Sanjay-Chittekar,-VP-Projects,-Fountainhead,-Pune---Luxury-Residences-by-The-Phoenix-Mills—Sanjay Chittekar, Vice President – Projects, Fountainhead, Luxury Residences by The Phoenix Mills

High rise buildings (say 20+ floors) appear to be the only way forward for the real estate market. How do you assess the role of high-rise buildings in the coming years, not just in the metropolitan cities but also in the tier-II and tier-III cities?

It is abundantly clear that high rise buildings shall be the only way forward. Given the depleting land availability, the need of the hour is for the authorities to look into FSI liberalization and relaxed permissions for height clearances.

In cities, as time goes by, there is less scope to redeem infrastructure requirements. The primary challenge with high rise buildings is the additional burden on already weak infrastructure and a burden on supply such as sewage, water etc. Added to this, is the lack of transparency in clearances and multiple level of permissions required from authorities.

High rise buildings in tier-2 and tier-3 cities would be a viable way forward, subject to transparent clearance processes. High rises would help in balance pricing growth and not over inflate pricing due to a lack of land availability. In developing towns, high rises would help for long term infrastructure planning and holistic development.

On the whole, in line with long term planning and urban development, once aspects like ease of doing business, faster approvals, single window clearances, appropriate incentives and infrastructural framework to support high rises is taken care of, we are confident that the real estate industry can play a pivotal role in India’s growth story.

What are typical construction risks associated with high-rise buildings? Even if these risks are in the contractor’s domain, how do you, as developer, ensure that construction work on high-rise buildings takes place safely?

At Phoenix Mills, the core philosophy that drive our world class projects are meticulous planning, partnering with experts, intensive and researched design, excellent quality, speed of execution and high focus on integrity, transparency and customer satisfaction.

As a developer, Health, Safety & Environment (HSE) policy is our top priority. It is critical for us to ensure optimum and robust security and safety systems not only for our patrons but for our construction partners as well.

We ensure that no one is allowed entry at site premises without proper personal protective equipment (PPE’s).  Typical risks associated with high rise building like fall from height when working on outer edge of buildings is addressed with the entire periphery of the building being protected with thick rope (above 14mm PP ropes), steel bars, steel nets etc.

It is mandatory for any site worker, specially working on outer edges to wear full body harness (safety belt) which is tied to a firm support so that in event of any slippage, the safety belt will prevent him from falling down. For added safety, the outer periphery of the building being covered with safety net with minimum width of 5-6m wide so that any tools, material etc. if falls down is trapped in the net.

Moreover it is mandatory for our construction partners to provide a fulltime safety office and as a developer we also deploy qualified and certified safety officers to supervise and implement all HSE norms like open ducts/shafts being protected with block work and steel net, installation of electrical switches as per HSE norms among others.

It is learnt that as buildings grow taller, the cost of construction goes up due to complexity of construction techniques. What is your overall view?

Yes, this is mainly due to increase in material handling charges. Due to vertical movement and restrictions, project duration increases. The higher we go, the more expensive it becomes from a logistics standpoint, completion timelines etc.

India does not have a safety code for high-rise buildings. Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) was expected to issue such codes in 2015. What shortcomings do you perceive with the absence of safety standards for high rises?

While the real estate industry does not have a standardized safety code for high rise buildings for implementation of best practices, developers like us have put in place stringent HSE norms/safety standards to tighten safety for our construction partners and customers.

However at a macro level there is a pertinent need of clear guidelines and evaluation for standardizing various aspects of high rise buildings like their quality, construction process, safety and security standards, among others. Once the long overdue demand of the real estate industry of being conferred industry status by the government is addressed, it will eventually help recognize that high rises are the future and attract sufficient government incentives for the developers.

Once positive measures announced by the government like single window clearances, cutting down on the number of permissions required and ease of doing business among others are implemented, it will help free up financial resources for the developers, which could be invested in bringing in innovative construction technologies.

Living in high-rises has a “social status” but there are also evacuation risks in the case of accidents, fire for instance. Do prospective owners appreciate such risks? As a developer, how do you ensure safety of occupants?

Consumers today are well informed and researched while looking for their perfect abodes. Something that offers them a blend of style and substance complete with best in line safety and security standards. Our uber luxury project – Fountainhead in Pune offers just that. Security is paramount with all our norms are as prescribed by the fire authorities in place. For instance, in an incident of fire, clear evacuation process has been outlined, highlighted at the entry/exit points of each level supported with measures like water sprinklers in all our apartments, fire refuge areas, fire extinguishers, panic alarms, fire exit staircases with fire resistant doors among others.

Within the residencies, our robust security network includes hi-tech locking systems, a fully integrated video phone interface, CCTV surveillance and access controlled entry and exit to the development, ensuring fail safe security

Earthquakes can pose threat to high-rise buildings located in seismically sensitive areas. What are the precautions that one must take to ensure adequate resistance to earthquakes?

Our buildings are constructed to stand the test of time, these are earthquake resistant structures per the seismic zone it stands on. All structures are RCC framed seismic zone (as per the location of structure in that particular seismic zone areas) complaint structures.

Do you feel that Indian contractors are sufficiently trained to build strong and safe high-rises? Do you feel the need to take expertise of foreign construction companies?

With increased emphasis on safety and security norms over the past few years, contractors are investing more and implementing best practices. For us at The Phoenix Mills, security has always been in our list of priorities and in line with the changing times, we too have strengthened our safety/security norms. We conduct regular training and workshops to increase awareness and enhance crisis readiness.

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