night very frequently. Even building materials are stacked on the sites nearby creating lot of inconveni­ence to the other users of the build­ing nearby. The sub-soil water is dis­charged into the nearest storm water drain/sewer resulting in chokage of the same at times creating water logging and thus creating mosquitogenic condi­tions, as the same contains bentonite slurry. During piling operations, there is big noise pollution in the vicinity. It is therefore, felt that sufficient forethought be given while sanctioning building plans of the high-rise build­ings in the built-up areas as the civic services viz water supply, sewerage, electrical and open spaces are strained to the maximum exten1. It must be ensu­red that the design of the sewer water supply/drainage services and electrical/digital loads are sufficient.

(ii)Sufficient Space not Envisaged for Parking:
High rise buildings, as I have stated earlier, caters to lot number of people for discharging their activities. This means, there is heavy ingress and egress of human traffic who come to these buildings for work, in all sorts of vehicles. In case sufficient fore­thought is not given to the area around these buildings viz approach roads and parking area, this is going to create lot of problems and has actually crea­ted lot of problems in Connaught Place area & other central business districts of Delhi & other metros, where most of the multi-storeyed buildings are concentrated. At times, it has been observed that when the sufficient parking space was not available and all open spaces, in the vicinity were fully cramped with vehi­cles, there has been difficulty by the fire fighting persons in taking their vehicles right near the building in case of fires, thus wasting not only lot of time in extinguishing fire but resulting in avoidable loss of life and property. It is therefore, very necessary that proper advance planning of services should be carried out and enough space be kept for the parking of the vehicles.

(iii)Water Requirement/Electrical Load/ Sewer Disposal:
Water: Proper and near accurate asse­ssment should be made well in advance of the total/future, water requirements, elect­rical load and sewer disposal arrange­ments for the high-rise buildings as it has been observed that this is a major cause which creates problems for the proper maintenance of the building. In case the water requirement is not asse­ssed properly, this would give rise to lot of unhygienic conditions in the toilets. Apart from that there is lot of unauthorised connections by way of adding overhead tanks in the toilets and thus lot of indiscriminate cutting/ breaking of original structure is invo­lved. 

Electrical: Similarly, it is very necessary to assess the electrical load, electrical point at various places right in the first instance. In the absence of the same, it has been observed that there is large scale unauthorised connections which not only strain the existing wiring to the extreme limits resulting in short-circuiting, power 'breakdown but also present a very ugly site on all the floors apart from being danger­ous, due to loose connections. 
Various electrical points from where the load is to be drawn should be planned properly, to avoid undue changes at a later stage. Non-assessment of the proper electrical-load in the first instance is one of the biggest cause of short-circuiting and electric­al breakdown, which not only is a big fire hazard, but is also one of the main money consuming area..

Sewerage: With the number of users[ many times more] than in a building of low height, more garbage/sewage is generated due to more consumption and thus, more strain on the services. It is, therefore, very important that the sizes of various pipes whether it is that of water supply or the sewerage, should be designed properly and adequately. Apart from that proper workman­ship viz proper filling up of the lead joints, use of material of standard quality is very very imperative. It has been observed that as and when proper care had not been taken, considering these aspects, maintenance of these services thereafter became one of the biggest headache for the maintenance personnels. The improper filling of lead joints and fastening of inspection bends gave rise to constant out-flow of wat­er/sewerage in the pipe shaft result­ing in the course of time, seepage/ wetness, in and around the walls. including the pipe shafts. Sogginess of the walls further gave rise to other allied pro­blems. It has been observed that the Architect normally earmark the space around these pipe shafts for station­ing electrical cables/control panels. With the walls around the electric panels getting wet, there is short circuiting in the electric wiring/ cables resulting in frequent power ­breakdown. This causes not only incon­venience to the users but impairs the efficiency of the offices too, as in high-rise buildings the illumination in the various offices is not natural, but is mainly with the electricity.

(iv)No ventilation in Pipe Shaft:
Pipe shafts in the buildings, therefore, assume a very great import­ance. The dimension of the pipe shafts, its proper ventilation, its approach­ability at various levels, to attend to the defects in the pipes must be there­fore, properly taken care of, at the time of design of the building. Inade­quate dimensions, improper ventilation and absence of working platforms/ step-ladders in pipe shafts in most of the high-rise buildings is one of the prime cause for the maintenance per­sonnels not being, able to attend immediately to, various leaking pipes thus resulting in damage to the surround­ing areas. The design aspect, therefore of the pipe-shaft should be given maximum attention by the Architect.

(v)Cinder in the Toilet Floors:
Seepage/leakage from the embedded pipes is another major problem which one faces during the maintenance of the building. This is most prominent in ttoilets. In this connection, it is felt that the present practice of use of cinder in the sunken floor should be avoided as far as possible as the cinder is a major culprit in holding much quantity of seeped water. In certain toilets where this problem was felt, relief was given by inserti­ng GI pipes in the cindered portion of the floor to draw away the contain­ed water. A suitable alternative filler needs to be evolved. In certain cases we have used lime-concrete filter instead of cinder with better results.

(vi)Provision of Proper Spaces for Various Services:
On every floor of the high-rise building which is used for offices, there are lot number of persons work­ing. Apart from these, there are lot of visitors too. The number of visit­ors increase if the office is catering to some public utility services. It has been observed that on almost all the floor in all the commercial build­ings, one or two corners of the corri­dor have been converted into a tea corners. What one sees here is that an unauthorised electrical connection is taken from, some electric point and ele­ctric heaters are installed for prepar­ing tea, resulting most of time in loose electric wires with improper connections which is not only a big fire hazard but also presents a very ugly look to the surrounding area. The area around this corner was found dirty most of the time .as water for wash­ing tea cups and used tea leaves were spilled all around the place.. Even des­pite best efforts to stop this menace, positive results could not be achi­eved. As this is inevitable, it is suggested that architects must keep this aspect, also in mind while design­ing the building. Let this-tea spaces, be also included in the services to be render­ed in the building. This is also more important because of the general lazy attitude of most of the individuals who do not use the normal canteens, provided a few floors above or below. 

(vii)Ramp Leading to the Basement: 
Most of the high-rise buildings, as per the building requirement nor­mally provides basement for parking the vehicles. Entry to this is made through the ramps. During rainy season it has been observed that if adequate care is not taken water enters into basement. It is therefore very necessary that proper properly designed/fastened drain channels are made not only across the basement at the junction with the building but, also along the length of the ramp. There must also be stand­by pump for draining out rain- water.

(viii)Proper Spaces for Coolers/ Other Services:
India, is a country with varying climate, around the year. While at one time, it is very hot, other time it is very cold. Therefore, architects must keep the provision of suitable spaces for provision of coolers, air ­conditioners for summer season and spaces/provision for heaters for winter. It has been observed that where the, spaces are not kept initially, unauthorisedly glass panes are taken out and the coolers/ACs are installed. Water from the same keeps on drip­ping below, resulting not only in spoil­ing the facia and the exterior finish of the building but creating lot of inconvenience to the users/passers by, below. There are puddles of water [right below where the coolers/ACs are installed] due to constant dripping of water. Similarly unauthorised tapping of electrical points for putting electric heaters/computers etc, has also been observed. Proper design of various services, right in the beginning, will obviate to a great extent this problem.

(ix)Provision of Ledges in the Building:
In high-rise buildings, one of the difficult thing is to replace the window panes, due to height. Provision of ledges,\ as working platform, for the same is therefore necessary. All the entrances to the building must have a proper canopy. In absence of the same, it has been observed that lot of inconvenience is felt by the persons who uses the said entrances due to falling of cer­tain objects from the upper stories. From the safety point of view, this aspect is very necessary.

Similarly, care is also very necessa­ry while putting claddings on the building. Right type and size of stones and proper clips go long way in giving long life to the cladding/ building. ,besides taking care of aesthetics/maintenance.

(xi)Dado in Lift Lobby:
It is a common tendency among the users to lean against the wall, while waiting for lifts. Proper care and choice of surface which can be proper­ly cleaned and does not get spoilt by dirty and greasy hands, is very impor­tant.

(b)Due to constructional defects/ improper workmanship
(i)Inadequate and Improper Water Proofing:
If the treatment of water proofing is not given proper attention, right at the time of construction then this is going to be another major headache for the purpose of maintenance, there­after. Right type of water-proofing­ and proper workmanship is, there­fore very necessary. All the more, care is required for water-proofing in the lift pits. In case, proper care is not taken, it can make the lifts inoperatable for quite some time,when pits get water- logged.

(ii)Proper Choice of Exterior Surface:
Architect must pay proper attention in choosing the exterior surface. It has been observed that in certain buildings where stone cladding was provided, with the passage of time certain numbers of stone, continue to fall. Thereafter, it takes lot of time in replacing the same, due to the inaccessability. Even vinartex treatment given to the sur­face of the building gets spoiled by the constant dripping of water from the coolers. This aspect, therefore, needs due thought by the architect/planners.
This is also very necessary from the aesthetic point of view as one, two or three fallen stones at various heights start giving a very ugly look to the building despite its excellent initial exterior, as replacement of the same[missing stones] is a very costly/difficult exercise.

(c)Due to improper maintenance
(i)This is another major problem in high rise buildings. Normally, in all high-rise buildings, as discussed earlier, basements are pro­vided for parking. In case, adequate care is not taken at the time of construction some sort of seepage continue occurring resulting in inundation in the basement especially in rainy season. It is therefore, very imperative that proper cause of leakage should be observed immediately and suitable steps taken to plug the necessary leakage/seepage spots immediately. In this connection, in certain buildings difficulty has been experienced especially in lift pits, where during fixing of buffer springs for the lifts , guniting got punctured, result­ing in constant source of leakage. Proper care is therefore, very necessary while installing the springs in lift pits. Maintenance people must know this aspect and take proper care while making any repairs in shafts.

(ii)Clogging of Pipes/Strips:
If the maintenance staff is not regular and vigilant, there is recurring problems of clogging of pipes. This is more so '.in the canteen and ladies toilets. In canteens, t ash some times is used for washing the utensils and then same is disposed off in the sinks, thus clogging the pipes. In ladies toilets, some times sanitary napkins are disposed through wc traps. At times the napkins being not of right material viz disposable type, get clogged in the pipes resulting in chokage of various pipes and thus constant pressure on the pipe joints. It is therefore, very necess­ary that suitable baskets should be kept in ladies toilets and sweeper should make a regular round for clean­ing. 

(iii)Lack Of Adequate Water:
It has been experienced that water in various toilets/bathrooms, keeps on running as there was no check to close various taps resulting in lot of wastage of water thus emptying the overhead tanks. Proper vigilance in this case is very necessary by the maintenance staff. In this connection it is felt putting up of that suitable Request Boards indicating 'Close the taps after use, or Do not· waste water' would help in reducing this problem. Incidents of thefts are also there.So, proper & vigilant security also is required to be put in place.

(iv)Stacking of Broken Furniture and Waste Papers etc.:
A portion of the most of the base­ment in high-rise buildings and terraces, corners of corridors, often [is observed] being used for sta­cking broken furniture and waste pap­ers etc. This is a big fire hazard. The same presents an ugly sight too. More so, if the said material is stacked on the terraces. Suitable system, therefore, needs to be evolved, for early disposal of broken furniture and waste papers etc.

(v)Placing of Trash Cans/Spittoon:
At places in Delhi and in other parts of the country, habit of eating pan is very prevalent. It has been observed that people are very indis­criminate in spitting. Most of the corridors, staircases walls, are full with pan spittle. We are not very much conscious about the sense of cleanli­ness. It is felt, that placing of spittoons and trash cans at strategic pla­ces especially near stairs/landings, would help in minimizing this problem.

(vi)Exhaust Fans/Odonil in Toilet Blocks

Despite best efforts to keep ade­quate water in toilets, there is shortage of water due to indiscriminate wastage of water. It has, therefore, been felt that exhaust fans and odonil and regular cleaning etc. in toi­lets go a long way in keeping the stink away.

(vii)Adequate Security/Care Taking:
Another most important point in the proper maintenance of the building is adequate security. In case this as­pect is not taken care of, there are large incidences of theft in toi­lets, as mentioned earlier, and in common areas which not only results in wastage of water due to theft of bib cocks etc but is also a big strain on maintenance funds. It has been observed that when security was not mounted, even the fire alarms which were installed near the staircase were broken by unscrupulous persons. The fittings were stolen from the toilets and all sort of filthy language was scribbled on lift door. To check this menace, adequate security and proper care taking is very very imperative. It is also felt that there should be immediate and ready arrangements for attending to the minor repairs like pipe-chokage, electrical complaints, replacement of glass panes by jhula arrangement and rubbing.clearing of filthy lan­guage etc. Care taking staff must also take proper care in closing windows, as and when any squall occurrence is noticed. If this is not done, windows bang resulting in breakage of panes" causing inconvenience to the users apart from being unsafe. It must also be ensured that the wind­ows are properly secured with the han­dles. Though this is a very small asp­ect but if not taken care of, is a cause of very major inconvenience especially during winter. This can also be danger­ous at times especially if the canopy is not there in the entrance and the windows, are stationed right above the entrance to the building.

(d)Due to lack of knowledge/awareness of the part of users
Certain problems arise due to lack of knowledge on the part of the users, though the same would not have occurred if the users had known about various systems available in the building. These are mainly:

Fire System : It has been observed that in most of the buildings, various fire fighting systems viz dry system, wet riser system, fire alarms are available and are duly in operation but as the users are not aware and conversant of its usage, they are not able to take advantage of the same, in case of emer­gencies. To make an effective use of the fire fighting system installed in the building, proper training/awareness about the same to the users is very very necessary. A regular drill [half yearly] be carried out to ensure that all the systems installed are in operation and the people inhabiting/using the building, are in the know of these systems. In this connection, suitable sign boards with instructions for the use of these said equipments should be installed, on all the floors, too. The way one has to operate various equipments ,in case of emergency should be duly displayed in simple words, as presently, various services which are provided in the high-rise buildings are fairly of complex nature. Care taking staff/maintenance staff should be well conversant with the same. They must have complete knowledge about the way, a lift is to be operated in case of its stoppage mid way because of electric break-down and otherwise, operation of DG sets, fire fighting systems, booster pumps and other allied services. A complete line diagram indicting various services/route of pipes may be duly made out and displayed in the room of the care taker and the maintenance staff should be well conversant with the same.

(e)Due to Financial Constraints
Finance plays most important role in keeping the various services properly. attended. Despite best efforts and intentions to keep a building in proper maintained order, lack of funds, at times, create a major bottle-neck in proper maintenance of the building. Mounting of security, engagement of care taking staff, keeping the maintenance team in readiness with sufficient equipment/ materials, requires lot of finance. At times proper maintenance is also not possible because of lack of co-ordination between the various users. The way the various expenses to be incurred, are to be distributed among various users/occupants-areas, creates another big hurdle in maintaining the building properly.

(f)Due to lax enforcement
All designs and architectural care would be set to nought, if proper care is not taken while making use of the various spaces, earmarked in the building. There is also a tendency among the owners of the buildings to convert a part of the basement which actually is meant for parking, for commercial use and thus lot of unauthorized construction occurs in the area. Recently a big fire occurred in one of the high rise buildings in Delhi. It was reported that the same was from the welding work going on, in the basement of that building. It was also observed that number of basements were being used as departmental stores/sale outlets, for clothes. Strict enforcement therefore is very necessary to check this menace. Proper enforcement is very necessary and it must be ensured that the purposes for which the building has been designed, is actually met with
A Few Critical Issues
Fires in high rise buildings, have emerged as a critical issue in urban planning, due to the rising frequency of fire accidents, leading to huge losses of life and property. While the Uphaar Cinema Fire Tragedy of June 1997 due to negligence that led to the death of 57 people out to enjoy a movie show is one stark example, the Sadar Bazar [in Delhi] Fire was another of the many examples of mishap due to uncontrolled urban growth. High-rise buildings can/may become raging inferno any moment., due to many causes sometime even minor negligence. While fire-fighting facilities are essential, they are basically curative measures. Preventive measures like land use zoning, land sub-divisions, implementation of building regulations are required to address this issue effectively.

Urban areas suffer from constant environmental hazards, which may take the form of a disaster at any point of time. Quality of air, water, sanitation and infrastructure often pose to be health risks. Delhi is the world’s fourth most polluted city. The health costs of ambient air pollution in Delhi alone is reported to be US$ 100-400 million.
Location of industrial units within cities leads to urban pollution and increased risk from toxic emissions and effluents. While the Bhopal Gas Tragedy of 1981 is a moot case of an industrial disaster with far-reaching impacts, small-scale and hazardous industries in urban villages (Laldora areas) are veritable storehouses of hazardous chemicals.
Location of high rise building in a city thus, is another very important parameter. Sick building syndrome and building related diseases are more likely in large commercial spaces, because of the complexity of the HVAC systems, variety of tenants, their usages, space constraints and the surrounding area. As buildings age, the potential for isolated problems increase .
Mold is the area of greatest concern. Breaking or leaking pipes, condensate, roof leaks, flooding and window leaks, are the most prevalent cause of mold growth, resulting in problems of air quality in high rise buildings.

A few special points reg air quality.

1.Location: Heavy commercial or industrial area with carbon monoxide, diesel exhaust, dust and smoke stack emissions has negative effect on the air quality in the high rise building located in & around this area.
2.Air Intake Locations: Location of intake on ground level adjacent to loading docks or below ground intakes where water and mold can be present. Presence of vermin: rats, mice, birds and pets can/do spread germs and disease.
3.Building age: Over the time, buildings and building systems deteriorate, become inopertable or accumulate debris.
4.Varied occupancy: Combining offices, computer equipment, printers, health care facilities, day care, restaurants, schools and studios all in the same building each with different environmental needs, results in air quality differences for numerous tenants.
There is thus regular need for frequently checking the air quality in the high rise buildings & taking timely corrective/preventive measures for maintaining proper quality of circulated air. This is very important for the health, of the users of the building.

Whatever, I have discussed above is not a complete and exhaustive list of all the problems which one faces during the maintenance of high-rise buildings.

Having been incharge of the maintenance of the central most area of New Delhi and also of a few high-rise buildings located in the said area, I have briefly summed up some of my experiences and difficulties, I, faced for the proper maintenance of the same and have offered a few suggestions to surmount the said problems. On the face of it, though, problems may look very minor and trivial but actually are big source of headache for the maintenance personnels. If these are taken care of properly & attended to, immediately, it is my belief and experience too, that this shall go a long way in improving the longevity of the high rise buildings, but also will provide more comfort/financial relief, to the users & thus better quality of life.
There will be saving of maintenance funds too & the maxim `A stitch in time saves nine` holds very aptly true, here.
I have in this paper, only talked about the problems/maintenance of [`medium-height`] high rise buildings, which are presently coming up /have come up in our cities, in India & not about the sky-scrapers/tall buildings which exist in many cities of the World, as mentioned earlier in my paper.That is another big topic in itself!



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