Vol. 5 Num 558 Wed. December 21, 2005  
Star City

New building rules for Dhaka

The government is going to enforce a set of comprehensive rules for building construction in the capital city in the face of inadequacy of existing rules and rampant violation of such rules in private and commercial constructions.

The Dhaka City Building Constriction Rules 2004, framed through revision of the Building Construction Rules of 1996 under Building Construction Act of 1952, "will soon come into effect through a gazette notification," said Emdadul Islam, chief engineer of Rajuk.

The rules will be mandatory and applicable primarily in the Dhaka Metropolitan Development Plan (DMDP) area. However, it will be applicable also for other metropolitan cities and municipal areas subject to required changes through government circulars.

"The rules of 1996 are extremely inadequate in the present context," said the chief engineer of Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk), the city development authority.

The new rules provide for a number of measures like formation of Urban Development Committee comprising members of the civil society, private organisations and professional bodies. Such committee will help stop any malpractice in the approval of design.

According to the new rules, a one-stop service centre will facilitate and expedite the process of design approval. The government will also form a Design Approval Committee, Urban Development Commission and any other committee required to enforce the rules.

An aspiring building owner has to seek approval in phases -- first for foundation and then for structural construction. The new rules require the owners of both commercial and public buildings to keep provisions for ramp and special toilet for disabled persons.

"Presently one can get approved even a vague layout for construction," the Rajuk chief engineer said, adding that the new rules require builders to present detailed architectural and constructional designs of a building to obtain approval.

The rules contain preventive measures against constructions that may harm architectural heritage and make the professionals responsible for their role in a construction.

The new rules specify the prerequisites of land use ratio, open space, nature of occupancy, and width of adjoining roads for a building, said Dr Mehedi Ahmed Ansary, an associate professor of civil engineering at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology.

The rules clearly define and require the car parking provisions as per floor area ratio (FAR) that also controls height of buildings and regulates parking facility and road dimensions.

The Single Point Service Cell under the rules will coordinate the services of Rajuk, Dhaka Wasa, Desco, Titas gas, DCC and the Department of Environment among 16 agencies concerned to approve a construction plan within a timeframe of 45 days.

"The new rules also require coordination of geo-technical engineering (soil test), architectural plan and structural design for construction of any buildings," said Ansary.

But proper execution of the plans and quality assurance are crucial for building construction to address the safety concerns, he said. "Rajuk must employ a panel of engineers to examine structural designs, when necessary, at the expense of the clients on outsourcing basis."

"But the rules lack a code of professional ethics," Ansary said. "Provisions on the seismic zoning map including study of soil condition are very inadequate in the new rules."

The building rules of 1996 do not address safety issues of building constructions but the new one does, said Abu Sadeque, an attached director of Disaster Management Bureau.

"At present, Rajuk or the agency concerned casually approves a construction layout drawn in a slapdash fashion," said Public Works Secretary Iqbal Uddin Chowdhury, at a briefing on the building code organised by Rajuk on December 7.

"Construction rules are hardly practised as the Rajuk has no effective mechanism to monitor a building design and enforce the rules," he said.

At the same briefing Public Works Minister Mirza Abba said, "Consequence of a major earthquake on the apartment buildings built by commercial builders will be fatal as most of the buildings have been built without following construction rules properly."

Alongside the Dhaka City Building Construction Rules, the government should make Bangladesh National Building Code (BNBC) legally enforceable, experts feel.

The BNBC of 1993 has been tabled in parliament as a bill and it is "likely to be passed in the upcoming session in January," said the works secretary.

The concrete jungle of Dhaka.. PHOTO: Syed Zakir Hossain