With a new building code in the pipeline, officials involved in the preparations say houses will undergo stringent tests before and during construction.
The new code that the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) plans to introduce by mid-July envisages rigorous inspection of buildings in regular intervals after construction. Local authorities will check whether house owners have flouted the norms.
Two agencies—MoUD and Ministry of Local Development and Federal Affairs (MoFALD)—are working to revise the Building Code. MoUD officials said nearly all the provisions of the existing code will be revised before the new one replaces it. “The current building code fails to ensure safe human settlement,” said Bhai Kaji Tiwari, commissioner at the Kathmandu Valley Development Authority.
The new code will make it mandatory for house owners to carry out soil sensitivity test before construction, along with height restriction in urban areas. There will be different sets of criteria for construction depending on the height of buildings and the space used.
Amid the practice of violating the approved design, the new code will set new standards for permitted alterations. Also, officials are devising ways to effectively implement the code. “There should be regular monitoring, and punishment for those not adhering to the rule,” said Som Lal Subedi, secretary at the MoFALD.
Experts stress the need to limit the height of buildings to ensure the safety of occupants and those living in the vicinity. According to Subedi, engineers are still discussing the nitty-gritty of the new code.
Since there is no stringent punishment against norms violators, the new rules will provision harsher punishment such as hefty fine and demolition of structures failing to get approval.
“None excepting a few commercial complexes and apartments have followed the existing code. The monitoring and punishment aspects are even weaker,” said Tiwari.
Engineers said multiple factors should be taken into account during construction as a small fault could make a building vulnerable to earthquake. Scott Douglas, an American structural engineer, said it is best to consult engineers during the design and construction of the building.
“One important reason why Haiti suffered more severe damage than Kathmandu was only few houses there were designed by engineers. In fact, Haiti had very few engineers unlike Nepal where there are thousands of them. The buildings of big companies that could afford engineers survived the quake there as well while most old buildings fell,” said Douglas, who visited Haiti after the 2010 quake.