Securing the Built Environment
- Introductory Thoughts

The Jodhpur Initiative

1. Background:

The city of Jodhpur is no exception to the national practice of unregulated development. The current techno-legal regime does not examine the structural safety of the buildings and structures proposed; only architectural plans are examined and building permits are issued by the municipal corporations and development authorities. This practice needs to be altered for the good of the people. The threats of urban floods, cyclonic winds (or tornadoes) and earthquake shaking are real, and need to be considered in the design, even though the recurrence of some of these incidents is rare. Even if the municipal corporations and development authorities agree to examine structural safety of the proposed constructions, there is no competence available within these bodies to examine structural safety.

2.  Immediate Actions

The Jodhpur Initiative has resolved to work with the Jodhpur Development Authority and Jodhpur Municipal Corporationto:

  1. Review current Bye-Laws;
  2. Prepare New Bye-Laws for new Jodhpur city (hereinafter called as the NEW City) in the green field areas of new development. Also, it is proposed to provide critical inputs for:
    (a) Preparing separate Bye-Laws for existing Jodhpur city INSIDE the walled area (hereinafter called as the WALLED City); and
    (b) Revising Bye-Laws for existing Jodhpur city OUTSIDE the walled area (hereinafter called as the OLD City); and
  3. Propose Third Party Structural Safety Inspection System for the NEW City.

3.  Resources

To undertake the stated actions, TJI will garner the following resources:

  1. Engineers and Architects of the Jodhpur Development Authority and Jodhpur Municipal Corporation;
  2. Academics from the Colleges of Engineering and Architecture in the city; and
  3. Architects and Engineers practising in the city.

TJI will bring in subject specialists from across the country to advise these documents and help initiate the process of self-regulation in the city with regard to structural safety.

5 Actions to Strengthen India’s Housing Development Effort

C. V. R. Murty
Indian Institute of Technology Jodhpur

         India’s Housing challenge today is larger than ever before. There are two challenges that face India today – (a) Over 3 Crores of houses to be built on the whole to eliminate the housing shortage, and (b) India needs to accommodate the flip of Urban : Rural population ratio from 30 : 70 today to 70 : 30 by 2035. India needs to take giant strides; because of this rural to urban migration, India needs to build in urban areas about 2.7 times the houses it has now. Thus, a large number of towns are likely to grow into cities, and cities intomegapolis.

         The focus should be on putting in place systems & processes that will affect behavioral changes in the people of India, rather than on the housing stakeholders simply filling the housing shortage or special groups steering additional urban housing development through a purely contractor driven system without the engagement of the people of India. In this regard, 5 actions are needed to strengthen India’s Housing Development effort (Figure 1). These five actions are in the directions of Typologies, Safety, Human Resources, Practice and Policy .

Figure 1: Five domains in which actionsare essential to strengthen India’s march towards self-sufficiency in Housing

1.  Typologies

         India’s housing can be classified broadly under 3Housing Typologies, 11Housing Sub-Typologies and 30 Housing Sub-Typology Variants. And, there is an uncountable number of variants of the housing sub-typologies practiced in India – some place this number at about 800. A detailed analysis of these variants needs to be documented through a scientific methodology developed to assess structural and non-structural safety of the housing sub-typology variants. The methodology classifies the information related to a house into Life Threatening Factors and Economic Loss Inducing Factors. Further, the latter is developed for such an that presents five aspects of the housing typology from the structural point of view (namely Siting Issues, Soil & Foundation Conditions, Architectural Features, Structural Aspects and Constructional Details) and two aspects from non-structural elements point of view (namely Acceleration & Displacement Hazards, and Lifelines). The last step of the documentation process is an overall analysis of the housing sub-typology(in totality), which clarifies where the said housing sub-typology stands in terms of safety and sustainability.

         Unless India learns its current stock of buildings – the material preferences and the safety embedded, it cannot take any decisions on any of the aspects of technology, safety, human resources, practice and policy.

Action Needed

         India should begin to formally document all variants of these housing sub-typologies (both traditional and current trend typologies), and place the information in public domain

2.  Safety

         While a large number of housing sub-typologies is practiced in the country (and even some of these are supported by the Architects and some Structural Engineers of the region), structural safety assessment is not under taken by ANYmunicipal authority anywhere in the country as of today. This leaves the country under a silent threat of the impending natural hazards (if not under that of the man-made hazards).Even though appropriate framework exists in the form of a techno-legal regime in the Building Bye-Laws and Development Control Regulations of the municipalities, municipal corporations and development authorities, it has not been implemented.

         Housing for masses and mass housing projects are implemented across the country with type designsrepeated in a large number of small sized houses. In such cases, it is even more essential to examine the technology employed to provide safety to the residents of the houses through structural safety tests on prototype houses.

Action Needed

Safety of the people of India is enshrined in the Constitution of India. India should:

  1. Begin toexamine safety of all newhousing proposals first through an independent peer reviewer and then through the municipal authorities before issuing any permit to construct:
    • (a) Individual housing construction proposals submitted directly to municipal authorities, and
    • (b) Mass Housing or housing for masses proposals proposed to be undertaken by various departments and ministries;
  2. Build test facilities across the country to test prototype specimen of full-scale houses of the regional traditional, existing and new technologies of individual housing construction proposals offered by various vendors; and
  3. Prepare national standards for designing, constructing and testing of different typologies of houses.

3.  Human Resources

         Design and construction of components of housing is part of the engineering curriculum at the undergraduate level in the country. This needs to be integratedwith the practical aspects sensitive to regional context of the environment, especiallyon construction of houses in hilly areas and with local skills & construction materials. Since the repository of knowledge is not available in public domain on the spectrum of typologies and new technologies available, the appreciation of graduate engineers is relatively shallow on: (a) skills needed by masons, and (b) standards related to new housing technologies.

         Further, there is a large stock of buildings built, whose structural safety is not established publicly either by the client owner or by the municipalities. This brings forth two forceful requirements of the nation, namely: (a) retrofitting (especially from earthquake safety point of view), and (b) repairing& rehabilitating, of the large prevalent building stock.

Action Needed

Large number of hands are required to meet the technical work related to safety of over 31 Crores of existing houses and fill the shortage of 3 Crores ofnew houses for India,India should prepare to:

  • (a) Develop Teaching Resource Material(with the available limited persons specializing in the subject of housing technologies) for bachelors degree programsfor fresh graduates, refresher programs for practicing engineers, and skill development programs for artisans; and
  • (b) Undertake construction of pilot Technology Demonstration Units for: (i) constructing new houses, and (ii) retrofitting and repair & rehabilitation of existing houses.

4.  Practice

         The country faces a huge challenge of (a) constructing new houses, (b) retrofitting of existing houses, especially in earthquake areas, and (b) repairing& rehabilitating many old buildings that now require to be upgraded. To achieve this vast work, specialist knowledge is required among the housing product vendors and task implementation contractors to undertake the work within the time & money targets set for the proposed activities.

Action Needed

India needs to build systems and processes at the level of each state government for:

  1. Preparing wide basevendors, who will supply different items needed in housing development, which are certified by national accredited laboratories to have met the national standards; and
  2. Undertaking construction of pilot Technology Demonstration Units towards: (i) constructing of new houses, and (ii) retrofitting and repair & rehabilitation of existing houses. With an IIT and NIT now operational in each State (almost), this task needs to be taken up with a great sense of urgency, towards ensuring high quality constructions.

5.  Policy

         The country’s housing development needs a backbone, which will bridge between the needs of the people of India, the technology competencies available in the country, and the techno-legal regime that Stage Governments need to enforce. The Government of India needs to play the role of an integrator to bring synergies between the common needs of at least the adjoining states of India. Towards this end, it needs a think tank that will document, study, analyze, bring out special needs that should be addressed, suggest ways of unknotting the tough and special demands, and make clear recommendations to the Government of India for necessary steps.

         The think tank should engage with the people of India in arriving at the proposed policy changes or new policy development, and continually feedback to the people through electronic and print media the way forward to resolve outstanding issues, in addition to the traditional interaction schemes.

Action Needed

India needs to make operational urgently:

  1. National Housing Technology Task Force comprising of technical persons, which will advise the Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India, on current projects and future projections;
  2. National Center for Safe Housing, which will focus on spectrum of issues related to Housing, including education, prototype testing, research, implementation, and policy;
  3. Dissemination of Knowledge on Housing, which will empower the National Housing Technology Task Force to achieve its objectives, especially Indian Housing Encyclopedia, Enthusing young India, and Taking Housing to Communities.

© Copyright 2016 The Jodhpur Initiative.