Fresh move for building safety
Hot on the heels of the Rana Plaza disaster in Savar, the government has made a move to enforce building safety standards accross the country.
As part of the move, the Rajuk is going to triple the number of its building construction (BC) committees, from eight to 24, to oversee approval and construction of buildings in its 1,528-square km master plan area. Of the committees, eight will work on the outskirts of the master plan area.
The government has recently approved a new organogram for the Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk), which will see the town planner's total manpower hiked to 2,000 from the existing 1,087.
“We hope that the new recruitment would be complete in the next four months,” Rajuk Chairman Nurul Huda told The Daily Star.
The nine-storey Rana Plaza, which housed several garment factories, came crashing down in April, killing 1,131 people, mostly garment workers.
The housing and public works ministry is going to set up coordination committees led by the deputy commissioners (DC) to ensure building safety in each of the districts, except for Dhaka, Chittagong, Rajshahi and Khulna.
The Rajuk, Chittagong Development Authority, Rajshahi Development Authority and Khulna Development Authority will enforce building safety standards in the four divisional cities.
Nurul Huda said the Rajuk will open four more zonal offices in Savar, Gazipur, Narayanganj and Keraniganj in addition to its existing offices in the capital's Gulshan, Uttara, Mirpur and Dhanmondi.
The BC committees will receive applications and independently approve building's layout plans at zonal level, he noted. Only the large scale development schemes will have to obtain approval from the Rajuk headquarters.
Headed by a Rajuk board member, a BC committee is comprised of an authorised officer as its member secretary, an architect from the Department of Architecture and two executive engineers.
At present, four BC committees run as many zonal offices of Rajuk.
Under the Rajuk's new organogram, its 24 BC committees will be supported by 288 building inspectors, mentioned Huda.
“We are going to seek more engineers and town planners from the Public Works Department [PWD], Roads and Highways Department, Urban Development Directorate and Department of Architecture to meet the demands of the zonal offices,” he added.
To give approval to a building plan, the Rajuk only examines the architectural layout of the proposed building. But now it mulls hiring private consulting firms to examine the foundation, structural and mechanical designs of a building.
A BC committee will approve a building plan only after the consultants have examined its foundation and structural design.
The PWD, local municipalities, and even the union parishads give building approval across the country, though only an authorised officer appointed under the building construction act has the mandate to do the job.
Contacted, outgoing president of the Institute of Architects Bangladesh, Mubasshar Hussein said hiring private consultants for design scrutiny would create scope for nepotism, corruption and difficulties in building approval.
Noted civil engineer Prof Jamilur Reza Chowdhury said the Rajuk should depend only on those engineering and architectural firms that are registered with it. The consulting firms must be selected carefully, he added.
Works Secretary Khondaker Showkat Hossain said the government has agreed in principle to form coordination committees led by DCs to oversee building approval and ensure safety at district level as per the Bangladesh National Building Code.
The committee will be comprised of engineers from Public Works Department and Local Government Engineering Department and representatives of district council and environment department.
“This committee will prevent overlapping in building approval by several local authorities until a BC committee with an authorised officer is formed [in the district] under the building construction act,” mentioned Showkat.
The cabinet, he noted, is to approve the committee soon.