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High-rise buildings are no less than modern marvels. In India, where the population is constantly growing and people in the cities are crunched for space, such buildings offer a perfect solution to the problem. However, the construction and management is a challenging task. Safety is one of the biggest concerns. Due to their sheer size, high-rise buildings are always at great risk from natural as well as man-made causes.

Planning

Site selection is perhaps the most important stage in the planning of a project. Tendency of natural calamities like earthquakes, floods, cyclones, etc is an important consideration. During the planning stages, technologies like GIS and GPS are being used to assist the planners to select the project sites.  Tools like BIM can help the designers conceive the best possible designs to mitigate the impact of such natural events within the constraint of their resources like capital, space, and time.

Construction

During construction stage, safety of the workforce along with structural safety becomes center of attention. Injuries to the personnel at site can seriously hamper the project progress. Therefore, ensuring proper safety measures for the well-being of the people working at the site can be considered a significant input towards the safety of the project itself.

Using fire and earthquake-resistant material (like base isolators) can enhance the structural safety of the building in many folds. During the construction stage, it is important to ensure that the highest quality and the adequate amount of construction material is being used. The role of the project management consultants becomes extremely important at this stage in ensuring the right quality assurance programme and also quantity of material being used as per design.

Post-construction

The most important stage for the safety comes when it is occupied. In case of an event like fire or earthquake, the people living on higher floors need special provisions and mechanism to evacuate safely. Having easily accessible fire escapes should be an integral part of the building design. Building management should ensure that fire escape plans and floor plans are placed on all floors at prominent locations. There should be periodic dissemination of safety information to all the residents and workers. Whenever possible, safety drills and training should be conducted.

Assembly area needs to be earmarked while planning the buildings, in case of earthquake. Also, structural safety audit should be carried out on completing of the high-rise buildings in order to rule out any inadequacy or structural deformation. Use of corrosion resistant steel, high tensile structural steel, and fire resistance steel (with improved yield stress at higher temperature). Earthquake resistant steel to withstand forces generated due to seismic collision and HPC/HSC would add to the quality characteristics of high-rise buildings. Also, to improve the quality, it is highly recommended that we should adopt global audit system for quality assessment like CONQUAS.

While it is literally impossible to have completely risk-free buildings, careful planning, construction and management can lower the risks significantly. Technology is helping make high-rise buildings safer every day, however, it is also the shared responsibility of the developers, managers, and residents.

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