12:00 AM, December 10, 2011 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, December 10, 2011

Rising High flouting rules

Rajuk guilty of violating its own regulations; Gulshan braces for huge traffic mess as 25-storey Doreen Tower readies for opening

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Tawfique Ali


At Gulshan-2 intersection, Doreen Tower stands flouting all rules and regulations. Even though buildings are not permitted to rise beyond 150 feet in the area, Doreen stands over 300 feet tall. Its car park can accommodate around 40 cars, whereas the rules stipulate that it have parking arrangements for at least 140. The tower also does not have the mandatory open space around it or the fire safety facilities required. The owners claim that they want to arrange parking space in a nearby building, right, but that too goes against the rules.Photo: STAR

The 25-storey Doreen Tower in the capital's Gulshan has been built without height clearance, a required car park and vital fire safety facilities, with Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk) playing an inexplicable role.
The high rise at Gulshan-2 roundabout will worsen the traffic chaos in an already crammed commercial area. The extremely limited car park of the building will mean that vehicles belonging to its tenants and visitors will be parked on the street, occupying much of the space there, clogging the traffic in all directions as the Doreen Tower is on the main intersection.
Traffic in the whole area already faces severe congestion, sometimes for hours.
Under the terms of the Building Construction Rules of 1996, any building 10 storeys or higher must keep open space as follows: 10 feet at the back, 8.4 feet on the two sides and five feet in the front.
But, as this correspondent found during a recent visit to the site, the owner of the Doreen Tower has left no open space. As per records, the total land area of the plot is 6,051 square feet while the built-up floor area is 6,052 square feet.
ASM Ismail, the chief government architect, said under the 1996 rules such a tall building could in no way be approved in Gulshan area.
"Leaving no setback [open space] is a gross violation of rules," said Ismail, who previously served at Rajuk as an authorised officer for building approval.
Survey of Bangladesh, the national surveying and mapping agency, in a report two years ago listed Doreen Tower as one of the "highly risky" buildings for air operations. Its height is more than double the permissible 150 feet.
The taller a building is, more stringent is the compliance with the fire safety, set back rule, height restriction and car park space.
Consequences of such deviations in case of a 25-storey building are many times more hazardous than what it is in case of a six-storey building.
Rajuk, the authority responsible for overseeing development and controlling construction in the city, approved the plan in January 1998 though Doreen Tower did not have the required open space and the height clearance and fire department clearance, all of which are mandatory for such high-rise constructions.
As per the building law, Rajuk must ensure that developers comply with those mandatory prerequisites.
Completed last year, Doreen Tower is set to open for commercial use soon, company officials have said.
All through the decade in which the building came up, Rajuk inexplicably looked the other way as such gross violations of construction rules occurred.
Rajuk Chairman Nurul Huda told The Daily Star last month that he would initiate an investigation into how the approval of the tower plan went through.
Asked why Rajuk had not addressed these concerns while the construction was going on, he said, "I cannot say that without going through the files." He then left for Hajj.
Doreen Tower has parking arrangements for some 40 vehicles in its basement against parking requirement for nearly 140 vehicles.
As per rules, a commercial building like Doreen Tower must provide for a 248-square-foot car park for every 2,153-square-foot floor space.
The building lacks fire-protected emergency dedicated escape route, including staircase, fire fighting lift and fire-protected shelter space to facilitate safe exit in the event of an emergency. This is mandatory under the National Building Code.
The owner obtained a provisional clearance from the fire service department last year, while fittings of basic fire safety features like alarm bells, sprinklers, fire extinguishers and hose reels are still going on.
Fire service laws say any building above six storeys must obtain prior clearance from the fire department and fire fighting system should be installed at the time of construction.
On giving clearance after completion of the construction, Zohurul Amin Mian, assistant director of Fire Service and Civil Defence, said they did so thinking that the building was under construction.
Contacted for comments, Tanzeer Alam Siddique, managing director of Doreen Tower, responded to this paper's queries on November 1.
He said Rajuk had approved the plan the way it had been submitted.
"It was Rajuk's duty to ensure if the rules were being followed,” said Tanzeer, son of Noor-e-Alam Siddique, the building owner.
Noor-e-Alam is a former student leader and politician. He avoided answering the question why a plan, blatantly violating set back rules and height restrictions, was submitted to Rajuk in the first place.
On not keeping the required room for parking, Tanzeer Alam said the traffic situation had not been as bad a decade ago, when construction of the building began, as it is today. When pointed out that specific rules about parking were in existence then, he remained silent.
Tanzeer, however, said the shortcoming would be "compensated" by arranging a car park in another building, which is about 500 yards away from Doreen Tower. Rules do not permit such an arrangement.
The "so called other building" is a six-storey commercial structure with a narrow entry surrounded by residential plots. Much of its space for 64 car parks is required for its own tenants.
While his brother Tahzeeb Alam Siddique said the firm would convert one of the two staircases into an emergency exit, Tanzeer claimed it had already been done.
On October 17, four Doreen Tower officials, including a general manager, an electrical engineer and a former Rajuk engineer, sat with this correspondent at the tower to explain their position.
All of them spoke on condition of anonymity.
"The Rajuk officials who approved the plan are responsible for the anomalies," said the ex-Rajuk engineer, who is an adviser of the project.
The general manager said, "We don't know why the owner did not comply with the building rules.

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