Bengaluru (Bangalore)

‘Antilia’, The New Mumbai High-Rise Building – What A Mother !

2010-11-22:  It is difficult for any foreign news item, no matter how important, to penetrate the current economic media haze in Ireland and Europe … but latest reports from India put the casualty list after the Five-Storey Residential Building Collapse at Lalita Park in East Dilli’s Laxmi Nagar Area … which occurred on Monday evening (local time), 15 November 2010 … at 69 people dead, 82 injured, with perhaps as many as another 20 people still missing.

The Occupants of 38 Similar Neighbouring Properties have been told to immediately vacate the buildings by Dilli’s Municipal Authority.

Colour photograph showing the scene of the Five-Storey Residential Building Collapse at Lalita Park in East Dilli's Laxmi Nagar Area, which occurred on Monday evening (local time), 15 November 2010. Click to enlarge.
Colour photograph showing the scene of the Five-Storey Residential Building Collapse at Lalita Park in East Dilli’s Laxmi Nagar Area, which occurred on Monday evening (local time), 15 November 2010. Click to enlarge.

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Faulty Construction appears to have been the principal cause for this serious collapse, according to media reports.  It may also have been an extra storey illegally added to an original, weak building structure … and/or heavy water logging of the building’s basement from the nearby Yamuna River during recent storms.

Dilli … its local name … is a very old and large city, and is the Capital of India.  New Delhi refers to the relatively more recent British Imperial Quarter … the urban plan of which and its principal buildings were designed by the British Architect, Edwin Landseer Lutyens (1869-1944).

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Within India, today, there is a strong political desire to achieve ‘Developed Country’ Status by 2020.  However, in Developed Countries … Collapse Level Events (CLE’s) are completely unacceptable … witness the public reaction to the collapses on 9-11 in New York.

The 2005 National Building Code of India … a copy of which is close at hand in my Dublin Office … is not mandatory.  It closely resembles the informal (i.e. not legal), but prescriptive, ‘Draft’, ‘Revised Draft’ and ‘Proposed’ Irish Building Regulations dating from the 1970’s and 1980’s … another Irish solution to an Irish problem !   The 2005 Indian Code has been drafted to deal with a large range of simple building types, their construction and related issues … certainly not any sort of Iconic, High-Rise Building of Innovative Design.  Anyway, the Code is still only at the initial stages of being adopted in India’s different States.  AND … there is not yet in place a National System of Local Building or Independent Technical Control … never mind an ‘Effective’ System of Control !

In a lightly regulated European legislative environment … it may come as a surprise to find out that the level of non-compliance on building sites in France, for example, has been placed as high as 68%, according to a colleague from CSTB (Centre Scientifique et Technique du Bâtiment) … the rate of non-compliance which was found by Energy Ireland (SEAI) on Irish building sites was 70%.

In India’s unregulated legislative environment … higher levels of non-compliance should be expected amongst indigenous building organizations.  AND … the percentage rate of non-compliance with foreign building organizations should be assumed to at least match those European figures quoted above.

There is a further complication in India and most of the rest of the developing world, however, because U.S. building design consultants will typically use one of the United States of America’s National Model Building Codes (including the International Building Code, which is also a U.S. National Model Building Code) … in preference to local building codes … whatever the local codes do, or do not, say.  We have a long experience of this approach in Ireland !   BUT … the U.S. Model Building Codes are not being adapted to suit local site conditions, building practices, safety factors, etc.  It sounds messy … and it is very messy !!

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A few quick words about  INDIA (Bhārata or Bharat, in Sanskrit) … a federal republic and a burgeoning country of extreme contrasts … which has a population of some 1,173,108,018 People (July 2010 estimated, U.S. CIA’s World Factbook).

Rapid economic development has driven India to prominence on the world stage … despite pressing problems such as significant overpopulation, extensive poverty and a startling degree of social inequity, environmental degradation, such as deforestation, soil erosion, overgrazing, desertification, air pollution from industrial effluents and vehicle emissions, water pollution from raw sewage and run-off of agricultural pesticides … and the widespread corruption which is a natural consequence following an extended period of harsh external imperial domination.  India became an independent country in 1947.

For the last few years, I have been travelling to this beautiful, complex land … from Chennai (Madras) and Bengaluru (Bangalore) in the south … to Dilli in the north.  Over 70 years before … my father, a native of Midleton in County Cork, was a teacher in Kolkata (Calcutta) and further north than Dilli.  He was trapped, there, from coming home during the 2nd World War (1939-1945).

For me, it has been a warm and rewarding experience to meet the people of India.

And … I am also very grateful for the hospitality shown by FSAI (Fire & Security Association of India).  Working together, we have successfully set a future direction for the FSAI’s National Fire Safety Agenda in India.

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Less recently in the news and, it seems, always for the wrong reasons … Mumbai (Bombay) … where of the approximately 14 Million (1.4 Crore, an Indian Unit of Measure) People living in this western city … capital of the State of Maharashtra, and the financial and entertainment capital of the country … an estimated 7,500,000 (75 Lakhs, an Indian Unit of Measure) People survive in its Slums.

Mumbai is also located in a Seismically Active Zone, due to the presence of 23 fault lines in the region …

Colour image showing the Seismic Zones on a Map of India. Taken from Indian Standard IS 1893 (Part 1) : 2002. Click to enlarge.
Colour image showing the Seismic Zones on a Map of India. Taken from Indian Standard IS 1893 (Part 1) : 2002. Click to enlarge.

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During past years, a pattern of extraordinarily violent ‘Hive-Attacks’ have been carried out in Mumbai, with the aim of causing widespread terror amongst the general population and disrupting the city’s important Social & Economic Environments.  The attacks have involved the strategic targeting of Built Environment Places of Public Resort, Iconic Buildings, High-Rise Buildings, Buildings having a Critical Function, Transport Infrastructure and Service Utilities:

  • On 12 March 1993 … a series of 13 co-ordinated bombings … up until that date, the most destructive bomb explosions in Indian history … beginning at the Stock Exchange Building … resulted in 257 deaths and over 700 injuries.
  • On 11 July 2006 … 209 people were killed and over 700 injured when seven bombs exploded on the city’s commuter trains.
  • Commencing on 26 November 2008, and lasting for three days … a series of ten co-ordinated attacks resulted in 175 deaths, 308 injuries, and severe damage to a number of luxury hotels and historical landmarks.

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Colour photograph showing 'Antilia' - the recently occupied Private, Iconic, High-Rise Mansion of Innovative Design belonging to Shri Mukesh Ambani in Mumbai. Click to enlarge.
Colour photograph showing ‘Antilia’ – the recently occupied Private, Iconic, High-Rise Mansion of Innovative Design belonging to Shri Mukesh Ambani in Mumbai. Click to enlarge.

How strange it is, then, in this particular city … that at the end of October 2010 … after seven years of construction … an Indian businessman, Shri Mukesh Ambani, and his family … should choose to occupy their own 27 floor/173 metre tall Private Mansionan Iconic, High-Rise Building of Innovative Design … within the near-sight of millions of slum dwellers !   The building is called ‘Antilia’ … the name of a mythical island in the Atlantic Ocean, lying to the west of Portugal ?!?

OK … Let’s Get the Easy Bits Over First …

     1.  Architecturally …  and somebody, somewhere needs to say this … ‘Antilia’ is a mother of an ugly building.  There is an old joke about a committee starting out to design a horse, and ending up with a camel.  In this case, a group of people started to design an impressive building, and ended up with a spotty rhinoceros !

     2.  From the point of view of Sustainable Human & Social Development …  consider the resources used in the design, construction and operation of this mother … an architectural phallic symbol of obscene opulence and cheap looking ‘bling-bling’ … in close proximity to extensive and deep-rooted slum poverty.  It may be ‘Green'(?) … BUT … this building is certainly Anti-Sustainable !   Is it any wonder that a Class Action has recently been taken against the U.S. Green Building Council and its LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Building Rating System in the U.S. Courts ?

The Difficult Issues …

     3.  Structural Resilience …  I would really like to be assured, by a person competent to do so, that ‘Antilia’ has actually been designed to withstand “a magnitude-8 earthquake” (according to local media reports), i.e. no significant damage will occur to the structure or fabric of the building.

AND … that ‘Antilia’ has been designed to properly resist disproportionate damage in the event that any “military grade explosions” (according to local media reports) happen in the building, i.e. no significant damage will occur to the building’s structure.

But … why only “military grade explosions” ?   If an ‘incident’ does take place in the building, it will not be the poorly equipped Indian Army who will be placing the ‘ordinary’ explosives … and the Army will not have the required expertise to place the explosives in the most vulnerable part of the structure.

Never assume that the people who plan these sorts of ‘incidents’ are anything other than highly motivated, intelligent and technically competent !

     4.  Fire Protection & Safety …  this requires much repetition … but the 2005 National Building Code of India cannot deal adequately with this type of building … an Iconic, High-Rise Building of Innovative Design.  AND, most obviously … the 2005 Indian Code does not incorporate any of the important Recommendations contained in the 2005 & 2008 NIST(USA) Reports on the 9-11 WTC Buildings 1,2 & 7 Collapses.  I have suggested that this be done, with urgency, during an upcoming revision to the Code … but there is resistance !

9-11 in New York exposed a catastrophic failure … at all levels … in all of OUR common practices and procedures (architectural, engineering, first emergency response, regulatory, legislative, etc., etc) … used to design, construct and operate buildings generally !

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So … what does ‘Antilia’ … say about the Man … the Institutions of Governance and State Administration within Maharashtra … and India generally … at this time ???

Has this Man been well served by His Advisors … technical and otherwise ????

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Europe Pretending to Lead the Way on Climate Change ?

2009-03-06:  In August 2008 … I travelled to Bengaluru (Bangalore), in the south of India, to attend a Fire Conference organized by the Fire & Safety Association of India (FSAI).  A year earlier, I had been with them in Chennai (Madras), also in the south.  My own father, Con, had been a teacher in the north of the country from about 1930 onwards, so I had always wanted to see the country for myself.  He was caught there, by the way, during the 2nd World War and could only travel back home, to Ireland, in 1947.

 

Much to the amusement of local people, the means of transport I decided to use … guaranteeing a vivid experience of the varied local sights, sounds and smells … was an Auto-Rickshaw … a three-wheeled scooter, with an open yellow cab on the back.  It is a common form of transport in the large cities of India.  This was a serious effort … no messing around in the sealed cocoon of an air-conditioned taxi !

 

 

These 2 Photographs were taken during the rush hour traffic, early one morning, in Bengaluru.  The roads were jammed solid with traffic … every type of vehicle … crawling along at a snail’s pace.  The driver of my Auto-Rickshaw was bent over the handlebars … always coughing … heaving a loud, jagged-rough, deep cough … 

 

Colour Photograph showing the View from Inside an Auto-Rickshaw during Morning Rush Hour Traffic in Bengaluru, Southern India. Click to enlarge. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2008-08-07.
Colour Photograph showing the View from Inside an Auto-Rickshaw during Morning Rush Hour Traffic in Bengaluru, Southern India. Click to enlarge. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2008-08-07.

 

The reason for his coughing … you can see an actual pollution haze to the right of the frame below … a haze so thick, that it almost had to be parted with your hands in order to see ahead …

 

Colour Photograph showing the Pollution Haze during Morning Rush Hour Traffic in Bengaluru, Southern India. Click to enlarge. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2008-08-07.
Colour Photograph showing the Pollution Haze during Morning Rush Hour Traffic in Bengaluru, Southern India. Click to enlarge. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2008-08-07.

 

This is the reality of everyday life on the ground in one of the economically more advanced ‘developing’ countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China & South Africa (BRICS) – where far too many people are chasing the dream of our reality in Europe … a reality created from the plunder, over hundreds of years, of those same ‘developing’ countries.

 

This is why the European Union must lead by ‘real’ example when it comes to Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation.  But, is it ‘real’ ????

 

This is why Ireland must begin to properly face up to its responsibilities under Kyoto I, the EU 2020 Targets, and a probable Kyoto II International Agreement to be finalized in Copenhagen towards the end of 2009.

 

This is why the United States of America must stop prancing around our fragile planet like a spoiled, immature child … and engage seriously with the rest of us.  We have lost all patience ! 

 

 

Copenhagen & the European Union … 

 

On 28th January 2009, the European Commission issued COM(2009) 39 final

 

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee & the Committee of the Regions – Towards a Comprehensive Climate Change Agreement in Copenhagen.

 

On Page 2 of the Communication, the Executive Summary commences …

 

‘ The successful conclusion of the international climate change negotiations in Copenhagen at the end of 2009 is a key priority for the European Union (EU).  Now that the Climate & Energy package has been adopted, the EU must step up its contacts with third Countries, both in the UN context and beyond.’

 

A paragraph later, it continues …

 

‘ In order to limit the global average temperature increase to not more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels, developed countries as a group should reduce their emissions to 30% below 1990 levels in 2020.  The EU has set the example by committing to a 20% reduction in its emissions compared to 1990 levels by 2020, irrespective of whether or not an international agreement is concluded.  This is by far the most ambitious commitment by any country or group of countries in the world for the post-2012 period.

 

The EU is willing to go further and sign up to a 30% reduction target in the context of a sufficiently ambitious and comprehensive international agreement that provides for comparable reductions by other developed countries, and appropriate actions by developing countries.  Developing countries as a group should limit the growth of their emissions to 15-30% below business as usual.’

 

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