After the devastating earthquake of April 25, 2015 a new level of concern has been surfaced among the home buyers and home renters. That is because, most of the piller-system houses that collapsed to ruins were either constructed to sell or to rent. The reason of such collapse can be listed as:
- Use of low grade construction materials
- Ignoring basic engineering principles
- Construction without permit
It is no secret that the government regulating bodies are not as efficient as required. There are various loop-holes in construction practice. Almost everybody agrees that it would take more than just a little bit of effort to plug such loopholes. Change in system takes time and we don’t have the luxury of time. Let’s see what we can do to be safe in a rented house or apartment? How we won’t be cheated in buying a sub-standard house?
You don’t need to be an engineer to identify a safe and an unsafe house. Here are some basic information you can collect about the house you would risk your life into. These information should be collected by everybody including:
- Renters of a house or a room
- Buyers of a house constructed by others
If you are renter or buyer, you should always check the structural safety of the house before you move in. Your safety will also be linked to the safety of the house. Steps you need to take are:
- Check documents (see details below)
- Check basic structural details
- Is there an easy access to open space, prepare evacuation plan
Checking the documents is the good starting point before you rent or buy a house. The documents include the design, construction drawing and municipal approval document. You don’t need to go in details so reading a drawing is pretty easy.
- Does the address in drawing match the location of the house?
- Is there “Approved” stamps in the drawing ? Does the stamp and sign look real ?
- How many storeys are approved ?
- Are there any special conditions mentioned ?
- Note the name and phone of the designer, approving municipality or VDC (just in case).
If you are not an engineer, I don’t suggest you to check more details in the drawings. A lot of people can get the ‘feeling’ of drawing. If you are one of those who can read them, you can see if the layout looks similar to the house. But, that is only if you can.
Now, if you see any difference in drawing / approval and actual building constructed, you can be sure that there are a lot of other problems in the house. It is better to stay away from such houses.
Some might argue that the building is made stronger than the one in the drawing. In earthquake, making a building stronger is more risky. For example, if you take 4 sticks – one strong and others weak, and try to break them together, the strongest one will break first. If all were equally strong, they all will break together, but if one is stronger that is going to take all the load and break first.