Don’t be surprised, this scenario could well be happening in real to you! It is estimated that 99 percent of the population in India is not sensitized to the “Earthquake Threat” they are exposed to. The overwhelming majority of the educated and the tech savvy drew a blank when questioned about the seismic component of the built environment they were staying and working in. Approximately 50 percent had heard of the term “Earthquake Resistant”, however, when asked to elaborate as to what it meant, all were silent except a few who are of the kind “never to accept defeat”.
Most believe that Earthquakes can happen only in neighbouring areas, and they would never be the affected party. Many of the hundreds of buildings in Ahmedabad that came down like a “pack of cards” during the Gujarat quake had been occupied for only a few months. What we know little about is that 59 percent of the country is susceptible to earthquakes, and all metros are either in Zone 3 or 4, which are High Risk.
With the recent real estate boom, property prices have reached stratospheric heights and that of Mumbai are about to touch the Ionosphere. A 2, 3 or 5 Crore flat has become a reality in all metropolitan cities, and as per a recent news report a penthouse in Mumbai is being quoted at 125 Crores. Some of the builders/ developers offering premium luxury apartments in Delhi, Noida, Gurgaon, Greater Noida, Faridabad, Mumbai and Bangalore are DLF, Emaar MGF, Unitech, Ansals, Parsvanath, Omaxe, Vatika, Vipul, Hiranandani, Rahejas, Mahindra Gesco, Kalpataru, RNA, Runwal, Purvankara, Prestige, RMZ and Brigade Group.
Earthquake Protection of buildings is categorized into three groups. The first being “Earthquake Resistant (Fully operational)”, hospitals and other lifeline buildings which need to be operational at all times are in this category. This is also the highest level of earthquake protection possible. The second category is “Earthquake Resistant (Immediate Occupancy)”. The building so protected, has installed energy dissipation devices/dampers that there is minimum non-structural damage and no structural damage to the building and so it is safe for occupancy and use even immediately after a major earthquake. The third category of earthquake safety is called “Earthquake Resistant (Life Safety)”. This is the lowest level of earthquake protection and is also the minimum that the Indian Government recommends. Life safety implies that in case of an earthquake the total collapse of the building will be prevented so as to minimise casualties. However the building will sustain structural damage and on most occasions will have to be demolished and rebuilt.
The use of dampers/ energy dissipaters in buildings can add approx Rs. 150 to 200 per square foot to the costs; however, by using these devices which are designed for absorbing the earthquake energy, the Earthquake Protection of a building can be brought to “Earthquake Resistant (Immediate Occupancy)” standards. It is strongly advised that high end properties should not be bought unless a minimum protection of “Earthquake Resistant (Immediate Occupancy)” is provided. Such devices come with a written guarantee of 35 years which is further extendable by another 20 years after the devices are tested.
All buildings designed/built before the year 2002 do not even meet the minimum earthquake protection standards and are considered dangerous during an earthquake as they are likely to collapse. A large number of such buildings exist in Mumbai. These buildings can also be seismically upgraded by using seismic dampers. In case the building is to be upgraded to “Earthquake Resistant (Life Safety)” standards the cost would be in the range of Rs. 50 to 75 per square foot. If the building is to be upgraded to near “Earthquake Resistant (Immediate Occupancy)” levels then the costs should be in the region of Rs. 150 to 200 per square foot.