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In hopes of safer, better buildings across country

by Khan Helal

With the introduction of a provision for mandatory rainwater harvesting for buildings across the country, the government on February 11 published a gazette notification, making the revised Bangladesh National Building Code (BNBC) a law. 

However, the code will remain ineffective like earlier, unless the proposed authority to enforce BNBC is not formed, according to leading professionals.

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BNBC now has a provision of forming a separate authority for the code’s implementation, which was missing earlier.

Experts demanded that the government form the authority as soon as possible.

Asked, Housing and Public Works secretary Shahid Ullah Khandaker recently told The Daily Star that they are taking steps to form the authority, and it will be formed soon.

The first BNBC was developed in 1993 and enacted in November 15, 2006, followed by amendment of the Building Construction Act-1952. As a living document, the code needs to be updated periodically in intervals of 4-5 years, but it took too many years to be updated, said experts.

Despite tragic losses of lives and properties in repeated building disasters, the country’s building code remains largely unimplemented for 28 years, in the absence of an enforcement authority, said leading professionals.

The government had neither constituted a building regulatory authority nor designated building officials all these years for enforcement of BNBC, considered the most essential tool for safe and environment-sensitive building construction.

BNBC is a complete set of rules to ensure safe construction for a healthy atmosphere, use of quality materials, accountability of professionals, and conservation of environment.

The code states that engineers, architects and planners involved in a building’s construction would be legally accountable for any anomalies in their professional duty.

After implementation, to construct any building in any place of the country, the owners will have to follow BNBC.

RAINWATER HARVESTING

According to BNBC, every building proposed for construction on plots covering 300 square metres or more shall have facilities for conserving and harvesting rainwater.

Rainwater can be conserved and used for suitable purposes. The amount of rainwater to be conserved depends on the purpose of use, rainfall intensity at the locality and available catchments from where rainwater shall be collected.

Two major aspects of this facility are rooftop rainwater harvesting, and artificial groundwater recharge (replenishing groundwater by the harvested rainwater), according to BNBC.

To ensure only fresh rainwater is used for recharge, aquifers and qualified plumbers will be involved in the process. The revised BNBC said rainwater harvesting system should not be installed without permission from authorities concerned, which will be formed to enforce the code.

“An application for a permit for rainwater harvesting and drainage work shall be submitted… by a licensed plumber and the [building] owner, or by their appointed person or agent…,” reads the code.

WHAT EXPERTS SAY

Adil Mohammad Khan, general secretary of Bangladesh Institute of Planners, said there are no rules and regulations to construct buildings in rural areas outside Dhaka, but BNBC has specified the authorities, and what types of buildings are allowed to be constructed in which area.

He said to construct any building in the country the owners will have to go through a legal procedure due to the code. He said a post of “building official” has been proposed in BNBC, and they will monitor construction activities.

The code also fixed engineering and planning standards among other requirements for buildings. They also fixed building categories and occupancy requirements, he added.

Even issues like submitting plans and taking approvals, special procedures for big projects, taking occupancy certificates, the kinds of procedures that were earlier only applicable for big cities will be enforced in small towns and villages, after the code comes into effect.

BNBC also has given emphasis on keeping facilities for people with disabilities. There are provisions for constructing disabled-friendly buildings, he said.

Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon joint secretary Iqbal Habib said they want its implementation as soon as possible.

Except the obligation of maintaining setbacks while constructing buildings, all other things during and after construction of a building have proper guidelines or directions in the code, he said.

“But the building regulation authority is very important, and we want an authority to enforce BNBC,” he said.

“We failed to implement the Detailed Area Plan, as we failed to construct an authority, and again territorial dispute and duplicity could not be solved due to the lack of an authority,” he said.

There are many things in the code, but there is a lack of details and explanations, which is the code’s weakness, he said.

“We hope the authority that will be formed will prepare those details to make it more effective,” he said.

M Abu Sadeque, immediate-past director of Housing and Building Research Institute, said, “Compliance with the building code would ensure a life-saving, built-in system with sufficient fire-safety and earthquake resistance measures in a building.”

“Bangladesh has had its own code since 1993, but enforcement is not at all satisfactory. For a safer Bangladesh as well as well-being of people and properties, we have no other alternative but to implement the national building code all over the country,” he said.   



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